There’s a treasure hunt that takes place in Maine each summer.
Whether the treasure hunters go to little shops along the road, or to auctions, or to dedicated malls, they’re all seeking the same thing: a piece of the past.
Yes, summer is the busy season for antiquing in Maine.
Like flowers in spring, the antique signs pop up all over the state at this time of year.
How much antiquing contributes to the Maine economy, it’s impossible to say, because so much of the business is done on the side.
But it’s clear that attics, basements, garages, and barns throughout the state are stuffed with items that other people might want to buy.
“Mainers hold onto things,” said Rose Frick, who has been an antiques dealer for 12 years. “We’re not people who get rid of stuff just to buy new.”
The state’s demographics may have something to do with the amount of antiques available as well. “There are a lot of retired people who have older things,” said Cheryl Whistler, who became a dealer about a year ago after spending several years working in antiques.
Frick got into antiques as a lifestyle choice. “It’s kind of a recycling philosophy,” said Frick, who specializes in vintage kitchen items. “I’d rather buy something that’s old than buy something new from China. Each thing has a history, a story.”
Frick and Whistler both work at the Antique Marketplace & Cafe (65 Main St.) in Bangor, which has more than 100 booths and showcases spread over two floors.
Frick sees an advantage to shopping at such a location: “The best places to go are the big group malls, because there’s more available at each one, so you can get better bargains,” she said.
Whistler, who specializes in costume jewelry and glassware, suggests comparison shopping. “Go to different shops and see what’s out there and compare prices,” she said. “Get to know the dealers. Also prices are higher on the coast, because of all the tourists there. There’s stuff that’s just as good inland at a cheaper price.”
Buy for the right reasons, Frick recommended. “Now is not a good time to get into antiques as an investment,” she said. “Buy items you like. Research what you’re looking for in terms of value. With eBay, prices are all over the place.”
How much wiggle room is there in the price of a particular item? It depends on the dealer and the item.
“Make a reasonable offer, then you may find more flexibility,” Frick said.
“Cash or checks are the preferred method of payment,” Whistler said. “Use one of those instead of a credit card, and you’re more likely to get a discount.”
Nostalgia is the driving force in antiques. “It’s 100-percent nostalgia driven,” Frick said. “It’s a walk down memory lane. Someone will say, ‘My grandmother used to have a piece just like that.’ “
The Antiques Marketplace & Cafe (65 Main St., Bangor) is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Saturday and 12 noon-5 p.m., Sunday. For more information, call (207) 941-2111 or (877) 941-2111 or visit www.AntiqueMarketplaceCafe.com.
A good source about places to antique in Maine is http://www.visitmaine.com/seasons/fall/maine-antiquing-trail/.