Evolution of an Antique Dealer - The Land of the Dinosaurs

As a progressive thinking, liberal-minded, somewhat youthful 63 year old (or so I used to think), it appears as though the first signs of my evolving into a dinosaur have appeared!

It started with the wrinkles, horniness (not of the sexual type - more like callouses), hairs in strange places, lack of hair in ordinary places, and a strongly doom and gloom outlook. It doesn't help that my health has taken a major turn for the worse and not a day passes without a serious issue. And drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. All by prescription of course!

And then there is the echoing in my head of phrases such as: "It used to be...", or "I remember when...", or "What has happened to people! They've gotten so rude and disrespectful!", or "We are doomed because history repeats if you forget and it is obvious that these G-D goons in office don't remember, etc., etc. When I catch myself uttering or even thinking those phrases I see the ghosts appear right in front of my eyes - my mother, father, teachers, relatives. All those old folks who were so darn annoying. How right they were though. And remembering how I was in my teens and twenties and even thirties I know just how futile it can seem to try to convince those young people that what they are doing and saying is harmful to themselves or others and boy is it ever! Why can't they see it?!!

All this does relate to the antiques and collectible trade. How? Well as most of you older timers realize, many areas of collectibles and antiques have fallen prey to what I call "aging out". Many arenas are no longer desirable to younger generations and the older folks who did collect are divesting, not acquiring. The demand has diminished and thus the prices have lowered or perhaps worse - made it impossible to sell. What comes to mind are the following: Royal Bayreuth figural items, inkwells (not only don't young people know what they are but they just don't give a darn) tableware of all kinds - sets of china, sterling silver flatware, serving pieces, tablecloths, glassware of all kinds - elegant or casual. We live in a world that is inhabited by people who are on the fast track - constantly rushing hither and yon and looking for shortcuts. Shorter ways of saying things (texting and the abbreviations specific to that obsessive endeavor), paper plates in lieu of having to wash dishes, women and girls who literally never cook - not even to boil water for coffee what with what they perceive is the convenience of Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts on nearly every corner! They don't care that it cost two-three times as much or that they are contributing to the garbage heaps that threaten the quality of life in many areas.

I have no doubt that this trend will turn around some time in the future, but probably not in my lifetime. It runs too deep. After disasters like Katrina and the destruction of a formerly vibrant city like New Orleans and the falling of the Twin Towers, life does seem somehow more disposable and maybe acquiring things of substance and longevity doesn't have the same appeal as it did 30 years ago.

I live in a retirement community in South Florida. Cookie cutter condos. Maybe one out of twenty is decorated in something other than Rooms to Go particle board constructed furniture. Few of the retirees who relocated from Northern states brought their furniture with them and because of the destruction seen in Hurricanes Andrew and Wilma, they hesitate to invest heavily into "real" wood furniture or decorative items. Their walls are mostly barren except for the large screen TV. No books. No paintings (except perhaps those that came from some random consignment store and had matching colors). No beautiful handmade rugs. No display cabinets, breakfronts, or hutches full of a lifetime of memories and inherited bits and pieces. They would require dusting and who wants to bother with that?

Not so long ago I would go on house-calls within this community so I got to see a lot of places. Few belonged in House Beautiful, but nearly every one had at least one object they coveted because it had been with their family and was a well-made antique or a beautiful hand-painted picture or wall plaque and almost all had an oriental rug on the floor. And nearly every single one had a breakfront in the dining room or living room displaying beautiful china and silver items. Not all were valuable collectibles or antiques but they were lovingly owned and displayed. Many decorated their walls with plates. Today it is totally different. I take a call and see nothing personal around. No breakfronts. Some entertainment centers still around but outfitted with flat screen TVs now. If they haven't given their sterling silver to a family member who wanted it then they scrapped it. After all, who wants to polish it?

My health issues contributed to my prematurely having to give up doing shows in 2001. It led to my giving up my brick & mortar shop in 2008. It has led to my dealing in smaller and lighter weight items. It has led to fewer buying trips and very limited traveling.

Why do I share all this with all of you? My experience leads me to think that there are probably a good many of you experiencing similar issues and maybe some of you will be amused, interested, or edified by what I have to say.

So when I am puzzled by what has happened to my world and dismayed at the loss of interest by most people in the things that interest me most, I feel as though I am now in the lost world of the dinosaurs. I'm sure that if I had grandchildren that is how they would see it. It saddens me to see our breed dying off or having to submit to this strange new world. Why is it that young folks don't seem to seek to have beauty in their lives?

My favorite thing in South Florida is the exuberant, flaming Royal Poinciana trees eternalized by the Highwaymen painters. They can't be missed, or so one might think. To my shock and awe, many people I know say they 'never noticed' them until I brought it up. Amazing, eh? Well, a most unusual thing happened in 2011. They didn't bloom. That's right. No bloom. I haven't been able to find out why. Maybe the drought. Maybe global warming. Maybe because people don't care? Is that even possible? I doubt it, but when people stop caring about things, they tend to disappear from our reality. Sad.

Barbara Jokel

That Was Then Antiques on Ruby Lane