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American Material Culture

Book Review: Come Collect with Me

John Chaski

Get a load of this, me…writing a book review. Crazy times. Let’s dive right in.

This is a picture of the book I’m reviewing to make the book review more visually dynamic.

This is a picture of the book I’m reviewing to make the book review more visually dynamic.

Barry Perlman is a very nice guy and I’m no book critic, so it’s only natural that I’m inclined towards writing only pretty things about his book. The author’s personality and my inexperience both prove irrelevant. Come Collect with Me deserves to become a staple for collectors and dealers. Like most book reviews written by amateur pseudo-critic bloggers, this one will be mostly all about me, so if you can’t handle it just go buy the book now and stop reading here.

During my professional career as a dealer, doubts have crossed my mind. Not about making a living so much as whether I ought to be doing something that makes the world a better place…something that makes a difference to people. In those moments, I remind myself how great it felt when a grandmother who was downsizing hauled her jewelry box into my shop, costume tangled with gold, and I sorted it out and gave her around three thousand dollars for it, leaving myself ten percent. The look of astonishment on her face sticks with me years (a decade?) later. What if she had taken it to a less ethical proprietor? See, I do matter. Well, once. Is that really all that common, or is it just a rationalization?

I probably should have scheduled a session with someone like our author, a psychologist, years ago to hash this out. But eureka! Barry has written this book instead. Casting into the abyss his alternate future as a psychologist specializing in antiques dealers, he forgives our sins and affirms us thus: “Without other collectors and dealers in our lives, what would we do and who would we be? They provide us with a society in which we can share our passion, energy, laughter, knowledge, and appreciation.” My God, I matter? I matter!

But seriously, this book was a major epiphany for me as a dealer (and collector). It really did reveal to me a side of collectors I had forgotten existed, or perhaps never truly appreciated. When I sell someone a chair, they’re not simply buying a pretty thing to sit in or look at. There’s a lot more to it than that. The psychological insights are extremely helpful to the dealer side of me. One chapter is devoted to the reasons why collectors choose not to make a purchase. If that isn’t required reading for every dealer, I don’t know what is. I’m not going to spoil it, BUY THE BOOK.

Personally, I am a physical book person. I have the paperback and I like the fact that I’ll be able to go to the bookshelf and pick it up when I want to refer to it in the future. It’s that kind of book for me. I had fun reading it; it’s extremely relatable. But it will also be a reference volume. All that being said, I acknowledge that this is not a cheap book. Is it worth it? I promise you it is. However, it is also available very inexpensively as an e-book, some sort of thing I don’t understand, have never owned, and makes me feel anxious.

From the Farmhouse!

John Chaski

I’m thrilled to announce the next show on our schedule…From the Farmhouse right up the road in Elkton, MD on Saturday March 16th. I’ve saved up lots of neat country smalls that I’ll be offering at bargain prices. For more details head over to the Events tab and click the link to head over to the show’s Facebook page.

Why does the Dealers' show keep getting better?

ShowsJohn ChaskiComment
My booth at the 2018 NHADA Show.

My booth at the 2018 NHADA Show.

What better timing for this topic than in a quarter that has seen the shuttering of the former Burk York show, a re-branding of the Big One that drops the word “Antiques” entirely, and the revival of a little show in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware that proved just how much things can change in three years. In trying to understand how the NHADA show can keep getting better, it’s helpful to look through the lens of the three aforementioned stories.

Nobody needed those three happenings to convince them that antiques shows aren’t really working anymore. At least nobody looking at the data rationally. They can work for some dealers, and for other dealers some of the time, but that doesn’t mean they “work”. Antiques shows are sick, maybe terminally.

Four antiques shows in York, PA has been too many for a while now. I am sad that it transpired the way it did, but this is a positive change for the dealers. There will be some loss to the overall amount of money spent in that building on antiques, but halving the expenses for dealers who did all four will result in a net gain overall. This is the first and maybe most significant catalyst for growth at the Dealers’ show. As shows die off, the ones that are good will get better for a while. The enthusiasm (okay, I could just say sweet sweet greenbacks) for antiques can be expressed (spent) at fewer and fewer venues, and the very best will see an uptick.

