Mountain House & Home: Mountain-town Antiques
Every other mountain home seems to showcase antiques unique to the area, from wooden skis or snowshoes to old mining implements. If youve ever wondered where people get the memorabilia, or how to tell the genuine articles from modern knock-offs, the best place to start is with the folks who know mountain antiques. To help steer clear of junk and to inspire you on how to work interesting objects into your own home, we asked some established Rocky Mountain experts for their guidance.
The reason people go for mountain antiques is simple: They want to add some of that classic ambiance to their home especially if its a ski retreat. Even a modern condo can benefit from a touch of old school, says Harvey Gilmore, owner of Little Bear Antiques in Carbondale, CO. I think everybody in the mountains wants to have a little feel of the outdoors a little bit of a lodge look, even for a condo, rustic, furniture, trophy mounts, that Bavarian look, that mountain look, he says.And yes, old skis and snowshoes are popular items. Theyre not too hard to find, either, with authentic pieces available in High Country antique shops as well as online. But how do you know how old a piece actually is?Theres lots of little indicators of how old a ski may be, Gilmore says. In the 50s and 40s you might see metal edges on the bottom of that wooden ski. And there are manufacturers marks. Also the bindings might tell you the era of that ski.For example, in the 1800s, especially with touring skis from Scandinavia, some of the older, longer skis had a simple loop of leather going through one side of the ski and coming out the other, rather than metal bindings applied to the top of the ski.
Modern ski towns like Aspen and Breckenridge also happen to have rich mining histories, and there are plenty of artifacts left over from those boom days. Junktique in Frisco, CO has period mining hats, gold pans and other items that can truly underscore that Colorado feel in a mountain home.The trend here is playing up the mining aspect of our area, Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon, says Dee Dee Byers at Junktique. Even some of the condos have the mine feel where they look like a mine. Some houses have game rooms with entrances that look like youre going into a mineshaft.And, of course, there are also great finds for the railway collector. The shop boasts a real, full-size mail car, which is on the historic record. There are also smaller finds in the railroad theme in the shop.
Of course, Colorado has its share of cowboy history as well, so antique saddles, bridles, spurs and bullwhips can also jazz up a wall. When collecting in this genre, you dont have to spend a fortune to get the genuine article but it pays to do your homework before buying.On saddles, what we want to look at is any repair work thats been done, says Glenn Miles of Cowboy Collectibles in Hotchkiss, CO. Any alterations kills your collectible value on a saddle. Youve got to look at the cartouche, which is the makers name, and know your maker. You want to make sure the parts all match. Switching stirrups is not all that uncommon, cautions Miles. Sometimes the stirrups may be stamped R.T. Frazier, one of your real collectible makers, but the saddle was never made by R.T. Frazier. Switching parts is notoriously done on the old guns too. One of the things on your Colts is getting all your serial numbers to match up, he says. If youre in the market for a high-ticket Colt, Miles advises seeking a knowledgeable dealer and becoming a member of the Bit and Spur Association.With spurs, the dead giveaway of a fake can be the shape of the rowel (the spiked disk at the end of the spur), as well as the appearance. You can drop them in acid and make em rust, put old straps on em that youve made to look old. You can take strong coffee, darken leather, give them a real worn, dark look. Theres just tons of little tricks to it.
In addition to items that conjure the American West, Europe can also be an inspiration for a mountain home.We sell world-class Black Forest carvings that were all originally carved in Switzerland in the 19th and early 20th centuries, says Michael Daniels of Daniels in Aspen. Weve got chandeliers, full-sized eagles and bears. But our carvings of dogs are probably the most popular and are the most rare. The Swiss often carved mountain rescue dogs like St. Bernards and Bernese Mountain dogs. And they carved them as puppies prices can go from very little to priceless.Daniels says he sells items from a couple of thousand dollars up to $350,000 which would buy a clock reputedly owned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The clock has a music box that plays God Save the Queen.He also carries items that harken to the European hunting tradition, like stags heads, game plaques and heavily carved wall clocks.As with any interior design elements, antiques need to be matched with the overall theme of the room. Consulting a designer before plunking down big money for mountain collectibles is not a bad idea. It also pays to be wary of fakes if youre paying for an original.
When it comes to antiquing, theres no substitute for knowing and trusting the person youre buying from. But if thats not the case, there are some tips to keep in mind. For country furniture, Aspen interior designer Sandra Kirk says look at the finishes. Pick up the wood and try to determine the style and joining and all those things that are indicative of the period, she says. The painted finishes are really popular, and the Mexicans and eastern Europeans countries have it down. These countries are shipping painted furniture that looks like true Americana. In the past few years, Kirk has seen beautiful pieces with amazing price points coming in from Brazil. For country pieces, you can tell by the finishes, and it takes a very keen eye to tell whether something has been finished recently, she cautions. Somebody thats not skilled really has to question the dealer. For mining collectibles: Dee Dee Byers of Junktique says feel the weight. I know there are a lot of fake gold pans around, she says. They can take any new metal thing and rust it. But you can tell a fake by weight. The older things were a heavier grade of metal. On cowboy collectibles Glenn Miles rule of thumb is the higher the price tag on that trendy hot object, the more likely it is to be a fake. Its the hot items counterfeiters are looking at to make the quick easy buck, says Miles.Michael Daniels suggests that when shopping for antique wooden carvings it is helpful to know your dealer. There are fakes aplenty on the market that can be carved wood or resin. The resin ones are easy to spot, Daniels says. Youve got to turn the piece over and look at the wood underneath. Also look at the patina. You cannot fake a patina.Whether its wooden skis, snowshoes or antique furniture you are shopping for, Harvey Gilmore advises to always get a second opinion, ask other deals or bring things home on approval. Do your homework, he says. Millers Guide is a great book for furniture, as is Kovels Antiques and Collectibles.