New York - While supply-chain snarls, Amazon delivery delays, and partially empty shelves at big box stores may be today's norm, this certainly isn't the case when it comes to the availability of antique and vintage items. After two years of being inside, along with a restrained pandemic fueled economy that encouraged purchases online rather than face-to-face, the doors have finally opened wide and people are once again outside this summer scouring their local decorative arts markets, antique shops, and vintage fairs in search of their favorite items.
Whether you're a collector, a dealer, or just a buyer hoping to score that perfect house-find, hunting through the countryside and nether-regions of the antique and vintage world can sometimes seem like a daunting endeavor - especially when it comes to discerning the true from the fake, the great from the pretenders, and the popular from the passé. As antique and vintage themed décor has soared in popularity recently, finding those top-tier treasures has become more difficult than ever.
However, with a little help from some of the school's top appraisers and a few industry experts, we've managed to precis down a list of items we think you'll definitely want to be on the lookout for when out treasure-hunting those hot summer finds.
Ozark Roadside Tourist Pottery
This is hot, very hot right now. Perhaps it's just the summer season, but Ozark Roadside Tourist Pottery is continuing to see a staggering rise in popularity and price. Most commonly found at roadside tourist shops and gas stations throughout the Ozarks and American South in the 1940s, these pieces were made of molded cement pots placed on a potters wheel with a swirl drip glaze and then decorated with oil paint. Availability at "senior" garage and estate sales is still good with prices ranging from $35 to $450. Look for examples from makers like Camark, Niloak and Ouachita pottery.
As the school's annual survey pointed out earlier this year, there seems to be no end in sight with the public's fascination for this popular collectible. Great deals can still be found in most of the usual haunts (thrifts, second-hand stores, flea-markets, etc.), and jewels don't have to be real. Look for well known makers like Eisenberg, Trifari, Weiss, Sarah Coventry and Hobe - all can command top dollar. A boxlot investment of $20 at an estate sale can easily return $300 to $500 online if you know what you're looking for.
Old Radios - Particularly RCA Victor Models
Electronics are currently experiencing a boom in the collectible world as young tech enthusiasts and collectors are now moving beyond vintage game-consoles and into some of the earliest mass produced electrical gear out there. RCA which helped launch mainstream radio, and was considered one of the main pioneers of the industry, became the dominate producer of radios during the 1930s and 40s. Today, these Art Deco-style console and wooden radios, along with post-war Bakelite units, can come with a steep price, providing everything is in working condition. Prices range from $30 for poor non-functioning examples, to over $650 for those in pristine shape, with no chips or cracks and with all "tubes" in full working order. Yard-side road sales and estate sales are probably going to be your best bet during the summer months, as those donated to indoor thrifts and charities will likely be snapped up quickly.
As post-pandemic travel ramps up again this summer, so has the public's desire for some cool one-of-a kind vintage luggage. After being shut-in for so long it would seem that the current explosive interest in classic luggage should have been expected - but apparently (much like today's airports) - it wasn't. Dealers report that pre-pandemic examples that lined showroom floors have all but disappeared, and that finding replacement stock is becoming increasingly difficult. Old Pullman cases, American Overnighter's, 1970s and mid-century modern themed cases are all in high-demand with prices rising quickly. Expect to pay more for vintage than new in many instances. As with all practical items, condition is king. Look for original leather straps, perfect linings on the inside, and if it comes with authentic travel stickers, so much the better. Vintage Vuitton and American Oshkosh pieces can bring very, very high prices. Look for accessories too, such as hat boxes. Range: $60 to over $4,000 depending on condition and maker. Again, senior estate sales are likely to reap the most rewards when it comes to sourcing inventory at a reasonable price.
Vintage Clothing & Accessories
We probably don't have to say this, but vintage clothing and fashion accessories (think purses), are going to be one of the top summer finds this year (if you can find any!) Garage and estate sales take the first and second spot for sourcing, but second-hand and thrift stores shouldn't be overlooked either (just get there early and try to get wind of the stores weekly or daily "stocking" schedule). Look for vintage Boho sling-style handbags, MCM lucite purses, chainmail style clutches from the twenties and thirties, and anything that comes with bangles. As always, condition is paramount. Buy at $30 and sell online for $450.
