Killer Stuff and Tons of Money

Killer Stuff and Tons of Money

An Insider’s Look at the World of Flea Markets, Antiques, and Collecting

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Additional Formats
  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101516058
  • 336 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


One dealer’s journey from the populist mayhem of flea markets to the rarefied realm of auctions reveals the rich, often outrageous subculture of antiques and collectibles.

Millions of Americans are drawn to antiques and flea-market culture, whether as participants or as viewers of the perennially popular Antiques Roadshow or the recent hit American Pickers. This world has the air of a lottery: a $20 purchase might net you four, five, or six figures. Master dealer Curt Avery, the unlikely star of Killer Stuff and Tons of Money, plays that lottery every day, and he wins it more than most. Occasionally he gets lucky, but more often, he draws on a deep knowledge of America’s past and the odd, fascinating, and beautiful objects that have survived it.

Week in, week out, Avery trawls the flea and antiques circuit-buying, selling, and advising other dealers in his many areas of expertise, from furniture to glass to stoneware, and more. On the surface, he’s an improbable candidate for an antiques dealer. He wrestled in high school and still retains the pugilistic build; he is gruff, funny, and profane; he favors shorts and sneakers, even in November; and he is remarkably generous toward both competitors and customers who want a break.

But as he struggles for a spot in a high-end Boston show, he must step up his game and, perhaps more challenging, fit in with a white-shoe crowd. Through his ascent, we see the flea-osphere for what it truly is-less a lottery than a contact sport with few rules and many pitfalls. This rich and sometimes hilarious subculture rewards peculiar interests and outright obsessions-one dealer specializes in shrunken heads; another wants all the postal memorabilia he can get. So Avery must be a guerrilla historian and use his hard-earned knowledge of America’s past to live by and off his wits. Only the smartest survive in one of America’s most ruthless meritocracies.

Killer Stuff and Tons of Money is many things: an insider’s look at a subculture replete with arcane traditions and high drama, an inspiring account of a self-made man making his way in a cutthroat field, a treasure trove of tips for those who seek out old things themselves, and a thoroughly fresh, vibrant view of history as blood sport.


"Ms. Stanton captures the lower and middle echelons of the business with great skill, and her diverting and wholly unpretentious book makes a fine companion for a day at the beach—or a weekend spent treasure hunting at Brimfield." — The Wall Street Journal

"An intoxicating read that rips away the lace curtains from the antiques biz." — Parade

"After whipping through Maureen Stanton’s utterly engaging, heavily researched account of her old college buddy’s life on the yard-sale flea-market antiques-show auction-house circuit, I wanted to invite myself into his multi-state universe and hang out with all those dealers… Not since Larry McMurtry’s fictitious rogue ‘Cadillac Jack’ has there been such a charming emissary from the world of the previously owned." — The Washington Post

"Ms. Stanton has a light, sure touch…if you truly love the subject matter, you will truly love [Killer Stuff and Tons of Money]." — The New York Times

"A fascinating look at the life of professional dealers who check out all the stuff at these shows before the rest of us even show up." — The Associated Press

"Maureen Stanton rips the lid off the whole business of antiques, hidden gems, dealers and auctions and the fevered American trade in objects of the past…Shaker furniture. Navajo rugs. Heirloom jewelry. Whale bone and weathervane. She takes us deep into the antiques biz." — Tom Ashbrook, on NPR’s “On Point”

"Killer Stuff and Tons of Money is a deeply researched, memorably written narrative about the world of people who buy and sell antiques as their livelihoods…For anybody who treasures superb writing, this book will please page after page." — The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"One of those books you’ll start early and won’t really be able to put down or shake till you’re finished…You should be reading this book. You should be purchasing this promptly and giving yourself the time and quiet and cool to sit and get through the whole thing." — The Kenyon Review

"A fascinating look at Americans’ obsession with collecting stuff and searching the shelves of antiques markets for some kind of jackpot." — The Portland Press Herald

"A treasure-trove of a book, especially for would-be antiquers." — Kirkus Reviews

"Killer Stuff is a killer read. Enjoy it, then hop in the station wagon and see if you strike gold." — Bookpage

"Stanton does a great job of educating the reader, of weaving in the history behind both objects and shows and recognizable names…Start this book when you have lots of time, because you won’t want to put it down.” — New England Antiques Journal

"Fascinating…Anyone who has ever wondered what life would be like as an antique dealer should read this eye-opening account." — Detroit News

"Very well-written… a truly good education about the lonely and hard life of the single middle market dealer struggling to make ends meet…a must-read for everyone in the trade [and] a narrative that will appeal to many people." — Antiques & Auction News

"[Stanton’s] book educates and entertains while giving an honest insider view of the trade." — Maine Antiques Digest

"Full of interesting tidbits told in a fascinating way…I found this book hard to put down. [It is a nonfiction book so full of unbelievable stories you will think you are reading a novel." — Coastal Breeze News

"Treasure seekers will find plenty in this penetrating and lyrical account of flea market culture.  From the provenance of the Ouija board, to where to find the greatest "steals" in antiques (and it’s not where you think) Killer Stuff and Tons of Money is chock full of wit, wisdom and surprises.  As Maureen Stanton’s colorful protagonist puts it, "gold is where you find it," and this book hits the mother lode." — Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of CHEAP, THE HUNGRY GENE, A CHILD’S PLACE