On Collecting

Style : Cigar Store Indian on Platform, est. 12,000 - 17,000.  Sold for 22,000. 

This last weekend, Hallmark Cards auctioned off a collection of Americana through Noel Barrett of Antique Roadshow fame.  Hallmark came by the collection through a friend of Joyce C. Hall, its founder.  Jerry Smith owned a car dealership and developed a passion for collecting toys, mostly trucks and cars at first, then other Americana.  

Pretzel and Crown Trade Sign, est. 400 - 600.  Sold for 2,500.

Jennifer Mann's article in the Kansas City Star on Wednesday caught my eye.  While not an Americana enthusiast, per se, I am a great admirer of craft and self-taught artists.  Mann's article quoted Smith from a 1966 Art & Antiques interview as saying, "You can almost follow the development of this country through its toys."  Barrett commented that Smith was a well known and respected collector.

Lorgnette Style Optometrist Trade Sign, est. 500 - 700.  Sold for 1,400.  To a Fitzgerald fan, I do hope.

On Saturday, Mr. Blandings took charge of the boys while I finished the hunting for my article.  I stopped at Christopher Filley's to see what he had brought back from Round Top.  Still in the truck, darn.  But, as fate would have it, a couple of true collectors had stopped in to see Christopher themselves.  While she admired a particularly lovely set of painted, early 19th century chairs, he and I started talking about collecting.

Dog on Wheeled Platform, est. 200 - 300.  Sold for 750.

The pair's collections were broad and varied.  We picked up the thread of conversation I had been having with Christopher's partner Rich Hoffman.  Round Top seemed off.  Loads of junk, but lots of people hungry for it.  What's next - and if it is a return to classic pieces as I suspect, will younger people begin to collect antiques again, or will they buy the reproductions that Pottery Barn and the like will surely turn out?

Indian Scout Cigar Store Figure, est. 10,000 to 12,000.  Sold for 22,000.

The collector and I agreed that there is something that makes one find joy in a piece of furniture or object.  His eyes shone as he described the feeling of respect and responsibility for owning a period piece.  Reverence for the thing itself and the fact that so many others had cared for it so well before you.  Rich opined that that is waning.  Fewer and fewer young collectors and fewer and fewer young people willing to open stores will be the end of the business.

Trotting Horse Weathervane, est. 1200 - 1500.  Sold for 8,000.

Christopher refused to open the truck, at least to me, so up the street I went.  Suzanne waved me in as one of her favorite clients was there.  In a twist of fate she held the information of the Smith sale in her hand.  It turns out Jerry Smith was a relative and she was hoping to acquire a piece of the collection.
Bootmaker Trade Sign in Zinc, est. 800 - 1200.  Sold for 1200.

She'd been watching the cigar store Indian.  The Indian sold for $70,000.  Not to my acquaintance.  Many of the larger pieces sold for significantly over their estimates.

Brown's 5 Star Shoes Pointing Hand Sign, est. 400 - 600.  Sold for 2,500.

And, here, in Suzanne's, we discussed our hope that it went home to someone who would cherish it.  Someone who understood it.  A collector, not an acquirer.  That is a different breed altogether, and a not a new one.  
Wooden Barber Pole with Gold Ball, est. 2000 - 3000.  Sold for 11,000.

I had spoken to another dealer a few months ago about the same topic.  People whose parents were collectors and admirers of antiques were buying, he said, but other "young people" did not have a taste for it.  But that can't be exactly so.  My parents were not collectors, and neither am I, I guess, constrained by budget and ruffians, but I yearn to be.  The recession has the dealers worried; if gas costs $3 a gallon fewer people buy the Beidermeier.  But I wonder how this will go.  Will the mass marketers, who raised the style IQ of a generation, be the end of the antique business?  Or will the bulk of the process begin to take place on line?  Time will tell.  

Michelin Man, est. 800 - 1,200.  Sold for 8,000.  All prices in US dollars.


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