Antique is defined as a handicraft being at least 100 years old.  Rubbish!  My name is Wayne Mattox, an antique dealer, auctioneer, speaker, writer, and hopefully, teacher.  Greetings!  An antique is anything old with class. Your grampa's twisted burled elm cane, a Mickey Mantle baseball card, an old Buffalo beer tray, the swirled taw marble you used as a kid-these, like an 18th century Philadelphia highboy, are antiques.  Know this and you will be a threat to any dealer looking to ferret out treasures in your neighborhood tag sales.

I had a "house call" to look at antiques in an old Connecticut mill-town called Waterbury last week..  I think a dealer made up the term "house call" to make us sound like doctors.  My aunt, who wanted me to be a doctor, would like the phrase.  The place looked like an artist's house; a great rooster weathervane, old painted cupboards, a Victrola record player with a big horn speaker, mixed in with newer things.  I asked the woman how she came about her antiques.

"I shopped local tag sales and shops, looking for things that caught my eye," Mary said.  "Not being an expert, I bought antiques that seemed like a good value, even if they weren't old."

In her own way, Mary is an expert.  She decorated her house and built a substantial antique investment by a following a good game plan for beginning collectors.  Here are some beginning "insider" tips on how to find, identify, and purchase, prize antiques in your own back yard.

1.  Develop your "eye."  A pro doesn't rush to examine an antique up close. They step back for perspective.  Observe decorators.  Copy their style.  The best collectors have a good eye. 

2.  Never attempt to outsmart a pro.  Unfortunately, the best book to learn antiques from is the check book.  Beware the man whose business is cluttered and manner naive.  Building good relationships takes time.  Shop for dealers who make you comfortable.  Always get a written guarantee specifying age, condition-including all repairs and replacements, place of origin, and provenance.

3.  Know thy own back yard.  Great things come and go quickly.  Visit local shops, auctions, and shows on a regular basis.  It's free education and its fun.  Check this paper's classified's "tag sale" section every day for sales in your neighborhood.  Be first in line if it's a legitimate old estate.  Speak of your antique interests to friends and neighbors. Pieces with long-standing family histories are almost certain to be legitimate antiques.  Gladly pay a premium for these articles.

4.  Seek out old surface. That rare antique with skin mellowed golden by time is a jewel.  Un-refinished antiques have an integrity not found in stripped pieces.  They can command high prices.

5.  Educate yourself.  Read books, go to museums and lectures, find a friend who likes antiques.  We dealers tend to make this business seem more difficult than it is.   In 1849, you needed a pony, a pick, a shovel, a sifting pan, and a map to San Francisco to look for gold.  Today, in antique fertile upper-state New York, the only tools you'll need are a good eye, common sense, and pinch of intellectual curiosity.  Those stories about folks finding great  treasures for a few bucks are true.  It happens every day.  But forget that!  Think of antiques the same way you think of an old comfortable pair of jeans, or that crackled yellow ware pie dish that granny used to make her tallest, tastiest apple pies.

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