The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Antiques on the Cheap

I just picked up of a copy of James W. McKenzie's Antiques on the Cheap for $1.99 at the Salvation Army (The author would definitely approve). It was written pre-eBay (1998) but it's still filled with valuable tips and very wryly and humorously written.

My favorite section in the book is on auction strategies (real go to a farm-stand in a field auctions, not sniping from your desktop). I don't drive and I live in the city so regular auction attendance is out of my reach, but he paints a very vivid picture. He describes how dealers size each other up, how to suss out someone's high bid, how (and when) to use aggressive bidding to scare off a newcomer and more.

He suggests an experiment for the auction preview: find a nice item in an otherwise undesirable box lot, then sit back and watch it migrate from box to box as dealers try to conceal, or move it in with something else they want.

He also reveals the two types of people you should never bid against: excited young couples and the family of the estate holder. Neither type will allow reason to get in the way of acquiring something they want.

The rest of the book is devoted to tips on selecting sure-fire stock for an antique store (tea tables, wing back chairs, art pottery), and simple repairs that can make overlooked items very desirable (rewiring a lamp, restoring a trunk, cleaning a bottle with lead shot). Great techniques. I just skimmed a few chapters because I won't be doing any refinishing in my one-bedroom apartment, but I will definitely revisit in the future.

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