In addition to our antiques fair circuit, Martin and I attend a couple of what I call ‘mixed markets’ during the year. You know the sort of thing: everything from upmarket antiques to Mom and Pop with cups and saucers. Sometimes they’re segregated by type and price range, sometimes not. It truly is like that line from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, ‘something for everyone’!
At one such venue, a confident little boy with an outgoing personality came up to our display and made a beeline for an interesting Asian metalwork junk. I could see why he liked it; it was definitely a ‘boy’s piece’.
‘How much is that?’ he demanded.
‘That’s an expensive piece, I’m afraid,’ said I, ‘That’s two hundred and fifty dollars.’
He gave me a look that can only be described as ‘scornful’.
‘No, seriously,’ quoth he, ‘how much is it?’
It was all I could do to keep from laughing.
I love introducing children to antiquing. Oh, sure, it requires patience and a game plan, but if you ask me, it’s worth it for the entertainment value alone. Their natural curiosity and complete lack of embarrassment about their ignorance leads them to ask probing, often insightful questions in a manner that many adults can learn from. Children challenge me to become a better teacher and to learn more, and for that I am grateful.
|Ye Olde Antique Shoppe|
From a parent’s point of view, antiquing with children has some compelling plusses. One is getting them away from television and computer screens, another is involving the whole family in the same activity. I also see it as an opportunity to teach children about design, art and culture, knowledge that will serve them well throughout life. Yet another aspect is an opportunity to talk with kids about money and finance, an aspect where many of us fall down. Sure, we tell our children they have to get an education and a job, but do we talk about financial planning in any way? We may teach thrift by getting them a piggy bank or a bank account, but how about investment?
This post isn’t intended as professional advice; it’s meant to get you thinking about some possibilities.
Some years ago, my family and I were at an auction of antiques from a business that was closing. It was a fine day and there was such a huge turnout that the sale of ‘smalls’ – ceramics, glass, some jewellery – was moved out of doors.
To my surprise, a rather nondescript couple in late middle age set up camp right in front of the auctioneer’s platform – not obnoxiously close, just giving themselves a good vantage point. They were well-prepared, with fold-up chairs, a picnic basket, sunglasses, visors and a cooler; obviously the veterans of many an outdoor auction, and clearly, attending auctions was their hobby, as it quickly became clear that they were not buying.
‘My word!’ I said to my husband, ‘Why didn’t we think of this ages ago?!’
|Attending an auction can be a great day out|
Attendance at auction is an entertaining and inexpensive family day out, and a great way to introduce children both to the responsible use of money, and the wonderful world of art, antiques and collectibles.
This can give your little ones some valuable life skills:
- It teaches children to save
- Children learn investment and money management; it leads to curiosity about other aspects of finance
- It teaches children art appreciation in an active, interesting way
- They develop good taste and a sense of personal style
- They develop ambition and self-confidence
A Simple Action Plan
Teach children to save their pocket money towards buying all sorts of toys: vintage dolls, trains, tea sets, piggy banks, and also decorative items such as signs, banners, lights, and wallpaper and fabrics. (Incidentally, the need to give children a regular allowance, even a small one, will help your money management skills, too!)
Encourage your children to subscribe to mailing lists of auctions online. Children should learn to:
| Children can use a computer to plan |
- Watch for things that interest them
- Follow auction results, learn about market trends, and understand how popularity and condition affect price.
- Older children can learn to ‘trade up’, that is, buy a less expensive or a slightly damaged item, then sell it off to buy something better later. This is a technique you must also learn; you just have to be aware a) that you may sell things back at a loss and b) that you need to learn what the best venues are for selling things back to minimise loss and possibly make a small profit so you can ‘trade up’.
Teach children how to bid at an auction. Set a budget and don’t go over. Arrange with the auctioneer; at an informal sale, stand behind your children and catch the auctioneer’s eye so you can nod or shake your head. (Incidentally, if you’re not all that conversant with ‘real life’ auctions, my husband Martin and I have written How to Bid at an Auction and you should feel free to contact me for a free electronic copy.)
Note: A couple of words of caution about children and auctions. Many jurisdictions have regulations and a minimum age for bidding at an auction, and some auction houses do not allow children on their premises at all. Find out the local rules before you go, and speak to the auctioneer or staff beforehand. The auctioneer will require you to be responsible for your children’s conduct and for their purchases. At the very least, you can bid for your child, and when the item is knocked down to you and the auctioneer asks for your bidder number, the child can hold up your card and feel as proud as punch.
If you make a mistake, shake your head and if necessary say ‘no, sorry’ in a clear voice. Do this at once; it is too late after an item is knocked down.
Do not even attempt this if your child is stubborn or disobedient. You will make yourself very unpopular if proceedings are disrupted by a temper tantrum, and our goal is to give your children life skills, not to get you banned from auctions in several counties!
|The family can follow an auction online|
These days, many auction houses have online bidding platforms. This can be particularly useful if your children are too young or recalcitrant to take to the venue. With a good Internet connection you can see and hear the auctioneer, and bid online if you're so inclined (bear in mind that fees and premiums are usually higher if you're using online services). The good thing here is that you can quit any time you or the kids are bored, you can have snacks and lavvy breaks without disturbing anyone, and you can 'leave' and rejoin the auction later without a problem.
Next post: Antique shops