Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The rarity of antiques: to love or hate the www?
In 1988, when Alhambra Antiques was founded I don't need to tell you that there was only one way to buy antiques...you scouted them either from estates, auctions, or wholesale dealers, bought them and put them in your shop, where people from your area would come looking for them. As a dealer there were options to participate in group antiques shows, often monthly in many cities. There was of course no such thing as the world wide web. The antiques world was/is a world full of gypsies and interesting characters, people addicted to hunting and buying the rare, unusual, or simply under-appreciated.
A few years ago I got the "majolica bug" and began offering majolica in our shop. I also attended one the conventions of the Majolica Society, in Charleston that year. There are less than 10 majolica dealers who exhibit in the US (two of them being English dealers, two being French). For what the convention called "Majolica Heaven" all of these dealers were gathered into a not-so-attractive ballroom in the hotel where the convention was being held. All of a sudden, majolica seemed so common that you might find it at Walmart. The unique colors all blurred into one mixed shade of turquoise green. This was not Majolica Heaven as far as I was concerned, this was Majolica hell. Instead of making each piece look better, the grouping made each piece look worse.
So there is something that I don't understand about shopping for antiques on the internet. 1) antiquing has long been about the experience, the hunt, etc (my all time favorite blog Tongue in Cheek can attest to this) and 2) if you search for things on sites such as 1stdibs, by grouping just about every nice sunburst mirror (for example) in the country on one neat page, doesn't it cheapen the rarity and individuality of the piece?