Changing with your customers

Responses to Wayne Jordan’s guest column published in last week’s issue are coming in fast and furious. It seems Mr. Jordan, a Virginia appraiser and auctioneer, struck a nerve in both veteran and novice dealers alike with his comments on how the antiques trade can reach out to members of Generation X. Generation X is typically defined as those age 30 to 50 who are just now coming into their prime collecting years.

One reader said if the antiques trade wants to survive in its present form, it must better support the efforts of young professionals. He’s onto something here.

It’s safe to say that most collectors or dealers were influenced by an educated or passionate relative or friend at one time. Sometimes this figure came late in life: a dealer who shares a customer’s passion for an obscure antique. Other times it happens early: a relative who takes a youngster under their wing to show them that collecting is fun.

However, there are too few efforts to mentor young dealers or otherwise show them the ropes. Dealers are an independent and hardworking group and a business plan that works for one dealer likely won’t work for another. Consider that there are thousands of dealers nationwide and only a few groups exist to pull them together toward a common goal – and membership in these groups is relatively small and tight knit.

So “young” dealers have it rough: they experience high competition for quality goods, are automatically considered “outsiders” and the ever-shrinking markets make a successful career in antiques seem unlikely.

However, antiques shows are leading the way to appeal to younger buyers.

The Baltimore Summer Antiques Show annually holds compelling lecture series that are free to the general public. Topics are fresh and intellectually stimulating.
The DC Big Flea is offering free admission for any customer under the age of 30 on Jan. 10 on what’s being called “Young Consumer Sunday.”

“We are seeing so many more young people in their twenties shopping our shows,” says Joan Sides, who founded the Big Fleas in D.C., Fredericksburg and now Baltimore. “Too, they are tired of the mass-produced, Ikea, cookie cutter look that was so popular in the late ‘90s. And, they are finding that these pieces, that were so affordable and necessary in decorating their first home or studio apartment, just can’t take the wear and tear of daily living.”

It appears Sides is taking advice from Martin Codina, owner of Fine Estate Sales and Estate Liquidation of San Rafael, Calif. Codina’s letter to the editor printed on page 5 sums it up: Never give up. Change with your customers.

Eric Bradley

Question of the Week: When you started collecting or dealing, how did you benefit from a mentor or experienced relative?

Send your replies to or to Letters to the Editor, c/o Antique Trader, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54945.


*Great Books, CDs, Price Guides & More
*Share YOUR Thoughts in the Antique Trader Forums
*Check out our FREE Online Classified Ads
*Sign up for your FREE e-mail newsletter
*Visit the Antique Trader blog for the latest news and views from the Antique Trader editors
*Enter the Antique Trader Treasure Hunt Sweepstakes