Next, The Winter Show. Which is what most people I talk to have called it for a long time anyway. I think stripping “Antiques” from the brand is a great move. But a lot of people think that the show has strayed from its identity. That’s not where I come down on the issue, but I agree that there is value in embracing strengths and running with them. The NHADA show scores big points there. It is an Americana show, consistently, period.

Speaking of consistency…so the Rehoboth show. It sucked. It was good for me, but the consensus was “wow this sucked”. It was off for two years while the convention center was under construction, so it had been three years since the last show. Where it goes from here, who knows. Continuity matters. It’s not anybody’s fault, things have changed in three years and people have moved on. The NHADA show is big on continuity. Same building, same look, very low dealer turnover. And it’s been happening for like 60 years.

On the face of it, an antiques show getting better at this stage of the game is pretty shocking. It should be. But when you delve in deeper, it’s not an accident. The show is built for success. It is well-managed by people who still have a long waiting list of dealers to choose from. They don’t choose the biggest name every time, they try to serve the best interest of the show as a whole. It’s a happening that has developed a cult following, one that I think ensures success into the foreseeable future. A foreseeable future…now that is an enviable position among antiques shows.

Antiques Shows are Dead and We Killed them; Chapter 1: EARLY PACKING

John Chaski

One of the many ways in which dealers have been complicit in helping to murder antiques shows is packing up their booth early.  Before I get to ranting, one important distinction:  at Brimfield, a flea market, or similar affair, I have absolutely no problem with it.  But a show that has advertised a closing time and charged admission is a different story.

Packing early is inconsiderate of customers present and future, a point I'll circle back around to.  It's a slap in the face to the management of the show.  It's often in violation of the show contract, many of which stipulate "NO EARLY PACKING" as it has become more and more common even in the relatively short time I've been doing shows.  It's rude to other dealers who honor their commitment to be open for business until the show is closed.

As a young dealer, I take particular offense to early packing.  The message it sends to customers requires little interpretation: "You are not worth my time."  We love to pitch shows as museums without barriers.  Educational opportunities.  Come look even if you can't afford to buy.  Unless you show up on Sunday afternoon. 

Speaking of Sunday afternoon, who does stuff then?  I don't know, millennials?  Normal people?  People who may not be hardcore collectors (yet) but showed enough interest to commit a little bit of time and money to an antiques show?  Hey, those are the people who might buy something from us young dealers someday!  When a veteran dealer is packing early and telling those people they're worthless, it pisses me off.  Maybe there's a 0% chance of them buying something from that dealer.  If they leave disgusted and never visit a show again, so what.  But for me, hoping for a few more decades in the business, those people do matter.  Every. single. one. of. them.

If a dealer can't honor their commitment, they should quit the show, period.  Antiques shows are dying, and early-packing dealers are helping to kill them.

New Hampshire is coming!

John Chaski

New Hampshire is coming, ring the bell!!!  The NHADA show is a little more than two months away, and we're starting to get our ad together.  Check out the first of our teaser photos below, and stay tuned for more.


The Loockerman Experience

John Chaski

Did you ever go down the research wormhole of some 18th Century figure and feel like your life was somehow intertwined with theirs?  That's how I've felt about Vincent Loockerman for the last couple months while I've been working on an appraisal.  Learning about his life and legacy has given me a much greater appreciation for the early history of Dover, Delaware.  Loockerman made it his headquarters for trade that would enable him to acquire some of the greatest pieces of Philadelphia Rococo furniture ever made, many of which remained in his home until the 20th century.

The Loockerman House , 419 South State Street, Dover, Delaware

The Loockerman House, 419 South State Street, Dover, Delaware

That's all well and good but he patronized local craftsmen too, and that's what interests me most of all.  You can see a lot of the extant Loockerman furniture at the Biggs Museum in Dover.  The Loockerman Gallery just off the elevator and stairwell on the second floor does a great job of putting the man and his objects in context.

After that you can walk a couple blocks down State Street and visit the house it was all made for at 419 South, and finally cross Water Street to Christ Church where Vincent and many other significant Delawareans are buried.  It's a pretty unique and immersive experience in the world of decorative arts.  Oh, and have lunch at 33 West Ale House on Loockerman Street.  Feel free to get in touch with me for further reading on the Loockerman family, I would particularly recommend Kate LaPrad's fabulous 2010 thesis on the subject.