A debut guide provides advice for both serious and casual collectors.
Antiques Roadshow and Pawn Stars, two TV series referenced by the author, have popularized collecting valuable, mostly old items. These shows are merely eye candy compared to this finely crafted book by Stewart, a certified appraiser with three decades of experience. Here, the author covers paintings, nostalgia, books, artifacts, and even bizarre collectibles (such as Kate Middleton’s wedding cake and Ronald Reagan’s blood) in an engaging format supplemented by lush color photography. Instead of conveying a dry how-to about acquiring, valuing, and selling collectibles, Stewart delivers numerous vignettes, each telling a tale, to demonstrate the relationship between collector and object. What’s more, every case study illustrates a different key point to elucidate aspects of an appraiser’s role. For example, one story about Paris street scenes concerns the “importance of researching a particular painting’s genre.” An engaging tale of old toys owned by such luminaries as Jonathan Winters “shines a light on both the value and provenance of celebrity-owned objects.” An intriguing vignette about the gift of an old letter proves that “research is so often the real key to unlocking an object’s value.” Clearly, Stewart is not just an appraiser and collector of objects herself, but a collector of collectors’ stories, which she shares with candor, humor, and grace (scrupulously protecting identities with the use of initials rather than names). In addition to her anecdotes, Stewart includes a whole section of “Tips” in her authoritative book, with chapters on purchasing and selling at auction, buying in an upmarket, bequeathing collectibles, assessing value, and getting rid of things. She also provides her take on “the best and worst collections owned by my clients,” a particularly charming chapter in which she rates various objects (“The second worst area is collector plates and no matter what Bradford Exchange may claim, they are not salable and will be buried with you!”). Confessing that she buys “mainly from thrift stores,” Stewart closes with a list of her own cherished collectibles “still living at Villa Elizabeth.”
Highly entertaining and instructive; destined to become a collector’s best friend.