Herald JournalHerald Journal, Oct. 3, 2005

Antiques: hunting for treasure

By Lynda Jensen

For some, the thrill of finding the last teacup that matches grandma’s set of dishes is only half the excitement of buying antiques.

In fact, buying antiques can be a passion for the people who enjoy taking a trip – at times for many miles – browsing for antiques.

Patrons who are from out of state and even out of the country enjoy visiting area antique shops.

“Since we’re along historic Highway 12, we attract patrons from everywhere,” said Deb Dolezal of the Old Town Gallery in Howard Lake.

Waconia Bay Antiques in Waconia entertains customers from both coasts, the metro area, and those who are visiting from other countries, commented Russell Crea. “They’re willing to drive from far away,” he added.

“We just had a lady come in from Detroit Lakes,” said Dennis Vogt of Treasure Chest, in downtown Carver. Like other shops, he serves customers from all over the nation.

Tina Buss has had people come to her shop, Cottage Charm in Delano, from as far away as Two Harbors, Spicer, Woodbury, and any number of outlying areas, she said.

What are they looking for? The choice of antiques available could satisfy nearly any taste.

Antiques are more durable, and in some cases, less expensive than modern-day items, for example furniture, Dolezal added.

Antique furniture was made with a craftsmanship that is rare today, Dolezal said. “What people are buying today won’t be here 100 years from now,” she said.

Buss agrees. She spends time restoring and painting antique furniture with her partner Karie Davdt, who are both of Montrose.

The duo use black, red, cranberry or other colors – anything not white – to paint furniture that comes to them in bad shape at first. White is something that many other places deal in, and the non-white theme sets their shop apart, marketing to a narrow niche of patrons.

Some retail outlets will offer furniture done in a “shabby chic” theme, but this isn’t fine wood furniture or an antique, Crea said.

Dolezal agrees, saying that the days are numbered for “shabby chic.” Things like that can depend on popular trend and don’t endure time like antiques do, she said.

There is also something that Dolezal calls “mantiques,” – or items that appeal to men. This could be antique tools, fishing and hunting gear, and the downright bizarre.

“We had a guy come in and buy a dentist sample of teeth, showing the different colors that teeth go through. He said he wanted it for his bathroom,” Dolezal said.

Antique buyers are also a breed apart from any other patron, it was noted.

“They like to browse more than typical buyers,” Crea said.

“They’re more honest,” Vogt said.

At times, it takes the right person to buy the right thing, commented Chuck Pease of Antiques To Go in Hutchinson. Something might sit on a shelf for two years before the right person comes along to buy it, he said.

And when the right person does, it’s neat to see the match, Dolezal said. “It’s almost like a person,” she said, referring to the antique.

“The buyer wants to know where it’s been, and what it’s gone through,” she added.

Some people think that a chip or other blemish adds character, while others look for something in pristine condition, Dolezal said.

Buyers might hold a chipped item in their hands and decide it fits into their home decor, saying “I love it!” Dolezal said.

In general, Dolezal has observed two different buying habits.

“There are those who can work a place in exactly 15 minutes or less, and there are those who need to see and touch everything; spending an hour or so doing it,” she said.

There might be a partner who gets brought along, and ends up have coffee up front, Dolezal said. It isn’t gender dependent, and can either be the husband or wife.

The items they search out could be anything from Depression glass, which is glassware from the 1930s, or Shawnee cookie jars, to Red Wing pottery, which is native to Minnesota.

Many antiques reflect local heritage, such as the Red Wing pottery, Dolezal said.

Collectors might seek out something like green glass, or even modern-day collectibles like Precious Moments.

Antique shop owners agree that a “vintage” item generally pertains to something 50 years old or less, and that a “antique” usually means 75 to 100 years old, although it depends on the item.

Antique cars, for example, aren’t 100 years old, pointed out.

What impact has the Internet made on antique buying and selling?

The computer auction service eBay appears to be a regular resource for sellers to determine the value or worth of an antique, gauging what the market will bear.

For buyers, it has cut down on the search time if they are looking for something that is hard to find, like the final piece of a set.

However, Dolezal is seeing a trend back toward antique shops for the personal touch lacking online.

“What we have found is that it doesn’t have that personal touch,” she said regarding shopping online.

Most antique buyers take part in the social activity of browsing and interacting with others; something lacking in a personless Internet transaction, she said.

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