The Expert

Some of you may or may not know that, apart from being an endodontist, I am also a dealer in antiques. I specialize in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Tunbridge Ware, which is woodenware decorated with intricate patterns and pictures formed from tiny pieces of natural wood.

My wife, Lesley and I have attended fine art fairs the length and breadth of the UK, including “Antiques for Everyone” at the National Exhibition Centre. Naturally, we have met quite a number of characters but the ones that really upset dealers are the so called “experts”. Usually, they have watched Bargain Hunt or some such television programme and now believe they are extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of antiques.

I got my own back on one such “expert” much to the delight of my fellow dealers.

We were standing at a fine art fair in Harrogate, Yorkshire when along comes a man with a number of “disciples” in tow who were hanging on his every word. He was a few stands down and I could see he was giving his followers the benefit of his “knowledge”. Eventually, he arrived at our stand. He pointed at a writing slope I had on display similar to this one.

Writing Slope featuring Bayham Abbey

“Oh look!” he shouted with glee, “A Tunbridge Ware writing slope! And look at the price!” He turned to his little group of followers, “There was one on Bargain Hunt a few weeks ago and it sold at the auction for HALF that price!” There were a few mutterings of “rip-off” and “It shouldn’t be allowed” from members of his group. The art dealer across the aisle looked at me and raised his eyebrows.

Expert turned to me “Do you know there was a slope like this on Bargain Hunt not so long ago?”

“Yes” I replied.

“It went for half this price!”

“I know.” I said

Expert went on. “It was the same condition as this in every way! I know the buyer and he showed it to me after he had bought it.”

The art dealer opposite was engrossed in the exchange and he had prodded the glass dealer who was now also watching with interest.

“You know the buyer?” I asked.

“I certainly do.” Expert replied. He pointed at the writing slope with an accusatory finger, “And THAT price is a total rip-off, sir!”

I kept my cool, relishing the moment. Other dealers were now engrossed in the exchange of words.

“Do I know you? I asked Expert.

“No, I don’t think so.” He replied.

“I didn’t think I did. So you cannot be telling the truth.”

He blustered and went red in the face. “I can assure you, Sir that I am telling the truth!”

“No you’re not,’ I said, “How do I know? Because I bought that writing slope at the auction that featured on Bargain Hunt.”

His face fell, his little group of followers gradually dispersed, disappointed that they had been led on, and the dealers around me were giving me thumbs up signs.

Steve Cowling. Tutor.

© J S Cowling Ltd 2016

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