Speaking of Antiquing – by Margaret Barnes, Pickety Place Antiques
How many times have you come across a fabulous item in a museum or a shop and wondered to yourself, “If this item could talk, I wonder what stories would it tell?”
My husband and I just returned home to Jacksonville after two grueling weeks of clearing out his mother’s estate in Western Massachusetts. It was a multi-generational estate and the family had lived in this 1820’s home since 1966. The house included a three-story farmhouse with two barns—all full of items that dated back to great-grandparents. We spent countless hours sorting, cleaning and selling items. Of course, many precious family items were kept… but not as many as we would have liked.
Some of the items found their way to the famed Brimfield sale—we had dealers coming to the estate sale the day before to get a peek at what was being offered.
On the day of the sale, the yard and barns were full of eager buyers. Many of the people attending wanted to hear the stories of items from the family’s Mountain Lakes N.J. home and about items from the family home on Cape Cod. It was emotional and difficult to part with so much at once and many tears were shed.
The best stories, though, were the ones my husband and I heard about the people who bought them and about where the sale items were going after the sale.
We had two buyers heading to Brimfield that said they had lots of money in their pockets and they were “here to buy a lot if we treated them right.” One gentleman was in his mid-70’s and knew how to pick. He spotted several vintage architectural windows and doors that had been hauled up from the basement barn that would fit his needs, along with many other primitives and tools. He said his sister was on her way and she too would be spending time and money at our estate sale. I later learned she owned an antique store in Utah and was making her annual buying trip. She bought many antique dishes including a pristine Candlewick punch bowl set, given as wedding gift in 1947 and used very little.
Monique and her friend, Maggie, were two neighbors whose vision and creativity were fun and unique. Maggie wanted to buy the oldest insulators including the hooks that held them to the telephone poles for a coat rack. Maggie bought many of the old tables and was going to refinish them and give them new life. She was teaching her niece how to spot good, old furniture and how to make the pieces shine. Monique found an old farmhouse double sink that had also been hauled up from the basement that must have weighed two tons… she and her husband were in the midst of refurbishing an old place and wanted the kitchen to be of older, authentic items and this sink certainly fit the bill.
Then there was Caroline and her husband. Young and just starting out, they wanted quality old furniture that would last another lifetime. It was a pleasure selling her an item I really wanted to bring home to Jacksonville, but couldn’t—it was an old mahogany Chiffarobe that stood in the upstairs hallway. Beforehand, it was used in the family home in Mountain Lakes. She wrote me later to say she’d applied orange oil and rubbed it with Howard’s Restore to make it shine again.
Martha and George were the book pickers of the group that walked away with many volumes, some dating back well over a hundred years, all brought down from the attic. Martha came back after the sale and took away many volumes that went unsold, stating that she was an artist and found old books useful in her creations.
These are just a few of the stories about the pain and joy we experienced of letting items go. In the meantime, love your antiques and care for them. Polish your silver, take the stains out of the linens and shine mirrors. Most of all, tell your children the history of the piece, since you never know where your items will end-up years down the road and what stories they can tell.
Posted October 18, 2013