Tips From a Veteran Vintage Shopper, photo by Erick Madrid. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021.
Unlike many of today’s cheaply manufactured products, antiques were built to last a lifetime. These high-quality items can be a chic, unique, and eco-conscious way to furnish your home. But you need to know what to look for.
Antiques dealer Anne Luther founded Raggedy Anneteques at age 14, selling her wares at flea markets and swap meets. She shared some tips during a recent walk through the Antique Center Mall on Hollister Avenue, where her collections are on display (she also has space at the Summerland Antique Collective).
DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER: “Don’t think because you see a rack of
Hawaiian shirts when you walk in that there won’t be anything in the store for you,” said
Luther. “Multi-dealer collectives often have a mix of dealers with a range of items to offer. Shopping at these kinds of places saves you time and helps you develop your own style.
Dealers will sometimes have to buy an entire estate or box at auction to get the items they really want. So make sure to look closely. That Asian art dealer may also have a small
box of English china in the corner. You never know.” This is also a good way to find bargains, she said.
LOOK CLOSELY: You may be surprised by what you spot. “Make sure to look both up and down when you’re in an antique collective,” she said. “Real estate is expensive, and dealers take advantage of every inch of space, hanging things from the ceiling and tucking them under tables.”
TOUCH THINGS: “You’re not in a museum,” said Luther. “Feel an item and its weight. The heavier the piece of furniture — specifically chairs — the more likely that it’s a period piece from the 18th century.” Her pro tip: If you reach your hand underneath the front of a chair,
you can feel the raw wood. If it’s smooth, it’s been machine-cut, and the chair was made after 1860. If it’s rough, then it’s hand-cut, and the piece is likely much older. For china, pottery, and glassware, she advised, “Check for chips and cracks with your fingers as well as your eyes. Run your finger over all of the edges.”
DISCRIMINATE, BUT DON’T HOARD: “It takes three of something to make a collection,”
said Luther. If you have tabletop items, like lion figurines for example, “when you display them at home, you want to put them on a tray to give them a little more presence and interest. And you don’t want to buy every single lion you ever see: This is how hoarders get started. Be discriminating, buy the best quality you can afford, signed pieces or pieces
manufactured by well-known names. Keep refining your collection, replacing inferior pieces with better quality ones.”
Antique Center Mall, 4434 Hollister Ave., (805) 967-5700, antiquecentermall.com; Summerland Antique Collective, 2192 Ortega Hill Rd., Summerland, (805) 565-3189, summerlandantiquecollective.com
Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021. To see the story as it originally appeared, click here.