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Are you kidding, no really, are you kidding?


Brian Wolfe

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Are you kidding, no really are you kidding?

Last Saturday one of the largest, if not the largest, outdoor antiques fairs was held near Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. It has been a few years since we were able to attend and most of the dealers have been the same for many years so it was like a family reunion with some that we’ve dealt with over the years.

One of the first things an antiques dealer will tell you is not to refinish antiques as their value is lost once you do this. You will hear this mantra chanted over and over especially when they are looking to purchase the furniture dear old Aunt Betsy left you. Of course you “cave in” and let the dealer take the refinished ruined junk off your hands for a pittance and letting you feel that they have done you a big favour. Well pilgrim you’ve just been shafted. A walk around any antiques fair will prove me out as you pass display after display of finished and what I would call over finished antique furniture. At the show you will hear these same dealers preaching that it is better to refinish the antique so that you can live with it and use it the way to was supposed to be used. Two definite schools of thought I will admit. However I recognized a couple of these fellows and they talk out of both sides of their faces more easily than could the Roman God Janus. Thinking of ancient Rome I am all for S.P.Q.R. in business, which in this case stands for “Small Profit Quick Return” however some seem to think “buy low sell high” is always an honourable act, no matter what bovine excrement they are required to spread in order to close a deal. Contrary to what I seem to be saying, most of the dealers are honest folk but you know what they say about a rotten apple in the barrel.

This is not really the theme of my article it was just an observation. The theme is all of the fakery that seems to be going on and sold by so-called reputable dealers under the excuse that they are not knowledgeable in this or that field when “called” on the authenticity of an item. This self same dealer will be waxing prophetic to a prospective client one second and then crying that they are as innocent as a new born lamp with the very next breath when trying to explain a fake being passed off as authentic. To be sure this is not the show to attend if you are looking for military collectables though there is always bit to choose from. The prices are usually well above market for medals, weapons etc. so this is a show to attend for other collectables. However, having said that, I found it interesting that so many dealers managed to be displaying fakes and replicas of mostly WWII German medals mixed in with some over prices genuine articles. It is almost as if they are pricing the authentic items in order to hold onto them and low balling the fakes. Low balling the price if it were genuine that is.

I looked at a pair of Figure Of Eight handcuffs that the dealer said he picked up in Georgia last week (it is always “last week” with these guys) and he’d let it go for $200.00. I was polite and passed on the cuffs, however, if I had wanted such a pair I could pick them up for around $35.00 on eBay from the same fellow who makes them...in Georgia. The quality was not really bad though nowhere near that of Hiatt but the poor quality key is always a dead giveaway. I will post mine to show the difference someday (he said in embarrassment) along with a genuine key and you will see a world of difference.

Another booth proudly offered a Police Helmet from the Metropolitan Police sporting a ball top for only $200.00. I think the other police collectors will support my claim that the Met has never used a ball top. Amazingly, though I suppose it should not have come as a surprise, the dealer claimed he had purchased it directly from the officer himself while on a trip to the UK. The officer must have really stood out among the rest of the police all wearing the familiar Metropolitan Cox Comb Style helmet. I wonder if his name was Benny Hill.

Back in the early 1970s there was a flood of Indian swords offered for a pittance; these were over cleaned for the most part but they were authentic. Just after this Tsunami of Tulwars another “after shock wave” hit with thousands of newly made copies being offered in every flea market stall from Chicoutimi to Bella Coola (you’ll have to look those up yourself). ;)

Meanwhile back at the antiques fair.
A fellow was looking at a curved sword that had been ground down as if sharpened before every battle ever fought with sword. The handle was wooden and the knuckle guard was an open style basket and quite well done. To enhance this treasure someone (I wonder who) had recently painted it gloss black. This was obviously one of those replica Indian swords that had the design on the blade removed, over-ground to change the curve a bit and then painted black. The grip showed no wear which should have made the perspective buyer wonder how the blade had seen so much wear while the grip was pristine as was the hand guard. I suppose it could have been a one of those miracles preformed by the Giant Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. The dealer played right along and mused as to how many battles the sword had been in and just how many men it had killed. Easy answer...NONE! The customer started to dicker on the price which had started at $300.00 and I couldn’t take any more and walked away muttering “Caveat emptor”. If I was overheard I’m sure the dealer told the customer that was the name of the style of sword.

