You like to browse the tables at country auctions, to wander through antique malls and to peruse eBay listings. You’re thinking of jumping into the world of collecting but don’t know where to begin. Once, I was like you. Now my husband will gladly tell you I no longer face that dilemma. Truth is, collecting doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive or consume your life. If you have three of anything, it’s a collection. I’m not talking Chippendale chairs or Faberge eggs either. It could be seashells, or vintage postcards. The important thing is that it’s something you love. These suggestions were inspired by a recent trip to the Rural Society Antique Show and Sale at Warwick Farm.
- Ephemera. This is just another word for old paper things like photos, postcards, magazine ads, posters, etc.
Items like this are usually affordable and easy to bring home, frame, and incorporate into your decor. Look for subjects that interest you. Perhaps you’re all about fashion, food, travel or old tractors. It’s all out there for you to find, and much of it is in excellent condition.
- Vintage Textiles. These also tend to be inexpensive and include such things as flour and feed sacks, old tablecloths, quilts and afghans.
Of course, some quilts and samplers can be quite pricey depending on age and condition but it is still possible to find a good bargain if you keep a watchful eye out. Also look for ways to repurpose your finds, like these clever feed-sack pillows.
- Old cast iron cookware. If you’ve priced the new stuff lately, you will appreciate what a good deal you can get at an auction or antique shop.
With patience and some elbow grease, you can clean a pot and re-season it and it’s just as good as new, possibly for pennies on the dollar. There are a lot of resources on the internet for learning how to recondition old cast iron and care for it. My husband and I have actually found some pretty amazing stuff over the years. Avoid pieces that are severely rusted or deeply pitted.
- Vintage Flatware and Serving Pieces. This is becoming a trend. I’m seeing lots of it used by food stylists in their photo shoots and I’m charmed.
Old plates and glassware are good choices for collectors too. It’s really a matter of maintenance. If you want shelf pieces for display the field is wide open. If you want to use your finds, look for things that will stand up to repeated washing and drying and the usual wear and tear. Keep in mind that silver and silver plate need polishing and should not be put in the dishwasher. This could be the reason so much of it shows up at sales and goes for a song. People just aren’t that into polishing silver these days. My mom actually discovered that the very best way to keep the shine on her silver was to use it every day and wash it immediately after use in hot soapy water.
- Yard and Garden Items. Admit it. You need topiary trees, chalk-ware guard dogs and a wing chair upholstered in moss.
Other less quirky choices are flower pots and salvaged architectural pieces. At the sale, I found a great old McCoy Pottery strawberry pot. Almost anything can become a trellis or a plant container. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box with this one.