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Antiquing with AI

I am sure, like me, you have been hearing a lot about AI – Artificial Intelligence. Artificial intelligence leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. So what, if anything, does that have to do with antiques and collecting? More than you might think!

ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence program capable of generating human-like text based on context and past conversations, was recently asked to identify five up-and-coming categories in the world of antiques. Its response, as it turns out, seems right on the money based on what we know and have heard in the marketplace.

The first category it called out was mid-century modern, now on the rise at antique shops, auctions and shows everywhere, and by decorators on Instagram.  The second was vintage technology, including such items as film cameras, rotary telephones and pre-Apple devices like Blackberries. Third on the AI list was Art Deco, followed by Chinese antiques, and then last on the list, industrial antiques.

Next, when asked to present a list of antiques in decline, ChatGPT was equally on the money. Top of that list was Victorian-era furniture, a category that has been on life support for at least the last decade. Depression-era glass was No.2 on the downward list, followed by fine china, collectible figurines (think Hummel, Lladro, Royal Doulton), and finally, regrettably, antiquarian books.

ChatGPT pulls its responses from information in the public domain so this type of information, consistent with the published data on this topic found on the internet, is not an amazing example of AI’s power and potential; however, fans do believe it can change the way we shop for antiques, making us more targeted and efficient in our searches and where and how we shop.

In a June 2023 article in Flea Market Insiders, author Nicolas Martin explores the exciting ways in which Artificial Intelligence can assist us in these endeavors, taking over tedious tasks such as logistics to make our traditional flea market shopping experiences more efficient, enjoyable and rewarding. She cites antique trip planning with personalized recommendations based on our preferences, past shopping history and other relevant data as one possible advantage. “By understanding our unique tastes and preferences, Artificial Intelligence could suggest flea markets known for specific antique categories, such as vintage clothing, antique furniture or rare collectibles. With these tailored recommendations, we could discover new markets and explore hidden gems that truly cater to our individual tastes.

Another advantage she cites is event notification. “AI could keep us informed of upcoming events in our area by aggregating data from multiple sources, such as a fleamarket’s calendar of upcoming antique shows. By providing timely event notifications, Artificial Intelligence would ensure that we don’t miss out on interesting opportunities to explore new markets, meet dealers and discover unique antique treasures.”

AI can also collect and analyze data about suppliers and their offerings, providing buyers with valuable insights for more informed buying decisions. “Whether we are looking for a specific antique or seeking expert advice, AI could provide detailed information about sellers’ specialties, reputations and customer reviews…and which dealers are more likely to have the types of products we are looking for.”

And, Martin adds, AI-powered navigation systems can help users to navigate traffic and unfamiliar routes to get to a flea market by taking into account real-time data such as traffic conditions, road closures and alternative routes. “This not only saves time, but also reduces stress, allowing us to focus more on the anticipation of our flea market adventure.”

AI also provides a benefit for online antique shoppers, where it can enhance the online shopping experience by improving search capabilities, providing visual recognition, enabling price comparison, and detecting potential fraud.

“AI algorithms excel at understanding our preferences and refining search results based on our criteria. When searching for antiques online, AI will be able to enhance our shopping experience by suggesting relevant keywords, categories or filters that match our interests. For example, if we are interested in vintage cameras, AI could make suggestions such as ‘rare film cameras’ or ‘classic camera brands.’ By refining search results based on price range, condition, era, or other relevant factors, AI will enable us to find exactly what we are looking for, quickly and efficiently.”

Virtual showrooms are another potential advantage of AI in the antiques world. “AI-powered virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) platforms will be able to create immersive virtual flea market experiences. We could explore different stalls, interact with sellers and examine items virtually. These virtual showrooms will be able to partially replicate the atmosphere of a physical flea market, allowing us to browse through antique treasures without leaving the comfort of our homes. Virtual showrooms will also allow us to assess the authenticity, condition and attractiveness of items before making a purchase, increasing our confidence and satisfaction.”

The bottom line is that AI is our future in the same way as antiques are a part of our past. Like all other aspects of our existence, AI will find its way into our life, hopefully as an aid and not a deterrent, in the thrill of the hunt for the items we love to buy and collect.