What is ancient – The Suburban Times
The first time I realized how exciting antiques are was when I was window shopping on a Sunday night at a closed antique store on Mill Street in St. Peter Port on the English Island. Norman of Guernsey. I was waiting for a free table in a nearby bistro, and I had nothing better to do than browse. And that’s when I was struck by what makes antiques so popular.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of “antiquity” is “existing since or belonging to earlier times: ancient. The latter is also defined as “belonging to the very distant past and no longer existing”. To be honest, I find this definition questionable, because you can’t sell something that no longer exists. But I guess we can come to a consensus that something that is no longer a standard product in the market and doesn’t even exist in numbers as it would still be in general use can be called a antiquity.
Of course, there is a fine line between antiques and junk. Both can be old. Both can still be useful and usable. But the difference is in the value. Monetary and / or historical. Let’s say my beautiful Guernsey porcelain mug that just says the name and is decorated with a peach tree and a peach blossom on a branch won’t count as junk for fifty years. It is a mass product; it doesn’t connect to any specific event or person in the story. And although I love it so much that I hardly ever use it, it is only valuable to me through the personal memories it evokes.
Now I think I remember seeing a mug in the previously mentioned antique shop that showed a portrait of an early 20th century British king and named a date. It was certainly of historical significance. But was he of value? He was a king who began his reign shortly before WWII. Then there was the blitzkrieg on London and other English cities. Due to the general destruction, all of a sudden an old mass product became a rare item – and therefore also a valuable item. There is a real antiquity. Unless you still see the mass articles there – then this is somebody’s personal junk …
Now let’s take an original painting that is one of a kind. Or a piece of furniture that has been made by a specific person skilled in the art. A piece of pottery discernible through initials or a specific style. They are undoubtedly antiques. And as a result, they have their price.
My husband and I browsed countless antique shops in England during our courting days. To be honest, I found a lot of junk in them. But junk food is sometimes easier to sell because it’s affordable and you can still pretend it’s old. As long as it speaks to the heart, why differentiate between junk and antiques? Why not just enjoy the beauty of the item, as long as the price is right? Beauty and meaning are in the eyes of the beholder. Utility too. If historical value is added, so much the better.
Of course, the antique shops here are different in style from those in Europe. It’s a different culture that has developed under different circumstances and much faster. Still, the antique shops here are like a storybook to me. You find what Americans have long used and cherished in their lives. There are items you probably won’t find in Europe at all – old butter churns, railroad lanterns, baseball cards.
You will rarely find me buying any of these items. I didn’t grow up like this. Buying antiques would have been almost like buying second-hand items. Postwar Germany had its share of forced labor – none of these generations would willingly revive such memories. Unless the pieces are real valuable exhibits. But the stories that such articles whisper to me are inspiring. And they can keep longer than an item itself.