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.
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 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.
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!