“Collecting is an occupational hazard,” says Bob Finkbeiner, co-owner of Trianon Antiques in Little Rock. “I can’t help but have some favorites that work their way into my own home.”
A passion for antiques began early for Finkbeiner, who grew up on a military base in Germany and had the chance to tour European museums frequently with his family. Classical bronze statues were highlighted in many of the museums, and as he began his career as an antiques dealer he started acquiring small statuary for his personal collection. “I always noticed the bronzes wherever we went, and was intrigued by their history and level of detail,” he says.
Most of the items in his collection date back to Europe’s Grand Tour days of the late 17th through early 19th century, when young men traveled the continent to learn about art and culture. Bronze replicas of each country’s most notable rulers and monuments were purchased as souvenirs, and during the last century these treasures began to be readily available in antique stores.
Finkbeiner’s extensive collection now includes Roman temples and ships used as ink wells, statues of Napoleon, Caesar, and Greek or Roman gods, vessels commemorating England’s Warwick Castle, as well as decorative urns and tazzas (shallow bowls on a pedestal). In acquiring these finds, he uses his antiques dealer expertise to uncover the best examples of each style. “With bronzes, you want a great patina and a high level of detail in facial features or decorative elements,” he says. “Many of them are signed or bear a foundry symbol, and that increases value.
As with most antiques, rareness and popularity are key factors in determining the value, and Finkbeiner notes that items on Sienna marble bases and Napoleonic statuary are highly prized. “Good quality, popular bronzes start at about $1,000, and prices increase from there,” he says. Antiques stores and dealers in Europe and around the U.S. have been his best means of adding to his collection, as well as occasional auctions. He also notes that since bronzes have been collected for centuries, a wealth of books and Internet resources are available. “They’re a classic,” he says, “and that makes it easier to become educated.”
An Antiques Dealer’s Tips for Collecting
- Focus on collecting what you love rather than what seems most profitable, unless you undertake this as a business venture. If you buy what you love, you’re more likely to stay motivated in the long run.
- Start small and don’t go overboard until you’re sure this is a long-lasting interest, one that won’t frustrate you if the items are difficult to find or too expensive.
- Consider starting a few collections, one that includes items that are easier to find and less expensive, and another more significant collection. This will help you increase the variety of places you can hunt for your treasures—from garage sales to antique stores and more.
- Educate yourself with books, Internet research or a dealer who specializes in the area you collect.
- If you develop a good relationship with a dealer you trust, he or she will often look for items with you in mind.
- Work on building your collection when you travel, which can take you into some interesting stores and places that you might not otherwise have seen.