Rinker on Collectibles: Antiquing Phobias

The Yaara Dekel-designed Coppelius Chair is designed to cast the shadow of an evil face. Even if you don’t have altussessiophobia, the name of the ailment afflicting actor Billy Bob Thorton, this chair is scary.

The Yaara Dekel-designed Coppelius Chair is designed to cast the shadow of an evil face. Even if you don’t have altussessiophobia, the name of the ailment afflicting actor Billy Bob Thorton, this chair is scary.

When I received a telephone call from a listener to WHATCHA GOT?—my syndicated antiques and collectibles call-in radio show—asking if I could identify a phobia associated with the fear of furniture, my first response was, “You have to be kidding.” How could anyone be afraid of a piece of antique furniture? Little did I know.

An article by Steven Kurutz entitled “Why Billy Bob Thornton is Afraid of Antiques” appeared in the May 17, 2012, issue of “The New-York Times.” Actually, Billy Bob is afraid of antique furniture and silver. It is reputed that he will only stay in a hotel or motel whose furniture dates after the 1950s. Thornton’s explanations for his two phobias appear to depend very much on his mood at the moment and who is interviewing him. His furniture fears range from antique furniture is old mildewy stuff, too big and overly ornamental to avoidance of things that suggest a link to kings and persons of wealth, the later a concession to his poor Southern boy origins. Older silver is “too long,” whatever that means, and too heavy. Thornton claims large flatware resembles garden implements, clearly a place where he has spent little time. Before readers chastise me for making fun of someone’s phobias, respect the skeptic in me that believes Billy Bob is not dumb and knows what generates good publicity.

My web research took me to the Fear Of website, which provides a term for almost every conceivable phobia. The website’s credibility fell into question when the best it could do for a fear of furniture is furniturephobia, a term that is not found in any medical lexicon. Does this mean there is a ceramicphobia, glassphobia and toyphobia. I think not.

In my search for a scientific term for the fear of antiques, assuming it has to be related in some way to a fear of any antique or collectible object, I was amused by some of the suggestions I found. The responses demonstrate the ingenuity found within the antiques community. Antiquenitis (wrong ending, there is no inflammation) and antiquitiphobia are worthy candidates, but again neither is found in a medical dictionary. Roadshowdious is a creative approach. Although a phobia term for individuals who find Antiques Roadshow frightening is needed, it is too specific in terms of applying to antiques as a whole.

I was excited when I ran across the suggestion of altussessiophobia, a term Thomas Bestual and Kevin Murphy used to describe Billy Bob’s furniture phobia in a Power Point presentation. Establishing a definition for altussessiophobia proved difficult, once again the term not being found in medical literature. The closest is a suggestion that the term applies to melancholy at the sight of something old and abandoned, a description that is far broader in scope that an antique or collectible.

Tacked to the corkboard in the main office of the headquarters of Rinker Enterprises, Inc., the former Vera Cruz Elementary School, in Vera Cruz, Pa., was a 1994 broadside entitled “PHONEYCOCAPHOBIA” prepared by my good friend Allan Petretti, owner of Nostalgia Publications. The broadside’s subhead read: “The Fear of Getting Stuck with a Phoney Coca-Cola Collectible / There are over 214 known phobias, with no cure for any of them – except one…phoneycocaphobia…The cure: Petretti’s Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide, ‘The Encyclopedia of Coca-Cola Collectibles’.” Give Allan credit. He is a great marketer. The broadside lists and defines the 214 phobias.

Author’s Aside: I left the poster behind when I sold The School (the former Vera Cruz [PA] Elementary School) in December 2010. A call to Allan was all that was required to obtain a replacement.

I reviewed Allan’s list of 214 phobias. I rejected the phobias that related to animals, such as ailurophobia (fear of cats), cyphobia (fear of dogs), and batrachophobia (fear of frogs), the assumption being these involve live animals and not pictorial or other representations. An exception is the openly displayed stuffed pets, a favorite practice of our cousins in the United Kingdom. When I saw my first one, I was not frightened, merely grossed out.

Megalophobia (fear of large things) and microphoebia (fear of small objects) might apply. I have encountered many justifications for avoiding smalls during my career, but never because the collector was afraid of small things. I was intrigued by chronophobia (fear of time). Is this a possible explanation why some individuals see no value in the past?

Pediophobia (the fear of dolls), a branch of automatonophobia (fear or humanoid figures), is common. The term covers a wide range of dolls from those made of china and porcelain to those that talk and walk. Given the roles that dolls played and continue to play in horror movies, it is easy to understand why this fear exists.

Kenophobia (fear of emptiness) is definitely associated with collectors. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so do collectors. An empty space offends collectors. The cure is the assumption that there always is room for one more object.

Hylephobia (fear of materialism) has no place in the antiques and collectibles community. Everyone associated with the trade is a materialist. What other pursuits or passions have a slogan that reads “the person who dies with the biggest pile wins?”

Physical and emotional symptoms that identify a phobia are: desire to flee, elevated blood pressure, gastric distress, inability to think clearly or formulate thoughts, mind going blank, nausea, tightness of the chest, racing/pounding heart, shaking, shivering, shortness of breath, sweaty palms, terror, and trembling. Such feelings are common among those involved in the antiques and collectibles trade.

Gina blogging on Phobia Fear Release website comments: “I have been afraid of old things since I was a kid. (I’m 28 now) When I have to touch old thing (or things I perceive as old or dirty) I get anxious and I have to wash my hands right away… I also have a fear of jewelry, rings, necklesses (sic.), etc. It makes me very anxious and I get a sense that I want to throw up!…”

Far be it for me to pass up an opportunity to identify and create words for some of the antiques and collectibles phobias I have witnessed during my career. These phobias are real. Some may apply to you:

  • Toomuchomoolaphobia: Fear of overpaying when buying an antique or collectible, especially prevalent when the buyer walks away, turns and looks back, and sees the seller jumping with joy and other sellers rushing over to congratulate him/her. The cure is for the buyer to know what something is worth to him/her, ignore the asking price, and not pay a dime more.
  • Expertisecondescendophobia: Fear that a seller actually knows more about an object than the person buying it. The cure is to question the expertise of every seller and all information shared about the object. Dreams and stories, many highly creative in origin, are stock-in-trade in the antiques and collectibles business. Researched information shared by a seller is in much shorter supply than many realize.
  • Fauxphobia, a.k.a. didIgetwhatIpaidforphobia: Fear of buying something that is not period. The cure is for the buyer not to buy unless he/she is certain that the object is what it is purported to be.
  • Toolittlephobia: Fear on the part of a seller that he/she sold something too cheaply, especially if the buyer does not haggle and pays the asking price. The phobia is closely related to topdollarphobia (fear on the part of the seller that he/she did not obtain top dollar, even though deserved).
  • Paddlephobia: Fear that creates anxiety when bidding at an auction or online. No one likes to lose. The cure is to select an upper bidding limit and stick to it.
  • Rinkerphobia: Fear of what Harry Rinker is going to say or write about next. The cure is to think about the points Harry raises and arrive at your own opinion, not to stop reading “Rinker on Collectibles.”

Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site.

You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.

“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2016

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