Antiques 101


People often ask “how do you know so much about antiques?” Besides a lifetime of experience, I had the best mentor in the world — the late John Banks.

John Banks
John Banks

I first met John in the early 1980s in Fayetteville, Arkansas. My mother and I met him at local auctions and admired his ability to always find the the needle in any haystack. His incredible wit, as well as his eye and taste, were things that legends are made of.

John Banks and I
John Banks and Me


Group of tiny items. Massed together they provide visual impact
A group of tiny items. Together, they provide visual impact

John took me under his wing and opened my eyes to a whole new world.  Every weekend from rural Oklahoma to the 26th Street Flea Market in Manhattan, we traveled to antiques shops and shows, flea markets, auctions, and estate sales.  If there were antiques for sale, John wanted to be there. At his side I learned the appreciation of southern antiques and fine country primitives, how to identify Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles, and how to determine silver plated items from Sterling or Coin Silver. My eyes were opened to mid-century items and I developed a knowledge of continental antiques.


Here are a few of the lessons John taught me:

  • Let your name be your brand, thus Roy Dudley Estate Sales.  John encouraged me to use my personal name for my business.  He said as you grow in life and your tastes evolve, your name will ground you.  Your name is your reputation.
  • Good buys are everywhere. High-end shops or the lowly garage sale can yield incredible bargains. Don’t count out any venue.  
  • As a dealer, know the difference between quality and kitsch. Both have an audience and value. Antiques follow trends — the best of any category will always retain their value. Trendy items may plummet never to regain their value.
  • Resist the temptation to buy things only because they are affordable. Buy items because they have a quality that speaks to you.
  • To enjoy the journey as an antiques dealer, you have the opportunity to learn something everyday, build your own collection, and make friendships to last a lifetime. Develop your eye and style. Always evolve.
  • Buy and assemble collections. Anything looks better as part of a group.  A good collection on display can actually create a market and new collectors.  
  • If you are presented with the opportunity to buy directly from an individual, always buy fairly. (It’s just as important to always sell fairly.)
  • Always buy original art.  The art market changes quickly but original art is more likely to retain it’s value.


I certainly would not have the experience I have today, and perhaps not my business,  if it were not for John Banks.

Walking sticks. By themselves, walking sticks have little impact – as a group, they become striking

John, my mother, and I attended an auction in my hometown of Elkins. John purchased what the auctioneer identified as an ‘old tin cup’ for one dollar.  True to form, the tin cup was actually an early coin silver beaker made by an early southern silversmith.  The cup now resides in the Historic Arkansas Museum. The funds John received from the sale of this cup were passed on to me to start my antiques business — now that’s a mentor. Thank you John Banks!




How Mr. Sturdevant Changed My Life

Marbles Fin

In the mid 1970’s there was a great antiques shop near Fayetteville called Sturdevant’s Station. Mr. Sturdevant was the quintessential antiques dealer. White-haired, he resembled a retired college professor with his sweater and dark-rimmed glasses. My mother and I often stopped there on our antique quests. Mr. Sturdevant always welcomed this little black-haired boy into his world of antiques, many times inviting me and my mother into his eclectic house for tea. There, we would explore his collections: tintypes (including one of Jesse James), antique firearms, powder horns, quilts, baskets, knives — the stuff of an 11-year-old’s dreams.

Mr. Sturdevant opened my eyes to collecting. He encouraged me to begin a collection myself, explaining the joys and the benefits of becoming an expert on a specific collection. My mother and I explored categories that interested me, but where to begin? Pocket Knives? Banks? Books? Watches? Indian Artifacts? Availability and my limited budget were factors to consider before starting my collection.



Rare comic strip marbles

One Saturday morning, I purchased a jar of marbles at an estate sale. Proud of my $3 investment, my marble collection was launched. By that afternoon I was showing my new collection to Mr. Sturdevant. To my surprise, Mr. Sturdevant excused himself to the rear of his house, emerging with a wooden cigar box. As the lid of the box opened, I stood in awe. The box was filled with the most beautiful marbles… marbles of far greater beauty than mine. His collection was unbelievable. He started his collection as a child and built it over his lifetime. That cigar box was filled with magic to me. Mr. Sturdevant sat and identified the marbles for me — Sulphides, German Swirls, Mibs, Agates, Slags, Bennington, Clay IMG_0965and China Marble, sharing specific memories tied to each one. Mr. Sturdevant offered me the opportunity to purchase his personal collection of marbles for only $60, which was an act of kindness. I now realize Mr. Sturdevant priced his collection far below their value and within my budget.

A book was included with the purchase of the collection: The Guide to Antique Marbles, by Clara Ingram. An incredible world of books about antiques had been revealed to me! I soon discovered other books about antiques and my lifelong journey had begun.

My first well worn antiques guide
From Mr. Sturdevant himself
My childish script






Thank you, Mr. Sturdevant, for revealing the world of antiques to this eleven-year-old boy in Northwest Arkansas. Luckily, I haven’t lost my marbles!


German swirls!  My favorites.
Bennington crock marbles.
Agates and tigers eye. That’s an agate not an olive!






Joseph swirl. Discovered excavating for bottles along the Mormon trail in Utah.
Agates, mica, glazed and unglazed China marbles. Very rare hollow steelie. All from the Sturdevant collection.
An extremely rare sulphide angel.

How Child’s Play Became A Career



Before the expert
An expert in the making


People often ask “How did you get started in the antiques business?” The answer is really very simple – there wasn’t a time in my life when antiques were not a part of it. So for me, it’s as deeply ingrained as another person’s love of football or cooking.  Most every Saturday morning my mother and I would head to rural auctions in the Washington/Madison Counties area of Northwest Arkansas. My mother’s golden rule of auction buying was “go early and stay late.” The best buys occur in the first few minutes and last minutes of most any auction. I also learned about buying box lots. Many times, great buys were hiding there. I was allowed to bid and purchase items on my own, usually buying box lots. Now, what’s a 10-year-old boy to do with all these items? Not a problem!

Aunt Hazel, my first professor
Aunt Hazel, my first teacher

Enter my magical Aunt Hazel. Most anyone traveling on old Hwy 71 heading to Fayetteville for a Razorback game or holiday drove past one of her famous yard sales in West Fork. She was the undisputed Queen Of The Perpetual Yard Sale. I would bring her a box of things I purchased at auction, she would rummage through the box, and after a deep inspection she would say “What did you pay for this box?” Roy: “$8.”  Aunt Hazel: “Ok see this picture — let’s tag this $8 so when that picture sells, your inventory is paid for. Now let’s tag and price everything else and when everything sells from this box, that will be your profit.” Economics 101. And just to keep life lessons real, Aunt Hazel charged me 20% to sell my items!

My sweet mother and I

My mother and Aunt Hazel are no longer with us, but every day I use lessons these great ladies taught me. My late mother instilled a love and appreciation of antiques in me. Her excitement, curiosity, and enthusiasm were infectious and a true joy. My Aunt Hazel inspired and motivated me to take a fun hobby and redefine collecting into a business — the very foundation of Roy Dudley Estate Sales.