Caitlin's Reviews > Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America

Killer Stuff and Tons of Money by Maureen Stanton
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's review
May 22, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011
Read from June 16 to 19, 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 away from all of them. If I suddenly became a billionaire I'd collect art and first editions and maybe that's my real problem - my tastes are too expensive for my means.

Killer Stuff and Tons of Money provides entertaining insight into the lives of antique dealers as they move from show to show, collecting items for themselves and for others, and always in search of the Holy Grail of the one good thing. It's a field that has an extremely high barrier to entry, requiring encyclopedic knowledge of material objects, their makers, their historical context, and their shifting worth. Ms. Stanton's book gives those of us who can't hurdle that barrier insight to what it's like in the world of collectors.

There's an interesting conversation to be had about whether the assigned worth of an object makes it worth having or whether it's worth having just because it appeals to you. I don't typically buy objects as an investment, but intellectually I can understand why people do so. This book definitely stimulated my thinking about what people buy, how they value it, and why.

Ms. Stanton's book provides history and examination of all kinds of information related to stuff, including some tips and tricks of the trade (although I wonder how many people could really utilize these). Curt Avery, the star of the show, is engaging and interesting and full of history. The read is consistently enjoyable and the experience is much like reading a thriller as you get sucked into that search for the illusive one good thing.
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