Buy, Sell or Hold?

After my good friend Robert Hause sent me the photographs of the Karl Kipp stamp box which first appeared last week in our Collector’s Guide, he emailed me back to let me know he had had several offers to buy it. Robert, who is a talented woodworker and enthusiastic Arts & Crafts antiques collector, had bought the hammered copper box because he liked it, rather than thinking he would sell it.

He ended his email with the following, “I always heard you can’t be a collector and a seller at the same time – isn’t that true!”

And, of course, that got me to thinking, as sometimes happens.

“Actually, Robert,” I wrote back, “I always heard that a good collector is also a seller, because we are always upgrading our collections.”

When I first started collecting Arts & Crafts I was transitioning from being a high school teacher to running my own antique restoration business and small antiques mall in a former linseed oil mill I had restored in Iowa City. Keeping every piece of Arts & Crafts I found was never a consideration, as I was often buying Stickley furniture using next week’s profits, provided there were any.

After that got me into trouble, I had to adopt a new rule: I had to buy enough to sell enough to pay for the things I kept.

And when I occasionally hit pay-dirt, like in 1983 when I found a Gustav Stickley inlaid music cabinet in a small antiques shop, keeping it was never a serious consideration. It quickly went off to a New York auction house, knowing that the profit from that one sale would enable me to buy several pieces of affordable, practical Arts & Crafts furniture.

Do I wish I could have the inlaid music cabinet back today?

Of course I do, but, given the same set of circumstances, I would do the same thing: sell one to buy ten.

Most Arts & Crafts collectors, however, are borderline hoarders. Either we get too emotionally attached to each item we find or we fear that we never find something as good again. Perhaps its my age showing or the realization that Arts & Crafts pieces do continue to surface, but in recent years I have begun letting go of those pieces I really don’t use.

In truth, as I have pared my collection down to those pieces I really do have an emotional attachment to, those pieces I really need and those I simply enjoy looking at – getting rid in the process of pieces I really was just storing – I find myself enjoying my collection even more.

Less is more, right?

Until next Monday –


PS – Don’t forget: classified ads for your ‘extra’ pieces are free here at