Art of antiquing

Learn some basics before setting off on your treasure hunt

August 27, 2006|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,[sun reporter]

WHEN THE BALTIMORE SUMMER Antiques Show opens Thursday, visitors may be faced with too much of a good thing. More than 550 exhibitors will be selling everything from vintage postcards to period furniture. What's a novice collector to do?

Amateurs, suggests Terry Kovel, co-author of the best-selling Kovels' Antiques and Collectibles Price List, should visit several shows without buying anything. They should ask millions of questions and in the process discover the kinds of antiques that appeal to them.

"Dealers will always be happy to explain what is good or bad," she says, "why it's expensive, and what the history of an item is."

You can save yourself a lot of time and money by becoming an educated consumer, says Tim Luke, the appraiser on HGTV's Cash in the Attic. Besides asking questions at antiques shows, read up on the things you like before you consider buying anything. Luke gives as an example Fiestaware, which comes in five basic colors.

"If it's not one of them," he says. "You know it's not vintage."

And don't worry if you make mistakes, he adds. "When I started out I made mistakes. That's how I learned."

Kathleen Jensen, who lives in Ruxton and has two small children, says she isn't a serious antiques collector yet. "I buy them one silver platter at a time." But she started straight out of college shopping at flea markets and roadside antiques shops.

Her approach to large antiques shows is to have something in mind that she's looking for, like a footstool with a needlepoint cover. Then as she visits the different booths she can scan them quickly for what she wants.

"I don't get involved in what period it is," she says. "They aren't investments; they're things that I love."

If you do find something you really love, advises Kovel, "buy it when you see it. It might not last long."

It's OK to ask for a better price, although at this show you probably won't get one, she says. "Don't be rude and insult the antique or the dealer. If you want to talk price, try to do it when no one else is in the booth."

Jensen says she asks, "'How firm is this price?' Or I'll say something like, 'This is a little more than I want to spend' or 'My husband will kill me!' But don't offer something too low, which would be insulting."

You can also tell the dealer that you love a piece but can't afford it. Ask him or her to call you if the price is ever cut.

"We find big, heavy pieces often sell for less at the end of a show," says Kovel, "because no dealer wants to pack and move them."

Luke suggests making sure you can get your money back if the antique isn't what the dealer says it is. Ask about the policy before you buy.

"People are intimidated," he says, "They are afraid to ask."


Baltimore Convention Center, One W. Pratt St. Thursday-Sept. 3 Hours: noon-8 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday Admission: $12 Thursday, $8 Friday-Sunday


Top five items most often assumed valuable that aren't: l Bibles l Singer sewing machines l Royal commemorative items l Hummel figurines l Anything "limited edition"

Condition counts. Watch for: l Chips l Cracks l Paint loss l Excessive wear l Overall damage

Markings matter. Look for: l Manufacturer marks l Country of origin marks l Dates l Copyright information l Artist signature l Mold or model numbers

An approximate way to date your item is based on the materials used. The dates listed are rough approx- imations of the height of manufacturing and the materials used for the collectible items: l Cast iron: 1840s - 1940s l Celluloid: 1890s - 1950s l Composition: 1890s - 1940s l Die-cast metal: 1906 - present l Plastic: 1950s - present l Rubber: 1930s l Tin plate: 1850s - 1940 l Wood: 1830 - 1930s

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.