One day, a young man walked into an antique shop and examined old things made of tin.  One shelf had a tin frame made in the shape of a heart and fancy tin boxes and baskets.  One basket was decorated with a bouquet of tin flowers.

"Why are these things fashioned of tin?"  the young man asked.  The old shopkeeper explained that in the 19th century a couple's tenth or tin wedding anniversary was often celebrated by the presentation of a hand-fashioned tin whimsy.  "I treasure them, they remind me of a simpler, more romantic time," the shopkeeper said. Most people don't know about tin weddings though."  The young man chuckled.  He looked at another shelf filled with footwarmers; square tin boxes fitted with a door for putting a pan of hot coals inside and a surrounding wood frame that protect from burns.  One, in rough shape, was price at $60, others in better condition with turned wood corners and fancy punchwork in the tin like hearts or tulips ranged up to $200.

"Haven't gone up much over the years.  They're good buys."  The old man waved a finger at a row of dusty antique books.  "No one's written a good book on footwarmers yet.  Whenever a good book about a specific category of antiques comes out, prices go way up.  Buy before the book gets written-it's a good strategy."

"Does it always work that way?" the young man asked.  The antique dealer nodded his head and the young man bought two footwarmers.  "What else should I buy?" the young man pointed to a conical shaped tin coffee pot with fancy punchwork all over its body and a gooseneck spout." 

"That's a fake!"  the shopkeeper growled.  "Paid $600 for it. Thought I stole it.  Then, I started seeing them everywhere.  When I start see to much of a good thing I figure somebody's figured out how to fake it."  The old man rubbed the coffeepot his hands.  "See the oily sheen to the tin?  Not good.  Dry surface is what a pro looks for in antiques.  When you encounter a fake-study it-just as you would a real antique.  Then, you'll know what to avoid."

"How does a expert like you make a mistake."

"In this business, there are no experts, young man-just students."

The young man looked at several tin candle molds, thinking they'd look nice on his mantle.  A circular shaped mold was priced at $300.  They must be rarer, he thought.  He saw valuable tin candle sconces, cooking devices like large tin reflector ovens, cookie cutters, and tin lamps and cups of the type he saw in the movie Gettysburg. He realized that Civil War collectors must have an interest in old tin items as well.

"I'd like to learn more about tin," the young man said, "to train my senses, so I can tell old tin from new."

"Old tin has a worn uneven patina, unlike something that was dropped in lye to fake age.  The solder with have its own distinctive color."  The old man through an old dented tin bucket at the boy.  "Study this, not valuable pieces.  No one would take the time to fake it."

"How about painted pieces?"

"It's called toleware.  Expensive.  Especially if the paint's in good shape or in a rare color like red.

"How can I tell old paint from new, sir?"

"That's for another day, young man.

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Wayne Mattox Antiques | 82 Main Street North | Woodbury, CT 06798 | 203-263-2899 |
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