Budding Love for Antiques in Marin City | Antique & Art Exchange

Budding Love for Antiques in Marin City

I didn’t grow up with antiques. By the time I left home, I was older than anything in it. When I finally got a decent job after graduating from college, I could actually afford my own studio apartment and replace the sleeping bag on the floor with real furniture. That’s when I discovered Marin City Flea market, a sprawling field of grit and dust in the summer and mud and muck in the winter that was truly a magical place. Every Sunday, people from around the Bay Area would set up card tables or spread a blanket on the ground and sell the stuff in grandma’s attic or uncle’s garage.
I was amazed that I could furnish my apartment with wonderfully made things over a hundred years old at a fraction of the price of new, poorly made, unimaginative furniture. When I got something home, I would clean it and start to wonder about its history. How many love letters were written at this desk over the years? How many fires and floods and wars did it survive? And so I was hooked. It wasn’t long before I worked my way into a collective and started making money handling things I loved. I look back on those days and shake my head in wonder. It was so easy back then.
Everything I bought, I researched and the knowledge I gained increased exponentially. With the amazing Marin City flea market and a city full of garage sales every weekend, merchandise was cheap and the plenty of other budding dealers all around me were practically colleagues.
When the first season of Antiques Roads Show aired, we thought it would strike up even more interest in antiques and it did. It also put an end to dumping inherited belongings at a flea market or garage sale.  An earthquake and recession further pushed the business from a happy go lucky free for all to a cut throat operation. The mid-range market of antiques declined. Antique stores and collectives began to close and the ability to actually make some kind of living selling antiques was evaporating.
Then around 1997 something completely unexpected happened. Fifties furniture became mid century antiques. Young people just furnishing their first homes were interested in “antiques” only fifty or sixty years old. Dealers who once argued over whether the dovetailing on an eighteenth century chest of drawers was right quibbled about the condition of the chrome on a potato chip chair. Throw in a couple of more recessions and the greatest crash since the great depression and collecting and selling antiques has become a different animal, more like an endangered species.
There is still a great deal of people who love and collect antiques even though at times we wonder when perusing interiors in the latest design magazine why they are so few and far between.
It’s ironic that antiques have gone so far off the radar they are almost as cheap as they were when I first started in the business and in a way, that may be a good thing. Maybe a new generation of people will buy a real antique at a fraction of the cost of a mid century chair or a new, designer desk made by slaves in China. How about it? One more round before the deluge? This entry was contributed by Richard Hill


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