Sunday, May 4, 2008

London in the 1980s

Portobello Road
London has always been at the center of the antique silver business. Most of the major auction houses were started in Britain.

British Dealers are very astute and capable. Most of the dealers have been in the business for two, three and sometimes even four generations. The London dealers all form part of a large pyramid of dealers with a pecking order that one can hardly forget after being involved in the business over there.

As an outsider coming into the market from the USA, I learned that a buyer would have to be decisive in order to gain respect. There was also a fine line that I felt could not easily be crossed.
One Saturday morning at 6 am on Portobello Road, I knocked on a door of a shop seeing a group of dealers unpacking boxes inside the store. I saw heads shaking and fingers pointing at watches and knew that I was not welcome at that moment. The rules were made to keep insiders in after all.

I just happened to see a Gorham three piece mixed metal triangular shaped tea set on the floor and knew that that was the reason I was not admitted. The dealers knew what I would be interested in after all. I waited until the doors opened and ran after the dealer who had packed up the tea set.
I bought the tea set in the street at a profit to him.

That was the way it worked. I recovered my composure quickly and went on to have a good morning shopping.

The lesson here was not to begrudge a dealer a profit but to do business. He got out of bed for the same reason that morning... to earn a profit. I was looking for something glorious and specific to take back to the States and have something to offer to my customers.
Britannia Fine Silver