Joe Mollica wrote to me with the following question. How did you get started in the business?
The route I took to becoming an antiques dealer is similar to many others in the fact that I was a collector first. You can open a card shop or a franchise without much experience, but not an antiques business. Collecting first gives one the time to gain the requisite knowledge to be successful.
In the early 1970s, my sister bought a country house in upstate New York. One day she asked me to go to an auction with her to buy some items to furnish her house. I was more than a little bit reluctant, but she was convincing. So I went with my wife and my sister to my first auction. It was an old-fashioned estate sale where everything was there to be sold without reserve. We had no idea what we were doing, but we bought a few items — a rocking chair, a small rug — and had fun. We started attending auctions and bought without a plan, but antique lighting was especially interesting to me. I liked the idea that I could buy an antique that was functional. Handel, with its beautiful reverse-painted lamps, was the first company I gravitated to. I became knowledgeable quickly and was off to the races.
At the time I was teaching chemistry, physics and math in the NYC high school system. I’d never wanted to teach, but the army wanted me to become a private in Vietnam or teach. Hmm, tough choice. So for the 8½ years that I taught until 1978, I juggled both teaching and the antiques business. Because of the Women’s Liberation Movement, men could now apply for paternity leaves, so I took a leave for a year. My wife continued teaching, while I helped to take care of my young daughter. It allowed me to spend more time in the antiques business. The year was successful, so I resigned from the New York City Board of Ed and haven’t looked back. For me it was a good decision.
Please send me your suggestions or questions about art glass, lamps, Louis Icart, shows, auctions, etc. If it’s interesting, I’ll answer your question in a future blog entry.
Call or write and let me know what you would like to buy, sell, or trade. philchasen@gmail or 516-922-2090.