The Antiques Roadshow veteran takes us shopping for precious (and pricey) collectibles.
Thu Mar 5 2009
"I'm the baby of the antiques world," Haines says. And at 40, the youthful collector and dealer proves that you don't have to be old or stuffy to dig antiques.
Haines began her career as a collector in the early ’90s, when she started buying small pieces of Art Nouveau glass because they were “pretty and New Yorky.” After consulting a book about collecting antique glass, she realized that her trinkets were valuable. Haines set up her first booth at a local antiques show with three boxes of glass, and she sold every piece by noon. “I thought, Wow, I could do this for a living.” Eighteen years after that epiphany, Haines is an appraiser on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, a gig she’s had for the past 11 years; she is the co-owner of the Finer Things, a company that acquires and sells luxury goods; and she’s recognized as one of the leading Louis Comfort Tiffany dealers in the U.S. But today, she’s just a shopper looking for hidden gems.
Eli Wilner & Company
1525 York Ave between 80th and 81st Sts (212-744-6521, eliwilner.com)
“They are the framers to the stars,” Haines says as we walk into this gallery. But she isn’t talking about Hollywood stars. Eli Wilner specializes in European and American frames from the 17th through mid-20th centuries, which are used for pictures by renowned artists, like Frida Kahlo, and can be found in places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the White House. She tells us that the gallery framed “the second most expensive painting ever sold at auction,” a $95 million Picasso, but her favorite find on this trip is decidedly middlebrow: frames for plasma TVs ($20,000 to $50,000 for a replica frame and $30,000 to $250,000 for a period frame). “When the TV is off, it just looks like a mirror with an antique frame,” Haines marvels.
222 E 44th St between Second and Third Aves (212-450-7988, center44.com)
“This is a great spot for people who aren’t collectors, but want a nice accent piece for a room,” Haines explains as we enter this showroom where 75 international dealers have co-op booths to sell everything from period antiques to modern furniture and lighting displays. Her first find is a 1940s Italian lamp by Barovier ($2,475). Several booths later, Haines stumbles on Curtis flower lithographs from the 1840s ($300 each). “I love how detailed they are,” she says. The different booths remind Haines of another one of her favorite spots: the Garage (112 W 25th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves). “It’s great for vintage clothing or bags, costume jewelry or sports memorabilia—it’s a random array of fun finds for a lot less than you’d pay for the latest version in a store.”
220 E 57th St between Second and Third Aves (212-759-6062, lilliannassau.com)
This gallery is owned by Haines’s best friend and Antiques Roadshow colleague, Arlie Sulka. “Arlie is the queen of Tiffany, and she made it what it is today,” Haines says as she makes her way over to a display of Tiffany glass lamps. One of her favorites is the Trumpet Creeper, circa 1906 (the piece retails in the mid--six figures), because of its beautiful nature motif. Next, Haines admires a collection of bronze Tiffany desk accessories, like a rocker blotter with a zodiac print ($300) and a small desk-calendar holder with the same pattern ($525). “If you buy what you love, you’ll never waste your money,” Haines advises. “But if you’re buying for investment purposes, the more high-end your purchase, the less likely it is to depreciate in value.”
Swann Auction Galleries
104 E 25th St between Park Ave South and Lexington Ave (212-254-4710, swanngalleries.com)
Home to another Antiques Roadshow buddy, Nicholas Lowry, this auction house specializes in “everything on paper.” Photographs, posters, prints, drawings, books, maps and autographs can all be found here—and purchased for the right price—in one of the gallery’s 40 annual auctions. The first piece that catches Haines’s eye is a lithographic poster of Moulin Rouge La Goulue by Toulouse-Lautrec, which was recently auctioned for $300,000 in the gallery’s Art Nouveau poster sale. “This is a great place to educate yourself about antiques,” Haines says. “Anyone is welcome to come and look and ask questions—it’s like a museum where no one will yell at you for touching the pieces.”