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  • Writer's pictureConrado Maleta'

I want sell Antiques and Vintage items. Do people buy them?

Updated: May 17, 2019

Consumerism have done very bad changes in our brains. For answering this question I will give you a real example and place my ideas in a more specific context that will help to understand the situation. I recently visited a store with amazing china and vintage glassware selling for an extremely logic, affordable and reasonable prices. I asked the owner of the store if she is doing good and if customers come and buy the astonishing collection of porcelain and glass she had on display. Her answer was as I expected: Few people buy this things today. 

The most obvious justification to the issue is that you can find cheap and practical dinnerware and glass ware made in Asiatic countries and sold at almost any big city in the Western world; things that are very standardized and in tone with the modern taste. Why buying old things if you can get affordable and easy to replace items anywhere? Modern glassware and dinnerware is not better than the old, in fact is usually worst than vintage or antique ones. But in the 1950s until 1990s the world pushed us to believe that new is best, modern is new, cool is new. The Western world moved toward the new culture of disposable and ephemeral wear, as well as massive waste.

The boomers are now downsizing or dying off and they were the last generation to experience old style manufacturing where good things in general where not acquired on a whim. WalMart and Amazon and modern manufacturing have changed the consumer landscape radically. My in laws in the 1980s, thrown away to the garbage all the dinnerware of porcelain they had BECAUSE it wasn't appropriate for microwave and using a microwave in Israel (their homeland) was a sign of status. Fortunately i saved two big Bavarian Porcelain trays, that i treasure like if genuine pieces of the Moon. Now, i just find absurd that families destroyed their china just because had a metallic gold trim on the edges and that was not good for the microwave or dishwasher or any other kitchen gadget of the digital era. 

One of my neighbors in Cuba sold for pennies all the sterling silver cutlery of is home and later purchased “cool” cutlery coming from IKEA!!!!!! I can understand the situation, Ikea was and still is like an impossible for cubans. You need to ask someone traveling out of the island for buying stuff and bringing it to Cuba. So, for this neighbor studying in the university Design, the Ikea cutlery was much more interesting than the sterling silver cutlery of his grandparents. Did he regretted later? I doubt it.

Practicality and demographic wants have impacted the resale of vintage dinnerware, glassware and general antiques, About 20 years ago at local auctions in the state of New York, a tea cup and saucer would go for $40 - $100 a set, Today the demand is almost gone and these pieces are no longer sought after unless you are a collector with a narrowly exquisite taste and knowledge. I recently could have bought 100 sets of tea cups and saucers for $30 for the whole lot with shelving. With dishes as well there is the fact to store them if you are a collector. Think for a moment, in times of your grandparents every single house, rich or poor had a very well placed and admired cabinet for the porcelain and silver cutlery of the family. When china cabinets were popular these dish sets and porcelain dinnerware pieces fetched premium prices at auctions. Many of these pieces were handed down from generation to generation. The younger people today live a different simplistic lifestyle if not basic, monastic, stoic and too frequently insipid. The large family dinners are not often served on antique dishes anymore. Family demographic dynamics have changed as well. As a result these antique dinnerware and glassware are not meeting the need of the modern masses. With the lack of demand, the offer goes down and the prices also sink. As a result these previously stated issues come into account when these vintage or antiques items are sold.

As the boomer's parents died off much of their possessions where distributed to family and much of that got stored in attics or basements. There was also a general mentality that someday they will be worth something but little knowledge about how to keep safe the inherited pieces. Time pass and mass produced items conquered the world. Priorities had changed and also the habits in our much more pragmatic societies. What you have now is the largest demographic in modern history flooding the market with several generations of vintage and antique things but in a context in which the contemporary buyer is much more smaller in number ( as generation) and does not have the disposable income that their grandparents and parents had. Any used item is only worth what someone will pay for it and if the market is not big enough for the supply, prices will descend to next to nothing.

In the other hand, there is a lack of conscience in big part of the consumers. There is an ethical need for rethinking the role modern buyer has in the general scheme and lifestyle. Buying antiques and vintage items, reusing them is a way to improve medio ambiental issues; it is ecological and reduce the waste. Why buying new if we can buy old and reuse it? The next time you think about ordering something pretty, cheap and shiny made of plastic think of the global impact you are placing on the world. All the items that are made in Asia must be transported across the ocean much to the peril of our ocean and fish we eat. There are a lot of things that must be transported across the oceans despite the pollution sadly. The world does not need one more ship carrying things from any global company that are mass produced, made poorly of substandard materials with a 500% markup. We can recycle our history, our memory.

Modern society is teaching the citizens that ephemeral is ok and good… but it is not. The problem goes to much deep scale than we can think. With this consumerism and cult to the ephemeral we are digging on our feet our own cultural burial site. We are loosing long term vision of what each of us is, as individuals, as families, as nations, as civilizations. Having permanent new stuff specially mass produced, is weakening who we are and is opening a hole in our own civilization.

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