The Antique Wisdom of Sally Starr

IMG_1768By Jon DeStefano


Thomas Jefferson said,”That which we elect to surround ourselves with becomes the museum of our soul and the archives of our experience.” That quote was probably related to antiques and he was talking to Sally Starr because she took his words to heart and shaped her life around them. Sally loved antiques since she was three years old when her mother got her started and they continued antiquing together throughout her mother’s life. She grew up in Norfolk, Virginia and went to school at Old Dominion University and lived in Richmond after she was married. Her older brother went to school in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia and visiting him is when she became a Jeffersonian, studying everything about Jefferson, from his architecture to his presidency. She is still devoted to those studies today and is a member of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art which was founded in New York.


While her career started in Richmond where she was brought up, we know Sally from Denver where she has been selling antiques for twenty-five years. Before that she sold in Chicago, Huston and Jacksonville, Florida. Those years of experience have resulted in an expertise and knowledge of American antiques that few people possess.
She freely shares her wisdom and extensive knowledge with customers and collectors alike. I have titled it:


The Antique Wisdom of Sally Starr
Be an educated collector.
Find dealers you can trust.
Touch antiques whenever you can.
Train your mind, your eye and your touch.
You never regret buying a really great thing.
Buy the very best you can.
Buy what you love and keep it.
Antiques are enduring elegance.


IMG_1765Sally explains that having “The Collector’s Eye” means understanding what it takes to build a great collection, that is “a personal vision and plenty of self-confidence.”


She explains, “I hear people say, ‘I love antiques’ but they can’t buy. Some folks are possessed by the need to “get rid of.” If something gives you pleasure, what’s wrong with that,” she concludes.


Sally understands the modern challenges of the antique business. It is different in different parts of the country. “On the East Coast, for example, antiquing is automatic, almost an inherited trait. Everyone has them. In Colorado the people and the culture are different.”


She is fascinated at how many millennials are so captivated by electronics that they invest so much of their resources into upgrading perfectly good things time after time making a large part of our society very ‘disposable.’ “It is almost as if they don’t want the responsibility of caring for something 100 years old.” Sally is patient, though, and quickly adds, “sooner or later most of them get it.”


Sally is optimistic about the future of antiques. She explains, “We need more brick and mortar stores, places where you can touch and feel things. You can’t do that on the Internet. One of the best things about antiques is they preserve not just the past but they also reveal our history, who we are as a people and what we value. What is important to us.”


Starr Antiques on South Broadway is a unique shop with hundreds of treasures hand picked by Sally for quality and beauty. Among them are New England Windsor chairs circa pre 1820 including some comb back Windsors. Another group of treasures are original art works from early America including some fascinating period portraits. During that time period portraits were used as the keeper of memories. It wasn’t until the Civil War that Matthew Brady made photographs popular and commonplace.


One of her favorite groups of collectibles are “Make-do’s” which come from a time when we were not a disposable throw-away society. In early American culture when something broke or was worn out people would repair it or otherwise make-do with what they had. It was a time when traveling repairmen would go from town to town fixing things. They were called tinkerers. They would staple things back together or glue them or fix broken parts instead of throwing them away. These are a favorite collectible of people today. Some of them are old glassware which was hard to come by in early America, old teapots or tools or furniture.


Sally also has some early American toys. One such item is a Noah’s ark wooden toy from the mid 1800’s. It was a religious toy which were popular because in many places American children were not allowed to play with toys on the sabbath unless they were religious in nature.


Folk art is another collectible you can find at Starr Antiques. It is especially popular with people who like mixing modern with antique.


Sally also has numerous fine early American needle work samplers. These were done at school by children and they were framed and treasured by the entire family in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. A sure sign of excellent school work.


You can find some fine excellent Early American pottery, with figurines on the inside of the ale mugs. And if you’re looking for some inexpensive, historic collectibles you might want to investigate some of the paper English indentures that Sally was able to get her hands on.


All this is just a small sample of the treasures available at Starr Antiques.


“What I like best about this business is being around antiques. I love them, they’re like family. I love to decorate the shop, and redecorate the shop. When I sell something I can’t wait to fill that space with something special.”
What’s next for Sally? “To continue my focus and research on early America. It’s more than who we were, it’s who we are.”


When you visit Starr Antiques you will always be greeted by Sally’s helper, the always friendly Jack Frost, a Bishon Poodle mix she got one holiday season at the animal shelter. Frost bitten and starving it was some time before she realized he was white. You will also find out a lot about the antique you’re interested in and a little more about our great heritage.


Visit this special and fascinating shop and enjoy Sally’s Southern hospitality.

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