Antique enthusiast Harry Rinker appraises various items at the Roswell Library Saturday. (Amy Vogelsang Photo)
Friends say I was born in the wrong decade, and after Friday, I’m thinking they are probably right.
Making his way to Roswell, antique enthusiast Harry Rinker, sponsored by Friends of the Library, gave a lecture on what defines an antique and how to make the most of the value when selling such items.
Already having a radio show on KBIM from 6-8 a.m. on Saturday mornings as well as being a professor, Rinker is no stranger to doing talks, and it showed in his comfortable posture at the podium. Immediately, his humor came out.
“What’s an antique?” he asked. “I’m an antique. I don’t have any problem admitting it.”
The problem with the term “antique,” as it seems to me, is that the definition is always changing. As each year passes, another year of items suddenly become old. Rinker’s definition also followed this theory.
As new decades brought new trends, the definition of antique also changed: first being anything made before 1945, then being anything from before 1963. Both of these were determined based on the dramatic changes in lifestyles. Consider life before and after WWII. Many people won’t remember these times, but take a look at history, and the changes are evident.
Again, life from 1960 versus 1970 changed dramatically. And so “antique” essentially becomes that which is no longer used daily with new trends. The more modern definition is anything made before 1980. Although the audience – most being in their late 50s or 60s – may not have liked the newest definition, Rinker made a fair argument.
Meanwhile, his lecture turned from a definition examination to a critique of younger generations. He used those around college age, such as myself, as an example of how the “sense of what is old” has changed rapidly because of perspective.
“There is a new generation of people coming along that have no memories of older items,” he argued. And sadly, although I silently exempted myself from this generalization, I had to admit he was probably right.
I love older things: A dress from the 40s graces my closet while a typewriter from the same era peeks out from a shelf between some books from the early 1900s. But I can’t brag of knowing more than one friend my age who has a similar interest in older items.
And so Rinker’s argument holds fast, and it is this younger generation that drives the antique market. That being said, the market has changed rapidly, making newer old items, such as those from the 70s and 80s, much more popular than things from the 20s.
He also made an interesting point about eBay: Originally a great way to sell antiques, but soon a crushing blow to the business. Suddenly, everyone who wanted an item already had it, and the worth of things dropped substantially.
But still, the antique market has not died, and the reasons are probably simple: Some people still collect, and people look for practical items such as dishware, furniture or jewelry, and all of these can be much cheaper when bought as antiques.
Throughout all of this, Rinker made his opinions very clear, never afraid to be blunt. But he was also comical throughout. And regardless of the market or prices, he admitted he is still a huge buyer antiques: It’s a true passion of his.
“I work on the ‘God needs me to own it’ theory,” Rinker said, referring to what happens when he walks into an antique shop. “I hear voices: ‘Over here… take me home with you.’ I listened to the voices until the pile got too big.”
But selling his collectibles was like cutting out a piece of his heart, he said. And this is probably because he grew up in a house with things piled under the beds and in the closets.
“I’m Pennsylvania German,” Rinker told me. “And we have two sayings: It’s too good to throw out, and I’ll never know when I’ll need it.”
It also should be said that his statement about genetics and collectors within families is pure fact. Most of my saving habits admittedly come from my mother.
“I know something you don’t know,” Rinker bragged. “There is a collecting gene in the DNA. People who collect are normal, and people who do not collect are sick.” Of course the audience applauded, namely because everyone there was a collector of one thing or another.
Rinker has spent many years of his life studying antiques: Reading books, studying trends and eventually starting his own database, and he is the owner of Harry L. Rinker LLC, dba as Rinker Consulting, a firm that appraises and consults about antiques.
So he gave his lecture, but then also offered appraisals on Saturday, dealing out more of his opinions and blunt honesty.
Antique buying and selling is a risky business, Rinker reminded everyone. Because of the trends, predicting the market even six months out is a challenge. But for those of us who love older items, it is incredibly satisfying to find that one item you realize you can’t live without. And it is for that reason some of Rinker’s words will stay with me, and I assume the same is true for others who listened to him.
“When I buy something I flush the toilet to remind myself what I just did with my money,” he said. “But it’s my money. (It’s) not my kids’ money, it’s my money. And if something is going to give me pleasure, by gosh, I’ve got to have it.”