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Talking it Over: Modern antiques

Katie Erdman

An antique is something our grandparents called modern. Things that were purchased, used, and often discarded in one generation are collectors' items a few generations later. We may remember and shrug off what our parents and grandparents used so often, but our children and grandchildren could just look at these things as precious antiques.

You could classify antiques into four types: early attic, battered basement, treasured trash and novelties. Early attic is what our mother discarded and carried to the attic. It may even be those old Valentines, mis-matched dishes and used clothing. Battered basement could be the bright red upholstered furniture, used toys, and out-of-style appliances. Treasured trash are those items received as a gift and rarely used. It could be precious glassware, framed prints and hand-made quilts. It can also be something your mother used a lot or a gift from a special friend. Novelties are things that businesses give away at holidays or personalized products.These are usually dated and saved because of that.

I have a lot of these antiques here and there and many of them are still in use. Occasionally I mention to my children that certain things will be collector items some day, but they are not impressed. When my grandchildren come to visit, I drag out some of my children's old toys and realize that these, too, are probably soon to be antiques or already being collected.

Antiques can tell a lot about the past. They can explain things about our history and cultures. They can reveal the etiquette of an era. For example, the antique handleless cups reveal that in those days the coffee was poured from the cup into the saucer and drunk from that. The cup was then placed on a cup plate. Another example is that pewter is very rare and highly sought after because most pewter items from the past were melted down to make ammunition for the troops.

Most antique collectors today look for things that are small and easily displayed in the home. Some furnish their homes with beautiful antique pieces while others prefer to display them in curios or cabinets. If you are like me, if I am not still using an antique piece, it is probably stored away in a closet or the garage. Most of the antiques I display are the treasured trash variety, the things I have received from my parents or grandparents or items I purchased to remember someone by.

I wouldn't classify myself as an avid antique collector but I do enjoy going to auctions and garage sales and look for things that I think may someday be worth money. I really need to study up on the history of some things before getting too deep into collecting it, such as knowing the designers, manufacturers and dates that are most collected. However, there have also been things that accidentally become collector items simply because people discarded them routinely, such as the hard sided cigar boxes.

As the garage sale and auction season gets into full swing, I am sure that I will be picking up a few things simply because I think they will be worth money some day. I will proudly show them off to my children and they will roll their eyes and worry about having to get rid of all this junk some day. I can now remind them that what one generation might call modern, another generation will call antique and even the things they use every day, will soon be an antique.