Published: April 30, 2019
Baron Perlman is what one might call a “born collector.” A childhood and teen focus on stamps, comic books and baseball cards gave way to American antiques. He wants others to learn about the joys of collecting and so has written a book, Come Collect With Me, that some might find to be a primer on developing style and connoisseurship, offering tools that he says “may save you money…may cost you money…may save a few marriages.”
What in your professional background enables you to instruct others on how to collect?
I would say “offer observations or mentor.” As a psychologist I spent a lot of time observing others, so why not collecting and collectors? As a college professor I learned that when teaching, making the complex simple is an art, and keeping the simple, simple, is sometimes more important. And I am a typical middle-class collector of American antiques.
Can you describe one of the analytical exercises in your book that illustrates the compromises one must sometimes make in collecting – whether it be fine art, decorative arts or collectibles?
Sure. In each book chapter I use the 14 criteria for style and connoisseurship and apply them to pieces my wife and I have purchased. A country tripleback Windsor is a nice example. Good base, but country – from the seat up a little stiff, spindles a bit too heavy, arms slightly odd, and certainly not a saddle seat. But original in all ways, original red paint, a great country look. The originality won us over.
What advice can you give parents of children who may not share their collecting passion?
Why expect otherwise? Model collecting behavior for them; they will see your passion. And someday they may collect themselves or want one piece of yours that is special to them – high praise (some might say love), indeed.
And how has that played out in your personal life?
In interesting ways. Our older son (he is 41) has owned two vintage aircraft. And he has several pieces (took them voluntarily and likes them) we gave him – a mahogany drop leaf dining room table, Windsor chairs and the like. Our younger son is 38 and collected World War II posters with several still on display. When younger he was into the American Civil War, and his college graduation present was a Bachelder Gettysburg depiction. Sweet.
What piece in your collection is your most favorite?
Funny you should ask. I have a website, as I imagine all authors do nowadays – Comecollectwithme.com – and I am trying to write a monthly blog from a collector’s point of view. The April blog was a thought experiment about what piece in the collection I would take with me if I had 30 minutes to leave the house (heavy furniture magically being transported, of course). I walked through the house and decided it was either a Rogers wooden works tall case clock or one of my wife’s black dolls – both because of what they meant to us and the story that goes with each.
After a lifetime of analyzing antiques and the people who collect them, what insights have you learned?
People are complicated. Collectors love “things.” There is always another auction, show or dealer with a piece to be loved. Collecting mirrors life, and to many collectors is life itself. It gives us meaning. Collecting defines, shapes and affects us. It is a wonderful thing to do.
Tell us about the cats you and your wife Sandy have “collected.”
At present we have three cats. Evinrude, named for the outboard engine company because he purred continuously as a kitten, is the old man at 17. Piper (airplane name) is our female and rules the roost. Roscoe (named after Roscoe Turner, the air racer and barnstormer, who flew with a lion, Gilmore, in his biplane) is an orange marmalade and a lover. Our first cat wandered in next door to us when we lived in East Lansing, Mich., more than 40 years ago and we loved her dearly. And many followed her. By the way, no antique is off limits to them. It is their house after all.
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