If you’re not in the auction and antiques trade, how do you know which dealer to trust? Is he a rogue, or will he do the best he can for you? Is he rather like Lovejoy – with different persona depending on the circumstances?
(You can take this persona thing to extremes; years ago Terry Trucco in the New York Times went so far as to call Lovejoy rather excitedly “the James Bond of Antique Dealers” – which curiously was not thereafter referred to in the copy. Not quite so agreeably cryptic as ” James Callaghan is the Harold Wilson of politics.” *)
We wouldn’t go quite that far – we always thought of Lovejoy as the Robin Hood of the Antiques Trade.
He seemed to present in three roles – generous if you’re a widow or orphan (or if he fancies you); straight with you if you’re a good egg (but he’ll make a reasonable profit); and stitch you up like kipper if you’re a wrong ‘un.
We put this to Lovejoy’s creator – delightful chap – and he felt we were close to the mark, particularly by the time the scriptwriters had moulded the character for television.
But that leaves open the question of how to recognise a rogue. Are there any signals which would suggest that it might be prudent to go elsewhere? Lovejoy had years of experience and skills as a natural “divvy” which are not available to most of us. If a dealer indicates that he really wants your treasured possession, try to find really solid recommendations from people you respect and find some sensible evidence of market value.
But if you have doubts, perhaps the prudent course is not to try to drive the best price.
Sometimes it’s best to let the auctioneers do it for you; you’ll forfeit some of the margin but you’ll know that the auctioneers are well-motivated by healthy joint interest.