Antiques dealers get started in a myriad of ways. For Staci Thompson, it was pure intrigue. For her business partner Pat Camp, it was a desire to edit her own home. Pat opened an antiques booth that allowed her to sell and upgrade. Appraiser John Jones’s interest began with his grandparents, both collectors. Regardless of how they became involved, their fondness for the hunt has grown, and along with it, their knowledge and circle of like-minded friends.
In the world of antiquities, it’s hard for the untrained eye to discern value. “Staci and I didn’t go to school to learn how to be antiques dealers, ” Pat says. “We’re pretty much self-taught.”
Their curious nature is sated through an antiques class at Samford After Sundown taught by Dan Brooks, the former curator of Arlington. “The classes are a wealth of information, ” Staci says. “Dan’s knowledge is so varied.”
Additionally, both dealers are members of the Friends of American Art through the Birmingham Museum of Art. “Curator Graham Boettcher has become a good friend. We travel with him to museums and shows. Our new love is the Antiques Roadshow.”
Also a fan of the show, Roadshow guest expert and appraiser John Jones rounds out the group of friends with his accreditation as an appraiser and consultant for Pall Mall Art Advisors. “We all learn from each other, ” Staci says. “Pat and I may find something at a private sale that we think is great, but we all love to discover the real value of a piece, and we can help each other with that.”
Their interest and desire to find those very special treasures only increases as they attend more estate sales and more Antiques Roadshows. The trio of experts is more than happy to share their knowledge—and if they don’t know the answer, they have plenty of friends who do.
ABOVE LEFT A collection of Antiques Road Show passes shows the friends’ enthusiasm for the show and for the sport of antiques.
ABOVE RIGHT Staci found this pair of pewter candlesticks in an estate sale for $40. Research revealed their authentication in a Pewter resource book. Experts Leigh Keno and his brother Leslie Keno priced them at the Antiques Roadshow and placed a value on them that well-exceeded their modest asking price. Since this story, the candlesticks are on display at the Birmingham Museum of Art in the 17th-century collection.
Appraiser John Jones has the good fortune of being first in line to see many of the South’s private collections. His career calls him to place value on art, antiques, and interesting objects—and, if the client desires, he works with auction houses to broker a sale. His degree in the Appraisals Studies Program from NYU, along with his private work and professional affiliations, have taught him more than a few things about determining value. Here’s some of his favorite advice.
1. Do your research ahead of time. If you are seeking a particular piece, learn everything you can about it before you start shopping. That way, you can arm yourself with smart questions. The internet is an amazing resource, but it can be tricky. Never underestimate the power of books.
2. Buy from a reputable shop and ask to meet the dealer. There’s always more to a piece than meets the eye, and they will be able to give you the full story.
3. Save all of the receipts and ask for any existing documentation. Save any research material that you discover. The more history you have on a piece, the more valuable it is.
4. Never buy what you don’t love for yourself. The antiques and art market can ebb and flow. There is a lot of money to be made in this industry, but it can be as tricky as playing the stock market.
5. Pay attention to repairs and imperfections, but don’t let them stop you from a purchase if it is something you love. “People love to see evidence of a piece’s age. It has no story to tell if it is perfect, ” John says.
6. If you have a large collection, have it appraised. “The majority of the time, pieces and collections are horrendously under insured, ” John says. “When you have a professional appraisal, there’s no question about legal binding if something should ever happen.” And, he says, an appraisal is surprisingly inexpensive.
WHAT IS IT? WHAT'S IT WORTH?
Dealer Staci Thompson’s own home is filled with her personal collection of treasures. A walk through reveals just how intimately she knows her stuff. “I like things that have meaning, ” she says. Some her favorite items are as follows:
ABOVE A plate rack in the kitchen displays a mix of contemporary pieces by NALL and antiques. “I love the mix of colors and genres, ” Staci says.
ABOVE LEFT The Thompsons’s gallery is a curated collection of museum-qualtiy pieces, personal portraits, and a sketch from Petru Botezatu, the Romanian artist who spent five years (beginning in 1994) painting the Dome of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University.
ABOVE RIGHT A collection of rare books includes some documented authentication. “Any paperwork that comes with a piece to let you know where it came from makes it more valuable, ” Staci says.
ABOVE A collection of silver Victorian spoon warmers reside under a portrait of hands—a Road Show scene stealer.
ABOVE LEFT Appraiser John Jones splays the pages of a fore edge book (circa 1823) to reveal the hidden illustration.
ABOVE RIGHT A collection of Coin silver shows a variety of hand engravings. Most Coin silver (composite is 90% silver) was made in the 1800s from actual coins due to a lack of raw material. Sterling pieces had all but replaced Coin Silver by 1870.
ABOVE Staci’s living room is filled with her favorite collections. “I never buy anything that I wouldn’t want to keep for myself, ” she says. “Pat is always trying to edit me. I love color, and I love having lots of interesting things.”
ABOVE The Thompsons’s 1922 home is one of the few one-story Warren Knight Davis homes located atop Red Mountain.
- John C. Jones, USPAP Appraiser and Broker of Fine Art, Exclusive Appraiser and Consultant for Pall Mall (Birmingham and Nashville) 877.850.3878, [email protected]
- Pat Camp and Staci Thompson, Thompson House, a shop located in Interiors at Pepper Place (owner Grace Bentley), 2nd Avenue South, 205.323.2817
text by Cathy Still McGowin • photography by Jean Allsopp • produced by Missie Neville Crawford