If Betty White told you to buy antiques, would you? More verification that the antiques trade is in disarray and more idea on what to do about it came in my mailbox today in the November/December The Magazine Antiques. Skimming the letter you may end up with a not entirely accurate take-away that Betty White and the AARP might help save the industry.
In the Editor’s Letter, Elizabeth Pochoda writes about a group of collectors who recently got together and came up with the idea to form a trade association to help things out.
Pochoda writes that while the idea is a good one, the mission is urgent. Teaching folks about antiques is a fine goal, but not one that’s going to help move expanding inventory anytime soon. Pochada suggests focusing on a national media campaign and perhaps a engaging spokesperson for the industry, which would be costly.
That’s where she loses me. Pochoda suggests a person situated culturally between Phillippe de Montebello and Betty White—though a lot younger, and then goes on to suggest the possibility of an alliance with the AARP. Montebello, a former Met curator, was born in 1936. Betty White, while having some appeal to members of younger generations, was born in 1922. I don’t think either could be taken as a suggested spokesperson, but I’m not sure floating the names brings us any closer to reviving the industry.
I’m also not sure an effective campaign would be expensive, however. It just needs to be creative. Antiques are receiving considerable airtime on old media anyway with Antiques Road Show, Pawn Stars and American Pickers. I think we’d go farther with a new media campaign focusing on Youtube, Facebook and targeting urban vintage markets, which seem to have no shortage of younger “antique” hungry customers. Listen to my conversation with Eric Demby of the Brooklyn Flea when he says without a doubt, these will be the consumers of higher-priced vintage goods. Perhaps hiring someone like Eddie Ross, take him to a few classes at Winterthur, then send him out to find real antiques in shows and walk through the period rooms at the Brooklyn Museum. Upload the videos to Facebook and Youtube and we’ll have twice the bang of an old media campaign at a fraction of the cost.
I do want to thank Pochoda for not using the word green and agree with a later point, that a campaign should not fous on collecting, rather just float the idea of purchasing a few antiques. Pochoda also refers to a friend’s belief that the word antiques has an aura too closely associated with mud turtles, but defends its use saying the campaign could help bring it around to a positive. Myself, I’ve been in enough persnickety arguments about what exactly an antique is to use the word “vintage.” I think this word already has a positive connotation with younger collectors and could eliminate those persnickety arguments. Vintage is cool and perhaps my classical sideboard could be cool too if I call it vintage. I think I like it better already.