Flea Markets in Loire Valley France

A Little Lunch Among Antiques

In my travels last week in the Loire Valley of France, I came across a great little town called Saumur that holds a weekly flea market. Unlike some of the garage sales in my home state of Colorado, this little market was packed with great pieces!  Included in the usual knick knacks, were of lots of 19th century porcelain, bronze statues, some beautiful antique furniture.  There were also lots and lots of books and beautiful posters.

I got the feeling that these flea markets were a regular thing for the sellers and they all seemed very dedicated to their booths. And at 12:30 in a classic French style, they all set up their little café tables for a proper déjeuner, or lunch–all with their own china dishes, wine, and linens.  I decided not to ask about a prices during their feast, so I went and had my own déjeuner.

Paris’ Art, Antiques and Appraising District

The Mecca for Art Appraisers!

Paris, France–I know this is a city of art and antiques, but I am always amazed at the density of professionals.  Tucked away in the 9th arrondissement, are quaint little merchants and store-fronts that have grown up around the “Drouot Auction House.”  This auction house was founded in 1852 and consists of 16 halls with 70 independent auction firms. There are up to 8 auctions a day and, unlike the auction houses of Christies’ and Sotheby’s, anyone can attend without any credentials.

A short walk in the 9th arrondissement will take you by “houses” with specialists in stamps, coins, rare books, estate jewelry, clocks, and certain art and antique periods.  Of course, being Paris, there are even cafés for these specialists.

Paris is an art Mecca, and for this humble appraiser from Colorado, I feel fortunate to get to make the pilgrimage to it’s history, art and architecture.

Downsizing Dilemmas

“Keep the memories.  Let go of the stuff.”  

We live in the age of stuff.  Never before have there been so many people on this planet with so many things.  And fewer and fewer people know what to do with all of it.  Younger folks are living in smaller homes (this explains the popularity of IKEA), have almost all of their books and music digitized, and are more interested in acquiring experiences than say, great-grandma’s collection of milk-glass.

And for those of us that already have said yes to all that stuff  (I speak from my own personal experience of inheriting a fair amount of art, antiques, and tchotchkes from parents and grandparents) I know the feeling of being weighed down and frustrated at the clutter and inefficiency.

“Clutter is having its moment in part because we’ve accumulated a critical mass of it. The cascade began 25 years ago, when China started to export huge amounts of cheap clothes, toys and electronics. Cut-rate retailers and big-box stores encouraged us to stockpile it all”

–Pamela Druckerman, The Clutter Cure’s Illusory Joy

As appraisers we have seen clients cry in distress over what to do with a household of things that they either acquired over a long lifetime, or inherited from a loved one. It is this stuff that can weigh people down, and it often comes at a time when they may be less able to deal with the physical and emotional toll–due to deteriorating health, cognition, guilt or while suffering from loss.

Freeing yourself from much of this stuff can be hard.  In their book Moving On, co-authors Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand give great examples of how to go about planning for downsizing:

“Honor the items that belong to your family — talk about them, take photos, write down your memories, tape record family members sharing stories. Then let go of the item. Studies have shown that people are able to let go of their possessions more easily if they have been given the opportunity to talk about them first.”

I like the idea of creating a virtual collection of your items, [Appraisley’s App is coming soon and you will be able to do just that!]  I would expect it would be satisfying to be able to easily revisit something you owned a while ago, rather than digging through “Jack Benny’s closet”.  After all, our books and music are essentially virtual, why not our stuff.  Memories we associate with our stuff are right there at our fingertips, if only we could get to them easily.

Antique Ivory Dilemma

You can no longer, (and shouldn’t) sell ivory, so now what?

I have a small antique ivory carving of a lion that I inherited from my grandmother a few years ago. It sits on my shelf, baring its little teeth and long tail.  I also have a small antique Japanese Netsuke carved from Hornbill ivory (an endangered species).  It depicts a small baby and an old man, each with delightful expressions.

Both of these little treasures were beautifully carved during an era when there was no concept of an endangered species, or animal rights. But the world’s elephants are at risk from poaching, and the endangered Helmeted Hornbill bird’s casque is supposedly worth 5 times that of ivory on the black market.

I will never sell these out of principle, but I am left with a dilema: Leave them for my heirs to figure it out?  Bury them? Or perhaps I will do what my teenager suggested and post a ceremonial smashing on YouTube.