Marosi White is a picky picker. That's her business.
Owner of Accent Décor, the Sacramento interior designer searches antiques fairs, dealers malls and estate sales for one-of-a-kind finds that perfect vintage something that turns a room from everyday to extraordinary.
"I've always been very interested in antique furnishings," said White, who also teaches interior design at the Art Institute of California's Sacramento campus. "Vintage or antique accessories add this touch- of-old feeling. Antiques are very transitional and can fit into almost any décor."
And now is prime antiquing season. Dealers have more merchandise, culled from summer hunts or cross-country buying expeditions. Antiques fairs and other events bring out hundreds of interested buyers.
"Antiquing is something that's going to be popular and appealing all year round," White noted, "but especially for fall as people begin to transition their homes to fall and holiday seasons. They want their homes to feel cozy and inviting. Antiques really fit right in."
Like most retail businesses, antiques sellers were hit hard during the recession. Many dealers closed their shops. Prices for most collectibles took deep dips.
"Old people are trying to get rid of everything they've got and young people just want midcentury modern," said Juanita Rogers, owner of the Picket Fence in Sacramento's 57th Street Antique Row. "People are very specific in what they're looking for."
But antique hunting remains a favorite pastime, spurred by popular TV shows such as "American Pickers" and "Antiques Roadshow."
"People watch those shows," said appraiser John Humphries. "Everybody wants to find a million-dollar painting in a garage sale."
With more than 50 years of experience, Humphries does appraisals throughout California.
"Contrary to popular belief, I don't see the same thing all the time. But right now, there have been a lot of pictures and paintings."
Humphries, who teaches a "Picking 101" class through the city of Chico's recreation department, has seen his share of fantastic finds. He recalls a man who brought to him a foot-tall statuette, bought for $10 at the Rose Bowl flea market in Pasadena. A soldier's souvenir, the statuette had been stored since World War II in the foot locker of an Army veteran who had died.
The bargain find turned out to be solid silver, studded with real gems. It later sold at auction for about $1.4 million.
"It was William the Conquerer and dated back 900 to 1,000 years," Humphries said. "My first advice to him after I told him what it was get a lawyer.
"My question: What else was on that table when he bought that statue?" he added. "If I had a time machine, I would go back and look."
Humphries often does appraisals at senior centers.
"A lot of things are coming onto the market because people are scaling down or dying out," he said. "The kids don't want it; they give it away. And the seniors don't know the value of what they've got.
"It's not unusual not knowing where the real money is; that's why we do appraising," he said. "Take Roseville pottery, for example. People say, 'I bought it new for $1; how can it be worth $500 now?' "
Currently, home décor sells best, said Gary Dean, co-owner of Roseville's massive Antique Trove with 40,000 square feet of display space and more than 250 dealers.
"People watch TV shows; they see how they can incorporate these items into their own homes," Dean said. "And they're getting great value. Antique sellers are the original recyclers. You can get a great dining room table for $300 or $400. New, it would cost $3,000."
Among furnishings, oak is making a comeback. Also hot are midcentury modern goods vintage items from the 1940s, '50s and '60s and metal pieces with an industrial look.
"What I love is the history behind a piece," Dean noted. "What was it like to live 100 years ago? It sparks the imagination."
How about 800 years ago? Mongolian stone leopards that date back to Genghis Khan anchor the corner display of Riley Gibson. A longtime dealer, he closed his retail shop in Auburn four years ago and relocated into the Antique Trove, where his stone leopards and other statuary stop traffic.
"The economy closed my doors," said Gibson, who specializes in Asian and primitive pieces. "But it was a good move for me."
Three generations, Betty, Stevie and 2-year-old Greydon Shearer of Vacaville recently visited the Antique Trove in their search for a Victorian-era Halloween costume and decorations.
"We weave up and down each aisle," Stevie Shearer said. "We want to see everything."
Said Betty Shearer, "We search for certain things on certain days. Otherwise, it's just too hard."
The allure of the hunt brings in customers, but it's the story and memories that often seal the deals.
"Everybody comes in here and says, 'I remember that!' " Dean said "For example, one of our dealers had a tugboat cookie jar; my family had one just like it. I remember so many times when I had my hand caught in that cookie jar."
