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Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  433 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
One dealer's journey from the populist mayhem of flea markets to the rarefied realm of auctions reveals the rich, often outrageous subculture of antiques and collectibles.

Millions of Americans are drawn to antiques and flea-market culture, whether as participants or as viewers of the perennially popular Antiques Roadshow or the recent hit American Pickers. This world ha
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published June 9th 2011 by Penguin Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,132)
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Rob Atkinson
Oct 11, 2011 Rob Atkinson rated it it was amazing
As a fledgling antiques dealer myself, I found this a fascinating, informative, and inspirational read. 'Killer Stuff and Tons of Money" is a first-hand look behind the scenes of the antiques trade, framed around the story of "Curt Avery" (a real dealer protected by a pseudonym), a good friend of the author's. His story is typical of many dealers; beginning small with the antique bottles he digs up and collects, he becomes thoroughly knowledgeable in that niche and starts to trade in them, makin ...more
Mary Robinson
Aug 25, 2011 Mary Robinson rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A look at the fascinating world of antique dealers through the eyes of a lower-level dealer who is rough-edged but endearing in his passion for antiques and the history they represent. The author followed this self-taught expert over the course of many years and it is interesting to see how the dealer grows and changes as he struggles to survive in this tough world. Also was interested in seeing how our new generations attitudes toward antiques (they’re more interested in a nice reproduction fro ...more
Chris Otto
May 01, 2016 Chris Otto rated it really liked it
3.75 stars.

I enjoyed this book, and you will, too, if you're interested in its primary topic of the world of higher-end flea markets and antique shows. There's an abundance of great detail about buying, selling, haggling, finding hidden gems, making mistakes, detecting fakes, navigating auctions, surviving the crushing schedule of a dealer's life on a road, and figuring out what to do when your house, garage and vehicle become filled with antiques.

I think there could have been a great book about
Jun 19, 2011 Caitlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I'm very fond of shows like Antiques Roadshow or the British game show that gives contestants money, sends them off into a flea market to spend their money, and then whoever gets the most for the item at an auction wins. I like antique stores and junk stores and yard sales and flea markets. I love to look at the stuff and to learn about its history. What I don't want to do is collect it. I have a huge aversion to accumulating stuff just to accumulate it. I do have lots of books, but I could walk ...more
I won this book on Goodreads giveaways and was particularly interested in the fact that it focuses a lot on New England antiques shows, like the one at Brimfield, Massachusetts. My grandparents lived just down the road from the Brimfield flea market and although I probably only visited the event once when I was a child, I've passed by the location many, many times and know it well.

This book is a fascinating account of the lure of buying, collecting and selling various items (primarily early Ame
Aug 02, 2012 Alexander rated it it was ok
This is a tough book to review, mostly because it's interesting and well written. The reason for the one star review is simply that it's endlessly repetitive. Halfway through (I can't stomach any more) every chapter consists of:

1. Go to a show
2. Buy some stuff, sell other stuff
3. Rinse and repeat

Some dealers are knowledgeable, others are crooks, some items make a lot of money, others sit around.

In short, this would be a brilliant long form article of 5,000-7,000 words. As a book, there just isn
Jun 15, 2015 Brittany rated it it was amazing
I really and thoroughly enjoyed this book. Since I deal in vintage clothing, it was a totally different perspective that I loved reading about. I thought that Maureen Stanton did a great job mixing narrative stories, sociology, psychology and history together for an overall interesting and informative read. People don't realize what goes into the life of a dealer - they think it's always about the easy flip. Sometimes that's true, but most of the time it's hours and hours of work - hunting for t ...more
Matt Kuhns
Aug 18, 2014 Matt Kuhns rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. Once again, I would have kept right on reading for hundreds more pages. Anyone else devoted to American Pickers will probably also enjoy this fascinating tour of other corners of the old-things trade.

I would have given this book five stars, in fact… except for the author's repeated suggestions that antique is synonymous with superior and that I'm a soulless, cultureless consumer drone for buying cheap flatpack furniture at Target.

