Antiques today: Where is the market?

The market is changing for vintage furniture, with painted and distressed pieces becoming more popular. Photo by Eileen Cernea

What a change between generations, resulting in the oversupply of antiques and the lack of demand. The Great Depression prompted our elders to save everything. Now they are dying off or moving into senior housing and passing on their possessions.

The baby boomers learned early to “collect” – figurines, coins, china, furniture, anything “antique” and so on.  They often started out with hand-me-downs, saved possessions to pass on to their children, and purchased items to remind them of their childhood. Now the boomers are downsizing and moving into condos or more modern styled homes, not conducive to decorating with antiques. They are dispersing possessions among their kids and dumping what remains at auctions, on the internet, or to antiques dealers.

Then, along came the “trailing” generations. They are minimalists who want few possessions to hinder their mobility and place more emphasis on social interaction than memories. And they know they can buy anything at anytime through the internet or our abundantly supplied stores.

So what sells and what doesn’t in this changing antiques market?

Many antiques professionals track the trends, which vary somewhat by locality and from year to year. But common consensus of what currently sells are:

  • Furniture that is painted and distressed; brown furniture is out
  • Streamlined furniture, such as from the 1950s-60s
  • Items or furniture “repurposed” into something else – old door handles used as coat hooks, painted picture frames holding mirrors, plant stands made out of chairs, garden whimsies from Depression-era glass, and so on.
  • Vintage jewelry - but 1930s-40s plastic Bakelite jewelry was selling, then the market became saturated
  • Military items, especially from the Great War; others say post-WWII
  • Record players, turn tables and vinyl records from the 1960s-80s
  • Toys of certain periods, but 1970s-80s Hot Wheels dropped after a glut
  • Unique items of low production and “funky” items, especially 1960s-80s
  • Certain vintage apparel and hats, scarves, handbags

Items that are not selling in today's market include fine china, figurines, textiles, linens, and many items originally sold as “collectibles.”

Learn more about the trends and terminology (upcycle, chalking, etc.) at the upcoming program “What Do We Do With Our Antiques Now?” by veteran antiques dealer Karen Vagarosoto of the Blue Barn in North Ridgeville. The program will be held Thursday, Feb. 9, at noon at the Bay Village Branch Library. Hosted by The Bay Village Women’s Club, it is free and open to the public and includes a light lunch.

Also, plan this year to visit local antiques shows where you can “recycle” by purchasing quality items at reasonable prices and gather information from dealers:

  • Feb. 25-26, Bay High School; hosted by the Bay Village Women’s Club Foundation
  • June 17, Cahoon Park; hosted by the Bay Village Historical Society
  • July 16, Clague House Museum; hosted by the Westlake Historical Society.

Nancy Trainer

Bay Village Women's Club is a non-profit social and charitable organization that supports needs in the city of Bay Village.

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Volume 9, Issue 2, Posted 9:36 AM, 01.24.2017