Most of the time I am pretty good at controlling my indignation and keeping my self-righteous rage in check. However I will admit that the reason I have not been to this show for a while is that I was banned from going for at least a year by my dear wife. We were at the show with some friends, formally from the UK. My friend Graham and I were looking at a drawer unit that I was interested in and I was seeing if the drawers were all in working order. The dealer said “It looks like we have a couple of yankers here” and I thought he said “s”. There was a bit of confusion as to whether I actually grabbed the fellow by the front of his shirt or not...just to make a point mind you. Graham, a quick thinking East Ender, was between us before anything else could happen, but I think I made my point. So now I keep my distance and regarding the over- priced fakes and I just think, “Are you kidding, no really are you kidding!”

Let’s hear from the rest of the membership regarding their collecting experiences over the summer.

Regards
Brian

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If Graham was from the East End - did you check your wallet after he held you back ? !
(Just joking..............)

Interesting article - and oh ! so true.

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Dear Mike;

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your description and take on the recent show you attended. Your rapier jabs were (mostly, I believe) not lost on me. Perhaps a few of the cutting remarks were lost in the translation from English to English (American). I guess “######” is truly out of our lexicon as a serious insult in my area. I think if I yelled out to someone that they were a ###### they would be simultaneously confused, amused and angry. They wouldn’t know what that meant, but would figure it can’t be a good thing and would like a better explanation at the prompting of their fists.

I haven’t been to real Antique Show for a long time but I am somehow satisfied that things have not changed much. Caveat emptor indeed. Overpriced genuine items and underpriced fakes together on the same tables. The high priced genuine pieces trap the buyer who recognizes good inventory but doesn’t know market prices. And the low ball fakes trap the buyer that knows market prices but not this (particular) fake.

With seller and potential buyer alike cautious on making a poor transaction, the pieces languish on table for years. After seeing them time and time again I would begin to recognize the antiques, more than the sellers. I have slowing come to the conclusion to that the dealers don’t really want to move the inventory. Sure, they will sell something nice if they can make a huge profit, but they are just as happy to come to show to get out of the house, stretch their legs, and talk with their other dealer friends. It’s a lifestyle. The dealer talking that he is, at the same, both the expert and the innocent “picker” of the antique is just the Game.

Evilbay is now an option, but for the purchase of an antique, I would like to handle and examine it for myself. And for that, these shows are invaluable and the dealers that bring those items are providing a great service. For finding just the right thing, for just the right spot in your home the Antique Show or Antique shop can be a real pleasure to browse.

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whoa...my "w%ncker" turned into "######". Sorry if "w*nker" is a curse word. As I say in my response above, "Wancker" isn't so much the use of foul language as it is a funny name.

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There used to be a combination flea / antiques market in an abandonned hangar in the Old Port of Montreal, it closed a few years ago.

I remember seeing a militaria dealer (about 20 years ago) and thought "oh wow!"... The glee soon disapeared!

I looked at a British Campaign Service Medal with the clasp "PALESTINE", the dude was asking $380.00, I told him he had one zero too many but was told I didn't know what I was talking about... I looked at another display of his, there was a tin Luftwaffe set of NCO cap wings & cockade, he wanted $175, I nearly punched him in the mouth... The "pièce de résistance" was a $6.00 NAZI tinnie, asking price? $250.00! When I laughed, his answer was "oh, you know the real value of this stuff... Then nothing here will interest you, please leave my stall immediately".

The SOB!!

I think this'll turn into a very good blog for venting!

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There used to be a combination flea / antiques market in an abandonned hangar in the Old Port of Montreal, it closed a few years ago.

I remember seeing a militaria dealer (about 20 years ago) and thought "oh wow!"... The glee soon disapeared!

I looked at a British Campaign Service Medal with the clasp "PALESTINE", the dude was asking $380.00, I told him he had one zero too many but was told I didn't know what I was talking about... I looked at another display of his, there was a tin Luftwaffe set of NCO cap wings & cockade, he wanted $175, I nearly punched him in the mouth... The "pièce de résistance" was a $6.00 NAZI tinnie, asking price? $250.00! When I laughed, his answer was "oh, you know the real value of this stuff... Then nothing here will interest you, please leave my stall immediately".

