What you see: Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems In Flea-Market America by Maureen Stanton. $17.00 (paperback), Penguin Books.
Does it fit in my purse? Yes.
Cut to the chase. Should I buy this book? Yes.
I like Curt Avery, though I haven’t met him. Or maybe I have, and I didn’t know it; Curt Avery is not his name. (He asked the author for anonymity, and she granted it.)
Avery is the center, the linchpin, the load-bearing wall of Killer Stuff. If Stanton chose wrong, the book would fall apart.
Stanton did not choose wrong. Killer Stuff kills.
It does this despite its obviously neutered title (it’s drawn from a quote by Avery that appears on page 257, and he didn’t say “stuff”) and despite tackling a topic the uninitiated regard as bloodless–the world of antiques.
By putting an exceptional human being at the center of her book, Stanton gets at the endless, grinding challenge of the hunt for killer stuff in a visceral way.
Having Avery as the focus allows her to weave in the obligatory bits of historical information and industry-specific terms into his story, seamlessly and painlessly.
We see Avery tested and challenged out in the wild, in auction sale rooms and antiques fairs, sometimes winning and sometimes not.
She shows how winning in the world of antiques is not just spotting a prize that others have overlooked, or getting to the right booth at the right time. It means passing on the golden-looking thing that you sense, in your gut, is not on the up-and-up.
She also manages to include Antiques Roadshow, the San Diego Comic-con, and the Brimfield Flea Market.
The great test comes at the end, when we say goodbye to Curt Avery, newly 50, in the year 2010. Do you want to know what happened next? I know I did. I still wonder about Curt Avery, and I still hope he’ll find the score of a lifetime.
Worth buying new, at full price.
How to buy Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Please purchase it from an independent bookstore near you.
Image is courtesy of Penguin Books.
Killer Stuff and Tons of Money was originally published in 2011.
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