One of the big questions amongst collectors on a barn find is: Wash or Not to Wash?
Well, it all boils down to who’s dirt is it? What is the origination of that dirt? Was it the original owners, a second owner? What is under all that dirt?
These questions are ones that I debate over every time that I walk into a collection and open that barn or shed door for the first time in ages. That dirt is not only dirt, but layers of history – and if that dirt could only talk.
This question became a big topic when we conducted the Lambrecht Collection Auction in Pierce, Neb., in September 2013. When I heard the Urban Legend of a Chevrolet dealer that held back inventory and didn’t sell his traders, that set the pace in my mind that we weren’t looking at your ordinary dust, but valuable dust that had been accumulated through years of saying “NO” to potential sales. A story in itself.
I clearly remember walking into the dealership and seeing the cars covered with dirt, vinyl siding, empty antifreeze jugs and tires, along with other boxes. We carefully uncovered them, and careful not to remove the dirt.
Now in a collector eyes, this is called patina. The patina is often worth as much as any paperwork or priceless restoration. It adds value to the car, because of the story, and that it’s an original, surviving piece of history and the story where it was found.
I received many emails asking why we didn’t wash those dirty cars! Well, I always say, beauty is in the eye of the buyer. I decided to sell these cars in their plain clothes as they were found and let the buyer decide how much that dirt or patina was worth.
Myself, I answer this question by a using by few easy questions. Is it original, is it the original owners, and does it add value to the story? If the answer is yes to all, we leave the dirt. Whether it’s a tractor, pickup or car, I do this process.
Interesting enough, the buyer of the Cameo Pickup is leaving the dirt on it and telling the story of the find for $140,000! The buyer of the 1978 Indy Pace Car Corvette washed it the minute he got it home and started to love and take care of the car to be back on the road.
I myself, now own a 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air that was a trade-in car and was in the trees. I answered my own questions, and one answer was “no.” So we proudly scrubbed and washed the car, got her running, and will be back on the road this summer! To answer my own question, too, we are not painting the car but leaving the patina, putting in an interior kit, and telling the story.
So when it comes to the beauty of the dirt, remember: Beauty is in the eye of the buyer. They are the ones who know how much that dirt and dust is worth.
See you at the Auction!
Yvette VanDerBrink-VanDerBrink Auctions
The Lil’ Nordstrom’s Gal