Face Time: Dale Farrar — buying and selling history

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Dale Farrar has admired antiques and old things since he was a child. 

There were treasure troves of old items and antiques that sparked his interest at his grandparents’ farmhouses.

He dreamed of traveling when he looked over maps in an old atlas. He learned that something considered ugly to some people could be valuable to others.

So it comes as no surprise that he would be buying and selling antiques as an adult. 

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“A person can collect just so long before they become a dealer, having to sell to support the collecting habit and make room for new items,” Farrar said. 

For more on how ugly can be good, one that got away, and other tales of “addiction,” read on.

Name: Dale Farrar

Age: 61

Town: Livermore Falls

Occupation: Buyer-seller of antiques

How did you get interested in collecting antiques? I always had an interest in old stuff from childhood days. Both my grandparents had farmhouses that were full of antiques. At my maternal grandparents’ place, I would go to the attic and browse and rummage for hours. There were so many antiques that had outlived their use in the home and, of course, they were prone to never discarding things, being from the Depression era. One item I particularly recall was a mid-1800s atlas. I could scan the maps for hours dreaming of travels. I didn’t actually collect until adult years, starting with furnishing apartments and always liking the quality and character of old things. 

What was the first one you collected? Surprisingly, I can distinctly remember the very first antique I collected. I grew up in Sangerville and one day when I was about 6 years old, my parents and I had ridden to the Moosehead area. On the way back, they stopped at a yard sale in Monson. We all looked around for a while and I picked up a cylinder record from about 1900, not knowing what it was. The seller explained it was an early version of the modern record and it amazed me. We left the sale and drove back home, 35 miles. I couldn’t stop thinking of that record, and when we got home I asked my mother to call the seller, who she knew, to see if they still had it. I recall it was 25 cents. It had not sold, and my mother asked them to hold it for us. I wasn’t content to wait and asked if we could go back that night, and with some coaxing they agreed to take me back 70 miles round-trip. I still have it 55 years later. That was the beginning.

Did you ever find anything that wasn’t pretty but valuable? Lots of things actually fall into that category. I’ve always used the expression “ugly is good,” meaning the unique and weird/unusual — those one-of-a-kind items — always move. The one story that comes to mind was at a local country-style auction years ago. The auctioneer held up a very plain, not-very-pretty pottery pot with a drab, unattractive green glaze. I didn’t know the maker, but had the gut feeling that it was reasonably good. He said, and I can quote him, “It ain’t very pretty but it’ll look nice with a geranium.” Someone bid the opening $2, I bid $3 and got it. Months later someone informed me of the maker, Fulper, and at that time it would easily have sold for $500 to $600 dollars. As with all antiques these days, the prices have since fallen dramatically. We still have that particular Fulper piece along with 60-some more pieces. Collecting can be an addiction. Another was a painting that came from auction in a large lot of frames, some empty, some in use. One piece hung at the old shop for a couple years for $35. It was very abstract — of what I vaguely saw as a suspension bridge — and the artist’s name was illegible. After all that exposure, a woman originally from Italy bought it. She explained it was a 1950s Italian artist and that she would be shipping it back to Italy and expected it to bring $10,000 to $12,000 U.S. Ugly can be good.

What is your oldest antique? Currently, a 1730s-ish English Jacobean blanket chest or coffer, as it was called originally. Beautiful English oak with a dark stain, rich patina and carved raised design on the front. Very well-built piece made to last the 270 years it has so far and many more.

Do you favor collecting specific types of antiques? Getting back to the auction, I have always had an affinity and “feel” for pottery, especially the art potteries of the early 1900s into the 1950s — Fulper, Roseville, Rookwood, Marblehead, as examples. I am fairly confident in determining a “good quality” pottery item from the low-end pieces. There is a certain feel that is hard to describe but you “just know.” The nice interesting glazing and styles, which is what the Fulper that I mentioned above was well-known for. We also have a special fondness of early electrical lighting and pre-electric clocks.

How did you come up with the name Three Crow Antiques & Old Stuff for your shop? When we first moved to this property, almost every day there were three crows that visited the field where the shop is now, sometimes twice a day, but always three of them. After pondering various possible shop names, that memory came to us, we discussed it and it stuck. It seemed well-suited to the antique shop concept.

Dale Farrar of Livemore Falls became interested in antiques and older items when he was a child.

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