If you want to hear good stories from collectors, if you want pregnant pauses, if you want to start an interesting conversation, ask someone this question. So, I asked it of myself. It is quiet Sunday morning and I am going to answer it by using a thought experiment. (Well, if Einstein can do so, why not me?) The experiment goes as follows: I have 30 minutes to pack up and leave my house – forest fires, hurricane, tornado on its way – what antique do I take with me? Of course, whichever piece I choose magically will fit my vehicle and somehow, I will be able to pack it in the bed of the truck or the backseat of my Mini Cooper. The assumption is that the home and its contents will be destroyed. It is a thought experiment after all. I have no idea what I will find. Come walk the house with me. What is my favorite piece in the collection?
I discover that rarity is not necessarily a good criterion. I love our drop front desk (pictured on the front of my book, Come Collect with Me). But I could find another, perhaps better. The same is true for most of our antique high-country furniture, and homespun blankets, and accessories. The Pan Am poster (Across the Pacific in Five Days Via Pan American), never folded, perfect condition. I have never seen another on the market. No, it stays. I can appreciate it but do not adore it. I own no weathervane so special that it will come with. I find that good stories, powerful memories, and love are better criteria. I walk on.
One of my wife’s Black dolls is a possibility. The story of how not to negotiate, the one she fell in love with. The first “expensive” purchase we ever made – our Rogers’ tallcase wooden works clock (the works just this week returned from being repaired). The most powerful reminder we have of our (now deceased) dealer friends, Jim and Bernice Miller. It is in the running. A Bachelder print of the Battle of Gettysburg – a gift to our younger son as a college graduation present, whose tastes have moved on. Others enter the market but still . . .
I find I am drawn to a silver teapot I purchased at Harrod’s Silver Room (no longer in existence) in London – British no less. It is my best reminder of several trips to Europe.
I end my thought experiment undecided. After collecting all these years, the feeling is somewhat disconcerting. If you absolutely forced me to make a decision, I think the Rogers’ clock would be the one. But there are other pieces I would sorely miss. Fascinatingly, and I would love to hear from other collectors about this, I would not be devastated about losing most other items in our collection. I think that is because it would be great fun to have an empty house again, and refill it.
What is your favorite piece and why? And do you struggle like I do to identify it (them)?
6 thoughts on “What Piece in Your Collection is Your Most Favorite?”
I too have thought of this and decided that I would take my carved folk art penguin –large and heavy but not so much that it wouldn’t fit in the car. I love it for many reasons but primarily because it was a surprise birthday present from my husband. I had seen it in an antiques shop but didn’t buy it because of the price. Later when telling my husband about it, he said I should have bought it as I love penguins. I went back to the shop but it had sold–you snooze, you lose! On my birthday I came downstairs and there it was on the dining room table! I have always enjoyed your columns in MAD.
What a wonderful story. And thanks for the kind words about my MAD writings.
I love and so appreciate objects that are handmade. Hand carved items being my favorite. If they are polychromed even better . My husband is a pure history lover. Reads extensively on political and war history. I adore history thru Material Culture because through this visual, tactile object I can learn about what events were happening in the USA or the world when this object was lovingly crafted. So….. to make a potentially really long story short , I would take my polychrome d miniature ships head carvings 19 c., my carved band figures with their instruments . Will look forward to reading your book and to participating in your blogs. Rock on!!!
Would love to see hat look like
Hi Barry- My favorite piece that I’ve collected is a diminutive American Queen Ann desk on frame with scalloped skirt circa 1720-1740.
I would love to see a photo Bill. Sounds wonderful.