Spring – the calendar says – has sprung

Driving to work last week I was momentarily alarmed when, just in front of me, there yawned what seemed to be a great black chasm. It gaped from between the thick slabs of gray I have become so accustomed to seeing since that first weekend last December.

Was the ground itself rent open? Was I going to drop into an endless abyss that would carry my Honda and me to the center of the earth? Would there be flying lizard creatures there? Maybe it was a tear in the very fabric of time and space itself…

It was the road and you get the point.

With the end of March – in like a lion and out like a lamb, anyone? – and the appearance of such things as asphalt, grass and robins, it also means that that most enjoyable of warm weather weekend pursuits will soon be upon us: the outdoor antique show and/or the rummage sale hop.

This is the time of year that it starts. Like flowers, the signs show up on corners and in yards, and the ads for shows start to make their way across print and the Web. It is in the genes, this desire to go and pour through other people’s stuff, all in the hopes of that one magnificent thing.

The days of finding a Peale painting, or a letter from Lincoln are long past – there’s too many seasons of “Roadshow” behind us and too much awareness of the potential of such things – but you can still get tremendous bargains at a lot of shows and sales, shops, too, I might add.

I have spent a lot of time in the last few months, as the economy has gyrated in the wake of the housing bubble collapse, thinking about the role of antiques in society, and talking to many different stripe of Trader reader. Yes gas prices are going up, and yes, discretionary income is astonishingly low as the price of a loaf of bread doubles.

That said, with an unstable market and commodities so unpredictable – everything can have a bubble; see above, see the late-1990s dotcom boom – the time is actually quite ripe for antiques of all kinds. Without having to drive far, or at all, collectors can go to a show or get online and have a broad selection of whatever it is you collect right at your fingertips.

Here, though, is the real kicker: Antiques are actually stable. You put your money into a reasonable and well-considered purchase, and it is going to retain that value – in most cases – no matter what. Again, the key to the above phrase is “reasonable and well-considered.” I reckon that I don’t have to tell Trader readers such things, but there you have it.

This coming spring and summer will be my first in the Midwest, and I look forward to getting to a batch of new shows that I never thought I’d have the chance, and many more small ones that take place locally.

I’m always open to suggestions for places to find great antiques. If anyone wants to write, it’s noah.fleisher@fwpubs.com.

Happy spring, and happy hunting.

Noah Fleisher