Reyne Haines, Antiques Roadshow interview: 'Buy it - or someone else will'

Reyne Haines is an expert in 20th Century Decorative Arts, a respected US media personality and a member of Paul Fraser Collectibles' Expert Panel.

'This book is informative, but a
work of art all in itself'

Reyne is the host of The Art of Collecting, broadcast on KPRC - "Houston's NBC" - in which she spotlights trends and news items in the world of antiques and collectibles.

In addition, Reyne is a repeat guest on CBS's The Early Show, can be heard on Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius Satellite Radio Network, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.

As if that isn't enough, her appraising skills are also in high demand by investment firms, high-end estates and charity auctions. 

Reyne obviously has a very busy schedule - so we were thrilled at Paul Fraser Collectibles when she found time to chat to us about her passion for collectibles and antiques.

In the below interview, Reyne shares with us her beginnings as a collector, and her particular interest in Tiffany Studios whose works feature prominently in her own gallery in Houston which specialises in 20th Century Decorative Art.

When did you first become interested in collectibles, and how has your interest developed over the years?  

I began collecting in 1991 when I was living in New York City.  I was buying "pretty" things to decorate my new apartment. 

I had no idea what I was buying, I just bought things because I liked their look and growing up in Houston, I did not have a lot of exposure to antiques. 

Over the years, my tastes changed. I still love the things I collected early on, but am no longer just passionate about Art Nouveau glass. I have found a love of other periods and other mediums such as modern furniture, impressionist paintings, enamelled jewellery, art pottery, and lighting.

What is your typical day like?  

There is nothing typical about a day for me, which is why I enjoy what I do so much. You never know what each day will bring, but it's always something different. 

 'You learn there are still things you
don't know, and you haven't seen it all' 

One day I might be taping a show, the next day at auction inspecting or bidding on items for clients - or I might be appraising a great work of art!

You have many strings to your bow. Which aspects of your career do you most enjoy? 

I think I would have to say I enjoy creating television programming for the collecting world the most, because it takes viewers on a trip down memory lane, and educates them while they are being entertained. 

People never tire of collecting shows.  I also love appraising things, because you get to see such a large variety of items. You learn there are still things you don't know, and you haven't seen it all. 

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

There have been a few that stand out for me the most. 

In 1999 I consigned a Tiffany lamp to auction that brought $1,875,000.  I was quite young at the time and it was one of the most stressful times in my life. 

Next would be working with the Dayton Art Institute to put together an exhibition of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany.  I was so excited on opening night, I could hardly breathe. 

We took visitors on a journey beginning with the very early days of Tiffany's creative genius (in photography and painting) all the way to the 1920s when they were producing pastel glass, which he hated. 

The exhibit was paired up with a Monet and an Ansel Adams exhibit.  It was an amazing show for the small town of Dayton, Ohio- but people came from far away to see it.    

I also would include working with F&W Publications to be a highlight. 

The publisher, Mark Moran, has been a huge supporter of mine for quite some time.  He thinks people want to hear what I have to say so he has asked me to work on a number of books over the years with them.

In 2008, he asked me to write a new book on collecting vintage wristwatches, which hits the shelves this month, to which I was flattered, and am just stunned at the job they did for me.

This book is informative, but a work of art all in itself.  It was already picked up by one of the major bookstores in the US to promote in their "New Releases" section and that spoke volumes for the end product they put together. 

You achieved the highest price for a Tiffany Studio light at the Phillips Auction. Can you tell us about that experience?  

One word: scary.  I was very young at the time, and there was a lot of money on the line.  I had someone placing a lot of faith in my knowledge of the market, and what that lamp was worth. Had the lamp failed, it would have to be put away for quite some time before it could be put back on the marketplace. 

I also made the mistake of sitting through the sale. It was the last item of the sale to auction. People were on the phone and the auction floor was packed. It stalled at around $600,000, then took off.  I cried when it was all over.

You recently published your latest book, Vintage Watches. What inspired you to write this? Has it been one of your ambitions? 

I have been a collector of wristwatches since 1991.  To me, they are small works of art.  A few years ago, Mark Moran at F&W Publications asked me to write the introduction for one of their wristwatch field guides. 

The lamps of Louis Comfort
Tiffany are among Reyne's
big collecting interests

I was thrilled because it was something I had a personal interest in, and could talk passionately about.  To this day, I still can't get over how many people email or call me about that book. I didn't write the book, I just wrote the introduction to it.

Apparently people liked what I had to say.  When F&W was ready for a new issue of the watch book, they asked me if I would be interested in writing it, and taking it from just a guide, to a more elegant, coffee table type book. 

They allowed me a good bit of creative control over the content of the book, and the end result is something I am very proud of.

Are you currently working on any exciting projects? 

Yes!  Two new books on collecting - but not reference books - and also a new television show.  

What has been the most memorable or remarkable item you have found and where?

I'd have to say the lamp.  It was a one of a kind, made for Tiffany's home.  It was so fabulous, because so many departments had to work to create it.  It was an amazing piece, with numerous intricate pieces. It certainly made a statement when sitting in a room.

What is the most satisfying aspect about collecting?  

I like that many things have not only form, but function. I love using vintage kitchen gadgets, or sporting a great vintage handbag.  A great set of Minton dishes or Gorham flatware makes for interesting conversation when company comes to dinner. 

Is there an item that you wished you had purchased at the time but missed out on: "The one that got away?" 

There are several. I think everyone has that story.  I always feel like if you walk away and are still thinking about an item later, you should have bought it.

Who do you most admire in the collecting world? 

I read the story of Claribel and Etta Cone and it stuck with me. They were sisters from a well-to-do family in Baltimore.  They travelled abroad every year to Paris and spent time with Matisse and Picasso. At the time, these artists were not so desirable, but the Cone sisters greatly admired their work.

They were buying directly from the artists, and over time amassed a collection of over 3,000 works for their own viewing pleasure.  So many people today buy things because they think it will bring them a profit in the years to come. 

Patek Philippe, Genève, Ref. 2499 ($720k)
'To me, they are like
small works of art'

So few people today buy purely because they like a particular item.  I find that to be the downfall of collecting today.  People buying without knowing much about the history behind an item, why it was important at the time, and what makes it "collect worthy" today.

Are there any items that you think will be harder to get hold of in the future?

I think as a dealer and a collector I can say most things are becoming harder to acquire. Everyone is experiencing this.  Over the last decade, people had more disposable income than ever before. 

For various reasons, art, antiques, and collectibles were being acquired by greater numbers than we had seen - and they were buying and keeping.  Less things became available for sale, and when things did become available, they sold quickly.

As the economy spiralled downward, we expected to see more things become available, and surprisingly, this did not happen. 

Auction houses were even seeing record prices for great items.   So while I cannot predict what items will be harder to come by in the future, I can tell you most quality things are hard to come by now. 

If you see something you like, buy it.  If you don't, the person standing behind you most likely will.

Do you have any advice on starting a collection and what to look out for? 

Buy what you like! You can never go wrong.


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