Antiquing vs. thrifting

This year our family reunion was held in New Braunfels, Texas. (I’m mooching off the wireless internet access in the lobby of our hotel before hitting the road today). Gruene, a historic ghost town, is located within the city limits. Once a booming cotton town, Gruene is now a thoroughly touristy area with lots of antique shops and faux old-fashioned stores.

We poked around one of the antique malls on Saturday, which prompted me to reflect on the differences between antiquing and thrifting. Even though you can find many of the same things, the shopping experiences couldn’t be more different, right? Though I like antique stores (and about 20% of the merchandise of my old shop was old/antique), they make me a little sad. The antique mall in Gruene was filled with the usual: jade-ite, thread cabinets, blue mason jars, pocket knives. Almost everything was a “collectible.” There was so little room for creative thinking and individual style.

I used to get some of the best things at auctions and estate sales that dealers would overlook because they couldn’t attach a value to it. It’s odd: Two things I love most about secondhand shopping are how highly individual the results can be, and how little it resembles typical consumer culture. But we live in a consumption-based economy, it’s what we’re used to, and so many people bring some of the worst elements of retail (the sameness, the keeping-up-with-the-jonesses, the lack of imagination) to antiquing. How weird is that?

Today we’re heading to Austin where we’ll hit my favorite antique store of all time: Uncommon Objects, the exception that proves the rule. I’ll post the photos later. Until next time, happy thrifting!

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