Over the past few weeks of summer I have been encouraged by the number of younger people coming into the shop and not only having a look around but on some occasions making what appears to be there first serious antique purchase. The other day a couple who seemed just short of thirty came by, and I was surprised when the fellow said to his partner ” This is one of those tramp art boxes I have been talking about”, Then he went on to give a pretty good summary of the genre.(look it up) Even better, he bought it.
But this story is about another type of encouragement, and a big reason why I continue in this business after arguably being a full time antique dealer for thirty years may seem punishment enough for most people.
Last week I received a phone call on this continuous arm Windsor chair which had long been listed on my Collectivator site. The gentleman phoning told me his name was Ray and that he was a collector of early chairs, and he proceeded to ask me a couple of intelligent questions about the chair. “Is it a two board seat or a cracked one board seat” “Cracked one board”. “Has it been cut down” . “Nope, full legs and no rot”. “Are there any replaced parts or repairs”. “No replaced parts but it’s been re-glued”, and I proceeded to describe the primitive, early repair to the seat which involved a couple of thin boards with beveled edges glued and screwed underneath” Ray said it sounded interesting and worth the drive from his home which is near Windsor, Ontario, and a three hour drive. “Are you there Friday afternoon?” “Yes Friday eleven to five”. “Good, if it’s a decent day I’ll be there about two”.
Sure enough, right about two Ray came into the shop and went directly to the chair. I noticed that Ray is a well dressed mature gentleman, with gold framed aviator glasses, and an I Phone in a leather pocket strapped to his belt. We exchanged greetings and talked a bit about his trip etc, and then we settled into to the serious business of checking the chair out. Flipping it this way and that and turning it upside down. All the while I was telling Ray what I knew of the provenance, and repair history. I told him all I knew, which is that it most recently belonged to a buddy of mine who had bought it about twenty years ago from Ron O’Hara, who was an excellent dealer/collector from Saint Mary’s. Ron had bought it in the states several years earlier. I eckoned it to be pre 1800, but not by much. Maybe New York State or Connecticut. Definitely American. “Hmmm, nice chair”, says Ray, I’m going to have a look around.” He checked out several items and then focused on a nice little salt box with a wagon wheel motif on the back piece. “O.K., what’s your best price on the chair and wall box?” I gave him a decent discount because I liked him. “That’s fair. Done”. At which point he pulled out his wallet and it was cash on the barrel head. Now I really liked him.
We continued to chat. “How long have you been collecting early chairs?” “I bought a log house on two acres of land ten years ago and I thought I’d died, and gone to heaven. I restored it myself. It took me two years to tear out the inside paneling and re-chinked the logs. I found evidence that it existed in 1820 but I suspect that it may be a bit older. I really like to buy only items that fit the house’s time frame. I have several Windsors, but this is my first continuous arm. I’m delighted” Would you like to see a photo of my house?” at which point he pulls out the I Phone. “Cool looking place Ray, and to think that you did all that work yourself”. “Well I was a lot younger then, remember it was ten years ago.” And this is where I realized that although it can rightfully be seen as a pushy question, Ray was dying for me to ask ” So how old where you then Ray?” “Eighty”. “Wow really, man if I live to be ninety I want to be you Ray. That’s amazing, I would have put you as a healthy 70.” “thanks”.
He smiled, and said “would you like to know more about your chair, which is now mine?” “”You bet”. He then pulled out his book on American WIndsor chairs and flipped to the page were the exact chair was illustrated. “It was made by Ebenezer Turner in Connecticut in 1780. I’ve checked all the measurements. It’s a match” .
I am so inspired and grateful for having had the opportunity to meet Ray, a ninety year old with the intelligence and life force to get in his car and drive three hours each direction to buy a chair he was obviously delighted to add to his collection and to his home. This is what it is all about my friends? Being ninety and being that much alive. Keeping your mind active with a serious interest in collecting will do that for you.
“Would you like a coffee Ray” “No, I’ve got to get home. I’ll be back one day when I’ve got some more money” he said with a wink.