Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Young Collectors and Antiques

Another interesting blog by our "young" Kelli Lucas...

One of the biggest anxieties among antique dealers is that young people don’t seem interested in antiques – that no new collectors are coming up to take the place of the old guard as they pass out of collecting. As someone still classified as part of that “young” demographic, I see a lot of confusion among my peers about how to incorporate “antiques” into their daily lives.

Antiques Roadshow has done a lot in the last decade to educate people, convincing them that antiques are not just the province of the extremely wealthy. But for a generation increasingly buried in student debt, any collecting foray beyond Ikea can seem inaccessible. They may feel destined for a lifetime of plexiglass-framed posters and Poang chairs, uncertain of how to personalize their space beyond the pages of the latest West Elm catalog.

The thing for young, would-be collectors to remember is that their journey beyond Ikea’s blue walls begins with a single step – or, in this case, a single print. Bringing even one antique print or map into your home can start you on the path to crafting your own unique aesthetic, where old, new, and gently used co-mingle to express your style. A botanical print of your favorite garden plants, cleanly framed in basic black, can add oomph to a dining room, where (if you’re like me) your furniture might be the “gently worn,” not-quite-antique castoffs of family and friends. Does your home office still sport a particle-board desk? Hanging an antique map of your home state above your computer monitor can anchor the space – and you. After all, you are a product of the history represented in the map as much as of the current era that makes the particle-board desk practical – why not let your home reflect the blend?

This sort of pleasant mixture shows up fairly regularly on Design*Sponge, a marvelous design blog that I’ve mentioned here before. Their Sneak Peeks posts are narrated by the home’s residents, who usually describe a blend of family pieces, personal designs, budget-friendly purchases, and – our favorite – treasured antiques. Take a look at some of the variety here and here to get ideas of how people are decorating with antiques in ways that are unique, expressive, and accessible.

Apartment Therapy is another great stop on the internet for anyone looking to decorate outside the catalog-furniture box. They highlight apartments around the country, generally designed with a budget in mind by people who don’t mind mixing influences to make a space their own. Take a look at (these posts to see wall charts and nautical maps integrated into chic, livable rooms.

Chris has written some great posts on this blog about the why’s and wherefore’s of (print collecting. It always pays to learn more about what you’re buying before you buy it, and he offers great tips for understanding what you see when you look at an antique print or map. For readers of this blog who fall into that “young” demographic, the “Young Collectors” column at the Maine Antique Digest is also a great read. Columnists Andrew Richmond and Hollie Davis fit that category themselves and have some great ideas of how to access a world of shops, shows, and auctions that can seem overwhelming or intimidating. They also have a blog, which details their own forays into the antique world as they look here, there, and everywhere for pieces to live with in their Ohio home.

With an adventurous spirit and a willingness to mis-match now and then, “young” collectors will find antique prints, accessible, enjoyable, and wonderfully suitable for even the most eclectic décor.


  1. As a collector with no knowledge in prints, my concerns are 1) authenticity and rarity. 2) Display prints
    It is hard to know how rare a print is and how to identify the age.
    Secondly works on paper may discolor under light, that's why I have been avoiding buying them because I do not want to have another thing in the closet.

  2. Those are legitimate concerns, but shouldn't stop you from buying old prints. There are lots of "fakes" or not-so-old "antique" prints out there, but there are also lots of originals. If the price is reasonable, it might not even matter, but if you buy from a reputable dealer you should be safe. Just get a written statement of the age of the print that the dealer will back up and you are fine. Also, if you are interested in the subject, you can learn fairly quickly how to tell originals from later copies--paper and process are the keys and spending a little time looking at originals can teach you a lot.

    As for the fading or discoloration, that can easily be taken care of by using "UV-filtering" glass or plexiglass. There a number of products out there now that filter out the ultra-violet light (which is the main problem) and the cost has come way down.

  3. Thanks for clarify this issue. If UV filtering glass works, then why do museums only display works on paper by maximum 2 month a year? Are they just too protective and cautious in this case?

  4. UV filtering glass filters out about 95-98% of UV, not 100% (each manufacturer is different). Museums often have priceless items and they also tend to feel that their primary responsibility is to preserve, with a secondary job of making accessible, so they lean towards being super cautious.

    In contrast, I think that as print users, we can lean a bit towards accessibility and not preservation. Partly it is because we don't tend to have really priceless items, but also it seems to me that while we need to try to preserve our past within reason, if we are so cautious that we never enjoy or see the artifacts of our past, there is no point. I think that the enriching and educating and decorative value of antique prints is immense and that can be realized only if we can view them. While I do encourage people to frame their prints to museum standards and with UV filtering glass, I think our lives would miss something important if we didn't put out these prints where they can be viewed and shared. Our past is important, it is just the present gone by and it is far more important that we use it and understand it than that we cut it off from ourselves.

  5. Great Article,

    The only way to learn, is to read sites such as this, and then to conservatively purchase items from estate sales and flea markets - get your prints home and then do more research...until you can become discerning enough to become a serious collector. I like the "Get your hands dirty" approach...