To stay on the cutting edge of quilt collecting takes cash and stamina. "Really great antique quilts are getting harder and harder to find," said dealer Thomas K. Woodard, 799 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10021, (212) 988-2906. A quilt's condition, age, aesthetics, number of stitches per inch (12 at a minimum) and provenance are among his criteria when buying or selling. When dealers find superb examples, they're priced to match. For example, Mr. Woodard's fine red and white circa-1850 "Mariner's Compass" costs $24,000.
For collectors on smaller budgets, "there are still some terrific old quilts out there for $500 to $800 each" observed dealer Amy Finkel of M. Finkel & Daughter, 936 Pine St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19107, (215) 627-7797. They're usually simple, strong geometric patterns, dating from the early 20th century. According to Ms. Finkel, who also advises customers about quilt display and conservation, "These quilts may not have all of the color combinations a collector wants, but they still attractively cover a large wall for under $1,000."