Good eye by Peggy Whiteneck

Discover Vintage America - SEPTEMBER 2019

If you deal in it, there's a collector club for it

Whether they use antiques primarily as living space or have entire collections of one or two categories, antique collectors are a passionate lot. They're not crazy, but they are "crazy about" what they collect. Many (including yours truly!) have found their special collections have outgrown their living space like so much kudzu. Boxes are stashed in closets and under beds, yet we haunt the secondary market looking for that one more piece we just can't live without.

This large forest green overlay pillow vase was actually made at Fenton before it closed in 2011; but was painted recently by consummate Fenton artist J.K. Spindler [AKA Robin Spindler]. I purchased it at a Dexter City,OH auction that was part of the schedule for the 2019 convention of the Fenton Art Glass Collectors of America, of which I am a member and, as such, was also able to sell glass at the convention's separate consignment auction.

This tendency of collections to over-run the space allotted to them is a primary driver of the "downsizing" trend among older collectors, wherein the need to move into a smaller and more manageable living space forces them to divest of much of what they have collected. And those of us who are dealers usually look at this as a having a negative impact on the trade since it seems to limit the market.

But 'tain't necessarily so! Many collectors, including those downsizing, are members of various collector clubs that can present new opportunities for the antiques trade.

If there's a collector following for an item at all, there's a collector club for it, from buttons to bottles and coins to golf clubs. A quick internet search will bring up collector clubs that relate to one or more of the major categories in your own dealer inventory. Here are some ways to take make collector clubs a targeted market for your inventory.

Join a collector club

Many of the clubs have annual conventions or other gatherings. At the very least, this will provide you with a way of understanding what's happening in the market for your inventory and get a better grasp on what collectors are looking for.

At most, it can provide you with discreet opportunities for particular sales – the operative word here being "discreet," as no collector club is going to welcome the appearance that someone has joined their club merely for monetary motives.

Some clubs provide private sale venues for individuals to openly sell items. (For tax-exempt clubs, these usually are managed in such a way as to make it clear that sales are from individual buyer to individual seller and are not sponsored by the club itself.) In most cases, the cost of membership will be nominal.


Advertise with a club

Many dealers and antique shops advertise in national publications (the few left!) that reach a broad market, which I would call quasi-targeted advertising. Collector clubs are an even more specifically targeted market if you have a lot of their collectibles in your particular inventory. Some collector clubs have newsletters or web sites that carry paid advertising. (For example, I'm an avid and active member of Fenton Art Glass Collectors of America, which has a full-color newsletter that comes out six times a year and carries dealer display ads for Fenton glass.)


Do a workshop

Clubs are always looking for experts in a given area to present workshops at their club meetings, and most clubs have local/regional and national chapters. Contacting a club and offering to do a workshop at a regional gathering or national convention can give you the opportunity to share with collectors what you know that they may not and to use some of your own shop inventory to illustrate points you make in your presentation. Again, be discreet on the sales pitch and check with your club contact to make sure it would be okay to sell, to club members who may ask, the illustrative items you bring to your talk.

Even if you get hives just thinking about public speaking, you may have a staff member or other acquaintance willing to do a presentation on behalf of your business.

So take the plunge! Getting involved, at whatever level, in one or more collector clubs could be good for business.

Peggy Whiteneck is a writer, collector and dealer living in East Randolph, VT. If you would like to suggest a subject that she can address in her column, email her at