The recent release of a delightful WorthPoint podcast interview featuring “picking prodigy and antiques dealer” 8-year-old Connor McCrory, of Burbank, Calif., truly is entertaining and inspiring.
The interview of McCrory, by Martin Willis, auctioneer and director of decorative arts for James D. Julia Auctioneers, is both compelling and encouraging because it gives us a small glimpse into antiques and collectibles, through a youthful view. Connor’s knowledge of the antiques he collects, Bakelite and Barbie just to name a few, is impressive. He is well spoken, thoughtful, and engaging. Plus, you can most definitely hear his passion for it in his voice, and practically feel it in the way his excitement grows as he tells Willis about his favorite treasures.
Listen to Willis’ interview with 8-year-old “picking prodigy” Connor McCrory:
All of this brought me back to something that’s been top of mind for the last few months, and something that my co-editor Karen Knapstein and I ask ourselves on a regular basis. What are we doing and what can we do to encourage new and younger collectors?
If you’ve been involved in the antiques and collectibles community in any way, for any amount of time, you’ll notice it attracts all types of people, from all walks of life. Over the years there has been concern, as with many collecting and nostalgia-based interests, (classic cars, coins, sports memorabilia) that as our largest population (Baby Boomers) gets older, the foundation of those who enjoy antiques and collectibles will shrink considerably. Of course in light of that, there is real concern that it will have a significant impact on our community and the business of antiques as a whole. While that point is not without merit, and nor is everything in our antiques community all sunshine, rainbows and perfect as sugar and spice — the long-term health and benefits of the antiques and collectibles world is worth fighting for. It is worth our time and effort to care for, promote, and protect — by what we say and do.
To that point, there are some efforts to shed more attention on antiques, and the various ways in which people enjoy them and incorporate vintage items into their lives. More communities, states, even regions of the country, are taking a vested interest in promoting their areas as “antiques destinations.” Plus, we’re also seeing continued interest in vintage items for the purposes of upcycling/repurposing, among other things.
Now I realize Connor McCrory is just one child. A young child who may or may not remain active in antiquing as he grows older; but there is a very real possibility that he will. What’s to say his experiences as a picker won’t inspire more children to see what all the fuss is about? Especially if there are people in their lives who encourage them to explore their interests, take them to places where they can learn more about antiques, and join them in experiencing the culture of antiquing.
So, that’s why I keep the question (what am I doing/what can I do to encourage new and younger collectors) in mind, and strive to answer it with my actions. Awhile back we posed this same question to our readers, and we received this insightful response from Sandy Eckstein of Dolls and More Antiques:
As a dealer who sells a number of things, including antique dolls and toys, my booth is very attractive to children. I do several large antique markets monthly, and it’s not unusual to see parents with children in tow.
While many dealers dislike children in their booths, I love to talk with them, show them the toys or dolls and explain to them what makes them collectible and more than just a toy. When a show is slow, I’ve been known to spend up to an hour with youngsters in my booth. They love the wind-up toys, early cap guns and holding an antique doll to see how the construction of old dolls differs from their dolls of today. Do I often make a sale from this? No. Rarely. But I consider it time well spent.
If we can show them something interesting. If we’re just nice to them, maybe they won’t hate coming to the shows with their parents. And if they come, maybe they’ll get interested in what’s around them.
I’d like to think I’ve started a couple of youngsters down the road to collecting. And I have had a few parents come back and buy something their children liked in my booth. But mostly, I do it to instill the love of collecting and an appreciation of our past.
— Sandy Eckstein, Dolls and More Antiques, Atlanta, Ga.
Inspired by Connor’s interview with WorthPoint, we’re asking the question again:
What can we as individuals in the antiques community do to mentor new collectors?
Send your responses via e-mail to ATNews@fwmedia.com, post your response on our Facebook page, or mail your responses to Antique Trader: Question of the Week, 700 East State St., Iola, WI 54990. Responses will be accepted through Aug. 31,2013, and may be featured in an upcoming issue of Antique Trader magazine.