Recently a group of experts in the field of antiques and collectibles surveyed the landscape of the antiques and collectibles market and came to a startling conclusion that was surprising to absolutely no one but them.
Young people today don’t want their grandparent’s stuff. At least not in large number.
I work with an auction house and this is true. Or, more succinctly, today’s collectors want different stuff.
As a rule, people tend to remember their own childhood homes and, at best, their grandparents. Hence the rise in midcentury modern.
For most people, the 1960s and 1970s were “the old days.” If they are recreating the warm memories of childhood, the ’70s and ’80s prevail (hello avocado green) figure heavily.
If it looks like it came from the set of Mad Men, it can probably fetch a pretty penny.
Meanwhile, that heavy, dark, Victorian furniture isn’t selling well.
Nowadays you can scarcely give it away. People are just hurt (and often angry) to find what they have carefully collected just doesn’t have “value” to their heirs.
It’s not personal, just different tastes.
There are always exceptions but for the most part, the generation that has fond memories of Hummel figurines and Hopalong Cassidy lunch boxes has given up acquiring new things. Their children and grandchildren want different things.
These days I watch far more middle-aged men paw through boxes of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars looking for that elusive rare model (or childhood memory) than I do people seeking another piece of Fenton glass.
In short, antique values are not “ever rising.” They peak and then backslide as the people who have
In short, antique values are not “ever rising.” They peak and then backslide as the people who have a collective memory of that item fall away.
Also, anything sold specifically to be collected will rarely have value.
If everyone hoards it away, mint in the original box with paperwork, what chance is there for anything to become “rare” or valuable (I’m looking at you Franklin Mint anything and Beanie Babies)?
It took an entire nation of disinterested parents cleaning out bedrooms and garages to throw out those old baseball cards and original Barbie dolls in order for the remaining examples to be rare enough to hold value.
In my personal life, we lost both my Gram and stepfather-in-law in 2016. We still reel from the loss of these vibrant fixtures in our family tree.
We all gathered to laugh and recall the memories and moments — some sparked with the many (many!) items from their homes and personal possessions.
We all took a few things that remind us of them (I prefer items I can use and enjoy rather than pack away).
My grandmother’s midcentury Pyrex mixing bowls are used and cherished.
Ditto the heavy Carhartt coat “papa Chet” left to Boywonder. He zips it up and wears it with pride.
These items are meaningful for their ability to be useful and spark memories. I too am a saver and sentimental by nature. I cherish photographs and mementos over all else.
It is not lost on me what a blessing it is that the entirely of the past two decades and the entire childhood of our offspring is documented in columns. We lived it and many of you along with me.
The subjects of those hundreds of thousands of words, however, are just getting to know themselves.
Even with this largesse of photographs and memories, I remind myself that my children will not want to cart dozens of bulging scrapbook albums of the first two decades of their lives off to their adult adventures. God willing they will be busy making new memories.
Too much of anything (even photos — gasp!) and the things lose meaning.
They are just overwhelming. I treasure the “few” things (and really it’s quite a lot) that I’ve obtained from our collective family homes. I can use and display them.
The memories will keep moving forward as we fold these items into our lives.
The truth is as true today as when I wrote it at the beginning of this writing journey. Don’t save things for “someday.” Use them now. The good china. That antique rocker. The quilts. Use it. Make memories.
Trust me, years from now your heirs will have much fonder memories of the plates they passed around endless holiday dinners than they will of the items carefully packed away in a china cabinet, or worse, attic.
I say this not to be Debbie Downer to your investment dreams, but to give you this very valuable piece of advice: use it or lose it. As in, if you don’t use it, your family may very well choose to lose it.