February 15, 2003
I have just returned from the Antiques and Collectibles Dealers Association
convention in Nashville and am leaving in a few hours for Miami, but
thought I'd give you a quick rundown on the convention before I go.
The convention was named "Quest For Knowledge" and I was an instructor,
lecturing to dealers on the topic of costume jewelry. There were also
speakers at each meal and, as you might expect, the state of the market was
a hot topic. Most agreed that it currently stinks, and the Number One
Villain is the economy. Most dealers are concerned about the dearth of good
material available to purchase at prices that leave room for resale at a
profit. There's a lot of high-priced ordinary stuff out there. And they're
concerned about slow sales, but that's sort of an outgrowth of the first
I attended the preview party for Heart Of The Country, a major southern
show, which was taking place in our hotel. Incidentally, the hotel was The
Opryland Hotel in Nashville, not so much a hotel as a city under glass.
When you check in, you are given a map with directions to your room. Even
with the map, I had to stop and ask directions several times before I found
the convention. Yes, a river runs through it, and my room had a balcony
right over the river. There were palm trees outside my terrace and they
swayed in the breeze. However, no rain ever, and no insects ever - because
we were indoors! Through the giant glass dome, one can see star-like lights
at night and on Thursday night I looked up and saw the moon - of course I
had to inquire to be sure it was the actual moon. It was.
At the preview there were droves of attendees, all at $60 apiece. True,
some of them seemed to be there mainly for the buffet dinner, but there
were lots of people milling about the booths. I didn't inquire of the
dealers about their sales, but it did seem some business was going on. The
level of merchandise seemed appropriate - no junk - but the prices were up
there. Still, I saw several people leaving with packages.
After the preview I attended a reception hosted by Connie Swaim, the
Managing Editor of AntiqueWeek. It was attended by other AntiqueWeek
columnists and other speakers from the convention. Naturally, we talked
shop. But, since the bad economy and slow sales were, by this time, a
given, we discussed what types of merchandise we'd been seeing on the
market. Certainly, this show was geared toward country items, but all of us
observed that there was very little in the way of 18th or 19th century
material. The market is now a largely 20th century animal, we concluded.
On Friday, having a few hours to kill before my plane left, I attended
another antiques show, held in a motel located directly across the road
from Opryland. I went with two of my students, a husband and wife from
Nevada. The show is arranged by room; that is, each dealer had a motel
room, and arranged it as a show booth. Since the first floor rooms also had
parking spots right outside, there was a great deal of outdoor display as
well, all covered up because of torrential rains that fell all day long. We
found the dealers huddled in front of the heaters in their rooms. The
couple I was with had driven their truck into Nashville, so they were
interested in much larger items than I was. I only looked at teensy things,
because I had to lug whatever I bought on the plane. I bought nothing.
Every dealer shops sort of schizophrenically. There are those items you buy
for resale, and those items you buy for your own collection. Naturally, you
will pay more for the things you collect, because you don't have to think
of making a profit when you resell. I found not one single item I felt was
priced within the realm of reason, even for my collections. In other words,
the prices were outrageous. Items even in questionable condition were out
of sight pricewise. Most of the dealers I spoke to said they weren't having
a bad show in terms of their sales, but I didn't believe it. At those
prices, they could not have been selling much. The couple I was with bought
a couple of things: she purchased a jacket to wear, and he bought an ivory
ruler, which is an item he collects. That was it. If those dealers made
their show rent, I'd be surprised to hear about it.
So, Accumulators, what does this all portend? Well, in my humble opinion,
it'll all turn out the way it always does: the economy will recover,
there'll be a shakeout of lower end or less experienced dealers, their
inventory will hit the market at greatly reduced prices, to be snapped up
by other dealers for resale. Some items now in inventory will be sold by
dealers at deep discounts, several shows will go under from lack of dealer
interest, some dealers will operate strictly on the Internet, primarily on
eBay. And that's a place where the buyer determines the price, so it will
be interesting to see who is able to earn a living selling antiques and
Off to Florida, Dear Accumulators. I'll be back next Friday and will type
to you then. Have a great week, filled with reasonably bought acquisitions.
© 2003 Judith Katz-Schwartz. All rights reserved.
Antiques and Collectibles Newsletter #208
U.S. Library of Congress
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