The SOB!!

I think this'll turn into a very good blog for venting!

I was 19 when I learned my lesson when "calling out" a dealer at his table. He used stronger language than "Wancker" I can tell you. Lenny Bruce would have been proud.

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Vent away fellows, it's good for the soul.

In my past profession it was very important to be able to read people and know what to say and what not to say. The other important thing was not too over react, which is what I did. I forgot that what passes as an insult in one region means nothing in another. To be fair to the dealer he was not from the same part of the country as I so I really should have cut him some slack and let it pass. The day was hot I was tired and things happed, and perhaps the term "######" will no longer be in the dealer's vocabulary. Ha ha

All's well that ends well.

Regards
Brian

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Nice blog. I've been to that fair myself in the past and managed to pick up some bargains but most of the stuff is as you say overpriced in the extreme. When given a ridiculous price I am generally polite, try not to laugh and simply walk away. However if the dealer is particularly obnoxious or rude I find the best approach is this. If they are offering item X (normal market value $20) for $200, simply ask how many identical examples would they like to buy for $50 a piece. That usually stops them dead in their tracks.

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Hello DJT,
Good comeback. I can understand a dealer having one of a particular collectable and not wanting to let it go too cheaply and putting a high price on it out of ignorance. Some deals, however, only sell certain items and when they inflate the price at least four times market I makes my blood boil.
Thanks again for your comment, I shall remember and use this one.
Regards
Brian

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My friend Peter Monahan had a great comeback to the dealer's pitch of "It's very rare!"

"So's bubonic plague, mate; doesn't mean you want to have it."

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So I walked into a junk shop the other day and there was this nifty display of a German aeroplane bomb and 2 1 pound anti-aircraft shells, a First Class Iron Cross, a ring with the kaiserkronen on it, 4 belt buckles (3 with Gott Mit Uns) and some other stuff.

"Kool" said I. and bought it.

After getting home and starting to snip the bent coat hanger wires holding the things together I noticed that the bottoms of the shells were intact.

"Krapski" sayeth I, "Methinks these might be live ordnance".

After packing the stuff into plastic peanuts and placing it in the trunk of the car, I drove to Fort Lewis, and discovered that there is no EOD on base.

However, I remembered that there was EOD on McCord Air Force Base, a bit further north.

I walked into the McCord EOD shop and said "Hey, Sarge, I've got something I'd like you to take a look at"
And the sergeant said "######. I don't like any conversation that starts out this way."

To make the long story short
1. It was not a German aeroplane bomb - it was a French 60mm mortar
It had a live fuze
It had live detonating charge
They could not dearm it
They had to detonate it.
2. The 1-pounders had live primers and propellent in them
The heads had been emptied of explosive and fuzes
They were able to de-prime and empty the shells

I do have some real nice x-rays of the ordnance that might have decorated my wall (with pieces of me)

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Nice blog. I've been to that fair myself in the past and managed to pick up some bargains but most of the stuff is as you say overpriced in the extreme. When given a ridiculous price I am generally polite, try not to laugh and simply walk away. However if the dealer is particularly obnoxious or rude I find the best approach is this. If they are offering item X (normal market value $20) for $200, simply ask how many identical examples would they like to buy for $50 a piece. That usually stops them dead in their tracks.

Actually, I forgot to mention it but that's EXACTLY what I said before being shown the door... To his $380.00 asking price for a British Campaign Service Medal with the clasp "PALESTINE", I offered him an entire shoe box of these medals at $100.00 each explaining all I had to do was drive for 90 minutes to Ottawa and get an entire drawer's worth from Eugene Ursual who'd probably let them go at $25 a pop since I was buying so many.

The only true satisfaction I got that day, when he threw me out, all of his potential customers followed me out.

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I was at the same show, "Christie Antique Show".

Once you weed through all the crap, you may come up with a shiny penny or two.

I walked away with an 1861 LSA Snider Mk II** rifle in almost mint condition for a very reasonable price.

But as you say, caveat emptor was the words of the day
.

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