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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Killer Stuff and Tons of Money


Thanks to television networks such as The History Channel and A&E, hundreds of thousands of people now dream about getting rich off something they stumble on at a neighborhood garage sale.  A few of them even have high hopes that someday their flea-market habit will produce a steady enough profit to free them from the nine-to-five rat race they dread so much.  Maureen Stanton’s Killer Stuff and Tons of Money (subtitled: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America) is here to tell you that it is not nearly as easy as American Pickers and Pawn Stars make it appear to be.

Over the years, Stanton’s longtime friend Curt Avery occasionally has taken her along when he goes to work in the morning.  What makes that a rewarding experience for both of them is that Avery’s workplace is the multitude of flea-markets, estate sales, antique shows, and auction houses to be found on the East Coast.  He tries to pass on some of the knowledge with which his years of experience have rewarded him, and Stanton provides a little bit of free labor toward unpacking, re-packing, and setting-up his sales area.  Killer Stuff and Tons of Money is very much Avery’s life story.

Although it does a remarkable job of educating the reader via valuable tips on how to judge the authenticity and value of particular types of antiques, this is not an antique guide.  It is, rather, a portrayal of what one man goes through 52 weeks of the year as he tries to pay his family’s bills and put food on the table by hustling from one flea-market or antique show to the next.  It is a dose of reality for the dreamers that believe this is going to be easy.

Maureen Stanton
Curt Avery has been an antique picker ever since his boyhood days of digging for bottles in some of the nation’s earliest garbage heaps.  He probably, because of his reading and on-the-job studying of them, knows as much about antiques as most anyone out there.  Avery readily admits, however, that his instinct and his skill in bundling numerous bits of information to reach a likely conclusion about a piece guide his purchases as much as what the books tell him.  His is a world filled with con men, forgers, and fakes that fool even the most knowledgeable high-end antique dealers.  Avery has, of course, been burned numerous times by fakes (scary as that thought is to amateurs like us) but chalks his losses up as part of the cost of his education.

Maureen Stanton has written a painlessly educational book that at times reads more like a novel.  Following Avery’s ups and downs through the years and meeting some of the regulars with whom he competes is great fun.  As one would expect, those who make their living in the world of antique hunting and reselling are a separate breed.  Killer Stuff and Tons of Money allows the rest of us safe access to that world for a little while.

Rated at: 5.0
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