06 June 2013

Lies, Damn Lies & Antiques Dealers

Some dealers display their uranium glass under
ultraviolet light, which makes the pieces glow
beautifully.  Beginner buyers are sometimes
surprised to get their item home and find
that uranium glass doesn't glow
under natural light.
In the last week we visited the Nambour Antiques Fair and this time – Hooray! – I remembered my camera.  You know I get grumpy every time we visit this Fair – grumpy as a potential buyer, but entirely encouraged as a potential seller.  So I shan’t complain about it again.  I shan’t. 
Okay maybe I will a little bit.

We found only two things worth buying that were affordable – an Egyptian Revival car radiator cap for ourselves and Yay! a glass battery case for stock.  The radiator cap has a small amount of damage, but we didn’t care and it shall join our small collection of cool vintage radiator caps and car mascots (when we finally find them, buried somewhere in the depths of the garage).  As for the glass battery case, I promised last time I bought one of these that the next one would become stock, so we have to decide which cases we’re keeping and which one is becoming the stock.  They are so hard to find, so getting two within two months is unprecedented.  You never know what you’ll find next when you’re antiques hunting, and that’s one of the things I like best about this job.

Vita often visits our
shop and is always
beautifully dressed.
Others at the Fair were less
stylish, but still memorable.
So that was the good stuff.  On the other hand, there were entire stands at the Fair – the Antiques Fair, where almost everything was reproduction. Undeclared reproduction what’s more, and that’s just wrong.  It’s totally Buyer Beware with some dealers.  I found one woman selling what her sign said was Old Movie Posters and Vintage Advertising.  There was a very famous picture of Le Chat Noir, an advertising poster for a Parisian nightclub from the late 1800s.  This is an extremely famous image, and an original poster would be worth a gobsmacking amount.  So I was pretty sure I had not stumbled across an original in the middle of the Nambour Fair.  I mean, all things are possible in the antiques industry, and never say never, and yet I was pretty sure it wasn’t real.  So I looked again at the sign, which clearly said Old Movie Posters and Vintage Advertising.  But there, right at the bottom of the page - in 2 font – was the word “reproduction”.  So my position of having the only shop (or website) in Australia that sells genuine, original, vintage French advertising remains unassailed. 

Almost everything in this photo is reproduction.  Can you spot the real things?
Then I had one guy try to tell me that some of his plates were Art Deco.  No they’re not, I said, they date from the mid-1950s.  Yeah, that’s what they call Art Deco, he said.  No it’s not, I said, the Art Deco period officially ended in 1939.  Did it really? he said.  Yeah it really did, I said.  Then he wanted me to tell him all I knew about his plates (which wasn’t much) before I moved on ….

An "antique" Bat'leth.  Who knew
that Klingons shopped at the
Nambour Antiques Fair?
…. to a woman selling some quite nice Romanian ceramic eggcups.  I knew they were Romanian because they have a very distinctive look, and I’ve had them myself in the shop.  The big give-away, though, is the “Made in Romania” stamp on the bottom.  They had no price on them, and although my usual policy is that if you can’t be bothered putting on the price I can’t be bothered asking, I know they are usually reasonably priced and they are attractive so they were potential stock.  So I asked the price. 

I don't know, said the woman.  So, free to a good home? I asked, hopefully, which was pointedly ignored.  You know, they are very, very good, she said while she looked me up and down, openly sizing me up to see what she could get out of me.  But puhlease, I’ve dealt with Irish gypsies at some of the big European antiques fairs, and no-one can size up your value to within two cents like an Irish gypsy, and yet I have emerged from negotiations with them a little battered but happy.  So some little Nambour Chit wasn’t going to faze me and I let her give her spiel. 

Yes, it's meant to say "Versace Medusa". 
Totally brand new, and a ridiculous price.
They’re English you know, she informed me. Really? I said, because I would have sworn they are Romanian.  Romanian?? she snorted and tut-tutted at me for being an antiques numpty.  No, no they’re English.  Hmmm, I said, they really do look Romanian to me.  She gave me a insultingly obvious How-dumb-are-you? look and sighed heavily at her misfortune at having to deal with someone so ignorant.  Look, you can tell they’re English by looking at the bottom, she said.  Where is says ‘Made in Romania’, I asked sweetly?  She didn’t miss a beat – oh yes, they’re Romanian, she said.  Very rare, very, very hard to find.  By then she had decided on a price she thought I was likely to cough up, but by then I was pretty well over her so I felt free to tell her that her price was four times what you would pay for the same thing in England.  But you’re not in England now, are you? she said, snarkily.  That’s clear, I said, and how amazing that Nambour is more expensive than London.  And off I flounced.
These vintage toasters are just the ticket for
the proper toasting of crumpets.  But they were
$165! Each!  And that was without their cords. 
Never ever believe a dealer who tells you
that you can easily pick up the old cords at
charity shops, because those days are long
gone and now the cords are like hens'
teeth.  If they were that easy to get, why
hasn't the dealer got them?  And guess what?
 The toaster is useless without its original cord -
a modern cord won't fit at all - so
no crumpets for you.
I know I shouldn’t be precious about people lying to me and trying to fleece me, because it comes with the territory.  And as I said, the Nambour Chit had nothing on the Irish gypsies we regularly encounter on our travels.  But at least with the gypsies it’s done with a smile and a wink and you know they’re trying to scam you, and they know you know, and it’s all very good natured.  And at the end of the day they’re wanting to sell their goods and you’re wanting to buy them, so often some accommodation can be reached if you enter into the spirit and match wits with them and give as good as you get.  They like a bit of banter, and so do I.  But meeting someone who was just plain trying to fleece me, with no sense of humour or even a sense of “the game” was no fun at all.

Calypso loves to help unpack bags of stock
we've brought up from the garage. 
Yep, she's a big help.
So roll on September, which is when our next European buying trip is scheduled.  I have commenced basic planning, and reckon we can get it done in about four weeks.  We don’t like to go for much longer than four weeks, because despite overwhelming public opinion we are not “going on another holiday”.  Yes it’s fun.  Yes we have a great time.  But by golly we also work hard and we’re pretty tired by the time it’s all over.  And don’t get me started on travelling in Economy class – my least favourite bit of every single trip is plane there and back.  And then, as soon as we arrive the pressure is on to make hundreds and hundreds of commercial decisions very quickly – often at stupidly early hours of the morning when any normal person would be snug in bed, and get those decisions right because if you get them wrong it can cost you dearly. 

Anyway, it’s not so massively dramatic because we’ve done this many times, but it is still nice that I feel that frisson of anticipation – the challenge is on and I’d better be good enough to deliver.  We’ll soon see.
Everyone got their vaccinations this week, and then felt off-color the next day. 
The boys appeared to feel it the most - the cat equivalent of man flu - so they both snuggled up and refused to come near me for 24 hours. I was the guilty one because I held them in place while they got their shots.  Two days later and Caleb is still squeaking over his sore back and growling at anyone who touches him.  I'd never heard him growl before and it's a really deep-throated, guttural sound that would be quite impressive if you didn't know that he's a sweet little pussycat who isn't really going to rip your throat out.  Probably not. 

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