In this world most things we purchase go down in value the longer we own them: cars, furniture, clothing… In fact, it’s safe to say that the moment something isn’t showroom new, it is less desirable and consequently has less value.
In the realm of vintage and antique finds, however, we hope the opposite is true. We hope to purchase items that increase in value as they age. We also look for undervalued items in the hopes of turning a profit should we decide to resell.
No matter how you slice it, however, it’s suffice to say that price fluctuates. Ask anyone who’s tried to sell something at an auction and has been disappointed with the results. Also, many items in the antiques sector have dropped in price as tastes change and new collectors emerge looking for different items.
So more and more, I focus on the value of the things I own. By value I mean the value I place upon the items, not the price they’d command in a retail setting.
A great example would be a tea set my Grandmother gave to me. As a young boy, I’d visit with my Grandmother and she’d make tea for me using the yellow lustreware set. Just seeing it conjures up many good memories and feelings.
When I moved to New York to attend college, my Grandmother boxed up the set and told me not to open it until I had a place of my own. Of course I opened it right away and what I found inside was a lovely note from her thanking me for all of the memories we’d made with the set.
Before long I had my own place, and several places after that. In each one I used the tea set, and in each one my Grandmother came and used it with me. Now that she’s gone, I still use it and think of her. To me the value of this set is priceless. But the truth is that in a retail setting it would barely command $75.
Continuing along the lines of vintage china, I recently purchased a partial set with a very interesting provenance. Great looking Art Deco lines drew me to the pieces but the story sold me on them. It seems that a U.S. soldier stationed in Germany during WWII took refuge in a home that was bombed out. Most things were destroyed, but when he came across the china, he was amazed at how many pieces were unbroken.
The soldier packed up the china and sent it back to his family in New Jersey, but he kept one of the egg cups with him for the rest of his time in active duty. His rationale was that if this fragile china could survive, so could he.
And survive he did. After the War ended, he came back to New Jersey and raised four children and returned to his job as a commercial fisherman. After his death, his daughter decided to sell the set, but like her father—she kept one of the egg cups. Of course I love this story, and the courage and symbolism around it. And I love that I was fortunate enough to acquire it. Like my Grandmother’s tea set, the china would not command a very big price, but I place a great value on it.
When I use this china, I think of his courage. When I use my grandmothers’ set, I think of her love and companionship. I intend to keep their stories alive and when it’s time, pass these items along to someone else who will appreciate their legacy.
Price Versus Value…Similar words but very very different things. Here’s to enjoying your own valuable heirlooms. They are truly priceless.