Kid Collectors

Or… What To Do With The Kids When You Want To Go Antique-ing!

By Pat Martin, Home Farm Antiques
at the Antiques Market Place

There’s nothing like bored children to cut short your visit to the antiques shop. A solution to this might be to make collectors of your kids. What a brilliant way to enhance your child’s education. Written in their school’s educational curriculum is history, as we all know, but there are also strands of anthropology, the humanities, and the arts interwoven in different states’ curriculae. We find studies of culture and of social patterns and traditions even in the primary grades. There are also the basic learning skills supported by practice in classification and categorization (by color, by size, by texture, by age), math (how many are in your collection now?), language arts (can you read the label on that old bottle?) What better way to glean learning than from hands-on treasure hunts? And what better way to involve and entertain your children while sharing quality time with them by showing them what marvels they could be collecting, what pieces of history from a simple antiques shop. Imagine!

Starting is simple. Any good antiques shop is filled with color, form, texture and interesting stuff. If you have a game-oriented child, marbles may appeal to him or her. They are colorful, easy to pack in a suitcase, and they make outstanding collections visually. Kids can categorize them according to size, color and texture. And the quest for marbles has been know to turn into a life-long pursuit. We have adults looking for that specific, sumptuous marble to add to their advanced collections. There may be a future for your kid in marbles. A special thing about marbles – they establish a link between your child and a child who lived long, long ago, a feeling of one-and-the-sameness. Marbles are one of the few things that have remained basically the same from then to now, and knowing that children in 1830 played with them in a way similar to that of children in 2012 will give special meaning to your kids. Skills developed: classification/categorization, science appreciation in discovering what the marbles were made of, how they were made, what the end result of that process looks like, and its history.

Our grandson, Sam, aged 9, just started an antique bottle collection. He enjoys playing detective by looking for evidence of age – imperfections, a flake here, a chip there, a rusty lid or a pitted cork stopper, the color of the glass, names on the bottle or labels or remnants of labels, to show what the bottle was originally designed and used for. Figurals add interest to your child’s collection and have a special appeal to young people. Sam just got a cat shaped bottle, very special in Sam’s book! Recently, I came across a bottle shaped like George Washington. History. You might worry about your child + glass. Most of the antique and vintage bottles found are of a good thickness and very hard to shatter. This is why they’ve survived for so long. Here is where the parent or adult is needed to make certain the glass the child has interest in is a good, thick glass. Skills developed: classification/categorization, reading and language skills, historic and scientific appreciations, depending upon what was originally in the bottle.

Vintage paper and ephemera, post cards, trade cards, old advertising all offer color and interesting content. Pictures of animals, toys, games, children playing, etc, etc, ad infinitum, all colorful and very different from cartoon art today, can be found in almost every antiques shop there is. Usually, very inexpensive and easy to store paper collectibles showing amusing and interesting pictures and having good color are very desirable. Kids love to gather; they love to build collections. Gathering pictures or ephemera with which to build a scrapbook will have great appeal to many children. Pride of ownership in making his or her own book, and all those empty pages to fill, will lead to many future treasure hunts. Thematic scrapbooks are good for categorization and classification… all animals, or all country pictures or all city pictures… whatever your child fancies, packed into one book. Skills developed: classification/categorization, social & cultural skills, history, reading and language arts.

Souvenir items such as pennants are colorful and show local history. Adirondack pennants often have graphics including Indian tribes like the Iroquois. Older and more sophisticated/graphic pennants may be a bit pricey, but there are good, basic, colorful pennants available that are quite inexpensive. Your child can take them home and hang them on the walls of his or her room. Skills developed: local history, geography, social skills, reading and language arts, interpreting how the graphics of the pennant apply to the area visited. (And let’s not forget the skill of Interior Decoration!)

There are certain qualities an antique should have to appeal to the Kid Collector. Oddly enough, this list is the same as the list of qualities for diamonds….Color, Clarity, Cut. Color: an antique that is attractive to your child is one with good, bright, primary colors. Black and white goes only so far, as do sepias or murky, smudgy colors. Clarity: the antique must carry with it, intrinsic to its design and nature, a clear message of what it was and what significance it had in its life. Was that bottle used for medicine? What that little bone fish used as a game marker? Was that piece of paper used to advertise a dude ranch, a pharmacy or an emporium. (And what exactly is an emporium, anyway? Another learning experience!) Cut: the antique should have a clear-edged geometric form. By this last property, I mean round (marbles), rectangular (post cards), triangular (pennants), etc. The sharper and more evident the geometric form, the easier it will be for your child to identify positively with the piece.

Our friends’ granddaughter takes bell-ringing lessons. Is antique bell collecting in her future? It relates to a pastime she loves, so bells may have a special meaning for her. The Antiques Market Place in the Adirondacks, where Home Farm Antiques has a gallery, has a certain customer who is dear to my heart. He is a young boy, a young little gentleman. He rides his bike to the shop and he comes in and looks and looks and reads and studies and asks questions. I love this kid! His favorite thing is the early camera, and he knows more about early cameras than I do. It is a pleasure to have him in the shop. And who would have guessed….cameras?? Your child may develop a love for something you would never imagine. And all you have to do is open the door or opportunity for him or for her… the door to the antiques shop.

A Picture of a Lake George Pennant