|By Don Johnson
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Steven Lefkovitz isn’t the typical president of a collectors’ club. That’s obvious from a glance. There’s not a gray hair on his head.
The 29-year-old is one of the youngest club leaders found anywhere. In directing the Antique Advertising Association of America, commonly referred to as Quad A, he imparts an unbridled enthusiasm.
“I love this stuff,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s supposed to be fun.”
Lefkovitz took over as president of the club in July 2011. Accepting the position was the easy part. Advancing the group into the future, not so much.
“Every club I’ve talked to, they’ve had to restart. They’ve had to rethink what they are doing,” he said.
His age is proving to be a benefit. An entrepreneur who founded a video production company eight years ago, Lefkovitz is young enough to dream big and savvy enough to find ways to accomplish his goals. Among other things, he has the technology skills needed to reach out to a world that increasingly communicates through the Internet and social media.
There’s irony in Lefkovitz’s ascent to the top of Quad A. It comes at a time when people within the antiques industry are struggling to attract young people to the hobby. He understands the challenge.
“The problem is collecting isn’t popular with people my age,” he said.
One issue is that young adults have an increasing number of choices when it comes to spending their time and money.
“I think that collecting (by people) around my age stopped. People still collect, but not like they used to,” he added. “The stuff to collect changed. There are a lot more cool things for kids to do than sit around and trade baseball cards.”
Lefkovitz is the odd man out among his friends. He collects with a passion, enjoying advertising items with an Indiana connection, such as Hoosier Beer. His parents are a great influence. His mother, author of A Collector’s Guide to Nesting Dolls, has what Lefkovitz describes as the world’s largest collection of wooden dolls. His father maintains an old-time general store in the family’s basement.
The material Lefkovitz collects, which decorates his office and apartment, doesn’t go unnoticed by his peers. “I have friends who really enjoy the stuff because of me,” he said.
“I have friends who are beginning to spend a little money on Transformer toys, things they had when they were little,” he noted. “People are going to want to see those things again and have them in their possession.”
It might be a bit of a jump from Transformers to tobacco tins and automotive signs, but it’s a start.
One issue faced by the antiques industry is vocabulary. “Antique” is a negative word for many young people.
“The word ’vintage’ now is better to use,” Lefkovitz added. “Vintage is the hipster thing.”
It might be a to-may-to, to-mah-to kind of argument, but it does have an effect on what young people will consider owning.
Regardless of what you call it, Lefkovitz knows old stuff can appeal to his peer group. Getting them interested in advertising isn’t necessarily the best first step. Just getting anything vintage into their home is helpful. Plus, there’s a financial benefit.
“With Crate & Barrel, to get a full living room, you’re going to spend 10 times more than if you went out and bought antiques. Once they know that, they’re hooked,” he said.
Of course, even many collectors aren’t interested in joining a club. The approach taken by Lefkovitz is to continue to mold the organization into one that is both educational and fraternal – something that appeals to people not involved in the group.
At the association’s annual convention, in Knoxville, Tenn. in August, Lefkovitz was encouraged by the camaraderie. “It was there like I never really felt it. People started touching base with why they started collecting.” They shared stories about what they first collected and recounted special pieces that got away. “People were saying, ’How fun is this?’ I hadn’t seen that in 15 years. For me it’s so exciting.”
Education is also playing a role via the club’s quarterly newsletter, PastTimes, and through a recently established Facebook page. Plans in the works include a monthly online newsletter and the use of more video on the club’s Internet pages.
Annual dues to the Antique Advertising Association of America are $40. For more information, visit Quad A’s website, www.pastimes.org, or see the group’s table at the Indy Antique Advertising Show in Indianapolis, Sept. 28-29.