Sorry, but as much as I'm fascinated by this bus
Alyson Larrabee
Aug 23, 2014 Alyson Larrabee rated it it was amazing
Fascinating combination of "how-to", history and just plain great story telling. Maureen Stanton reveals the insider's view of the Massachusetts flea market scene. Behind every find and purchase there's a story. One generation's helpful household gadgets, tools and decorative items become another generation's priceless treasures. Relive the "eureka" moments with the buyers and sellers. Then ponder the back stories of the sellers, collectors, museum curators, knowledgeable treasure hunters and cl ...more
Oct 21, 2011 Melody rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
A fun and enlightening romp through the antiques trade. I enjoyed the main character and the author's inclusion of herself in the narrative was welcome rather than intrusive. I learned a lot and laughed some. Well worth reading.
Joanne King
Jun 23, 2011 Joanne King rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully written book with great insight into the life of an antique dealer. I felt like I was right there with the author in her adventures. I can't wait to go to a flea market to find my own treasures!
Feb 20, 2015 Nick rated it really liked it
This was a fun read. Being quite familiar with auctions and the world of antique dealing, I didn't learn anything too surprising, but I did enjoy the people the author encountered. Taking place on the East Coast, their idea of auctions, antiques, and antique shows does differ from the Midwest (and I assume West Coast) but I still found it all interesting. A super fast and easy read, even though it was quite lengthy for actual content, I finished it in no time.

Obviously, if you have no interest i
Apr 01, 2014 Crystal rated it really liked it
A glimpse into an unknown world, this was a well-written, well-paced creative nonfiction book, along the lines of The Orchid Thief. Maureen Stanton follows the career of her friend "Curt Avery", sleeping in tents, lining up at antique shows and flea markets at 5am, setting up booths, drinking bad coffee, laying out hundreds of carefully-curated items, buying and selling, sharing knowledge, selling the "bread-and-butter" items, getting stung by the occasional bad buy, and searching for the "good, ...more
Jan 15, 2014 Rachel rated it it was ok
I read this book because I am interested in learning about the antiques trade--I already sell a lot online but I want to know how to do that better. This book really doesn't address the online aspect of vintage selling, but it does have some interesting information about really old antiques (especially 17th and 18th century) in America.

This book focuses exclusively on the vintage/antiques trade on the east coast, which is only remotely useful for people in the central US, where antiques are gene
Sarah Ewald
Jun 01, 2014 Sarah Ewald rated it it was amazing
From flea markets, to antique markets, to ComicCom, to Ebay. And don't forget 'Antiques roadshow. This is a very interesting book by Maureen Stanton, who, over the course of 10 years or so, shadowed 'Curtis Avery' (a pseudonym), an antiques dealer. If you have ever flea-marketed, or even visited a Goodwill store, you will enjoy this book. Antique dealers very rarely make a lot of money, but they sure enjoy what they do. From muddy fields, and hot July weekends, I felt the sweat drip from my brow ...more
Aug 16, 2015 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really interesting read. Curt Avery is a great protagonist because he fully lives and embodies the life of the struggling antique dealer. He's not smug, self-satisfied and boring, like one of the "living room dealers" the book's constantly name-checking, but also not a hobbyist. This is his career. These are his concerns. These are the deals on which he got burned; and these are the ones where he cleaned up, sometimes to a profit of multiple thousands of dollars.

The book is well-orga
Ryan G
Jan 12, 2012 Ryan G rated it liked it
Shelves: no-longer-own
Before this book, I never realized that flea marketing had it's very own subculture. I guess that should have been obvious, since everyone seems to have their own subculture, but it's not one I've ever thought of before. It's an oversite that I'm glad to have fixed. Maureen Stanton takes us into the lives of Curt Avery and his circle of friends and competitors. Before this book, I never realized that you could make a living off of buying and selling antiques, well outside of a store that is. It ...more
Oct 10, 2011 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a Great Adventure! And it’s a great read!

Escorted into the mysterious behind-the-scenes world of antiquing by two very entertaining, engaging and trustworthy guides, you will never look at your own possessions, or your parents’ possessions or your grandparents’ possessions, the same ever again. Author Maureen Stanton invites her readers on her journey with antique dealer Curt Avery. We find ourselves camping in the rural hills of New England, waking up with the sunrise in order to s
Emily Skinner
Mar 30, 2013 Emily Skinner rated it it was amazing
This book is the perfect companion for antiquing road trips. I didn't want it to end. I enjoyed every detail of Stanton's mystery antique dealer/expert who chooses not to reveal his identity. This book takes you on a real journey of pain, heartbreak and joy as the dealer works ridiculously hard to find, sell and store treasures. He scores big at times and mostly hoards his wares for regional shows.
Now the heartbreak I refer to has more to do with the sacrifices and lack of "family time" as a res
Pam Fullem
Aug 11, 2011 Pam Fullem rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Just finished "Killer Stuff...". It was an fascinating look into the world of antiques and collecting. I loved how this world can teach you so much about history, and have a better appreciation of craftsmanship. This book is kind of fictionalized non-fiction. By that I mean that the author has changed the names of many characters etc. in the book to protect their identity. This is a world in which you have to be very knowledgeable to not get "taken" in purchases. There are many reproductions, re ...more
Oct 17, 2011 Heidi rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, junking
I'm a small-time reseller of vintage goods so I thought this might be an interesting read. It was okay. The dealer "Curt Avery" that the author profiles deals mainly in what he calls "Pilgrim-century" goods and primitives--true antiques because they're more than 100 years old. He is contemptuous of people who buy and sell the 'vintage' goods that I'm a fan of--items from the 30s to the present. He bemoans the fact that nobody wants expensive OLD antiques anymore, especially when the economy is s ...more
Apr 12, 2013 Kathleen rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I had no idea when I picked it up that is was going to be 80% biography and 20% about the antiques business. I thought it was going to be a cultural historical analysis of the American flea market. That said, my favorite genre is biography/memoir, so I enjoyed this so much more! The main person she follows for years is perfect because he covers the low, middle and high ends of the antique business. I really felt like I got to see the "behind-the-scenes". This book re- ...more
Aug 31, 2011 Angel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of shows like American Pickers, Auction Kings, and Antiques Roadshow.
Recommended to Angel by: I won from a Good Reads giveaway
I finally finished the book. I finished it about a week ago, but it took me a while to find the time to write the review. And I am glad I finally got to it because this is a book worth sharing with others.

