If It’s Just About the Look, Antiques Lose

There’s a growing consortium of folks out there, dealers and promoters included, who say that antiques can be sold purely for their looks without reference to the intrinsic value. Buyers today, they say, don’t care what a thing is, only what it looks like.

In that case, I ask, what’s so great about antiques?

Take this Oxford Tub Chair offered by Restoration Hardware as an example. Sure, this retailer isn’t known for its discount merchandise, but chairs with a similar look that sold at a major auction house sold for considerably more. Why? There’s something intrinsic about them that differentiates them. It’s not simply the look, it may be the label, but its most certainly the age.

Yes, the age. That’s what antiques have, age. Throw that out and there is no difference. If you throw that out, it really doesn’t matter if something is old or new. I could pull out similar examples for sideboards, tables, clocks, cabinets and more.

If we don’t care much about what a thing is, about its inherent attributes and actualities, it really doesn’t matter. If we only care about the look, the major retailers win every time.

One thought on “If It’s Just About the Look, Antiques Lose

  1. ‎Eric – interesting thoughts.

    There is a trend among retailers at the moment to label things as vintage or antique when they are not. “Vintage Silver” is being used a lot when the items for sale are brand new silver plate that have been “inspired by” real vintage pieces.

    Is it up to us as professionals in the antiques trade to educate consumers to understand the difference? If our interest is to be more than skin-deep we’ll have to persuade our customers and potential customers to look beneath the surface too.



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