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s a sixty-six year veteran of the antiques business I can say that I am proud to be a member of the profession.

I have had the privilege of knowing many antiques dealers who have dedicated their lives to developing expertise in their field. Using their knowledge, they have purchased some of the finest antiques in America, while taking time to educate their clients for whom they have built outstanding collections. The public often does not realize the effort necessary to become a dealer: Any dealer of substance devotes years to developing relationships, to study, and to field experience before establishing a reputation.

The major service a dealer performs for his or her clients is the acquisition of objects; the greatest collections have been formed with the guidance of knowledgeable dealers. The Meyer collection, for example, was built entirely by Birmingham, Michigan, dealer Jess Pavey and my father Israel Sack. When it was sold at auction in 1996, it was probably the finest Americana collection ever to come on the market.

One of the abilities of a knowledgeable dealer is recognizing quality and value. When a collector buys an object of quality, it is enjoyed for its beauty, but also has investment potential.

In 1950, for example, Jess Pavey went to the Green sale on behalf of Bob Meyer to buy the Newport kneehole desk [Fig. 1]. Pavey paid the record price of $16,000 for which he received a $2,000 commission. At the Meyer sale, the kneehole sold for $3,400,000. In the same sale Barbra Streisand paid approximately $500,000 for a piecrust table that my father bought for $500 in 1910, sold to Wallace Nutting for $750, and then repurchased several years later in a private sale for $850 [Figs. 2, 2a]

The auctions have become the new game in town. They present an impressive array of offerings and as such are a major source in forming collections. Nothing, however, replaces the experience and time a dealer devotes to examining and representing objects, either through his or her own business or at auction on behalf of a client. The money spent on a dealer’s advice at an auction is money well invested. Dealers know the material, the market, the players, when to bid, and when to stop, not getting carried away at the sales and bidding beyond the value of an object.

The prudent collector hires a professional, usually a dealer, to select the superior objects. The best collections have always been formed by dealer-collector relations and that will never change.

I can remember the great rug dealer, Doris Blau, telling the following story. A prominent brain surgeon came to her shop one morning and said, “Mrs. Blau, my wife is going to a rug auction today. I wonder if you would give me a half-hour lesson on how she should make good buys at that sale?” Doris replied, “Doctor, I’d be delighted. I’ll give you a half-hour lesson, but when you come back I want a half-hour lesson from you, because I’ve always wanted to become a brain surgeon.”

Fig. 1: Queen Anne block-and-shell-carved mahogany kneehole desk, attributed to Edmund Townsend, Newport, Rhode Island, ca. 1780. Courtesy, Sotheby’s, Important Americana, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Henry Meyer, January 20, 1996, lot 48.

The advantages
The advantages of the services of the dealer are considerable:
1. A dealer carries an inventory that allows for a wide selection of objects.
2. Since a dealer puts his money on the line each time he makes a purchase, he is exercising his judgment to select the finest investments for himself and his clients.
3. A dealer provides objects in a relaxed environment, allowing for decisions without a time restriction.
4. A dealer guides collectors in the development of a collection depending on their needs and resources.
5. A dealer educates as well as sells, helping clients form educated buying decisions.
6. A dealer develops personal relationships with his client based on trust and the common interest each has in the pursuit of excellence. In my experience, some of these relationships last a lifetime and even extend through generations.

The ten commandments of antiques
Israel Sack once wrote the Ten Commandments of Antiques. I commend them to the reader:
1. Never try to beat an antiques dealer.
2. Remember that a dealer knows more about his own merchandise than you do.
3. Treat the dealer right and you will be treated right in return.
4. Molasses catches more flies than vinegar.
5. The friendship of a good dealer is a valuable asset to a collector.
6. Bargains in antiques are sometimes fatal.
7. If you desire a genuine piece, ask for it and be willing to pay for it.
8. If you want preference, put yourself on the preferred list.
9. If you can afford the best, buy the best.
10. The slogan “A good antique is a good investment” is absolutely true.

The investment record of reliable antiques dealers over the years is the best proof of their irreplaceable value.

Some personal reflections
Of course my role model was and still is my father, Israel Sack. When he came to this country from Lithuania in 1903, he went to work for an antiques dealer. He fell in love with American antiques and decided to open his own business. He became a purist, selling beautiful objects in the best condition and using his knowledge and personality to build lifelong relationships with individual clients and institutions. An approach continued by his three sons.

Fig. 2: Chippendale mahogany piecrust tilt-top tea table, Philadelphia, ca. 1770. Private sale catalogue, 1918. Courtesy, Israel Sack, Inc.
Throughout the sixty-seven year history of the company, we have developed strong friendships with many of our fellow dealers. This past year I said good-bye to some of the giants in the field. One of these men was my brother Harold who died in July. He devoted his life to following the mission our father established. Harold built many great private collections in whole or in part and helped to guide Clem Conger in furnishing the Diplomatic Reception Rooms in the State Department.

I also said good-bye to Jess Pavey, who single-handedly built great collections in Birmingham, Michigan, from the modest home in which he and his wife, Grace, lived. My father and Pavey were two giants who lived for principle. I can remember when Pavey called my father to tell him that the Priscilla Alden court cupboard was for sale in Duxbury, Massachusetts, for $1,500. I waited with baited breath until Dad returned—but without the cupboard! I asked, “What happened?” He answered, “the drawers in the base had been converted to doors.” For that reason he did not buy it.

The cupboard, now in Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, is a priceless relic, but dad was a purist.

Fig. 2a: Chippendale carved mahogany piecrust tilt-top tea table, Philadelphia, ca. 1770. Courtesy, Sotheby’s, Important Americana, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Henry Meyer, January 20, 1996, lot 217.
Another purist, Zeke Liverant from Colchester, Connecticut, also passed away last year. The son of a dealer, Zeke went on to became a major force in developing the stature of and appreciation for Connecticut furniture. Fortunately, his son, Arthur, is carrying on the tradition. Another giant was Hymie Grossman of Boston, Massachusetts, who two years ago passed away in his 100th year. You couldn’t buy Hymie’s integrity for all the money in the world. Of course, there are and have been outstanding figures in many allied fields of the arts. Fortunately, dedicated young dealers are emerging and developing scholarship and expertise, and are eager to help and encourage collectors.

Albert Sack is a principal of Israel Sack, Inc., New York, N.Y.

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