Children’s reactions indicate value of items

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today's antiques.scott davisMost folks used to believe that they understood what was desirable and valuable. All one had to do was to look in mom’s china cabinet to know that, at least in her generation, china, glassware, silver and porcelain figurines were at the top of almost everyone’s list followed closely by fine furniture, artwork, coins and jewelry. Then there were always the less understood items sought by more advanced collectors, including old toys, political and celebrity memorabilia, advertising and primitives.

In each of those categories, there was usually a readily available selection of examples ranging in price from a few dollars to many thousands, and demand was strong for every level or rarity as collectors started small and worked their way up to more valuable examples over time. It was a happy time in the antiques world, with folks believing that their items would always at least hold, but more likely, grow in value. Unfortunately, few of those classic collectibles have withstood the test of time.

Today’s most active antiques buyers are in the 18 to 49 year old demographic. Their lives have been heavily influenced by technology, broadcast and social media, and the big-box and internet shopping models. Those influences have brought about the desire for a much more casual, modest and modern lifestyle, with experiences being more valued than objects. They only want to own items they can use and not worry about.

Fancy or fragile objects have little place in younger folks’ lives unless they’re displayed or used for the humor of their irony. The demand for virtually all “traditional” antiques has declined rapidly, and at the same time when baby boomers are looking to shed them in record numbers. With supply so great and demand so low, values are plummeting.

Today, only the finest examples of anything will sell. Modernism is doing well as are certain other nontraditional collectibles that appeal to the changing tastes of our younger generations. As for your traditional antiques, have them looked at to be sure, but then come to terms with the fact that you may have missed the boat value wise. The best test is to offer them to your children. Chances are that if they don’t want them, my children won’t want them either.

Scott Davis operates Rhode Island Antiques Mall, 345 Fountain St., Pawtucket. Contact him at (401) 475-3400 or

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