How to Find the Good Stuff
This is probably the best reason to pay a dealer. In theory they should be better informed than almost anyone and should know the mechanics of the local market well. The reality is like every other profession a handful are exceptional. The majority not so much.
Great things are usually found in clumps. The do not reach the auction house or most of the websites. They are very easy to sell as there are a good number of buyers. This is true even in rotten markets like the one we just went through.
Estate sales are their own kind of headache. For practical reasons a highly knowledgeable dealer or two will be used to roughly evaluate the inventory by making strong offers that wont easily be beat for the few great pieces and helping in general with the rest. Again the great stuff goes away long before the sale. Certainly every agent will deny this is the case. The best sales are invitation only as the agents can’t afford loss and the chaos of estate sales is forbidden in most luxury CC&R’s. High end real estate is probably more restrictive.
The auction houses are less reliable by the second. The list of exclusions to the guarantees is breath taking. Unless you have very good advice or are buying at such a modest level that quality is not a concern proceed with caution. Often the property is owned by the house. Unfortunately after almost 35 years they still zing me a few times a year. We all want to believe we have found a treasure. Chances are the more hands it has passed through the chances probably diminish.
Old university towns are a good bet along with consignment shops in the area. You might see if there are church flea markets or thrift shops. We hope to find cast off 1st editions or good antiques in need of small repair. For most people this is just stuff.
A funny story to end this dry tale. Driving through an edgy part of town I saw a dining table and chairs that looked plausible. I pulled over and exchanged greetings after a bit I asked her about the set. At this point I knew it was 1920ish and no home run. I was told the set was 35k. I told her that was quite a price and I wondered what she could tell me about it. She explained it was a very rare Duncan Hines. Happy Hunting and don’t forget the money.