Ponderings of a Vintage Dealer ...From “Back in the Day” to Now

Vintage? What is old is new again. Life Imitating Art. They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Clinging to these tropes defines the appeal of Vintage. As Artists, we know from experience that almost everything in daily Life is someone’s artistic creation. All the things we touch were once only a dream until Human hands made them real. Well, that “Human Hands” part maybe not-so-much these days, but "Vintage" is not just a handing-down of Stuff or Tradition. Instead, being a Vintage collector reflects upon an appreciation for the history of Mid-Century creative thought and Mid-Century talented hands.

These things we hunt and collect and sell were built on generations of Artistic training and Artisan engineering. In the 20th Century, Form and Function, and the mission to be the very best, was a working religion. Some say it is lost. I say it’s the root of Vintage desire. Did we create ever-colder machines to help us create, that somehow slowly eliminated the generational links binding those material manifestations to a more sentimental Human psyche? Was it simply a loss of Quality? In Twenty years will we be trading something you bought last week at Ikea? Will it have even survived? Ha! Who can even imagine the next twenty years?

It is lazy to whine about things moving too fast. The reality? There is no getting off this 21st Century Bullet Train. You will be left so far behind, so quickly, your head won’t have time to spin. You can even chuckle at the notion of using the Internet to sell Vintage. They may be polar philosophical opposites, but these are the things we create on speeding Trains. Then the shock, once realized, about how many things are made 100% without the touch of Human hands and how far back this was true. When will we know our collective Creative Mind has also been made fully obsolete?

My spouse and I ran a Folk Art woodworking business from the mid 1980’s to mid-90’s, during America’s “Country” style period. We exceled by designing our own patterns and hand-cutting and painting (and signing!) every piece.  With our ingrained Mid-Century mindset, we did high-end Art and Craft Shows, sold wholesale to Country Gift Stores, had a Mail Order business, and finally a Brick and Mortar shop which grew into Home Parties of our own products along with big sellers like Made-in-America candles. Please forgive if I seem too close to the topic.

We succeeded in the goal to be home with our kids during their school years, but the bottom fell out of American hand-made. Cheap Chinese imports commissioned by the larger U.S. Craft companies flooded the market in the mid-nineties, and filled Walmart and eventually our loyal Country Gift shops.  We couldn’t buy the supplies for the cost of those items at Retail. An extensive list of Mom & Pop shops, from Sporting Goods to Office Supplies, along with American Craftspeople, could not compete.

In the 21st Century, Internet platforms eBay and Etsy spurred another explosion of Hand-made, but there is no escaping those same challenges. Online selling was a tiny idea back when our FolkArt business was ending. It was a faint promise, but customer confidence was not there in 1995.  Now, Small Businesses like ours have been competing globally online for almost two decades. Recently on platforms like Etsy (since it went Public) we are watching again as History repeats, and once again Hand-made finds itself colliding with the Mass-produced.

Our experience competing on the ground in the global hand-made economy spurred us to the Vintage Marketplace, our real passion!  One thing that cannot be honestly “knocked off” is Vintage …not that they don’t try. Luckily, we lived through those eras and have Life experience to detect modern Reproductions. It’s been so long now many of those 60’s 70’s Repop items are Vintage. That is another blog!

Tempered with experience and a ton of computer skills, this time we are better prepared. Those skills in our case had to shift from wood-working and decorative painting to SEO and Social Networking, Graphics and Photography. No small feat. Welcome to the future …Toot Tooot! To be sustainable in a global economy, you must consistently deliver quality and originality, and selling Vintage has that covered in terms of Product …with The Right Stuff.

The more things change the more they stay the same. I’ve got those Tropes on the Ropes! What never changes? There will never be a replacement for quality, Customer Service, and kept promises.  Find your niche, but remain flexible and open-minded. Discover your Joy and share it, but always be open to accept what the World is trying to tell you.  Listen carefully and respond gently to your audience. The Goal? To proudly call them Customers.

With that little storytime, let us offer a warm welcome to our own website GSALEHUNTER.com Check back often, join our Social Media on InstagramTwitter and Facebook, and sign up with your email to get our newest Tips and Tricks and the next episode of "Before and After"  See our other Blog "Researching Vintage" to learn how we prep and research incoming new treasures. Thanks for stopping by!

The Struggle for Vintage is Real!



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