Macabre Items are Big With Collectors | RI Antiques Mall

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Macabre Items are Big With Collectors

People have always had a fascination with death and the “dark side” of human nature. When it comes to antiques and collectibles, the term “macabre” refers to disturbing objects, usually of a frightening or gruesome nature. Who among us has not partaken in the guilty pleasure of a good scary Vincent Price or Alfred Hitchcock film, or marveled at the preserved specimen of a two-headed baby in a jar at the Museum of Natural History?

This fascination has roots as old as history itself, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that it really went mainstream. Surely we all remember TV shows such as The Addams Family and The Munsters, where we as a nation found characters like Morticia Addams, Lurch, Uncle Fester and Herman Munster to be endearing, despite their freakish appearance and life (or death) style. As a result, all of us can probably visualize how that ghoulish neighbor’s Victorian mansard mansion on the hill must be decorated, and today some folks are fancifully recreating that ambiance in their own homes.

Young collectors have created a new style

Many younger collectors have taken a renewed interest in macabre objects from the past, both authentic and tongue-in-cheek. As a result, they have created a new style that combines these objects with other flashy and grotesque antiques, including garish over-embellished gothic furniture, old religious icons and other now-gaudy remnants of past generations.

What macabre collectors want

What is this new generation of collectors looking for most? The most popular items include skulls and skeletons, post mortem and “freak” photos, poison bottles, old laboratory and medical equipment and specimens, funeral-related objects, devils and imps, insects (the bigger and more gross, the better), torture devices, circus side-show related items and Day of the Dead objects, among others. They also seek relevant movie and TV memorabilia such as posters, props and autographs.

In addition, many “curiosity” items such as shrunken heads, tarot cards, Ouija boards, tribal artifacts and old leather-bound books about science-related topics can complement these collections nicely.

How to sell macabre items

If you have any such items to sell, look for an antiques dealer or shop that also markets things like vintage items and modernism to a younger crowd. More traditional shops that only specialize in china, glass, entertainment ware and fine furniture will scoff at such things, but to the younger generation, these bizarre relics are as good as gold. If you have any questions about whether what you have is valuable, give the store a call or stop by with some examples in order to get an expert opinion. Or use the message feature on this page to get in touch with someone. 

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