It's Antiques 101. This is a pie safe.

Some of you are probably wondering about the previous post, wanting to know the why and the what for.

The why is easy. Because I needed to vent, and Americana Journal allowed me to do just that. The post was a primeval scream of frustration without piercing anyone’s eardrums. It permitted me to ask, “Just what the heck were you thinking?” without stepping on anyone’s toes. It enabled me to sigh heavily and roll my eyes without an audience to witness the exasperation.

Two photos and 20 words. That’s all it took. And I felt soooooo much better.

But, I still have some complaining to do. The why was the easy part. The what for is a bit more complicated. At its most basic level I’d have to say the post was written to highlight the importance of accuracy.

Spend any time at all in the trenches of the antiques industry, and you’ll hear the fretful conversations — questions about how to resurrect the trade, how to increase interest, how to attract new followers and revitalize current participants. Oh, the hand-wringing is intense at times, the angst palpable.

My advice: stop worrying about the big picture. Instead, spend your time and energy perfecting the close-up shots. We once read that the CEO of a major airline was quoted as saying, “If there are coffee stains on the lap trays, our passengers assume we don’t do our engine maintenance.” How true. For years those words of wisdom have been the unofficial motto of the Johnson household, and with good reason. Everything — life, love, happiness, success — when pared down to its essence, is all about the details.

So what does any of that have to do with antiques and Americana? It’s simple. If, for example, one finds it necessary to identify an article of furniture — via price tag, photo caption, or Internet listing — it behooves one to do so correctly. Make a mistake in general classification, and everything else is thrown into question. Suddenly wood type, age, provenance, and value are swirling in a sea of suspicion.

And, it’s not just the hapless dealer who’s affected. Mall owners, show promoters, antiques aficionados — we’re all given a collective black eye. Worse yet, we put up with it. We see the mistakes — surely we see them — but we just shrug and walk away.

Really?! That’s all the better we police ourselves? If the industry wants respect, the industry has to earn it. And if we can’t pass the basic Antiques 101 pie-safe-not-a-pie-safe quiz, then we still have a helluva lot of earning (and learning) left to do.

If your doctor insists your spleen is a lung, you’ll be getting a second opinion… as well as a new medical practitioner. Crikey! Bad things could happen! You’d get off your duff and do something. But call a step-back cupboard a pie safe, and no one seems to care.

Oh, but wait, you say. A pie safe is not that big of a deal, and it’s definitely not a matter of life and death. True enough. But, if Wheelin’ & Dealin’ Bob assures me the green ’07 Toyota Highlander sitting on the lot is a subcompact, you can darn well bet I’m off to make an automotive purchase elsewhere. My point is this: we have standards and expectations in place for even the lowest of the low — the used-car salesman — but we don’t bother when it comes to antiques. Shame on us.

I’ll be blunt. If you don’t know the difference between a pie safe and a cupboard, you’ve got no business working in the antiques trade.

Just sayin’…

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