Stanton spends time with and "shadows" Curt Avery (a pseudonym), a mid-range antiques dealer (you learn from reading this book that there is a hierarchy when it comes to antiques and those who deal in them). Curt may well be one of the few remaining passionate, knowledgeable, and honest dealer
May 31, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
I've always liked old things better than new things. Back in high school, one of the activities my ex-husband (then boyfriend) and I did, without fail, every Saturday and/or Sunday, was to go to the Raleigh Flea Market and browse through the stuff. I used to love the bottles, the old handkerchiefs, man, I used to use nothing but handkerchiefs for years (maybe I should get back into that), and I dreamed of furnishing my apartment with the solid wood and iron furniture I saw.

Guess I got the bug ea
May 16, 2012 Christine rated it really liked it
I am really fascinated with antiques and history which is why I enjoyed this book. It covers a wide range of subjects in a collector's world such as eBay, hoarding, auctions and traveling to antique shows. Through the duration of the book, it's easy to see why the business of auctions and antiques is so hard to get into due to the intense knowledge one must obtain about various objects. My mom and I love browsing historic houses and window shopping at antique stores, but I never realized there w ...more
James Cowan
Oct 06, 2012 James Cowan rated it really liked it
This book follows the author’s friendship with an antique dealer. She joins him on buying and selling excursions as he mentors her in the antiques business.

The book does contain some "salty" language. It gave me a sense of who the character is and if it would have been omitted it would have been a different read as the character in question has the knowledge of a college professor yet works as hard as any blue collar employee.

The many attributes to being successful in this line of work are revea
Jun 15, 2014 Taylor rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
I love antiques with a passion so I looked forward to reading this book and expected to devour it feverishly. However, it ended up feeling like each chapter was just a repeat of the last in a new location. A little over halfway through I decided to stop trying to see if it improved.

I'm giving it two stars because I think it would have made an interesting short piece but, as a full-length book, there just wasn't enough substance.
Jan 20, 2013 TCPils rated it really liked it
Stanton provides us with a first hand look at the ins and outs of the antique business by acting as the assistant to a professional dealer for several years. The book was educational and entertaining yet there was an underlying sadness that I couldn't quite put my finger on till I had a "Freudian" moment. It was right there in the title: the word "stuff". Yeah, that's what it's all about: Stuff! Buying, selling, trading, collecting, and accumulating stuff. It's not about money. It's not about gl ...more
Feb 23, 2013 Lucia rated it liked it
Killer Stuff and Tons of Money is a fantastic, educational read. The book provides a first hand look into the world of antiques: auctions, flea markets, and antiques stores through the eyes of the author through her collaboration an antiques dealer.

I think that the book provides plenty of useful information. However, at times, the author inserts information that digresses from the storyline of working with the antiques dealer. I found the information not particularly necessary. I think she had e
Jim Ford
Feb 18, 2016 Jim Ford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read about collecting, antiques, flea markets, and the amount of knowledge (and hard work) it takes to be successful in any collectibles field.

The book would have been more effective if their had been pictures given the detailed nature of the subject matter.

The information on the psychology of investing was very interesting as well.
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Maureen Stanton is an award-winning writer of creative nonfiction, and author of "Killer Stuff and Tons of Money," a work of immersion journalism that explores the subculture of flea markets, antiques, and collecting. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, a Maine Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship, and her work has been listed as "Not ...more
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