“The Hills are Drying Up”, has become the catch phrase for every antique picker that is still in the business. When I started as a wholesale “picker”, over 40 years ago back in Washington DC., the “hills” were packed with merchandise.
The “hills” are the backwoods, that are away from cities and densely populated metropolitan areas. We use to say the best prices we could possibly locate were in places that were outside the diameter of a significant city, by a “days drive”. If you could get outside that invisible rim of driving, turning around and getting home in one day…….then you had arrived at the best “picking areas you could possibly find.
I use to come across some of the most outstanding “stashes” outside the invisible rim that you can envision. I once came across a “picker” a few hours out of Chicago that for some mysterious reason had an affinity for “roll-top” desk’s. This was close to 35 years ago. For some reason he loved them. Although he dealt in each and every kind of antique, he specialized in “roll-tops”. He had a large barn stuffed with them that he had accumulated over the years from all over the Chicago area. He was in his late 70′s when I met him,. He had a moving and salvage business with his father when he was in his teens. They would clean out old office buildings in the Chicago area of all their old office furniture. Their business did really well because unlike other businesses,like theirs, they didn’t charge a fee for hauling the old furniture away…….most other “haulers” did. They were the “go to” hauler for all of Chicago.
All my adult life, I have dealt in antique iron beds. The first dozen or more iron beds I ever had, were “given” to me by farmers wanting to get rid of them. Word got out, in the hills of Pennsylvania, that I would take away any bed if you wanted to get rid of it. More frequently than not those beds were used as an incentive for me to “buy” other items from a picker or farmer. Quilts, stained glass windows, items they “did” place a value on and wanted to sell, they felt would be more saleable to someone like me, if they included a bed…….that they didn’t really place much value on.
As was the case with the “picker” in the suburbs of Chicago, who had all the roll top desk’s. I also came in contact with “pickers”, “haulers” and “junkers” as we use to call them, that purchased estates or “close-outs” when people died an had no surviving relatives. They would then empty a house and take virtually everything in the house, from kitchen plates and utensils, clothes and furniture to old cars and farm equipment……back to their warehouse or barn. There they would separate it and sell off all the things they had a market for. Things they didn’t have a buyer for would continue to accumulate and over time become piles of what they considered not very marketable. For the longest time antique iron beds happen to be one of those “not so desirable” items……….until the mid 60’s.
I started selling beds at a time when the “not so desirable” moniker was still felt. I myself actually fell prey to the same silly attitude. I had been specializing in “brass beds”, much different from and at the time far more popular than iron beds. As an inducement to buy their brass beds, dealers would offer to include in the deal an iron bed to sweeten the pot. So in turn……I foolishly, I might add for a very short period of time, would do the very same with my customers and offer a free iron bed with every brass bed purchased. My eye’s opened when I started having people “come” to me specifically for iron beds. I started by marketing them for $10. to $20. and not long after that became aware I no longer had any…….that they had all sold. It didn’t take a “rocket scientist” to realise they had started to create value and desirability. However the old boys throughout the hills also started realizing this when I started “asking” for them. So now they had become desirable. Over the years that collectability and value has developed way beyond anything I could have ever anticipated. And unfortunately those huge “stashes” have also been depleted to what now has become next to nothing. Hence ………. “The Hills Have Dried Up”.
It’s not hard to understand that there were a finite amount of antique’s built back in the 1800’s, for a much much small population that what we have today. So as the popularity of antique’s has grown and the number of people who are collecting them also has grown…….it stands to reason the time has to come when supply just doesn’t meet up to the growing and overwhelming demand. As that time fast approaches, prices will continue to rise.
To know the collectible of a particular antique, you need only look at the number of “replicas” that are on the market. Iron beds are a perfect example. I use to have over 600 beds in my stock. I bought everything I could get my hands on. Over the past 35 years that stock is now below 400, with no possibility of ever returning it to what it was. They are just to tough to unearth anymore.
So the bottom line is this…….if you see an antique you like……get it. Even if it’s not the ideal price and you weren’t able to get a great “deal”…….keep it for less than a year and it will have already appreciated up and beyond what you possibly paid for it. It will most likely eclipse whatever stock or bond you may have put your money in to.
Do yourself a favor…….start filling out your “portfolio” with a few good antiques. It’s the only investment that won’t disappoint you.
I hope you’ve found this blog informative . I invite you to revisit my website
to answer any and all questions you might have about antique iron beds.
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