Why Dont’ Antiques Sell?

Antique dealers come and go. Under normal conditions, it is not surprising to see big red “For Sale” sign in front of some small antique shops. But recently, the antique business, at least at the low end, has seen a quick downfall as some big antique malls have been shuttered locally and elsewhere.

Why has antique become so hard to sell? Here are some of my theories.

1. eBay

The efficiency and volume of the eBay marketplace has changed antique business fundamentally. No where else can one find items from affordable to high quality so easily.

In particular, antique business has lost a selling point when uniqueness fades away from a single search click. Things that seem rare in the stores may surprise you with their abundance online. To make things worse, the varied prices makes one wonder what the true value is.

2. Downsizing trend

The pace of life has accelerated and Americans are moving constantly. The change in the life style makes disposability and affordability more important than ever. Downsizing of living space is happening not only for young generations, but also for boomers who are gradually retiring. Collecting is inevitably affected.

3. Changes in antique style

Collecting is almost an instinct, sometimes an impulse. The driving force of antiques collecting is sometimes a memory of the past that people associate or treasure. The collective memory of today doesn’t stretch back much beyond the 1920s, an era when mass-production came into its full being. Beyond 1920, affordable design was more important than uniquely crafted objects by an artisan. Collecting works before this period requires substantial research and education before the buying process, which is also quite different, can begin. Unfortunately in 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s American has entered the era of mass production and the craftsmanship associated with jewelry names is hard to find; thus antique business of that period can be equally hard.

4. Declination in quality

The co-op feature of antique malls eventually hurts dealers. From economics point of view, it is a “common” where regulation is missing. Dealers know that if everyone brings lots of collectible and reproduction, the mall won’t work; but if only I (one dealer) do that, it won’t hurt when you average the damage of impression by 100-or-so dealers. There are no incentives to strive for excellence.

5. Accessibility of Auctions

Once upon a time, auctions were primarily for dealers. Now, through the Internet, anyone can buy at auction.

6. Decline of the Antique Dealer

A move from Main Street to the antique mall has meant that the antique dealer, whose function was not just to sell antiques, but to educate the buyer, has become absent from the process. Uninformed buyers have sometimes mis-spent their time, money and energy collecting somethings that weren’t quite what they hoped they were.

Overall, in the long run the antique business may endure some tough period. No matter what period or what style, there are always some people who shop for the top quality. But the success of most of antique business relies on the majority shopping of the medium range. The young generation, growing up with Xbox and iPOD, think and behave and shop differently. With the overwhelming information from youtube to online chatting, it is rare to find time to study the past style which defines what they are not.

Changes in fashions do swing with the pendulum. But antiques, a visible form of the past, never goes right back to where it was.

About Hui

Wang Hui lived from 1632 – 1717 and followed in the footprints of his great grandfathers, grandfather, father and uncles and learned painting at a very early age. He was later taught by two contemporary masters, Zhang Ke and Wang Shimin, who taught him to work in the tradition of copying famous Chinese paintings. This is most likely the reason why critics claim that his work is conservative and reflects the Yuan and Song traditions. One critic claimed that “his landscape paintings reflect his nostalgic attachment to classical Chinese aesthetics. Along with the other Wangs, Wang Hui helped to perpetuate the tradition of copying the ancient masters rather than creating original work.

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