How I got started in the antiques business

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.

Rare Handel Elk lamp

Rare Handel Elk lamp

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.

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