Antique Gifts for the Holidays

It is officially the holiday season! It’s a happy time of year but along with the parties, decorating, and general merriment you also have to sit down and think about gift choices. We all want to give those closest to us something that they will remember and appreciate long after the big day. What to get that is special, personal, and meaningful? Think outside the mall and think antiques! 

Antiques are unique and they make a big impression. They offer you a wide range of gifts that can really connect to a person’s interests, history and lifestyle. I’ve been clicking around Collectivator, and I’ve come up with some ideas based on items for sale right now. I’ve tried to match the antiques with interests, but I am not implying rigid rules. My aim is not to say “only a crafter would like a hooked rug” but to show how different interests can be cultivated and complimented by antiques. If you wish to learn more, each photograph is linked to that item’s listing on Collectivator.

Ideas for Buying Antique Gifts:

The Outdoorsman or Woman – Try incorporating function and history with an item like an antique decoy. Decoys may have been used by hunters but they also have artistic merit. Other good gifts would be antique snowshoes (nice displayed on a wall), landscape artwork, or any twig furniture. Anglers will find a wealth of items as well including beautiful antique wicker creels, reels, and even lures. Don’t forget that there is a lot of folk art, fine art and advertising that is also dedicated to nature and sportsmanship. All these items bring a bit of the outdoors inside in a unique and unexpected way.

Crafters might likewise enjoy an antique that reflects the history of their interests. In the past, activities like sewing and quilting gave people an outlet for their creative expression. Their work was necessary but it was also a source of pride and joy. Antique textiles come in a variety of prices and pedigrees, but all share a history that modern day crafters would appreciate. Good gifts include hooked rugs (lovely either used on the floor or hung on a wall as a piece of art), quilts, linens and needlework samplers. I also found a great folk art sewing plaque that served to hold thread and other sewing supplies. It would look fantastic on the wall of a craft room.

Entertainers – No, I don’t mean they put on shows (although that would be fun), I mean people who host gatherings with friends and family at their homes. For a person in this category, anything that is decorative but also useful would be appropriate. Decanter and glass sets are gorgeous sitting on display or filled with fine drinks. Dining accessories like antique table cloths, dishes, candle sticks and silver serving ware compliment any great meal. Even not so useful items like hand made wooden butter molds would look good in a chef’s kitchen and serve as a conversation piece about culinary history. Who knows? You might introduce your favourite party host to a new collection!

Amberina Liqueur Set

Anyone – There are some antiques you can give to pretty much anyone. Clocks and mirrors are good, because they are always needed and can compliment so many styles of decor. Small furniture like wall boxes, side tables, plant stands and decorative shelves can easily find a welcoming home. Artwork can be tricky (especially large pieces) but work that ties into some aspect of the person’s interests or background can be exceptional. Personally, I would love to receive a good piece of Canadian folk art on any occasion!

So those are just a few ideas to help in your gift search this year. Remember that when you get tired of the mall, you can find fantastic antiques online. Shop in the comfort of your own home and support small business! If you want to read even more of my ramblings about why antiques are great, you can check out “Antiques are Good Value for Money” and “Antiques are Green“. Around this time last year I also wrote about using Antiques as Holiday Decorations. If you have given or received any antiques that really made an impression please share in the comments. Good gift ideas are always appreciated 🙂

Happy shopping and enjoy the holiday season!

Why I buy Antiques – Antiques are Green

Last time I wrote about the financial benefits of buying antiques, and today I would like to expand my argument with the positive environmental impact of buying old (or reclaimed) items. There has actually been quite a bit of discussion on this topic already, and for good reason. Being “green” or eco-friendly, is really cool right now. There are lovely shops opening in many major cities that specialize in organic, fair traded and sustainable products. People are looking at the true cost of their purchases, and using their money to try to make a difference for the future. Is it any wonder that the antiques industry wants to remind people that the first “environmentally friendly” business on their main street probably sold antiques?

Antiques are, by basic definition, a prime example of recycling. Pieces of furniture, housewares, even clothes, get used by more than one person (or family) over a period of hundreds of years. Each time the item changes ownership, it is used again and often for its original purpose. Use naturally causes wear and tear, but unlike many new purchases, antiques are lovingly restored and repaired. If the 150 year old dining chair develops a loose leg, you don’t throw it out. You take it to an antiques specialist who can repair the chair, or you repair it yourself. Just because something is old, or in need of TLC, is no reason to add it to the growing landfills. In fact, the thrifty nature of antique ownership is something many look at with pride. We reduce the cycle of consuming and disposing by holding on to our items for so long. If it’s special enough, we might even leave the items in our will so future generations can enjoy them!

Of course, not all antiques make the journey through time intact. Some are no longer useful in their original form, and this is where repurposing (or reusing) antiques is a great idea. Remember when you were learning about the three “R”s in school, they showed you how to reuse a milk carton to make a bird feeder? Well, many industrious antique dealers and enthusiasts do this all the time. They take reclaimed hardwood from a destroyed building, for instance, and construct a kitchen island. Or find an old door and attach legs to make a table. Reusing antiques can be a simple as repurposing Mason jars into vases! There is really an amazing assortment of ideas out there to give you inspiration. Many people find new and inventive ways to use old things. Because damaged or incomplete antiques are often a deal, you are sometimes only limited by your imagination.

