Some years ago, my family and I were at an auction of antiques from a business that was closing. It was a fine day and there was such a huge turnout that the sale of ‘smalls’ – ceramics, glass, some jewellery – was moved out of doors.
To my surprise, a rather nondescript couple in late middle age set up camp right in front of the auctioneer’s platform – not obnoxiously close, just giving themselves a good vantage point. They were well-prepared, with fold-up chairs, a picnic basket, sunglasses, visors and a cooler;obviously the veterans of many an outdoor auction, and clearly, attending auctions was their hobby,as it quickly became clear that they were not buying.
‘My word!’ I said to my husband, ‘Why didn’t we think of this ages ago?!’
Attendance at auction is an entertaining and inexpensive family day out, and a great way to introduce children both to the responsible use of money, and the wonderful world of art, antiques and collectibles.
This can give your little ones some valuable life skills:
- It teaches children to save
- Children learn investment and money management; it leads to curiosity about other aspects offinance
- It teaches children art appreciation in an active, interesting way
- They develop good taste and a sense of personal style
- They develop ambition and self-confidence
A Simple Action Plan
Teach children to save their pocket money towards buying vintage dolls, trains, tea sets, piggy banks, signs, banners, lights, and all sorts of toys, wallpaper and fabrics….(Incidentally, the need to give children a regular allowance, even a small one, will help your money management skills, too!)
Encourage your children to subscribe to mailing lists of auctions online. Children should learn to:
|Children can learn to check auctions online
- Watch for things that interest them
- Follow auction results, learn about market trends/understand how popularity and condition affect price.
- Older children can learn to ‘trade up’, that is, buy less expensive or a slightly damaged item, then
sell it off to buy something better later. This is a technique you must also learn; you just have to be aware a) that you may sell things back at a loss and b) that you need to learn what the best venues are for selling things back to minimise loss and possibly make a small profit so you can ‘trade up’.
Teach children how to bid at an auction. Set a budget and don’t go over. Arrange with the auctioneer; at an informal sale stand behind your children and catch the auctioneer’s eye so you can nod or shake your head. (Incidentally, if you’re not all that conversant with ‘real life’ auctions, my husband Martin and I have written ‘How to Bid at an Auction’ and you should feel free to contact me for a free electronic copy.)
Note: A couple of words of caution about children and auctions. Many jurisdictions have regulations and a minimum age for bidding at an auction, and some auction houses do not allow children on their premises. Find out the local rules before you go and speak to the auctioneer or staff beforehand. The auctioneer will require you to be responsibility for your children’s conduct and for their purchases. At the very least, you can bid for your child, and when the item is knocked down to you and the auctioneer asks for your bidder number, the child can hold up your card and feel as proud as punch.
Do not even attempt this if your child is stubborn or disobedient. You will make yourself very unpopular if proceedings are disrupted by a temper tantrum, and our goal is to give your children life skills, not to get you banned from auctions in several counties!
The Antique Shop
|Children must be supervised
at all times in an antique shop
Visiting an antique shop with very young children is probably not a great idea, particularly the sort of crowded shop where valuables are on low tables and shelves and easily knocked off. But if they have high counters, you can teach children to look but not touch as the dealer shows you items. Please teach your children good manners in a shop in a constructive, positive way. Do not shout ‘that’s expensive! Put it down! – for one thing, a shock will likely make the child drop whatever it is; for another, it seems to me that that idea simply tells a child that ‘that’s too good for the likes of you!’or ‘people like us don’t buy that sort of thing’. Rather, say things like ‘isn’t that pretty? Whenyou’re a grown up you’ll be able to afford things like that.’
Caring for Antiques
Another way to instruct children in the value of antiques and collectibles is to allow them the care of them. For example, my grandmother ‘allowed’ me to polish her silver and Windex® the glass baubles, bobeches and prisms that hung from the glitzy tables, lamps and chandeliers she loved.It was to our mutual benefit; Grandma readily admitted that she hated doing such chores herself,while I absolutely loved such fiddling about.
A sturdy, cheaply-bought stool can give a child access to a table or sink, and even quite a young child can stand at the sink while a parent stands behind, line the sink with a dish towel, and splash about(carefully!) while Mum or Dad cleans the china or glass (okay, maybe not your best china, but….)
Sure, this will likely increase your cleaning time by a bit, but what is that compared to the quality time you spend together? These are the sorts of joyful memories that last a lifetime.
Aleta Curry is a writer and historian, and an accredited antiques dealer and valuer from NSW,Australia. She and her husband Martin write extensively about antiques and collectibles, and run the successful Aleta’s Antiques. Martin and Aleta love sharing their knowledge and are committed to Integrity in Antiquing. Aleta blogs at Aleta’s Arty Facts.