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Perhaps the most persistent question adults ask about any and everything they do is whether something is genuine? It is the question that no amount of self assuredness can adequately answer. From scams to straightforward disingenuousness, it is hard to banish doubt from our thoughts, not because we see bogeymen around the corner, but because everyone has been wrong from one point of view or another. Inevitably, the answer is about trust. For example, recent research has found that eyewitness accounts are not ironclad. So what evidence is truly trustworthy?

This dilemma is no less valid in the antiques world. There are people with reams of experience who make mistakes. There are people with little to no experience who feel competent at making judgments. Experienced dealers, particularly those who have bought and sold very high end pieces, know that mistakes are impossible to avoid and they also know that two minds are better than one and that three are better than two. When a lone person is making the call on a piece, it is time to talk to not one but two, maybe even three other “experts”. It is just smarter to understand if a judgment, up or down, really does hold water.

An article in the “New Yorker” about Apollo Rollins, a noted pick pocket who has explored the reasons why pick pockets are successful, leaves you stunned by how well he understands human nature. His recognition of personal space and how we allow ourselves to be conned in some situations and not in others is quite amazing. He has studied behavior and found the interstices of trust, at least in a physical sense, and he knows how to mine them. What it tells you is that we fool ourselves.

So who in fact should we trust, if we can’t really trust ourselves?