Now, no argument is without its thoughtful critics. Some have questioned if antiques are really green as the travel to find and sell antiques causes its own carbon footprint. I think shows like “American Pickers” kind of illustrates the idea of travelling many miles to find an item and then schlepping it back – often burning lots of gas in the process. In my experience, however, the carbon footprint of the average “picker” is pretty small. In my family my parents drove about 10 hours to Quebec to find stock. My parents had a giant Bell truck and we would pack full to the roof before we turned around for home. My parents were very conscious of the added cost of travel to their business and each trip had to be efficient. Quebec was pretty much the farthest they travelled, and as the years passed they moved to more Ontario and locally sourced stock. They generally sell locally as well in their shop, or online through Collectivator where shipping through the mail is still an efficient use of resources. Antiques are a business that requires watching every penny and maximizing all returns. You don’t go for joyrides and burn gas for no reason. I think if you compare the journey of an antique to the huge, world spanning travel of millions of “flat pack” new items you will find that antiques are still the environmental choice. Especially if you consider that once that antique does find its new owner, its life expectancy is often much longer than poorly made new alternatives.

In the end, I think antiques are really an embodiment of all three “R”s. They reduce the need to purchase new items by being built to last for many years. They can be reused in new and creative ways when their original purpose is over, taking advantage of their high quality materials. And they are recycled over and over again, providing utility, beauty and historical interest to each successive owner. Next time you need something new, be green and buy something old!

For more information on Antiques & the environment check out Antiques are Green by John Fiske, as well as the Antiques are Green campaign.

Why I Buy Antiques – Value for Money

A summer has come and gone, and now that the days are getting cooler it feels like the right time to start blogging again. Blogging in earnest. Blogging more than once a month.

I decided to ease into this whole communication thing by outlining some of the reasons I buy antiques – specifically why I think antiques are a good bang for your buck. I am speaking from the point of view of a new collector with limited funds. Although I grew up with antiques I do not consider myself an expert buyer. I usually ask a lot of questions, get advice from sources I trust, and (most importantly) go with what I love. I do not have a vast collection but my husband and I greatly enjoy the antiques we do have in our home. I think antiques are more accessible than sometimes believed, especially if you start small. There are many personally rewarding aspects to buying antiques, but with a bit of knowledge buying antiques can also be a great way to stretch (and invest) a dollar.

One of the best financial reasons to buy a quality antique is that antiques are durable. For the most part even the most expensive, newly made items will still come up short in comparison to the craftsmanship and quality of materials found in antiques. Of course there are plenty of delicate antiques not suitable for regular use, but there are many that can grace your home and still be useful. Solid wood furniture, pottery, glass, textiles and even plastic were all made of higher quality in the past, and you can purchase antiques at a lower price than you might expect. Many of the antiques I use every day I bought for a comparable price or less than the same type of item new! Sometimes people see antiques as “used” but I like to remind them that if something lasted 100 years it will probably last 100 more. Can you say that about anything made out of particle board? You won’t regret buying quality.

Another great reason to compliment your home with antiques is that they offer trend-proof decorative impact. If you look through the home decor magazines you will often notice a creative mix of antiques, vintage and new pieces in a room. Some antiques are repurposed for modern living, like light fixtures, fireplace mantles and bathroom vanities. Other fine antiques are stand out pieces that compliment any decor. The playful balance between old and new adds interest to a home as well as personality. Countertops and paint colours may change, but a timeless antique will find a place in your home no matter what the style of the day.

Along those same lines, remember that antiques are the financial investment you enjoy. You can play the stock market, or invest in gold, or keep money in a savings account. But can you hang any of those investments on your wall? Can those investments become part of your home and family life? Aesthetic beauty is very important and people who buy antiques love living with them. Antiques are a way to hold some money in an object that benefits your life and your pocket. If the time comes to liquidate you may be able sell your antique and recoup the money (or make a profit). You can have your cake and eat it too!

So if antiques are high quality, beautiful and usable objects, are they a sure-fire good investment? Well, that’s the million dollar question. The truth is antiques are thought of as a speculative investment, best taken with a long-term approach. The value you get out of an antique is also usually proportional to the price you paid – higher quality means better return. Unlike what some of the TV shows imply, it is unlikely you will buy very low and sell extremely high. Antique values can fluctuate over time, due to factors like trends in the market (supply and demand), as well as the context in which you bought the antique. Try to avoid the red-hot styles of the moment, as these pieces will be selling at a premium. Conversely, if you can anticipate a future interest you may be able to make a good profit by waiting until markets change.

The best advice when buying an antique is to buy what you love at the best quality and condition you can afford. Buy your antiques from a reputable dealer (we have many on Collectivator), and know the basics about what you are buying. Never be shy about asking questions. Many dealers and other collectors are happy to share both historical context and practical knowledge (cleaning, repairs etc) about the antiques that interest you. The understanding about what you buy, after all, is a huge part of enjoying antiques in general. Start small and don’t worry that you’re not an expert. If you find a particular style or type of antique to your liking, start building a collection. As you develop your collection you will naturally learn and that will in turn make you a better buyer and smarter investor.

Finally, remember that no matter what you can spend, or choose to buy, antiques are a finite commodity. They aren’t making any more of them! If you buy quality and beauty, that object will always be in demand and that is a smart financial decision.

For more on buying antiques as financial investments, try these links:

Antiques as Investments by John Fiske and Lisa Freeman

5 Age-Old Tips for Investing in Antiques by Jean Chatzky