Antique Detective: Vintage & Antique Tex-Mex Items Interesting

By Anne Gilbert
   It’s been a couple of decades since antique and vintage objects from Mexico and New Mexico were “HOT” collectibles. This included rare Spanish Colonial furniture and religious pieces. However, once again there is a growing interest in the craftsmanship of those eras.
   New-Mexican furniture was made until about 1850 by skilled Spanish and Indian “carpinteros” with shops in settled communities. Their tools came from Mexico. Many of the pieces were not only carved but painted in what we recognize as the folk tradition. A shop price these days for a small, hand-carved Mexican table could be as much as $600 or more.
   Copper and tin were turned into not only functional but decorative accessories around the early 19th century. Tin crosses, candelabra and mirror frames were carefully made. Many have survived. Prices for vintage tin candelabras can be around $200 for a pair.
   What has always distinguished Mexican and New Mexican pieces is color. Back in the 1930s, 40s, travelers to New Mexico brought back brightly painted chairs. They were decorative and cheap,
   Even the most modest homes had colorfully painted and carved doors. These days there is a market for those old doors. Many collectors are using them as headboards or simply as outdoor sculpture. The least trace of old paint can up the price.
   The utilitarian objects once used inside and outside are now yet another type of collectible decorative objects. Vintage hand-carved vessels such as sugar molds and wooden dough bowls are decorative collectibles. Prices vary, depending where you find them. Many of these items have been handed down for centuries in families. These days they find their way into contemporary American homes. A good example is Mexican grain “mortars” that are in bowl form. They make novel garden sculptures. Tortilla tables can be reborn as coffee tables.
   CLUES: A problem for collectors are fake examples of antique religious objects. Searching for authentic antique furniture can be iffy. There are chairs and cabinets recently built around one old leg. The real bargains are simple painted trunks and stands. However, there are bargains to be found in pieces needing restoration. As viewers of Antique Roadshow know, a small amount of professional restoration up the value.
   Check out the many books on the subject, and internet dealers. PHOTO CAPTIONS: (1) Vintage, hand-carved Mexican table.
   PHOTO CREDIT: CCVintage Mix PHOTO CAPTION: (2) Mexican tin candelabra PHOTO CREDIT: Merkins & Gherkins, Pasadena, CA.

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