by Maxine Carter-Lome
Throughout modern history, a room or space has been set aside for the Master of the House to call his own – a place where he can go to be alone, indulge in hobbies, work or entertain his friends. Thomas Jefferson had his library, Mark Twain had a billiards room that occupied the entire top floor of his home in Hartford, Connecticut, and Theodore Roosevelt had a trophy room which displayed his prized taxidermy collection. Whether it’s called a library, study, office, den, or guitar room (as it is referred to in our house), these rooms, now also referred to as “man caves,” have one thing in common: they are decorated to reflect and display the interests and hobbies of their owner, which makes decorative collectibles such a fun, interesting, and personal topic to explore.
The rise in popularity of man caves and she sheds – personal, self-contained rooms or spaces – is a boom for the antique collectibles marketplace with enthusiastic buyers, inspired by shows on the History channel and the like, and sites such as Pinterest, or apps such as Instagram, with ideas on how to decorate their personal spaces with prized possessions, collections, and unique finds. Flea markets, antique collectibles shows, and specialty auctions (for everything from sports memorabilia to Road Art) are benefiting from the man cave decorating craze. In this issue we explore decorative elements that include sports memorabilia, video games, Breweriana, casino collectibles, movie posters, and neon signs; and look at how nostalgia and self-expression are key drivers in what is hot and trending.
Collectors know all about visual displays of self-expression and are known to curate spaces, rooms, and in some cases an entire house with items they have personally, thoughtfully, and meaningfully acquired over the years. They love to spend time with their objects – to be able to see them, enjoy them, and share them with others. Being able to display them and live with them as decorative objects is the ultimate affirmation of an individual’s prowess and passion as a collector.
Sports memorabilia and collectibles, in particular, have benefited from this decorative collectible craze, introducing a new market of buyers inspired and motivated to showcase their love of a sport or team by decorating with items selected for that purpose. With display cabinets that showcase objects and framed memorabilia as art, any wall, space, or room can be turned into a shrine to a sport, sports franchise, and personal idols. This collectibles segment has buyers and sellers all along the spectrum, from enthusiasts and fans that tend to indiscriminately buy what they like and can afford, to the more serious collectors who can afford to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars building a portfolio collection to preserve as a historical artifact. Regardless, every buyer and collector has those prized items that call out for wall space and visual recognition if for no other reason than for the sheer joy and satisfaction they get from seeing it and sharing it with others.
Another hot segment of the decorative collectibles market is advertising signage, especially for those companies and products we remember from our youth. They come with stories and personal memories, which make them desirable, meaningful, and now more valuable than ever. If you have been following American Pickers over the years as I have, you know advertising signs are always a hot pick for them, and they’ll often reference the man cave as the item’s next, perfect home. Here again, there is a range of items to choose from. Enthusiasts looking to pick authentic items for decorative display are turning out at flea markets, country auctions, and antique collectibles shows to experience, often for the first time, how much fun it is to hunt through the past only to find something special. I find this to be a very encouraging sign. For the more serious collector or buyer interested in something specific, numerous auction houses, many of whom advertise in our magazine, are now specializing in advertising signage and are building the market based on beautiful examples from bygone companies and products. Here again, as in all collectible categories, the condition is everything. And it helps if the colors are right and the size fits the space.
There need not be any real connoisseurship in decorative collectibles. This is an area that is purely about buying and displaying what you love and collect in a way that brings you enjoyment and joy.
On another note, I am excited to share that the Journal of Antiques and Collectibles will be hosting an antique collectibles show New Year’s Day 2020 at The Host Hotel in Sturbridge, MA. If you have attended the Brimfield shows over the years you may be familiar with this venue. This is our first foray into show management but we are excited by the opportunity to showcase the many high-quality dealers of authentic antique collectibles in our corner of the world. I hope if you are in the area you will join us as we ring in the New Year with good cheer and precious old finds.