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Antique Collector

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If you think you might like to collect antiques, you've picked an expensive hobby. But don't be too discouraged. "Antiques" covers a very broad field these days, one of which might fit into your budget.

It used to be that an antique was something made before 1830. Then it came to be accepted that an antique was something over 100 years old. Now, it's common for antiques to include large numbers of items from the 20th century.

The Internet has changed antique collecting dramatically. With numerous collectors' and auction websites, such as eBay, people can buy, sell and trade with ease.

At the Collector Online site, you can fill out one form describing an item you want and have hundreds of dealers search their inventories to find it for you.

The Internet means easier access to information for collectors as well, making it more difficult for others to take advantage of you. It also means, however, that sellers are much more knowledgeable and good prices can be hard to come by.

"My mistakes back in the early days were small learning experiences that really did not cost me much in money. But today a collector can be out hundreds of dollars for a mistake," says Roni Sionakides.

Sionakides has been collecting Akro Agate (glassware manufactured in the early 20th century in West Virginia) since 1973.

Her favorite piece is a little yellow lamp her late husband gave her for one of their last wedding anniversaries. "It is one of the pieces I carry closest to my heart as a memory of him and all the great times we had looking for glass."

Therein might be an explanation for why so many people love to collect things from the past. Holding a tangible object in our hands connects us with a piece of history, a memory from childhood or thoughts of a loved one. How else does one explain the sheer number of things that people collect?

Antiques and collectibles include furniture, glass, advertising items, autographs, books, clocks, bears, dolls, stamps, posters, tools, typewriters, trading cards and comic books, among hundreds of other items.

Joseph Paradi has been collecting corkscrews since 1980. "Corkscrews can be very inexpensive, just a few dollars, or quite expensive for museum pieces. This is a hobby anyone can pursue who has a perspective of history, engineering, design and utility.

"Young or old, anyone can go to flea markets and find good pieces, but it is a lot of work and the collector needs much persistence. Collectors are typically in their late 40s and up."

It's true that for young people, the prices of many antiques and collectibles may be beyond their means. But aside from stumbling on to bargains, much of the fun of the hobby is predicting antiques-to-be.

Start collecting something you like and years from now, it may be an in-demand modern "antique."

Take the prizes in Cracker Jacks popcorn, for example, which were first issued in 1912. How many children over the last century held and tossed aside these now-valuable toys?

Says Ann Brogley of the Cracker Jack Collectors Association in Philadelphia, "You can buy little metal items for $5 or so, or an $8,000 Ty Cobb baseball card. It is getting tougher to find CJ items all the time and the prices are usually very high."

Condition, condition, condition! It's everything in antiques. A crack here or some chipped paint there can greatly affect value. And be on the lookout for reproductions and poor repair work.

"Furniture construction for the era is of vital importance. Learn to identify pieces that have been altered by putting pieces [together] from different pieces to make one. Open doors, crawl under, watch for heavy-handed sanding," advises Al Lindsay, who owns an antique shop.

Lindsay and his wife began their passion for antiques in the 1960s with a more traditional focus: furniture for their home. But they found that they collected more than their house could fit and started to dispose of the lesser-quality items.

Lindsay says his wife talked him into displaying their goods at a local antique show. "We could not believe the comments and sales. We bought an enclosed 14-foot trailer and hit the road, displaying at shows. In the late '80s, we built an addition to our house for a showroom," he explains.

Owning a shop is one of the employment opportunities an antique collector can aspire to. Thousands of shops coexist, large and small, across the country and in cyberspace, specializing in anything from hatpins to clocks to tables and chairs.

Sharp-eyed collectors with the money to take advantage of buying opportunities can make a living reselling their wares to other collectors. Those willing to research and learn about a particular type of antique over many years might consider becoming an appraiser for private collectors or an auction house.

Getting Started

The best way to learn about antiques is to browse some of the websites, attend some of the shows, and read books. The Antique Collectors' Club Web site lists a wide assortment of books for sale.

When you have an idea what type of collectible you're interested in, search the Internet to see if there is a club devoted to it. With e-mail, it's easier and cheaper than ever to communicate with collectors who live far away.

Ron Jones, who collects Akro Agate glassware, adds, "Just a warning to prospective collectors...I have noticed that starting and maintaining a collection can be very time consuming and almost addictive. Especially with Internet access."


Akro Agate Collectors Club, Inc.


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