Quarantine Series: Reproductions

In our post from a few weeks back on the history of The Barn, I wrote almost entirely about antiques. I said that I would talk about the other half of our business, reproductions, in a future post. Here is that post.

Reproductions is an inaccurate term we use to describe all the new [non antique] products we carry. Most good antiques used to be incredibly expensive and most people couldn’t afford them. So new copies of antique pieces were made. The antique pieces were reproduced, thus the term “reproductions”. For example twenty years ago large Canadianna corner cabinets were selling for around $8000. Few people could afford that, plus they were extremely hard to come by. So at the time we carried reproduction copies that sold for around $2000. Times have changed. These days no one makes large reproduction Canadianna corner cabinets anymore, that I’m aware of. And now the antique one’s sell for less than what the new ones used to sell for. Calling all our newly made pieces reproductions just became a habit, because for a long time the only newly pieces we carried were reproductions. Things have changed.

Today some of the new products we carry are reproductions. Tiffany style lamps being a good example. Today’s copies are terrific and often look identical to the originals. Some of the new furniture we carry are reproductions as well. But many items aren’t. TV units, or media units these days aren’t reproduction because there weren’t any in the old days. TV’s used to be so big they sat on the floor and they were their own media unit.

The Barn has always carried new and antique. And we have always imported both and bought both locally. We have always been diversified, it’s one of the reasons we have survived over the years. When styles change or part of our supply chain ceases to be viable, we have lots of other options available.

Looking back, in the history of The Barn there are five main reasons why we started carrying more reproductions. First as previously stated there was a time when antiques were too expensive for most people. So we carried the cheaper reproduction options all well. Today the antiques are cheaper than the reproductions.

Second, in the old day’s on one of Frank’s buying trips to New York there wasn’t enough antiques available to buy at the right price to fill up a 40 foot trailer. You can’t bring a trailer back with 10 feet of empty space. If you did everything would move around and get damaged. So Frank bought knockdown reproductions to fill up the space. They soon became so popular that the back wall of The Barn past the staircase was nothing but rows of boxes for many years. Those were all the duplicates of the pieces we had on display. We didn’t have the extra warehouse capacity in those days that we do today. So the extras stayed in the building. If you were a new employee of The Barn in those days your first job was usually to spend your whole day assembling knockdown reproductions. I assembled so many pieces over the years that I’m sure I could still assemble whatnots or tapestry benches or press back chairs or hall trees blindfolded. It became muscle memory after the first 100 pieces or so.

Third, many decades ago one of our auctioneer customers had a son who started making furniture. He asked us if we would try a couple of pieces. It turned out that his son became one of the best furniture maker’s we have ever had as a supplier. The line of reproduction pine pieces his shop produced in Owen Sound Ontario turned out to be the best selling line of reproductions we have ever carried. We took all the product they could turn out for nearly three decades, before free trade changed everything. They just couldn’t complete with the prices of imported product made with cheaper labour in Asia and the shop closed.

The fourth reason we carry new items is because we have a large network of contacts and sometimes we come across deals that are just too good to pass up. Some of you are old enough to remember the Cabbage Patch Kids craze, when the dolls were selling for ridiculously high prices and were extremely hard to find. Well, at the height of the craze when they were nearly impossible to find in stores,  we carried them because we had a connection out of New York. If we find an end of line or bankruptcy and can buy products in quantity for cents on the dollar we buy it, and pass the saving on to our customers.

The final reason we carry new items is simply because there is lots of great stuff available these days at terrific prices. That’s the flip side of free trade. And we are always looking for the newest thing. A few years ago when we started carrying bobblehead garden gnomes they seamed out of place at The Barn. Now they are one of our best sellers. Our “Nature Form” line is our fastest growing line of new products these days. The reclaimed wood, Irish Coast line of furniture is our best selling line of new furniture and has been for sometime.

Over the years some of the most unusual or memorable new pieces that we have carried that come to mind are: a line 8 foot tall fiberglass fountains[the statue of liberty fountain was the most popular], enormous oversized Wooten’s desks, collections of brass bells[they were very popular in the 1980’s but also very loud and drove us nuts], wicker elephant tables [they were all the rage for a while], even more memorable were the 7 foot tall brass elephants, the full line of Remington bronzes, furniture made from old garbage cans[ not kidding, we have some great pieces made from recycled oil drums at the moment], a line of extremely creepy clown figures that still haunt me, calendar holders[they were extremely popular for a while, everyone wanted a holder for their wall calendars for some reason, then almost overnight no one wanted them and we got stuck with hundreds of them], thousands of chocolate cabinets[they came in three shapes and were very popular for over a decade], endless fancy brass and iron bakers racks[Dallas was a very popular TV show in the 80’s and everyone wanted the baker’s racks like they saw on Dallas], full size suits of armour, and that just the first few that come to mind.

You can see a sample of a few of the current newly made items we carry on our “Reproductions” page. However that is just a taste. There is lots more on display in store. And always more cool new stuff on the way. Lots of our best sellers today we had never even considered carrying a few years ago. So who knows what’s coming next!