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(S)old- Antiques thriving during retail sales slump

January 20, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

While retail sales were reported sluggish in some areas of the market this past holiday season, business boomed for antiques and collectibles dealers and restoration specialists in the Tri-State area, they said.

"We're doing fantastic," said Dick Caricofe, who owns Beaver Creek Antique Market in Hagerstown with Sean Guy, Dick Frey and Cliff Springer. "We had our best Black Friday (Nov. 29, 2002) since we opened in 1984."

Caricofe and other local dealers attribute strong antiques and collectibles sales in part to increasing interest among younger collectors and the popularity of the eBay Internet auction site and such television shows as "Antiques Roadshow" and "Shabby Chic."

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Retirees and other older customers have traditionally anchored antiques and collectibles sales at such retailers as Beaver Creek and O.L.D. eclectibles in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., but younger collectors now account for the bulk of business at these stores, owners said.

Caricofe attributed 60 percent of Beaver Creek's sales to younger customers.

"They are starting to buy things piece by piece," said O.L.D. eclectibles owner Linda Hutson. "We're seeing young people wanting things they saw as kids in the '70s."

Many of today's collectors take their cue from the mass media.

"If it's on TV or the front of a magazine, people want it," said Guy, who recalled a pair of antique vases that sat in a vendor's booth for months until a similar pair was featured on the cover of a popular periodical. The vases sold soon after the magazine hit newsstands, Guy said.

Dealers are also watching more and more collectors buy items at stores or auctions and re-sell them on Internet auction sites such as eBay, they said.

The popular online auction site recently boasted more than 157,000 antiques and more than 1.5 million collectibles in 36 categories ranging from advertising to vintage sewing supplies.

The proprietors of Beaver Creek Antique Market regularly post their vendors' items on the online auction site, Caricofe said.

Smithsburg auctioneer Dennis Stouffer has noticed an increasing number of younger buyers reselling such items as vintage clothing online, he said.

Many collectors are now combing the market for baby boomer era items, furniture from the 1920s and 1930s, Elegant Glass, vintage linens, Early American pottery, old milk bottles and antique advertising tins - especially oyster tins, store owners said.

"We've got booths that are selling nothing but baby boomer stuff and they're doing fantastic," Caricofe said.

Guy pointed out a set of Holt Howard condiment decanters made in Japan in 1958. The brightly painted decanters are selling for $230 each.

A 1950s pint-sized White House vinegar jar with a rare pour spout recently sold for $450, Caricofe said.

Baby boomer dolls such as "Tammy" and "Jenny" are selling better than antique bisque dolls from Germany, Caricofe said.

Many items from the art deco period - the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s - are flying off store shelves because they are popular and affordable, Caricofe and Hutson said.

Collectors still seek the Depression glass - useful glassware mass-produced in a variety of colors and patterns from the early 1920s to the mid-1940s - they remember seeing on family tables years ago. But a growing number of collectors are now seeking a higher-quality form of Depression glass called Elegant glass, Caricofe said.

Elegant glass is harder to find because relatively few companies made it due to required hand-finished touches such as fire polishing to remove mold marks, grinding the bottoms of some pieces so they would sit perfectly flat, acid-etching a pattern into the glass after it had cooled, and cutting a pattern into the glass with a copper cutting wheel, according to the National Depression Glass Association Web site.

Antique American pattern glass can also dress up any dining room table, can be obtained cheaply and will likely increase in value, said Budd A. Moore, a Greencastle, Pa.-based antiques enthusiast who specializes in art deco, American art pottery, 20th-century glassware and art nouveau categories.

Moore suggests sticking with such serving pieces as water sets, compotes and cake stands.

Art deco furniture - especially solid wood bedroom sets - has proven a favorite at Beaver Creek Antique Market, said Caricofe, who noted the recent sale of two art deco bedroom sets in one day.

"The younger generation is starting to buy the good stuff. They want furniture that's going to last," he said.

Buyers are also recycling well-made older furniture to save money and create a unique look for their homes, dealers said. Customers are paying less for chairs, tables and other pieces that aren't in prime condition and fixing them up themselves or taking them to restoration or refinishing specialists.

Televisions shows like "Shabby Chic" have fueled do-it-yourself sales, Hutson said.

"People want the 'Shabby Chic' look," she said. "They're taking found items and turning them into their own treasures."

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