So you’re an antiques lover too. I think I came by my love for our treasures from the past through some inherited gene. My parents loved antiques and made every piece, whether a desk or teacup, fascinating. Mother (a history and English teacher–and yes, the mother in my books) plied me with history and family lore, while my father (an engineer) showed me how to tell the difference between an 18th- and 20th-century piece. I must have listened because one day when a family was moving in down the street, I reported that the only had “new furniture,” not antiques.
My New England grandfather collected glass and porcelain, and being frugal New Englanders, that family never threw anything away. When I was cleaning out my parents’ home I came across envelopes containing screws and nails were labeled in perfect, 19th-century handwriting in my father’s tool chest. Daddy probably found them in his father’s or grandfather’s tool chest!
Mother’s Southern family, on the other hand, having lived through the aftermath of the Civil War, threw away many of their “old things” once times got better in the 1910s. Mother often told the story of how her father carried their “old” chairs out to the sidewalk for whoever wanted them to pick them up the day in their “new” dining room chairs arrived. Though her parents were proud that they could now afford the new style, Mother said that she thought the old ones were much prettier.
And so I, like many of you, grew up with family things made all the more precious because of their stories from the past.
These days our family things not only give us continuity with past generations, they can be extremely valuable. Though an item doesn’t have to be valuable to be a treasure, when we’re cleaning out a parent’s or grandparent’s home it is foolish not to know the value of items that are to be discarded–whether sold, given away, or tossed out.
At the same time, when we’re shopping for just the right piece for our home, we want to know that we’re getting full value for our money. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish a reproduction from the real thing. And heaven knows, there are fakes and frauds (and people willing and eager to sell them to us) masquerading a “valuable antiques.”
In a word, you can’t know too much about antiques– Yet many people pass them off as just “old things.” Antiques are a lifelong study, but not everyone wants to read scholarly and technical books about how porcelain is made or how to distinguish hand-plane marks from those made by a machine. Thanks to the wonderful Antiques Roadshow, we can learn a lot about antiques while being entertained. It’s the antiques lovers’ own reality show.
But for those who still enjoy a story with twists and puzzles, characters and villains, I hope the chapter openings, “Dear Antiques Expert,” and Sterling’s adventures will provide enlightenment, as well as entertainment…the old-fashioned way. In a book.