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The Rise and Fall of Antiques Collecting

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

“Sorry, but nobody’s interested in antiques anymore,” the antiques dealer told me as he declined my request to buy back some of the many items I had purchased from him over a 25-year period.

What? Aren’t there hordes of people out there who would want my precious collectibles now that I was downsizing?

“Apparently not, not anymore,” he said.

I’m of an age where I can clearly remember the fervor with which we celebrated the 200th anniversary of our country, and Americans were very much into their history, including how they lived at home.  Historic houses held a special charm for buyers and everyone seemed to be into antiques collecting, including my wife and me. Why, suddenly, is the interest in antiques dead?

Having originally studied to be a museum curator specializing in American furnishings, I came to my interest in antiques both by education and inclination. The greatest influence surely was having attended The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. I felt a real affinity to my surroundings there and all the decorative objects that to me seemed infused with the hopes and dreams of those Americans who came before me.

Or maybe my interest stems from the fact that I’m a first-generation American with no family heritage here, and I wanted to purloin that of others. I started collecting old things as a bachelor and was fortunate to find a wife who developed the same interest.

The real explosion in our collecting came when we moved from the city to Westchester more than 40 years ago. In the city, we lived in the first two floors of our historic home (circa 1826), comprising 2,000 square feet and only two bedrooms. There was only so much room for collectibles.

Our move to the country was to a home that was twice as large, affording us plenty of room to spread out and add to our already considerable collection of antique furniture and other items that decked the walls and tabletops. There seemed to be no quenching our thirst for finding special, precious things to add to our collection. It was our hobby to the point of obsession, with many weekends designated for trips to local antique shops that existed at the time and further north to roadside dealers.

When it came time a couple of years ago to downsize, I thought it would be an easy chore to pass on many of our treasures, big and small, to other proud owners. I was wrong. After my first rejection mentioned above, I called a second shop where I had bought many items in the more recent past. In fact, one year, the owner gifted my wife and me with a Christmas present for being her top customers of the year. My messages were not returned.

A third inquiry to a dealer yielded the suggestion that I call an auction house to come pick everything up “if you can get them to come.”

I then ventured into all my marketing techniques and held an open house for collectors and managed to unload some things, but at bargain basement prices. The one antiques dealer that did come by selected only a few items.

So why is the interest in antique collecting dead? One blogger, a former antiques dealer, seems to have summed it up very well.

“There’s a whole new mindset taking over. The up-and-coming generations are embracing things such as minimalism and living off the grid. Many of the younger generation are devoted to economies, going green and living simply. The prevailing thought is that less is more; get rid of those vintage, fancy objects. Out with the old.”

However, I hold the hope that perhaps someday millennials may notice that the 19th century oak kitchen table with claw feet like the one I left in the kitchen of the house I just sold will last a lot longer than some of the pressed-wood furnishings one is likely to find today. When that day comes, maybe people will get excited about antiques once more.

As a footnote to my troubles with unloading the extra furnishings and antiques I had collected, I would advise others to consider the service Maxsold that I have since discovered. It’s a service that guarantees it will do the job for you. To learn more, call 1-888-672-3677.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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