Mr. Bernie Karr, owner of Hyde Park Antiques, 836 Broadway, New York City, has dealt in quality English antiques for thirty- five years. He specializes in late 17th century to mid nineteenth century furniture, art and accessories. Museums such as the Victoria and Albert in London and the National Museums of France have acquired pieces from his shop. When asked what advice he would give to young collectors (or any collector) he offers three basic criteria. He says, “I started giving this advice twenty years ago, and it still holds true today.”
- Authenticity is the most important factor. Is it pure? Are the elements correct for the period? Be a skeptic and assume a piece will have problems until proven otherwise. The field of antiques is a life-long study; do not be intimidated or overwhelmed. Learn the styles, woods (primary and secondary woods for each style and country), typical motifs and construction methods. Buy selectively and less frequently, but buy the best.
- Aesthetics or beauty is next. Why does it appeal to you? If you don’t know, do your homework. Knowledge and exposure pave the road to connoisseurship.
- Price is the least important criteria. Mr. Karr says, “There are no good deals today. If something is too cheap there must be a reason.” He adds you can never go wrong by over reaching your budget, if you have “x” amount to spend, spend a little more. You’ll think you have a bargain in twenty years.In Mr. Karr’s book The Hyde Park Collection 1965-1990, he quotes Percival Griffiths, one of the most important collectors of the early 20th century as saying, “Some collectors attach considerable importance to securing what they consider to be bargains. The best bargains that I ever made were in respect of pieces which I bought from the most important antique shops, at the then market price, and which have ultimately turned out to be bargains owing to the rise in value of the genuine piece. My advice therefore is not to buy a poor piece because it is cheap, but, rather, an expensive piece because it is good.”
*Published in NFocus magazine in December 1999.