How to buy an antique that fits into your modern life

The Philadelphia Antiques Show is at the Convention Center April 13-15.
The Philadelphia Antiques Show is at the Convention Center from April 13 to 15.

It’s out with the new, in with the old this weekend at the 52nd annual Philadelphia Antiques Show. Antiques and fine arts experts from up and down the East Coast will set up shop, showcasing pieces from the 1600s to the 1900s, while guided tours and a series of lectures help the novices learn the difference between Chippendale and Federal.

We checked in with one of those experts, Christopher Rebollo of Christopher T. Rebollo Antiques in Buckingham, Pa., for tips on what to buy.

Trust your instincts
“Buy what resonates with you. The opinions of design school professors and home decorating magazine editors are just that, their opinions. Mid-century modern is popular right now. If you like that period, by all means pursue it. If Victorian seating set ablaze with jewel-tone cut velvet floats your boat, who are we to sneer? Be a rebel.”

Educate yourself
“At least half the fun of collecting is learning why the objects are made a certain way or look the way they do. Learn why some Newport, R.I., high chests are made with detachable legs — much easier to export by sea to far-flung ports — and why a specific glass bottle should always feature a rough pontil mark rather than a smooth polished one.”

Buy the best you can afford
“This bit of advice is admittedly cliché, though for good reason. As the great early Boston dealer Israel Sack once wrote in his Ten Commandments of Antiques, ‘Bargains in antiques are sometimes fatal.’ In this context he was likely referring to the inadvertent purchase of either a fake or a heavily restored piece bought cheap. While this is still a concern for anyone not relying on the expert advice of a knowledgeable advisor, it is equally important to resist the mediocre. It’s better to own a masterpiece with some appropriate restorations than an all-original pig.”

Art over money
”There is entirely too much emphasis placed on price. It’s off-putting. Yes, it is fun to see the proverbial little old lady hit the jackpot on an appraisal program. We can’t help but get excited to hear of the yard sale porcelain bowl fetching millions of dollars at auction. Unfortunately, this publicity promotes the fallacy that art and antiques are out of reach for everyone except for the super-rich, or worse, that collectors should focus on investment potential rather than the art itself. This is supposed to be fun.”


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