If this seems like an unusual place for this editorial, it
is. Here I am, tucked in on page 9 with the Events Calendar,
which is typically shorter than usual due to the winter months.
It is an honour to be here and share the page with the devoted
show promoters who put on their worthy events despite the time
of year it is.
Please do try to reward them with your attendance.
There is plenty to comment on when saying farewell to 2016,
a year that, (despite the U.S. election campaigns), sped by at
the speed of light. It will be memorable in many ways, measured
in our hearts by events, both good and bad, that took place in
From a business perspective I'll remember it as a year of
continued transition for the antique industry. It is slowly evolving
from a very straight-forward commerce that took place, usually
face-to-face, between people, to one that includes a great deal
of technology (ie: no more handshakes) and the changing preferences
It wasn't so long ago that the general public didn't often
attend an antique auction. It seemed like there was some unspoken
(mis)understanding that only dealers were qualified to bid on
things that would ultimately end up in a shop somewhere and that
was where a buyer sought out desired items.
The shops were typically solely-owned; the term multi-vendor
had not yet been created. Most of these shops featured real,
authentic antiques, often with provenance, the verbal gift
wrapping that gave you an understanding of the where, the
why and the how of a piece.
The legitimate scarcity of items was a result of the fact
that most of these things, back in the day, were not mass-produced
(or reproduced), and still existed because they had been either
very well taken care of, or stored well intentionally - or by
accident. Whether they were genuine articles was rarely an issue.
The day of reproductions had not yet blanketed the industry...
although, as in art, I'm sure there were some clever forgeries
in the upper echelons of the antique world.
Fast forward to todays market, largely driven by the
Internet, that vast universe of technology that swallows up human
contact and offers oceans of choices to wade through. It has
become an entity we "can't live with and can't live without,
and it drives the engine of commerce in just about every respect
of our lives.
I'm aware of the pros and cons and took advantage of the
pros myself many years ago when eBay was an exciting new (and
profitable) phenomenon. I'm now more of a consumer at the receiving
end, when it comes to buying and selling, and it is still an
invaluable tool but it can be a bit like fumbling around
in the dark at times, hoping for the best but ending up with
less than that at times. Over and over again, I'm made aware
of how much satisfaction there is in attending a show, or going
into a shop in person places with people to converse with,
items to (carefully) handle and discuss; back to that straight-forward
commerce of the good old days.
There's a bit of irony in my observation since I have less
time than ever to get to shows and even shops, but I now recognize
that little coil of excitement when the opportunity arises
adventure in the hunt, even if I'm not sure what I'm looking
for. There is the pleasure of speaking to vendors and shop owners,
learning not just about their offerings, but learning about them,
too, time and circumstances permitting. This rarely happens
When I think of all the people I communicated with frequently
back in the 90s on eBay, there is only one person I am
still in contact with, a friendship born of the sale of a Bells.
Old Scotch Whiskey bell-shaped decanter. The same is not true
of the people Peter and I have come to know over the years since
we literally jumped headlong into the business back in 1994.
Thats when we took the leap from city to country life and
opened our shop in our big old barn that still stands like a
gracious old country gentleman; a testament of early 1900s construction,
built without heavy machinery and so worthy of admiration and
The old barn served, unexpectedly, as inspiration for our
new business we had rarely stopped to think about the process
behind constructing such a building in 1903. The massive hand-hewn
beams alone were (and are) cause for utmost respect and wonder,
especially when standing inside and looking up 40 feet. It was
a hands-on part of Canadian history to open our novice eyes to
the wonder and pleasure in learning about our past through the
objects that have survived the rigours of time. Almost a quarter
of a century after that eye-opening realization we have an abundance
of wonderful, knowledgeable friends whose experiences in the
business have often been entertaining, but more so, valuable
to our own ongoing learning process.
It is a business, yes, but it's not all about profit. (If
it is, you might not fare too well.) There is so much more to
be derived from the industry whether it's antiques, vintage
or nostalgia - we all have our preferences and they all have
a place in todays market.
As you are probably quite aware at this point, it is Canadas
150th birthday this year - 2017. When measured by years and compared
to other countries, that is a very young age indeed... but when
measured by progress, by transition and change, it indicates
a maturity and strength drawn from our good, strong foundation.
There is a great deal to be proud of, thanks to our illustrious
forefathers (and mothers). I hope the sesquicentennial celebrations
cause a resurgence of interest in the items of our past. They
all line an historical pathway that leads from then to now -
our present time - they are a visual indication of how work was
done, what we considered beautiful, what we considered important...
all pointing, in their often humble way, to where we stand now
as a country.
I think most of us have at least a vague idea of how we want
a new year to look, but this year I hope the image taking form
is a little more concise. I think we need to all take a lingering
look back and truly feel an appreciation for Canada. It is a
great country, Leaders come and go, some leave an indelible mark
(some great, some not), but as a united people we ultimately
rally and end up standing firmly on that strong foundation built
so many, and yet so few, years ago.
There will be a profusion of events to attend this year to
celebrate our 150th birthday - it's a wonderful year to look
forward to, but please do visit the shops, shows and markets
that gather the many items together that comprise our past for
you to peruse. They would love to see you and you will benefit
from their knowledge while you enjoy the ongoing hunt for that
little (or big) something that your historical little
Happy New Year to everyone. We wish you good health and happiness
and hope the year of collecting ahead leads you to great discoveries,
new friendships and an understanding and appreciation of Canadian
history that perhaps we sometimes take for granted - or even
just ignore even when it surrounds us.
Thanks to all of our readers and also to our writers who
are delightfully driven to bring history, on many levels, to
life - one page at a time in the Wayback Times. It is wonderful
that we have such a diverse community of collectors covering
genres that span such a huge variety of interests.
God bless, safe travels - and thanks to everyone for reading
the Wayback Times.