Antiques as Recycling

May 27, 2018

I am not the best recycler in the world--nor am I even the best one in Ashfield, the tiny town where I live. But I like to think that being an antiques dealer puts me in good stead with those who care deeply about being green. After all, what is greener than an object that is a hundred years old, passed down from one owner to the next, or used over and over by members of the same family? I love to find antiques that are a little worse for wear--a damaged finish, loose joints, a chip on the bottom of a piece of pottery. I have learned to fix these things without destroying the original elements--and then, if all goes well, I get to pass them on to some grateful party. It is a cycle that benefits everyone. My customers get to take home old and venerable treasures; I make money for groceries--and more antiques. Our society is so disposable now: Styrofoam, plastic, dangerous batteries, cell phones that cost hundreds and are obsolete in a couple of years. We waste and waste, all the while bagging up our cartons and bottles to take to the transfer station. It seems paradoxical at best. I love that the survival of antiques is true recycling--old and resilient art objects, things that were made by hand years ago, still appreciated and utilized. I love that my part in their existence is to track them down and try and match them with the right owner.


I realize that some people don't like antiques; maybe they go more for mid-Century modern, which seems to offend my sensibility for some reason (but that is another essay). Some people see mahogany and it just reminds them of their grandmother's house and mothballs and rotary dial phones. When I see mahogany--or old cherry, pine, walnut, etc.--I am reminded that someone made this piece by hand, without the advent of the circular saw or the ease of Phillips head screws. An old shellac finish can practically make me cry, it is so soft and warm and lovely. That is why I love selling antiques. I am not much of a sales person really, but I do believe in my product, and nothing gladdens me more than seeing someone manage to fit a boudoir chair into the back of their Prius (Priuses seem to hold any sized item by miraculous means). I am quite grateful I stumbled onto antiques when I lost my editing job in 2009. I could have gone in some other, less gratifying direction. But instead I get to work with very old and venerable items that eventually find good homes--at least that is the hope. Antiques are indeed like stray dogs--some are lucky, some wander for many years without finding a place to settle down.



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