Shop Around For A Piece Of History

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You've watched a good number of "Antique Roadshow episodes." Now you're thinking, "Hey, I want to collect antiques, too!"

There are only two problems: You don't know an armoire from an armpit, and you couldn't afford such a piece of furniture even if you did.

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Jan Curtiss of Granny's Attic Antique Mart in Payson has some advice for those who want to be smart and thrifty antique shoppers.

Don't feel bad. Lots of folks have the same dilemma. And many overcome it with a smidgen of common sense, some help from the experts, and the Rim country antique-shopper's map included in this issue.

The fact is, you're already ahead of the game. The two greatest things about antiquing in the Payson, Pine and Strawberry area are that, one, there's an abundance of places to shop in style, and two, the local shops don't price their merchandise as if they were Sotheby's franchises. There are bargains to be found by the smart and thrifty antique shopper and to make you smarter and thriftier, we went to Jan Curtiss, owner of Granny's Attic Antique Mart, to gain some sage advice.

According to Curtiss, one way to collect on a budget is to consider items that may be antiques tomorrow, if not today.

"Collecting for the future is a bit of a gamble, but also an adventure," she said. "To some degree it's like betting on the stock market: You can never be certain, but you can be smart."

Or psychic. Not even Albert Einstein could have guessed that a lunchbox with a picture of Charlie's Angels embossed on it would have gone for $20,000 back in the 1980s? Still, it's a rule to live by, Curtiss said, as is this:

"Buy what's rare, not what's popular. When objects get mass produced, they are just too common to become valuable."

In other words, rarity is the reason diamonds are more valuable than coal. And what is rare today only becomes more rare and more valuable tomorrow.

When that aforementioned Charlie's Angels lunchbox was produced, the manufacturer had no idea it would become a collectible. But today, manufacturers overproduce in an attempt to cash in on perceived collectibility. Witness the multitude of merchandise tie-ins for the last "Star Wars" movie, which now fill most factory-seconds stores.

Something else to consider, Curtiss said, is condition. If there's a piece missing or the item's in less than mint condition, its value immediately plummets.

"Spend a few extra dollars today, and you could reap big rewards tomorrow," she said.

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"To some degree (investing in antiques is) like betting on the stock market," says Granny's Attic Antique Mart owner Jan Curtiss. "You can never be certain, but you can be smart."

Self-education may be the antique hunter's greatest weapon, she added. "Read up on antiques and talk with dealers. Most love to talk shop and show off what they know to curious students."

Another obvious but oft-ignored tip, Curtiss said, is to "Pursue what you like. Collectors should be passionate about their collections, whether from yesteryear or for tomorrow." Translation: If you have a love affair with baseball, then stack those cards. If the Beatles still rock your soul, then collect some of their early mint-condition records.

"If you're truly collecting for tomorrow, you're going to have to live with your purchases for more than a few years which is yet another reason to like what you buy," Curtiss said. "Besides, it'll make your antique-shopping sprees a little more fun."

As for buying antique furniture, Curtiss said there are a number of "must-dos" that will help you look and buy like a pro.

"Turn it over and look at the underside of the piece," she said. "If there are Phillips scews in the base, it's not an antique." Also, when genuine early furniture was made it was never stained under its drawers, top or skirt.

Next, look at the construction and materials, as true antiques are reflections of the times in which they were made. Remember your history: Colonial American furniture is primarily made of pine, oak, maple and cherry because those woods were cheap and easily available and the finishes and craftsmanship are rough.

Finally, Curtiss said, "Pull out the drawers, push back the roll tops and open the cabinets. No antique should be so delicate that it can't withstand inspection and if a dealer prevents you from looking closely at the piece, that should be a red flag."

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