Expert advice on shopping for antiques & vintage decor

Expert advice on shopping for antiques and vintage decor
antiques, shopping, Toronto, vintage CBC TV, Four Rooms,

I recently had the chance to meet three of the four experts on CBC Television’s Four Rooms , a new series in which participants from across Canada bring treasures of every description — from paintings to rare books to vintage carnival posters — in the hopes of making a lucrative deal with one of the buyers.

The meeting place - 507 Antiques — is run by the youngest of the four, Derreck Martin. Other experts include Montreal-based Eddy Rogo of Empire Auctions , which deals in antiques and fine art, Vancouver’s Scott Landon , a specialist in Canadiana and American industrialist artifacts and Toronto-based Jessica Lindsay Phillips , who has a taste for such unusual items as shrunken heads, mummies, and tribal weaponry.

Landon, Martin, and Rogo were on hand to meet with design writers and bloggers to talk about the show, and visit a few vintage stores on the strip of Queen Street that runs east from Carroll Street, where 507 is located. Along the way, we chatted about the upswing in antiques, vintage and collectibles being used in home décor. (For more on the stores, check out my column, The Local, in the New in Homes section of the Toronto Star.)

Landon says a large part of the appeal is that buyers are fascinated by the back story, or provenance — the place of origin or known history of a piece. “It’s partly how you justify value,” says Landon. “People come in a look at a table and you say it’s $4,500. You have to legitimize the price. So a lot of what we do is education.”

Old pieces are also attractive because they tend to have better resale value, says Landon. “If people bring the piece they bought (from a chain) back to the store in a year, it has no value. At least with an old piece there is a bid somewhere,” he says.

While collectors still love to browse shops, online selling has radically changed the way antiques and collectibles are bought and sold, says Rogo, who handles everything from “diamonds to dining room sets, worth from $200 up to over a million.”

“A huge percentage of business has become private trading. I would say 50 per cent of items don’t see the auction,” says Rogo, adding that auction culture has also radically changed.

“Fifteen years ago, we could not fit everybody into the building for an auction. We’d have 300 or 400 people in the room. Since the internet, we could have 60 and the sales could be more successful because we can get people from all over.”

Still, Rogo offer caveats about online sales, suggesting buyers only connect with sellers they know they can trust. “I had a friend who bought a watch on the internet and what he got was a flashlight. There was supposed to be (an expensive watch) and it was a flashlight.”

When shopping “in the flesh” pieces should be examined carefully, says Landon. In one shop, he opened a chest, and pointed to the fact that one of the drawers had obviously been rebuilt and that a new “distressed” finish had been applied. That’s fine for customers who just wants to use it as décor, says Landon, but they should be aware that the value of the original piece has been diminished.

Working with a trusted dealer can allay fears of authenticity and price gouging, says Rogo.

“I have to be fair to you because my thing is relationships,” says Rogo. “If I take your last dollar on a deal, it’s the last dollar I will see from you.”