Refurnished Thoughts

Discover Vintage America - MARCH 2017

Younger buyers are moving the market

Considering the overall tumult in the antiques business over the last 20 years, naturally many veteran dealers are wondering, "where are we going?" For many dealers, merchandise that used to help pay the mortgage, these days gathers dust, sometimes for years.

Results of a survey recently released by the Asheford Institute of Antiques sheds some light on buying trends in the antiques and collectibles community. The survey concentrated on compiling and grouping information related to customer buying habits over the course of 2016. The goal was to measure current trends based on actual sales results and requests for specific items, according to Asheford officials.

The survey recognized the fairly obvious trend toward Mid-Century Modern furniture, but noted upticks in various areas of decorative arts that encompass the entirety of the 20th century. The overall conclusion was that younger collectors are now driving the industry forward.

"What we are seeing is a strong change in direction when it comes to certain areas of the decorative arts," said Carlee Jackson, Asheford's public relations director. "It's not only Mid-Century Modern that is moving, but a number of other areas are making up ground," she said, noting particular interest in 1960s and '70s collectibles, especially space and Star Wars items. "There's no doubt in my mind that these are new younger collectors that we are seeing today."

The survey organized dealers by age groups – 20-38, 39-58 and 59-78.
The top 12 categories listed by the youngest group were Mid-Century Modern, 20th century pop culture memorabilia (Star Wars), paintings and sculpture from the 1940s onward, glass, lighting, mirrors, Early Americana/Canadiana, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, costume jewelry, textiles and Victorian.

The middle aged group's top 12 categories were Mid-Century Modern, Early Americana/Canadiana, automotive and commercial memorabilia, folk art, Art Nouveau, architectural antiques, jewelry, dinnerware, glass, Mission, paintings and Victorian.

The older group saw their highest selling categories as Victorian furniture, Chinese antiques, paintings, chairs, Art Nouveau, Georgian furniture, china, architectural elements, Mid-Century Modern, revival (Greek and Egyptian) antiques, silver and finally lighting.

Aside from the popularity of Mid-Century modern furniture, many of the younger dealers from the survey also noted that literally anything 20th-century, from brutalist metal sculptures to lesser-known painters had also become increasingly sought after by both dealer and collectors.

Older dealers seemed to echo a similar sentiment, but indicated that there were other areas of the market that were beginning to show signs of renewed interest, particularly in the areas of Greek and Egyptian revival styles, especially when done in stone and marble. They quote Claude Paquin, a dealer in Quebec, as saying that some of his Victorian marble-top side tables, which hadn't moved in years, were suddenly flying out the door. "Who knows, maybe this is the beginning of something old," he said.

Full results of the survey are available at the Asheford Institute's website,

Leigh Elmore can be contacted at
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