Is antique collecting highly addictive?

Antiques dealer and writer Edd Thomas of Edd in the CloudsEncompassing the thrill of the chase and all the excitement of unearthing a long-lost treasure, is it any wonder that collecting antiques can be addictive? Edd Thomas reveals the gambler in all of us

It is with surprising regularity I am asked two questions by members of the public: “Is this your only job?” and “Isn’t what you do like gambling?”

The first I tend to brush off quite easily (even if it leaves me questioning my attempts to be seen as a respected antique dealer). But the second is harder to answer.

It may be easy to puff up your chest and explain how antique dealing requires dedication, research and years of honing your eye and curiosity to maximise the opportunities.

Luck of the Gambler

But, on the flipside, it also includes risk, luck and the ability to trust your instincts. In this respect, it is probably closer to that of a professional gambler than many of us would care to admit.

After all, a gambler walks the line between clarity and stupidity, recognising when to go all in and when to
fold. Antiques can also be something of an addiction.

Endorphin hit of Antiques

Now, I don’t know many people who struggle with an accounting addiction.

And, while antiques don’t yet come with their own public health warning, they can lead to very real addictive tendencies. It is the pleasurable hit of endorphins from a great purchase or sale which sends us straight back into the antiques market place seeking out the next high.

The Holy Grail

Who among us has not seen otherwise rational people opt to spend their last precious pennies on another item of stock rather than a warm meal? It is that hunger for the elusive holy grail that gets us up in the morning and coming back for more, even when all rational options are spent.

Tim Wonnacott unpacking items for sale in auction roomNow, like any good gamblers, antique people rely on a multitude of talismans, rituals and creeds to give them that much-needed edge in the marketplace. I once stood at a quality fair for an hour or two observing and noting down all the visitors who arrived through a central door.

While only 10 per cent went straight ahead on entering the hall, approximately 25 per cent went immediately left and 65 per cent turned right.

When it comes to fairs, for luck, I’m a clockwise-and-furthest-stalls-away-first kind of a guy, but I know plenty of others who dash to the sellers they know first before perusing the rest; or others who go to the unknown sellers first before approaching the ones they know.

Then there are those who opt for the inside stalls before the outside. Each of us has, of course, valid reasons for our own game plan but, in truth, fairs are a pot-luck event where tactics play little part in your overall success.

Superstitious Trade

Following on from rituals, creeds (like superstitions) are another element antique dealers believe gives them the edge. While they may be based in logic – in reality they are more about superstition than fact.

Take care when cleaning antique silverFor instance, I know one furniture dealer who refuses to put small pieces amid larger ones in case it diverts attention from the furniture itself. But equally, I know of others who swear by dressing their furniture with
“smalls” to enhance them.

I know silver and copper dealers who religiously polish their items because customers appreciate the elbow grease. Contrast this with sellers who maintain it’s the untouched natural oxidation that their customers love.

While every dealer I have met has his or her own reasoning behind their pricing strategy, which they claim gives them the inside edge over their competitors.

In truth, the antiques marketplace is so diverse that no single ritual or logarithm could ever understand or control it. Having said that, I wouldn’t bet against it.

Edd Thomas runs the Wiltshire-based antiques business Edd in the Clouds, for more details visit

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