Book Review: Killer Stuff and Tons of Money

There is surely enough overlap between the book collecting world and the antiques world to make Maureen Stanton’s new book, Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America, a worthy read. Having “embedded” herself with a mid-ranking antiques dealer for several years, Stanton travels to fairs big and little--from Brimfield to second-rate yard sales--seeing both the exciting and the darker sides of antiquing.

The dealer Stanton shadows, Curt Avery (a pseudonym) is a brash character, extraordinarily impressive, if a little rough around the edges. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of antiques, learned in the trenches. Stanton picked well; Avery is great fun to listen to, and viewing the business through his eyes keeps the pace of the book brisk.
There are sections on collecting in general and on buying "mistakes." The examples here are usually eighteenth-century blanket chests, Windsor chairs, or Sandwich glass, but book and art collectors could easily recognize the same drives (and disappointments). There is a revealing chapter about Antiques Roadshow, an intense interview with a master furniture forger, and a good few pages on the rise of comics collecting.

Killer Stuff is a highly enjoyable read about the business of buying and selling old things--finding the good stuff, finding the right buyer, and then letting it go.
Auction Guide