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Ethical Etiquite and Antiques

  We have Fall, my favorite season, when the turning leaves burn with colors, at times so intense, they stop the heart with an overwhelming sense of awe. The air is crisp, clear, and bright, the tomatoes are ripe, the apples are out, and it is a perfect time to journey leisurely to some of the farther destinations you do not always attempt. Along the shore and up the river, accompanied by
fabulous color and perfect weather, are for your further entertainments, a caravan of antique shops, each with a constantly changing inventory: the objects come in, dance around a bit, and depart to new territories. So take advantage of the autumn and go antiquing.

For this particular journey, at this particular time, one must include a ride on the ferry between Chester and Hadlyme, a fun (and cheap) shortcut across the Connecticut River that affords spectacular views of foliage on both sides, with the added pageantry of water and reflected color. The Connecticut River Valley has been designated one of the world's "Last Great Places" by The Nature Conservancy, and the winding river roads and ferry ride is one of the best ways to experience this. Perched high above the Hadlyme side is Gillette Castle, newly renovated, refurbished and now open once again, definitely worth a detour visit.

But before we cross the water, a few remarks about antique shops and their proprietors. If you frequent the antique marketplace, you are aware that each shop, like a fingerprint or a snowflake, is unique. The one thing they share in common, if they are reputable dealers, is a code of ethics. Every profession has one, and it may be beneficial for the antique buyer to know what the basics are, and how you should be treated by us. Sometimes the code is folded, bent, or otherwise compromised by situation, but by and large, these are the rules, and what you can expect from an established antique dealer.

1~ All goods should be priced. (This is the most egregious oversight by many of us who are sole proprietors. Sometimes we don't get around to marking inventory, sometimes we don't price because of risk. In my case, if an item is not marked, expect an added courtesy discount for your having to ask the price, a solution I hope gets me off this toughest of hooks.)

~ The dealer accepts responsibility for descriptions of items given to customers and should provide the customer as much reasonable information as possible about the goods, details such as
-   the approximate date of manufacture, or actual year if hallmarked, or date marked
-   the material of manufacture (type of wood, metal, etc.)
-   the maker's or artist's name, or attribution, if known or available
-   any repair, restoration or later additions, if applicable
-   all facsimile or reproductions should be marked as such

~ The dealer should be forthright in her description, and not mislead, confuse, or otherwise falsely describe any goods offered for sale, or sought for purchase.

~ Details of description whether verbal or marked, should be included on a shop bill of sale which clearly states the address, telephone number, and date of purchase.

~ If a dealer accepts a deposit payment for goods and extends you terms for a purchase, the terms of the transaction, record of deposit, and date by which full amount is to be paid, should be duly recorded upon receipt of deposit. Consignment transactions should be recorded in the same fashion, with agreed upon terms so stated.

~ The dealer shall not make unsolicited visits to private domestic premises.

~ The dealer shall apply standards of fair dealing equally to members of the public and fellow dealers.

~ The dealer is required to cooperate to the best of  their ability with law enforcement and consumer protection agencies, as required.

~ For - fee (professional) Appraisal Valuations shall be provided in writing, signed and dated, with appropriate and sufficient documentation, and with the particular purpose so stated (insurance, gift, etc.) All matters should be in accord with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USAP), the principles of practice and code of ethics of the Appraisers Association of America (AAA), and the American Society of Appraisers (ASA). (Since professional appraisals require a high degree of expertise, are time-consuming and detailed, and involve an intimacy with the client, it is important to select the right individual. More on this in a later column).

~ The dealer will support and foster education and enjoyment in the vast arena that is antique.

Every antique shop is truly one-of-a-kind, and their proprietors are all individuals. The code embodies a courtesy and candor that is essential for success. So enjoy the turning leaves, and go antiquing.

Susan Alon is proprietor of MiRIAMGREEN Antiquarian Bookshop & Gallery located in the downtown Clinton Historic district (Rt One). She is a professional appraiser, former curator and rare book librarian, and is one dealer that provides as much detail as possible-for her the research is one of the satisfying parts.


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