Vintage toys such as Barbies and G.I. Joes trigger happy memories or reality checks, depending on the buyer's age.
"Everybody thinks the hot sellers like Cabbage Patch Dolls or Beanie Babies are going to be worth a lot some day, but they won't," said toy dealer Buzz Sheldon, who delights browsers with a wide assortment of cartoon-inspired playthings. "They were massed-produced there're too many of them. What you want is scarcity."
Like any trend, antiquing goes in cycles, said Rogers. What's old feels new again. Just remember to buy what you like.
"Right now, people want to go 'green,' " she said. "You can't get greener than buying vintage. We're keeping this stuff out of landfills."
TIPS FOR TREASURE HUNTERS
Before starting your search, have your budget in place, advises Marosi White, owner of Accent Décor and interior design teacher at the Art Institute of California, Sacramento. Know how much you can spend and set limits.
Ask yourself whether you're buying or selling, said appraiser John Humphries. "That's always my first question."
Are you "picking" an item in hopes of reselling at a profit? Or are you adding to your own collection or home décor? The first category requires knowledge of what you're buying and potential markets. The latter is all up to your individual wants and needs.
Before setting out, make a list of items you're looking for during this particular search. This allows you to make the most of your time.
"Ask at the front desk (of an antiques mall or store) if any dealers may have what you're looking for," White said. "That can help narrow your search. But then take the time to look at each dealer's space. What you want may be still there."
Be a smart shopper and bring your tools. Whether hitting flea markets, antiques malls or estate sales, always pack a tape measure, camera and notebook.
"Designers always have a tape measure handy," White said. "Check the size before you buy."
A camera (including your smartphone) allows you to take visual notes while a notebook lets you jot down details for later reference (such as the location in the antiques mall or dealer address where you saw that find).
If shopping for artwork, bring a small magnifying glass or loupe, Humphries said. Dot patterns can indicate that your "art" is a photographic reproduction.
Bring color swatches, White said. "I bring the color palette of the design project I'm looking for so I can make sure the colors compliment the design."
In addition to the color, look at the unique features of the piece, she said. How will they blend with a room's overall design?
Bring a friend "You need a partner when shopping, to bounce off ideas," White said.
Wear comfortable shoes and attire. You're going to be on your feet a lot. "Remember to stay hydrated, too," White said. "It's a long day."
Be willing to talk price. "Bargaining is part of the experience," White said. "Dealers want to sell their wares."
Take your time. Good hunters are patient, White said. But when you see what you really want, buy it. That find may not be there later.
Stay focused. "It's easy to get sidetracked especially at the large (antique) malls or fairs," White said. "It's like a kid in a candy store. There's so much good stuff."
GOOD OL' STUFF IT'S ALL AROUND
Harvest Sale and Peddlers' Faire
Where: Antique Trove, 236 Harding Blvd., Roseville
When: Sale, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today; fair, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Details: www.antiquetrove.com, (916) 786-2777
Highlights: Hundreds of dealers will take part in today's indoor harvest sale featuring fall favorites. Sunday, 75 more dealers will stuff the Trove's parking lot with more bargains; complimentary barbecue lunch for patrons.
45th annual Old Town Auburn Fall Antiques and Collectibles Street Fair
Where: Old Town Auburn
When: Starts 8 a.m. Sunday
Details: www.oldtownauburnca.com, (530) 888-1585
Highlights: More than 200 vendors will roll out vintage furniture, clothing, decorative and household items, and "good used junque."
Sacramento Antique Faire
Where: 21st Street between X and Y streets (beneath the freeway), Sacramento
When: 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. second Sunday of each month; next fair, Nov. 11
Admission: $3; ages 16 and younger admitted free; free parking
Details: www.sacantiquefaire.com, (916) 600-9770
Highlights: Find hundreds of vendors and a wealth of vintage merchandise at this event.
Good Street Food and Design Market
Where: 1409 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento
When: 1-5 p.m. Nov. 4
Admission: $3; ages 17 and under admitted free
Details: email@example.com, (916) 692-5560
Highlights: This monthly marketplace features local artisans, global finds and popular food trucks.