As long as I can remember I’ve always had a passion for antiques. In fact, my design business (prior to joining forces with a certain Mr. Webb) actually grew out of an antiques shop I owned in Pasadena, California.
It’s well known in the antiques trade that “An antiques dealer isn’t made by what he sells, but by what he buys”. This is absolutely true. It’s also true that any antiques dealer worth his salt loves buying most of all, because a dealer is usually a collector who’s buying is somewhat out of control. And, by the way, it’s not really shopping in the traditional sense, it’s treasure hunting. It’s about seeing what others don’t see ~ searching for that object shining like a diamond in the mud. There’s great satisfaction in finding the great piece, giving it a good polish and bringing it oh-so-carefully into an atmosphere of equal objects so it finds its proper place in the world.
Now that White Webb has opened a shop, which includes antiques, I get to be on the hunt once again. In the old days, every weekend was spent lurking about estate sales and flea markets far too early in the morning, and now twenty years later I’ve found that even in a www world, not much has changed. Seeing, touching and feeling a piece can never be replaced with any technology. In fact, when searching for treasure, I’ve often “felt” a piece before I saw it, as if the glorious discovery was predestined. Mind you, one must wade through piles of rubbish to unearth that particular object of desire.
Recently I headed off to Brimfield, the granddaddy of American flea markets. Being a serious junker at the fleas takes three things, 1) the ability to get up early (really early), 2) a good pair of walking shoes, and 3) a quick eye. I must admit that my stamina is not what it was in my 20’s, but while the legs get weary, the heart remains unchanged. The thrill of discovery makes sore feet a non-issue, and as it turned out, my eye is still pretty sharp.
If you’ve never been to Brimfield, you really should do it at least once. That is if you don’t mind shopping as a blood sport. Once there you’ll find several fields, all opening at various times during the morning and loaded with dealers of every possible description extending as far as the eye can see. “The Great Herds” migrate from one field to another, cheerfully waiting for the gates to open and then piling in like a stampede of previously pent-up bovines.
That competitive camaraderie is something I had forgotten about. There you are, waiting for the clock to hit the hour, and as you wait you are surrounded by a pleasant buzz. People of all types are jammed together, sharing stories of the one that got away, or telling each other “it’s not nearly as good as the old days”. Toy collectors are mashed up against museum curators. Impossibly hip Japanese retailers are next to style directors of American fashion houses. Movers in movie memorabilia and shakers in Shaker, are shoulder to shoulder with paper doll aficionados and costume jewelry mavens. You name it, some one buys it, sells it or hoards it. It’s a deliciously wacky world.
But no matter what a particular person is seeking, the passion is the same. And that sense of victory is shared when finding a perfect example of “you name it” at a great price. Mind you, the “great price” part is more rare than George Washington’s wooden teeth.
At the end of the day, with my pick-up filled with the beautiful, the beat-up and the curious, I, along with my trusty fellow “junker”, rested our aching feet on the floorboards and headed home. Our minds reeling with treasures found, the few that got away and the possibility of tomorrow.