After attending the fall show of a local antique dealers association recently, I would characterize the people walking the aisles and those behind the booths as the old and the meticulous rather than the young and the restless.
During the two hours I spent at the show, there were numerous visitors chatting with dealers, browsing the wares from a safe distance, and even a handful of them writing checks for merchandise. Almost all of them were seniors in the high school of life. The only exceptions happened to be a woman of about 30 who was sitting at a table patiently looking through a binder of antique postcards and her grade school daughter on her lap. Even this younger lady was accompanied by that silver-haired daddy of hers.
The 58 vendors from eight states offered a wide variety of items including jewelry, framed oil paintings, furniture, advertising signs, and vintage toys, dolls, and games. As I looked at the exquisite and fragile pottery, lamps, vases, and art glass, I thought about how painstaking it must be for those dealers to carefully wrap, transport, unwrap, and arrange these delicate objects and then repeat the process when most or all of the objets d’art do not find a buyer after the two-day show is over.
The high-end pieces are not overpriced considering their age and rarity and quite likely within the means of those attending the show. However, many older but still active adults are now living in condominiums or apartments in retirement communities which means they buy judiciously to fit space constraints. Acutely aware of where the sands are in life’s hourglass, these venerable citizens are approaching the time when they cease collecting and start dispersing of treasured possessions.
The generations who seek Star Wars figures, graded comic books, fast food premiums, LEGO sets, and similar items would find little of interest at this venue. Perhaps in 15 to 20 years the collecting desires of millennials will match the offerings at such shows. Maybe when such items can be classified as antiques, more young people will appear in the booths of these dealers. Neither scenario seems likely.
Fred Allen, wit and ad-libber par excellence, possessed an uncanny ability to gauge the tempo of his radio show. One night in 1943, even before he greeted the second resident living in Allen’s Alley, he wondered “Is anyone alive on this program? We might be the annex to the Smithsonian Institution.”
At that juncture Fred sensed the show had become as creaky and pertinent as an exhibit in a museum. Antique shows offering dusty wares to wary, aged browsers may soon fall into the same category.