So do you want to become an antique collector? What makes a good antique collector, what characteristics does he need? Collecting or hunting for antiques is an absorbing, exciting and rewarding hobby, or a full-time job if you do it for a living, and you need five special attributes to become an antique collector.
The first of these characteristics is enthusiasm. With enthusiasm you can do anything. You will need enthusiasm to encourage you to learn as much as you can about your chosen field. The field of antiques is full of topics, since almost everything will become an antique sooner or later, if it is over 100 years old, it is by definition an antique. But even objects less than 100 years old are also included in that genre if they are believed to be worthy of the label. Because the scope of the subject is so broad, most antique collectors specialize in one or two aspects of it. They may collect old watches, old paintings, books, period furniture, you name it, the list is endless. Or they may specialize in a particular period in time, such as the Victorian era or the period of early settlers in the Midwestern United States. Following your particular branch of the subject requires knowledge and you will only acquire this knowledge with enthusiasm.
Another ancient hunting characteristic vital to your success is the ability to be inquisitive. Have you ever wondered what was in your grandmother’s old attic? Or what did Grandpa keep in that box in his office? One source of finding antiques is to attend house clearance sales. What’s in that stack of old papers in that cardboard box? Go to auctions and snoop around. Hit the antique shops, especially ones off the beaten path – nosy hunters have unearthed many treasures.
be a detective
And having an inquisitive nature isn’t much use without having its sister trait: detective. Once an interesting item has been found, a great deal of detective work is usually required to uncover its history. You will need to know at least when it was made or approximately when it was made. Who owned it, is it weird? Can his background be determined with any degree of certainty? Can its history be traced? The provenance of an old piece can add great value to it. Provenance is anything having to do with its origin or life history that is of great interest. For example, if that recently discovered set of silverware was once owned by George Washington, then that silverware would immediately attain some notoriety (provenance) and be far more valuable than silverware for which no famous owner or user could be determined. The detective’s experience is extensive. You have to be able to distinguish the real from the fake; the restored original; and the fully repaired.
This experience is only gained through knowledge, which brings me to the next attribute: the ability to learn. You need to absorb everything you can about your chosen field; it would be impossible to learn everything about all antiques, so specialize in one area. Pick a genre: furniture, clocks, vintage toys, farm implements, postage stamps, manuscripts, it’s an endless list, and study the subject with a passion. The sources for achieving this knowledge are almost as infinite as the subjects themselves. Books are an obvious mine of information, but visit auctions, home liquidations and antique dealers and ask questions – be inquisitive! The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask!
Lastly, be an adventurer. Explore the surroundings, venture into the neighboring town and stroll through the curio shops, vintage shops, antique shops, auction houses. Go to libraries and look for long-forgotten manuscripts and books and look up information about local people and places. Find clues to the whereabouts of the contents of old houses, or details about the ownership of property passed down through the generations – where are they now? Take the journey: search, be an explorer in the ancient world.
With your enthusiasm, your inquisitive nature, your detection ability, and your intelligence born of knowledge, you never know what you might find. Life is fun, history is exciting, discovery is satisfying, follow the antique collecting trail and enjoy it.