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The Millennial Generation and the Future of Auctions

June 18, 2013

These past few weeks have been incredibly busy, back to back to back auctions make for long weeks and little free time to update the blog. When we experienced some “technical difficulties” with our server this week, I found this to be a perfect time to tackle an issue that is always in the back of my mind.


This issue is embodied in Ron Lawson’s blog post on Antique Auction Forum (which you can read here)  This article was written almost a year ago to the day. At that point, I had really just begun to get a handle on working in this industry and didn’t really know enough to agree or disagree. One year later, I revisited this article while looking through a folder marked “blog ideas”.  After reading it again, I was offended.  Perhaps, it’s because I’m a 20 something, or because I care about preserving antiques and their historical value, maybe I’m an anomaly… but I don’t think so.


The type of antiques Lawson expects  20-40 somethings to collect, or have interest in include Baroque and Nouveau period items, as well as, Tiffany and other high end antiques. Is this really practical for someone in their 20s starting out? Is it practical for a young family (also in that 20-40s range) to own Baroque period furniture? (Talk about a baby-proofing nightmare). Not to mention that many of those period antiques are out of our budget, while many turn of the century and mid-century modern items are well within our grasp.


I agree with Ron that the “Ikea mentality” is something that is pervasive in most of the “20-40” something generation. However, I think he tends to gloss over the fact that vintage has made a real comeback in the past 10-20 years. I think far more people care about “vintage” than Lawson gives them credit for. Vintage is IN. Have you planned a wedding lately, or looked at home décor? Things that are labeled as “vintage”, “rustic”, “antique” are always highly sought.


I would argue that the move to an “Ikea mentality” is not a lack of appreciation, but a lack of opportunity and education about buying antiques. Not all antiques worth collecting are Baroque or made by Belter. Although Lawson may not be an elitist, as he claims, it is this elitist attitude that is dangerous to the next generation of collectors and it’s one that our industry should fight against. The “Ikea mentality” is a default because many 20 something are unaware about the quality of items that can be found at a local auction or flea market. They go to Ikea because it is inexpensive and convenient—not because they are looking for an item they can replace in a year.


Lawson’s argument is toxic to the future of the antique industry because it perpetuates the stereotype that collecting antiques is only for the wealthy who can afford to buy high end big name items, and that simply isn’t true.  What we should be looking to do is change that perception and then I think you will see a greater volume of young people interested in collecting antiques, attending auctions and taking an active role in the preservation of history. 



Update: In response to this article. Antiques and Auction Forum very graciously offered to let me defend Generation Y on their podcast. You can listen to it here.

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