Welcome to the Antique Trader Book Club.
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads and more of us isolate at home trying to flatten the curve, books not only help to pass the time but fill us with wonder and useful information.
Having spent more than twenty years in the book publishing business focusing on titles in the Antiques and Collectibles field, I’ve come across literally thousands of great books. Here are five that are among my favorites:
This book says it’s for ages 7 to 11. Don’t believe it. With more than 2 million copies sold worldwide, The LEGO Ideas Book is perfect for the young and the young at heart. And if you’re isolated with your kids or grandkids … SCORE!
Divided into six themed chapters — transportation, buildings, space, kingdoms, adventure and useful makes — each section contains basic templates of key models to inspire you to create your own. Hints and tips from Master Builders can help you turn a classic car into a racecar or add a bridge to a castle. Don’t worry if you haven’t got all the bricks you need: this book also shows how to simplify details, making this a user-friendly guide for any building ability.
A hit among parents and in classrooms, The LEGO Ideas Book has won a Teachers’ Choice Award, Parents’ Choice Award, and is a Children’s Choices Selection from the Children’s Book Council and International Literacy Association.
I adore Judith Miller’s work. Oh sure, it tends to lean heavy on British tastes and spelling (expect to see “jewellry” and “favourite” throughout), but that simply adds to the international fun. The sheer volume of beautiful items and breadth of her offerings is impressive. Love antiques? You’ll love this book.
If you don’t know Judith Miller, you should. She began collecting in the 1960s while a student at Edinburgh University in Scotland. Today she is one of the leading experts in the field. In 1979, she co-founded the international bestseller Miller’s Antiques Price Guide and has since written more than 100 books treasured by collectors and dealers.
This 600-page hardcover book — it’s so hefty you can work out with it in your home gym — offers comprehensive sections on ceramics, furniture, glass, silver and metal wares, jewelry and objets de vertu, clocks and watches, books, Oriental antiques, textiles, toys, decorative arts and Modern Classics. Special features explain why one piece is worth more than another, and show how to value an item. Biographies of designers and factories provide great background information, helping date and value objects.
There’s an argument to be made that the price guide is obsolete in the antiques and collectibles field. Prices are out of date by the time a book is published, the argument goes, thus making the book of little value. And besides, you can find anything you need online.
I grant you all of that. Even so, I don’t subscribe to this thinking. And Kovels’ is a great example why. Forget pricing. For my money, it’s overrated because the field is so fluid and regional. Ballpark estimates are a great place to start. And comparing a book to the Internet is like comparing The Great Gatsby to Webster’s Dictionary. Sure, I can find every word of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic in the dictionary, but I like the way he puts those words together in his novel far better. I’m most interested in curated information and identification. The guide is exceptionally well organized and wide-ranging and includes an abundance of tips, marks, logos and photographs. I can immerse myself in the book’s minutia. Getting lost in a book is one of the simple pleasures of the isolated soul. Look, no single guide is going to serve all your collecting needs. But if you only can have one, I’d suggest Kovels’.
OK, I know. I just hit you with the argument that price guides are irrelevant and — boink! — we bump into yet another price guide. Sorry, but Warman’s is not a price guide. It is something far grander. Warman’s is a visual celebration. It is bold and beautiful; playful and enticing; traditional yet provocative. Warman’s is a book to fall in love with. I know because I have.
Full disclosure: I worked with author Noah Fleisher and a slew of contributors as editor of this book. So maybe I’m biased. Could be. Or maybe I simply know this title better than any other and that’s why it’s here. Your call.
Warman’s has its shortcomings — no true encyclopedic listings like Kovels’ and fewer categories than Miller’s — but the book’s deficiencies are more than made up for in style and grace and presentation. There are days I enjoy meat and potatoes. And there are days I enjoy fine dining. The thing is, if I’m going to be isolated for god knows how long, I want to be isolated with something rich and intoxicating. I’ll worry about the calories and hangover later.
Speaking of hangovers …
This book from the brother-sister team of Andre and Tenaya Darlington is only loosely related to collecting. But it does promise a fun time and fun is a premium in a pandemic. So here you go.
Booze and Vinyl pairs the perfect music with the perfect cocktail. It’s as if a wise and wonderful bartender with an incredible record collection just showed up at your door coronavirus-free. Would you invite him in? Um, only if you wanted a good time isolating.
The Darlingtons know their music and their booze, so prepare to shake, stir and pour your way through some of the best records ever pressed. Just make sure you have enough ice.
Booze & Vinyl offers four mood-inspiring chapters including “Rock,” “Dance,” “Chill,” and “Seduce.” The range of artists starts in the 1930s and runs straight through the 2000s. The guide also includes insights on how to host a boozy listening party; the authors’ favorite two- and three-ingredient drinks; and a section called “Bar Code,” which features everything you need to make great drinks at home, bar merchandise worth buying, how to batch cocktails for a crowd and more.
I’m not suggesting you invite a crowd over to your house during a pandemic. That would be irresponsible. I am suggesting, however, that perhaps the old Boy Scouts’ motto is appropriate here: Be prepared.