With tongue firmly in cheek (we think), Satirist and Antique Collector Michael ‘Atters’ Attree casts his wry eye over the world of Ardingly Antiques Fair – collecting and dealing, giving us an insight into his singularly unconventional, whimsical and occasionally naughty view of the subject.
Please note that all views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the organisation and its management.
From millennia, “Dominus” Atte Ree, relic diabolist and Lord of the Manor begot a perverse legacy; “All Attree’s as yet unborn must amass antiquities, objet de arte and Wade Whimsies on a pitiful budget.”
Thus I, “Atters” Attree, prostrate my dark affliction, expertise and ongoing cash flow problems at your disposal.
WTF! aka; Whata Terrific Find!
“Excusez-moi monsieur, I’ear you say you like the strange yes? I too, I have curiosité you like to see maybe? Here, come!” I was at IACF Ardingly and had noted this exotic far flung ghetto of French stalls earlier. The potential purveyor of mysterious delights had now piqued my lust for unspeakable ‘objets d’horreur.
Indeed Normandy’s Monsieur Emmanuel Beder (as he’d introduced himself) advertised unhallowed interests within his steely stare alone. In short, this stall had potential! Having reached the end of a row of nodding gilt Catholic fancies Emmanuel opened a centuries old coffer and from it produced a rather stoutly girthed antique walking cane.
Swordstick canes are a delight in my books (unless one’s being stabbed of course) and I merely expected this to be one too. But housed beneath its simple silver screw top was instead a ridiculously long glass phial. I’d never seen an antique stick flask before (only vulgar reproductions begging prices of up to £1000). Retaining its original patina this proved to be a handsome piece.
Most late 19th century box wood ‘Tippling’ sticks (they are also termed) generally originated out of Northern Europe as penny bizarre novelties. Throughout America’s period of Prohibition such clandestine ‘portable bars’ witnessed an understandable revival in popularity. I can only surmise that a cane connoisseur (or alcoholic) would delight in owning one to this day. Emmanuel’s cane (pictured) was in fairly good condition; the silver screw top had a few dings but in all it seemed original and “honest”. The price was honest too at just £80 (probably £65 with a skilled haggle). Most similar examples fetch upwards of £170.
I liked Emmanuel. He wasn’t trying to sell a thing; we just revelled in his objects of the macabre and unusual. Yet his novelty stick (and other oddities) were all well and good but I needed more… So he obliged. As if in deep veneration he carefully unfurled an ancient rag to reveal an exquisite looking small antique dagger. Mesmerized I knew instinctively this was no ordinary knife – but why and what? In a deep Normandy accent he eloquently elucidated.
The weapon was French and a “prostitute’s secret garter dagger” used for self defence during the Napoleon III era (circa: 1870). My first thought being I bet her punters gave a good tip (to avoid losing theirs). Such blades are also referred to as a Spade-beard, spike bearer and the rather apt “pique-couille” (testicle picnic). Its well thought out construction consisted of a carved barley twist style hippo ivory hilt with a fluted cruciform cross section steel blade and full needle tip. Its crescent shaped pommel had a thumb recess to facilitate a good force during a quick stabbing (total length including sheath: 17 cm).
There’s an ongoing myth that triangular cruciform “quad edge” shaped blades inflict such heinous wounds they’re near impossible for surgeons to repair (the same being said of its supposedly “banned” French bayonet counterpart of that time); however I have found nothing to support what appears to be a complete “stabby dog” story. Emmanuel’s example here was for sale at a very reasonable £250. As he carefully removed its original precision sheath, a Louis XVIII chandelier tinkled in the breeze, and I thought I heard a guttural sigh in the air plead the words “Feed meee Blooooooood….”. In the end it was just his phone inside the coffer (set to “vibrate only”).
The Atters Ruse: The House Clearance
As was tenderly noted in my previous Ruse (Author Archives: Atters Attree), dealing with a dearly departed’s chattels is traumatic at the best of times. Unless of course it’s that whiffy widowed uncle from the penniless “other” branch of the family; the one who’s heartfelt Christmas gift was to us – annual hilarity! In such cases a local house clearance firm of “antique dealers” may be sought.
As if by magic, a strange travelling circus will appear at the door, eager to cream off those trifles. They’ll be in and out before the corpse is cut from the carpet. The flamboyant way such vendors call themselves ‘antique dealers’ is a true marvel. “Refuse collectors” would be nearer the mark. However, their sand sifting services prove invaluable within the antique trade being a first rung on the buyer’s ladder. I have to admit to ploughing through their strewn crates of chaos myself. My Prince Andrew wedding mug (sadly now even further reduced) cost mere shillings (plus a tetanus jab at casualty).
But let us return to the case at hand and hark the rag-and-bone man’s motto: “Trade the whipped cream and the cherry; dump the custard and the jelly.” In other words, there’s silver in trifle. Why pay such conjoined nomads when you can make a few guineas yourself? Most pensioners hoard reams of Green Shield Stamps. Their medicine cabinet could fell a festival. As for uncle’s Electric Blue videos; well, hair is back in fashion again. Each pointless vulgarity can be flogged with ease – there’s a legion of “vintage” buyers out there. Once that’s been sorted, only THEN call up the totters. They may moan incessantly when you charge them the honour but they’ll gleefully lap up those flaky Panatelas, malleable penile implants and feral clawed tins of Kitekat (these “connoisseurs” are hardly discerning). Here the luck continues; it won’t be your white van which cops the fine (when everything’s dumped in a lay-by afterwards). After all; “It’s what uncle would have wanted”.
Non-binary Antiques Joke (BADA Unapproved)
Camp antique dealer; “I wouldn’t say I’m genderqueer… Just buy curios”.
ATTERS ANTIQUES: We Are NEVER Closed…