Dealers at Westmoreland antique show lament falling prices, low interest among millennials
At the annual Southwestern Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Antique Show & Sale in Hempfield this weekend, items run the gamut from antique jewelry to vintage toys, from kitschy pop culture items to sports memorabilia.
What’s missing is a younger generation of antique collectors, dealers say.
“Our goal is get a younger clientele interested in antiques and the antiques market,” said show organizer John Mickinak, owner of the Ligonier Antique Gallery. “If we don’t, it will eventually fade away.”
The show does that by inviting a diverse array of dealers, featuring newer items, offering appraisals and appealing to the non-specialist, he said.
“So many shows today don’t get it — they think ‘antique’ has to be 200 years old. We have a different attitude,” Mickinak said. “We want to get entry-level people interested in antiques. … What we really attempt to do is bring both worlds together.”
The Greensburg Country Club show attracts dealers from the colonial era to the mid-20th century, he said.
“A lot of people wouldn’t consider mid-century items antique. We do,” he said. “We try to stay relevant to everyone (with) toys, post cards, watches, jewelry, vintage clothing. It’s a real mix.”
The continuing success of shows like the one in Greensburg depends in part on attracting the elusive millennial, who often has less disposable income, lower rates of home ownership and less interest in things that are 100 years old.
Antique shows and shops also struggle with the downturn in the antiques market, especially the dramatic decline in value of American and English furniture.
Mickinak said the widespread availability of antiques on eBay and other internet sites has caused supply to outstrip demand, prompting a dramatic drop in prices.
“Things still sell. There’s still the interest. It’s just the prices aren’t what they were 20 years ago,” he said.
The advantage of a show over the internet is the ability to physically examine the item, he said.
“It’s not like going to a museum where you can’t touch things. You can pick things up and inspect them. It can be a lot of fun just to walk through and look at things and ask about them,” he said. “There’s nothing like holding it in your hand and inspecting it and having the dealer tell you everything they know about it.”
The Greensburg event is the last remaining formal antique show in Westmoreland County and one of only a few still held in Western Pennsylvania. Others include one at the Tanglewood Center in Lyndora, Butler County, and Kerr Memorial Antiques Show at the Oakmont Country Club, Allegheny County.
Paul Fischer and Dannie Chandler, antique dealers from Indianapolis, have been coming to the Greensburg show for four years, but they’ve been noticing changes in the market for a long time.
“There’s not many young people coming into the business, so there’s going to be a generation coming up where there’s not a lot of interest,” Fischer said. “The young people today are more into electronics and not so much into collecting something that’s going to have some value down the road. That’s a sad thing.”
Fischer and Chandler specialize in antique jewelry, children’s miniatures, R.S. Prussia china, Victorian umbrellas and other items.
“It’s like running an orphanage — we’re trying to find good homes for some really great things and keep them from being destroyed. Unfortunately, our children don’t have the interest in the antiques,” Fischer said.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.