Traders Galore: A Featured Question with Forrest
Mr. Fenn, you were in the business of buying and selling antiques for many years. The history of an object is very important to its value. How were you able to always determine that what you sold was authentic? ~Martha A. from Peoria.
You’re really putting me on the spot Martha A, from Peoria, and what you say is true. Sometimes you just have to go with a gut instinct and have faith in human nature. No one can be an expert on every subject, and it pays to have a little street moxie. Experience helps also.
Once a trader named Alphonse came to see me. He always had a few interesting antiques and I enjoy bartering with him. This time he offered me what he said was Napoleon’s skull and he wanted $10,000 for it. The poor thing was about the size of an orange so I said, indignantly, “That can’t be Napoleon’s skull, it’s much too small.” He replied, “Oh, I forgot to tell you, it’s Napoleon’s skull when he was a kid.” My granddaughter didn’t believe his story and advised me not to buy it. I always do what she says.
That story reminds me of something that happened a few years ago. I’ve learned to look at traders with a jaundiced eye, but am cognizant that provenience is important.
So when Alfredo Luciana offered me the knife that killed Caesar and showed me a notarized letter from an important Italian general, I was suitably impressed. The letter certified that the knife had been in a secret vault in the Vatican since the 15th of March, 44BC. I was writing a check for a lot of money when my granddaughter said the blood on the blade smelled like catsup. I later bought her some bubble gum.
So Martha, when someone wants to sell you something you like, but about which you know very little, ask him to give you a money-back guarantee as to its authenticity. Or have a smart granddaughter.f
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