"I've never really been so interested in what something's worth, but what they are and who made them," says Steve Tipton, owner of Steve Tipton, one of Louisville's top antique shops. Tipton's words are those spoken by a true antique lover. "I'm not much into quantity, but quality." And Tipton says today furniture makers simply cannot afford to make furniture the way they used to hundreds of years ago. "When you consider the workmanship that went into the pieces, the timber and the materials they used - people can't afford those things anymore . . . I've read even in the 18th century, cabinet makers had starving children because they didn't make much money then," explains Tipton. Tipton uses an example of an antique table that sits in his living room that is one solid piece of wood, 2 inches thick and 34 inches wide. Compare that
to a new piece of furniture that may say 'solid wood' on the tag, when it is really solid wood ground up, resuscitated and glued all together. Referring to the antique table, Tipton says, "You don't find pieces of wood like that anymore."
In addition to the quality of an antique that eludes new furniture today, there is something else, which cannot be reproduced. "Especially old pieces that have been well cared for," says Tipton. "They acquire a patina and that's something you can't spray on." Tipton explains that no matter how expensive or how well made a new piece of furniture is, it will never acquire the character and integrity of the furniture maker who made it. The new piece will only take on the character of the eight-foot power sander that made it look 'slick as a ribbon.' On top of the character of the furniture maker of an antique you will have signs of hundreds of years of use, adding even more beauty.
On the other hand, "I've seen old pieces of high-end reproduction furniture and the only thing that happens to them is the varnish starts to degenerate and then the finish is ugly on them. But they never turn a pretty color because most of the color is out of a can and not a genuine color that is in the wood. They never really mellow out. They just get old and grungy."