The allure of antiques is undeniable, especially as shoppers seek unusual gifts for the approaching holiday season.
Some people buy antiques because they evoke memories of ages past. Others buy because they feel antiques are invested with grace and style that are hard to find in contemporary furniture. Still others buy because, in the midst of modern mass production, they desire the unique.
Whatever your reason for being drawn to antiques, a feast awaits you at giant antique malls sprinkled across Southern California.
With up to almost 200 stalls, each mall offers a concentrated shopping spree at a single site. A visit will probably last a minimum of an hour.
Although prices often are a fraction of what newly manufactured items would cost, not all visitors are bargain hunters. Many go to the malls for the thrill of searching for that special, one-of-a-kind heirloom buried among dusty remembrances of the past.
Antiques, by purist definition, are 100 or more years old. Some of the merchandise at the malls fall into the restrike or reproduction category, which means they are newly manufactured replicas of antiques. Pieces generally are labeled as antique or reproduction; on request, staff members will categorize any unlabeled item for you.
Here's a sampler of Southern California malls, along with items that were recently available. (Some merchandise may no longer be offered.) These and many other malls are mentioned in free newspapers available at some of the businesses listed here.
Abner's Yellow Barn, 16710 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, (818) 785-4303. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; more than 25 dealers.
No two dealers offer similar merchandise in this building, once a station on Henry Huntington's Pacific Electric Red Car Trolley line. One specializes in Victorian bathroom fixtures, including an oak pull-chain toilet set in mint condition for $850. Limited-edition Audubon prints (museum mounted) cost $165. Among the Coca-Cola memorabilia is a red ice box for $795. A large selection of white wicker furniture, such as a $275 hooded basinet with stand, is for sale. Abner's hosts several special events yearly, including Old Timer's Day in May, which features an antique-car rally, a show of antiques and such entertainment as a ragtime band.
Antique Emporium, 1931 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 642-8990. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; 50 dealers.
There is always a good selection of furniture here, ranging from French armoires with intricate inlaid wood to dining room sets. A hand-carved oak bookcase with leaded-glass doors sells for $800. An 1880 French dining table and 10 chairs with tapestry seats costs $2,795. A $295 wooden kitchen wall clock (circa 1890) is one of many clocks for sale near the entrance. Jewelry, silver tableware and china tea sets are among the other items available. A few newly manufactured antique-style pieces are among original antiques selection.
4th and K Mall, 400 K St., San Diego, (619) 235-6255. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m daily.
King Richard's Antique Mall, 12301 Whittier Blvd., Whittier, (213) 698-5974. Open Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, Mondays and Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.; 187 dealers.
This mall fills three floors of a 1903 citrus packing house, has an excellent selection of furniture and small items, up to 80% in the antique category, said manager Fran Rebeley. A three-piece bedroom set (twin bed headboard, marble-top nightstand and chair) with inlaid floral designs costs $1,359. Square oak tables with carved legs and matching chairs run $595 each. Gumball and nut vending machines from the early 1900s are priced from $69 to $285.
Downstairs, Just for Fun Antiques carries Wurlitzer juke boxes, popcorn machines, vintage model trains and more.
Memory Lanes Antique Mall, 24251 Frampton Ave., Harbor City, (213) 530-8180. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 8 p.m.; 154 dealers.
The many old weaving spools here for less than $10 make great candlestick holders; hand-dipped candles cost $1.60 to $2.25 a pair. Seventy-five dollars will bring you a white crocheted twin bedspread with pink flowers or an exquisite Victorian-lace collar.
A $425 14-karat gold ring with 11 sapphires is among the jewelry available, while an 1895 oak office swivel chair ($120) is one of many oak pieces for sale.
Reproduction Victorian Christmas cards and ornaments are toward the back of the mall.
Staff member Jeanne Keck said most of Memory Lanes' pieces are in the collectible category--50 or more years old.
The Old Barn, 31792 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (714) 493-9144. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 65 dealers.