I didn’t expect to become an expert on antiques and collectibles, but that is one of the strange side effects of returning to America. I’m not sure exactly how it happened…I’ve always had a love affair with art and there are certainly particular aesthetics that have called to me – it’s the reason I went to Marseilles – just so I could walk through and feel the magnificent Le Corbusier – the masterpiece of architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, to some it would look like a fancy concrete apartment block, but to me – it was a divine inspiration.
Le Corbusier was at the forefront of a movement in art and design which is now referred to as Mid-Century Modern. This is the shape of the middle 1900s from about 1940 to the 1970s. It was the aesthetic of our grand parents and has recently been popularized through the AMC series Mad Men. This is the stuff that used to get tossed out when people passed away but which now brings huge dollar amounts. In many cases, antiques from the mid-century period are now bringing in more than pieces from the Art Deco or Victorian eras.
It’s the same thing that drew me to the Antiques and Collectors Fair in Edinburgh, a rollicking event with more than 300 dealers spreading their treasures out and thousands of visitors seeking to find an overlooked gem. I was backpacking then, and while I bought a small antique opium pipe, I was forced to pass on the larger items that spoke to me. I was staying at the Hiedinburh Hotel, because while I backpack, I really can’t stand hostels. I wish I’d had more money, more space, and more time…but maybe next time. I’ll post the specifics of the fair below for those who may be fortunate enough to visit Scotland this spring.
In any event, returning to America, I discovered that I had an eye for these gems of Mid Century Modernism. In some cases, this hobby of buying things at garage and estate sales has been the work that has put food on my family’s table. Along the way, I’ve discovered that I also have an eye for other treasures and I’ve learned from buying things, researching them, and discovering new things. I can walk into a thrift store or yard sale and generally double or triple my money – there is always something that has been passed over by everyone else.
I’ve had a few big scores. I bought a box full of old razor blades for a dollar that turned out to be worth nearl $1000, I purchased a first edition Betty Crocker cookbook for 50 cents and sold it for $250, I bought a box of old baseball cards for $100 and have valued them at close to $5000 (but haven’t sold them because let’s face it, no one buys baseball cards when the economy sucks) – but I’ve realized something in perusing the bottom edges of the sea of stuff that is for sale – the big money lies in the more expensive venues. Just as there are treasures overlooked by the legions of pickers at garage and estate sales, there are much more valuable treasures awaiting discovery in the multitude of antique and vintage shops that fill every corner of the world.
To this point, I haven’t had the budget to take bigger gambles – a painting at $500 is beyond my budget and a piece of furniture for $2000 isn’t something I can do – not yet, but I’m getting closer. I’m an expert at finding $50 items for a buck or discovering the occasional $200 piece for ten bucks, but to go for the things worth $70k-$100k, you have to be willing to spend a few thousand. People undervalue their treasures, that’s what makes the antique world such a hotbed of activity. That’s what excites me.
Edinburgh Antiques and Collector’s Fair – Scotland’s premier event for Antiques & Collectibles
Royal Highland Centre,
Telephone : 07774 147197
Dates at this venue
Saturday 1st March, 2014
Sunday 2nd March, 2014
Saturday 10th May, 2014
Sunday 11th May, 2014
Saturday 27th September, 2014
Sunday 28th September, 2014
Saturday 22nd November, 2014
Sunday 23rd November, 2014