The antique and collectibles business has virtually become an industry. The Yellow Pages lists eight antique dealers in Rome, and there may be are at least twice that many around town, and the number is growing. On Broad Street in downtown Rome alone, there are at least four antique shops.
So just what constitutes an antique?
For one thing, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, an antique is something that is at least 100 years old. That’s much different from a collectible, which can be just about anything that someone collects, whether it’s a type of doll, trading cards, magazine, furniture, cars or whatever.
People love to purchase antiques for a variety of reasons. For some, they bring back childhood memories, for others an antique piece of furniture might remind them of something their grandmother had around the house. That antique car might revive thoughts of a first date or maybe even that first kiss.
The secret to being a good antique buyer is to do your homework. The Internet can be an invaluable tool when it comes to doing your research; however buying off the Web is an entirely different matter. There’s no way of knowing what you’re going to get, even if there is a picture of something posted at whatever site you’re clicking through.
Does the phrase “buyer beware” ring a bell?
Karen Masters’ Masters Antiques has been located at 241 Broad St. since 1989. Before then, both she and her father had other shops in Rome.
“From my perspective, there’s not as much interest in antiques as there was in the heyday of the 1980s when there was such a feeding frenzy,” Master said. “I think they have maintained an appeal because of the quality of what you buy. When you look at a 200-year old cherry chest and can buy it for the same thing you’d spend at IKEA, for the thinking person, I don’t think there’s any question.”
She said there is no magic bullet, from the store operators’ perspective, as to what she will buy and have some confidence will turnover in a reasonable period of time in the store.
“I buy things that I like and I feel are good quality,” Masters said. “Sometimes it is truly the junk that sells the first. I surprise myself all the time with what people are interested in. It is a most personal thing.”
Masters said the appeal of nostalgia, uniqueness and quality are key ingredients to the antiques market.
“Something that once you have it, the chances of every being able to buy it again are slim,” Masters said.
Quality is the primary ingredient in being able to separate antiques from the typical flea market items.
She considers herself a private proprietor but does have an associate in the store that sells coins and buys gold, whereas the antique mall concept has become very popular in the Rome area in recent years. That would typically be a single property owner who opens up his or her venue to multiple dealers who lease space to sell their antiques and collectibles
Kevin and Ronda Evans own the River City Antique Mall, 876 Spider Webb Drive.
They purchased the property in 2007 and it took them about three years to make the decision to convert the property into an antique mall.
“What we have seen of our customers is that people like furniture with character. It seems like the new furniture these days is not made as well as the furniture 50 years ago,” Wayne Evans said. “The dealers work very hard to make specific pieces and try to give the best value for the money to the customers.”
The mall concept can offer shoppers a wider variety of merchandise.
“Different dealers have different views and offer different things,” Evans said.
River City had 64 dealers, and then added showcases, which brought in another 45 dealers.
“Most dealers do it to supplement their income,” Evans said. “We have people in real estate. We have an eye doctor in here, an anesthesiologist, and I’m sure it’s hobby for them but they do expect to make money.”
Anna Smith has operated the Treasure Trove, 1944 Shorter Ave., for the past nine years. She takes in items on consignment, rents space for dealers and deals in antiques on her own.
Like Masters, Smith said that quality sells.
“Just because a piece of furniture is old, that doesn’t make it valuable as an antique,” Smith said.
When it comes to collectible type items, Smith said that years of experience help her determine the difference between a reproduction and the real deal.
“You have to spend time looking something up and researching it,” Smith said.
She said that we have entered a new era in antiquing.
“It is a different day in this business. The young people are not collecting the same type of stuff that when I started doing this was collectible, like carnival glass,” Smith said. “Old glassware, nobody buys that anymore. They could give two hoots about stuff that. They’re more into the salvage stuff, using old stuff in new ways.”
She said many of the 30-somethings are buying old pieces of furniture that they’re going to re-fashion into a purpose other than what was the original intent.
“It’s a different day,” Smith said. “It’s changing the antique business for sure.”
Nicole Sheffield will be opening The Ritzy Rooster Antique Mall, 1936 N. Broad St., later this week, with a ribbon cutting and formal grand opening slated for Aug. 29.
She is almost rented up in terms of vendor space.
“Shoppers are already coming by,” Sheffield said. “We let them peek around and everybody’s real excited.”
Sheffield said the allure of antiquing is probably linked to the thrill of finding an item that was made many years ago.
“There’s just something special about finding this hidden treasure that could have been sitting in your great-grandmother’s dining room,” Sheffield said. “It’s just awesome.”