Media Woes or Lazy Dealers?

When I managed my first Antique Shop in the seventies, I was constantly faced with the type of finish to use after "stripping". In those days the choices were; Tung Oil, Danish Oil, Lacquer, Shellac, Urethane or Poly. There was also a great deal of pressure to preserve original finishes. Our biggest enemy at the time was the "dip tank" as many fine treasures went the way of early retirement suffering from the falling apart syndrome.

Not much has changed, except with some help from the environmentalists, the ravishes of submerging precious furniture in hot liquid and rinsing with soap and water have all but disappeared.

However, the magnitude of confusion over what to do with the treasure just purchased at a yard sale, auction or junk shop seems to have increased. Even considering the plethora of educational media the many TV channels and the Internet have provided. One that I hear most often seems to come from our friends at "Antiques Roadshow". My favorite was a recent customer:

"The Antiques Roadshow said I should not refinish the blanket chest that I inherited

from my Grandmother which looks just like the one that was circa 1720 valued at

$$$$$$.$$. So every time I lift the top, the broken hinge must be carefully managed

as not to further gouge the wood. Of course, I am most careful when I close the

 drawer to make sure it is back together and I kick it specifically in the lower

right corner so it will shut."

While this may sound somewhat exaggerated, it is only one of many where confused owners are afraid to make repairs or heaven forbid remove that coat of latex chartreuse from a 1900ís oak chest as it could be original. As a viewer of the roadshow myself, I believe they do an extremely good job in passing on advice to the public. They often say consult with someone before beginning restoration projects or use care in selecting a professional to do the job.

Unfortunately, with the buyers fear, confusion or never ending hope for riches, many are being cheated of enjoying the beauty of the woods, character and usefulness that antique furniture can provide. Lets face it, most of the stuff out there will not end up in a museum as a valued treasure of our national heritage.

As dealers some or all of us have been accused and sometimes rightfully so of being lazy by riding the original finish wagon train. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot? The younger generations who may like antiques are already faced with the incredible task of learning to answer the how old, what style, kind of wood, etc questions. Are we pushing them over the brink with the originality confusion rather than educating them on how to make their new treasure not only beautiful but also functional by making repairs or completing a restoration when appropriate.  The answers Iím afraid may be that they are going down the street and buying new natural finish oak or maple or heaven forbid anything painted white, as they feel more comfortable.

Its time we as dealers make sure we take the extra step and spend a little more time on proper education and not just with the younger generation.