Trash or treasure? The art of antiques hunting

Cassie Pence

BEAVER CREEK – Edward Minieka’s collection of antiques sprouted out of necessity – he had an empty apartment.His love for antiques, however, began when he was 5 years old. He acquired his uncle’s stamp collection.”The stamps were little pictures from all over the world, and they were old. I just became more and more interested in them. Stamps are like paintings or antiques for children,” said Minieka, who lives in Chicago.It was when he needed furniture that Minieka became really serious about antique furniture. His taste had been predetermined. His mother had reproduction English furniture when Minieka was growing up. It was only natural he wanted to find the real thing. 18th century English pieces are Minieka’s favorite. They are plainer, compared to French, he said, yet sophisticated. The detailed carvings in the furniture are what attracts him to it.

“The older pieces have a lot of character that some of the newer ones don’t have. Their made with a lot of detail and care. Some of the new ones are just slapped off in an assembly line or by apprentices,” said Minieka.Minieka is Vail Symposium’s guest speaker tonight at the home of Ernie and Pam Elsner. Based on his own life experiences, Minieka will give insights into how to start collecting antiques, what to do with the ones you have and help you determine the value of your pieces. A retired professor, Minieka now works full time tracking down antiques all over the Mid West for his clients. He’s also been helping out with estates, advising parties on where to sell and at what price. Minieka has earned himself quite a reputation for his knowledge.”I have to be careful because some of people track me at the auctions, and if I start bidding, then they think it’s good and they become more aggressive,” Minieka said.For the beginning collector, Minieka said you should first think about personal style. You shouldn’t be thinking about value initially. You have to like it, and you have to live with it, he said. Then you consider quality.

“In the category of things that you like, things that turn you on, you have to try and get the best possible examples. That’s where the connoisseurship comes in. To understand what’s good, what’s better, what’s best,” said Minieka.Of course that gigantic armoire isn’t going to fit in a 500-square-foot condo. How the antique will function in your home is a collector’s biggest balancing act.”It’s a tough blend between decorating and collecting. If you collect you have to put it somewhere. I run into paintings or pieces of furniture that I love, but I can’t fit into my apartment,” said Minieka. “You’ve got to live with things. You have to have chairs to sit on. You have to decorate, it’s a blend of the two.”Minieka’s experienced eye targets only the best examples of the period he’s searching. He shops at auction houses in the Mid West.”You want things of the best quality because no matter how well or poorly your place is designed, things of good quality they’re always a joy to live with,” Minieka said.

Minieka advises antique newcomers to steer clear of flea markets. Sellers at junk markets won’t be able to teach you anything, Minieka said. He suggests buying a couple of reference books with lots of photos and shopping at auction houses or reputable dealers.”If you go to a museum you see things that are the very best that’s labeled appropriately so you find out what it is. If you go to really good dealers you can learn a lot,” Minieka said.Some signs that a dealer is reputable is business longevity, membership to the American Antique Dealers Association and correct attributions on the antiques. It is from these kind of dealers that a beginner can learn a lot.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or Colorado

Support Local Journalism