As anyone who has bought one of Robert “Mouseman’s” open bookcases will know, furniture doesn’t have to be 100 years old to be collectible, although you have to shop in the right places.
This was the message from US antiques expert Nancy Russell, a retired dealer who has a regular column in the Columbia Tribune. Normally, she writes about early antiques, but recently she tackled the benefits – and downsides – of buying collectibles, starting with an explanation of what they actually are.
Apart from motor cars, where different rules are applied, a true antique is anything that is 100 years or more old. Under this legal definition, Arts & Crafts Furniture made after 1912 wouldn’t qualify, even though, like Art Deco furniture, it is widely found in antique shops. Instead, it is referred to as collectible, which Nancy defines as:
“A newer item with nostalgic or collector value in spite of its age.”
As an antique dealer who owned her own shop for 40 years, she has little time for antique malls, which equate to indoor antique markets. For a start, when she started exploring them she found precious few real antiques on display, although collectibles were plentiful. This was not because antique chests are becoming harder for vendors to find, but rather because they stick to the items most likely to sell. People who visit antique markets, she explains, are there for nostalgia. Rather than buy fine furniture, they want to rediscover their lost childhood.
In Lancashire, antique dealers often cross the divide by selling both antiques and collectibles. In Preston, a Victorian mahogany pedestal desk may well have a vintage 1920s inkwell standing on it.