On the Record

Preserving our culture

On the Record with Stephen Reid

Stephen Reid
Stephen Reid

Stephen Reid of DeKalb is interested in more than the age of an antique, he’s interested in why an item is rare and full of worth and the time and talent it took to create it.

Reid has been an antiques dealer for more than 35 years and is a past president and member of the Chicago Suburban Antiques Dealers Association.

The association will host the 45th annual Fall Fox Valley Antiques Show from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 19 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Kane County Fairgrounds, 525 S. Randall Road in St. Charles. Admission is $10 for adults and free for students with ID. The show will feature dealers from 15 states. For information about the show, visit www.csada.com.

Reid met with MidWeek Reporter Katrina Milton to discuss antiques and the importance of educating the public about them.

Milton: What do you do as an antiques dealer?

Reid: My goal as an antiques dealer and my life’s mission, is to pursue, study and preserve beautiful things, antiques. Antiques are not just the age, they’re items made by artisans. … Apprentices had to study for years to learn the skills to produce furniture, glass, pottery and metals such as iron, copper, tin and brass items. School girls studied and learned needlecraft to produce samplers to exhibit their skill. Some of what they create is highly artistic and worthwhile to collect. It is important to preserve the best of our culture.

Milton: If not age, what makes an item an antique?

Reid: Some items are collected, but not well-made or worth a lot of money when they were manufactured. Carnival glass was given away, baseball cards came with a pack of gum. Some older items, like Barbie dolls and model trains, are sold for a fortune. There has been a revival of mid-century modern furniture. Modern Jetsons-style designs are very popular for upscale residences. People like it and it’s very popular. … There was junk made in the 18th century, as well as today, so age alone doesn’t determine value.

Milton: Would you recommend decorating an entire house with antiques or just purchasing one or two items?

Reid: You can buy one or two items to really appreciate antiques and their value. Items can be functional and also have aesthetics and beauty. You can buy an item, like a painting or end table, and appreciate it either as art or use it as home decoration. … You don’t have to have large items, like a 4-foot-wide cupboard. You can have a small portrait or tobacco box or candlestick. Purchase it if you like the item, if you can see yourself living with the item and it makes you feel a certain way, happy or inspired or creative.

Milton: Do you think most people know a lot about antiques?

Reid: I don’t think the average person knows much about antiques, and most couldn’t care less about aesthetics. I think one of the most important things we can do as antique dealers is to educate the public. Things go in and out of style. Right now, signs and advertising are really popular. Styles and interests change, it happens all the time with demographics and the market. Quality doesn’t go out of style.

Milton: Do you learn about new items and antiques often?

Reid: I’m always learning something new. The only way to learn more about antiques is by handling them: handle them, look, touch, feel, turn it upside down. With a hands-on approach, you can develop knowledge and become a more discerned buyer. If you’re interested in learning more about antiques, visit a museum or go to an antique show. Antique dealers are always interested in teaching others, educating the public, so that the interest and knowledge continues and is passed on.

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