London: "Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America" (The Penguin Press), by Maureen Stanton: Curt Avery buys and sells antiques at flea markets and shows. He knows his stuff. He can date a watercolor to the 1890s by the style of the fishing pole it shows, or a stitched sampler to the late 18th century by a quirk in the lettering.
His knowledge gives him an edge, letting him buy, say, a piece of stonewear from a shop and selling it later for $1,000 profit.
Any fan of PBS` "Antiques Roadshow" would love to spend time with him. And that`s just the opportunity Maureen Stanton gives us in "Killer Stuff and Tons of Money." She takes us along as Avery loads up his pickup truck with maybe $30,000 of antiques and drives off to yet another hall, or open field, to see what he can do.
It`s a fascinating look at the life of professional dealers who check out all the stuff at these shows before the rest of us even show up. In this world, Avery (that`s a pseudonym, at his request) can make a $1,300 sale before he even sets up, or lose a chance for $1,000 profit by reaching another dealer`s table five seconds too late. The appearance of a rental truck at the setup for a flea market is good news, we learn. It`s the mark of an amateur seller ripe for the picking. "Fresh blood," as Avery puts it.
But antiques dealers aren`t always in the driver`s seat. Stanton tells us how they`re affected by popular trends, eBay, "Antiques Roadshow" and even the weather at outdoor events.
For Avery, it`s not really about the money, she tells us. He`s lured by his love for the old objects and the stories they tell. And before long, her readers get swept along by his knowledge and the world he operates in. They may not make a penny from this book, but it`s a wise investment.