Christmas Memorabilia & Decorations
While Christmas might not be on the mind of most at the moment, this is certainly one of the best times of the year for scooping up all those old unused vintage Christmas cards and ornaments from garage and estate sales. Susan Close, one of the longtime appraisers and educators at the Institute, says she's witnessed an incredible spike in value for Christmas cards with specific themes or timelines. An authentic MCM pack of five cards can sell in the range of between $25 to $55 to the right buyer. Classic tree ornaments with motifs that date the item to a specific period can also prove highly desirable just before Christmas. As always, condition speaks volumes. Curled corners, pen marks, along with scuffs and tears will all affect value. While there are many reproductions available, sticking to garage and estate sale finds can often provide buyers with a reasonable expectation of authenticity.
Cast Iron Doorstops
Cast from pig and scarp iron poured into a sand mold, authentic doorstops from the turn of the twentieth century have become extremely popular recently - especially those with their original paint. Perhaps the most famous of makers, Hubley Manufacturing Company out of Lancaster, LA are considered by many to be the best of the best. Known for initially making piggy banks and door knockers, the company added hand-painted doorstops to its repertoire in 1909. The doorstops were offered in a wide range of subjects that included flower baskets, depictions of homes, dogs, fictional characters, and exotic animals such as giraffes (one of which sold for almost $11,000). Even modest examples of more common themes with their original paint can still generate substantial sums. Asking prices of $500 to $800 would not be out of the question. Just be sure to look for the three-digit number or the word HUBLEY on the back to ensure authenticity. Other makers include, Bradley & Hubbard, Albany Foundry, and Wilton Products. Reproductions do exist, but the casting process is often more basic, leaving surfaces with more of a sandpaper feel than a smooth surface.
Marvel Comic Books
While it's probably obvious to most that comic books have been a hot commodity for years now, what many may not realize is that there is a world-within-a-world when it comes to stratifying their value and popularity. Clearly, a first edition Superman is not likely to come along anytime soon this summer, no matter how many garage sales you attend, however, a more recent first-edition Marvel comic just may. Add to this the overwhelming popularity of the Marvel film universe and franchise and you could be sitting on easy street with the right amount of sleuthing. As baby boomers continue to downsize and relocate, often dumping off unwanted goods and chattels at the driveways edge, finding a first issue, number 1 condition Thor is still a possibility, and could potentially put $10,000 in your pocket. Again, condition is key to realized value, and garage sale clear-outs and boxlot offerings are probably going to give you the best shot at finding that gem-of-a-box hidden somewhere amongst the baby clothes. Normal finds for other titles, and subsequent issues with minimal wear, can still see price mark-ups in the $20 to $200 range.
Old Books (First Edition Preferably)
Finally, to round out our top nine summer antique and vintage picks not to be missed, we're going to close with an often overlooked collectible that has recently begun to shine again on the heels of the antique and vintage décor comeback. Once the outcast and antitheses of the austere Mid-century modern movement, old books have suddenly resurfaced as one of today's more popular decorating elements, due in large part to the rise of the Bohemian decorative theme. Sources will be plentiful, from garage sales to Goodwill stores, as books have been undervalued and over represented for years now. First editions don't have to be ancient to be valuable. The Agatha Christie novel, They Do It With Mirrors, published in 1952 by Collins in London, is worth approximately $200. Large leather-bound books, regardless of edition, are also gaining value purely as decorative objects. Either way you can't lose with this collectible, as prices are still low, while values are set to rise. Plus, you'll also get something new to read without having to turn anything on...
D. Harman (AIA), is a former Asheford Institute honors graduate and a freelance writer who has a knack for picking trends when it comes to the decorative arts world. When away from his keyboard, Mr. Harman is also a top "picker" for some of New York's finest antique & art establishments.
NOTE: For readers seeking more information about the Asheford Institute Of Antiques distance-learning program on professional-level appraising, the study of antiques, collectibles, vintage and mid-century modern items, please click here to visit the school's Home Page.
Should you have additional questions about the Asheford program, you can also write to the school at: email@example.com or call the Registrar's Office toll-free at: 1-877-444-4508.
We're providing our students and reader's with the latest breaking news on events and happenings that we think might be of interest to both collectors and dealers alike. Including changes within the world of antiques, vintage, collectibles and appraising that might just have an effect on your bottom line. We're also interested in hearing from you - so if you've got a great newsworthy story, let us know, and you just might find it here!