Aria Manalan of Old Town Square Antique Mall in Crown Point has become "her own expert," she says while "witnessing antiquing trends."
During her two decades with the expansive two-level store at 103 West Joliet St. around the Old Lake County Courthouse, Manalan has to be aware of the latest collecting "memorable must-haves," since she's often also in charge of the sidewalk window displays.
"This antique mall opened in 1987, so it's become a destination for both buyers and sellers over the years," Manalan said.
"It's always interesting to see what people are on the hunt for, which right now, seems to be antiques that aren't as old as what many people think of as an antique."
According to the U.S. Customs Service, the classification of a true antique is "any item with at least 100 years of age." Which means the latest crop of new old antiques are items spanning what's dubbed "the Victorian Era."
Since England's Queen Victoria died in 1901 at age 81, all of the ornate pieces inspired by her reign in the decade following her demise now rank as antiques.
But much of the assessment of value and pricing still comes from the age-old formula of supply and demand.
At Old Town Square Antique Mall, sellers arrange for booth space to display wares while setting their own prices.
After the growing influence of the presence of the Internet and online options creating the competition of a "world marketplace," the world of antiquing as based on availability and price comparison changed forever.
Today, at Old Town Square Antique Mall, a Victorian silverplated covered butter serving dish, with a matching spreading paddle, sells for $50, far less than what might be expected in today's world of less formal entertaining.
"The hottest trends we're seeing right now are items from the 1950s and 1960s, like decorative metal wall decor, Hot Wheels toy cars and what I call mid-century molded plastic and metal chairs, and especially Eames chairs," said Manalan, with the latter referring to the contemporary style of lounge and office chairs seen on the hit TV series "Mad Men," which is set in the 1960s.
"We are also selling lots of vinyl records, with some people collecting them for the music and others just for the album covers."
Sometimes, it can be a seasonal influence for brisk buying, Manalan said.
"As you would expect, Halloween masks and items are very hot right now, both vintage and more recent masks and decorations," she said.
Manalan also said during the past 20 years, she's noticed trends fade and return.
"Right now, the Precious Moments line is very popular with buyers, even though it peaked years back, faded and now has returned," she said.
Some of the busiest moments during Manalan's years of working in "yesteryear retail" came during Universal Pictures' on-location filming in Crown Point in 2008 for the 2009 release of the movie "Public Enemies," starring Johnny Depp as gangster John Dillinger.
"The movie props people were in here all the time buying items from the 1930s, everything from glass bottles and wooden crates to old gas and oil cans," she said.
Crown Point's antique appeal has also given birth to an annual weekend celebration of favorite finds for buyers and sellers at the Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce Fall Antiques and Collectibles Show, which is next month, Nov. 3 and 4, in the Industrial Arts Building at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point.
Karen Cearing, marketing director for Crossroads Regional Chamber, said the event attracts more than 1,500 guests during the two-day spree, with as many as 60 vendor booths highlighting the unique and rare retail from the past.
Now in its 10th year, she said the event continues to grow and change.
"Our hope is that in the future, we can also have on-site antique appraisers available," Cearing said.
"But for now, we're just happy to have the knowledge and experience of our dedicated vendors, some who come from as far as Illinois, lending their opinions to questions."