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Money, influence & stupidity

Talk about being in the right place at the right time, he was positioned in the perfect spot. When the craze hit Southern California and the computer nerds became the financial darlings of the art market and the antiques trade, he was there with money, influence, and stupidity.

I had know him for a number of years from college and on into the business world. He was always an oddball seemingly just the other side of sanity. His true genius came out when the computer appeared. It was as if his calling was always with the technology of the system. Where it took others days or even weeks to master a new program, he could do it overnight. Of course this meant staying up all night but he’d do it.

Eventually everyone turned to his mastery of the computer to take on one business task after another. He was so busy that his finances grew and grew without his spending a dime on anything. The companies he worked for and with picked up the tab for just about anything and everything he wanted or needed.

Furnishing the office

Eventually he became one of the go-to people in the industry and with that came the need to settle down into an office and a support staff, and all things business. Where I came back into the scene was at the moment he opened his office and he became fascinated with the idea of having cool things around him, things that would impress his clientele and, in particular, things that other people didn’t have.

value is personal 1

I was tasked with finding him the perfect rosewood desk, two Tiffany desk lamps, a 1920s Pica typewriter and a 1920s adding machine. He had what he called his wish list, a list he had evidently been making since our college days. On it were an amazing list of art, objects, memorabilia, and simple things, but things he nevertheless wanted to be surrounded by.

value is personal 2

What’s the budget?

When I asked what the budget was, he replied it was all a business expense and I was to get the items with no regard to the price. At first I didn’t believe him so I ran a number of items and prices by him before I purchased them. Finally he blew up and said he did not have time to mess with this, get the job done or he’d get someone who could. After that I spent his money (as instructed) freely and with no regard to cost, location, or condition.

He had asked me to locate one particular item, and to not irritate the trade I will refrain from identifying what it was exactly. I was in contact with one particular dealer who said he could get the item for me and set a high price for it as well. I stated I wanted to see at least a photo for it before I’d release any monies for the transaction.

When the day came and I went to see the photos I was amazed to see the item sitting on the dealer’s floor. I paused and inspected it, it was an original in better than average shape and exactly what the client had requested. I took my time, inspecting every nook and cranny, turned it over and inspected it from every angle. I could not believe what I was seeing.

Then the moment of truth came, just how much was this going to cost? I think I sucked in a deep breath and said how much? The answer shocked me; it was nowhere near what I had expected to pay and when I hesitated due to how little he was asking, the dealer reduced it another 10%. Seems the owner was happy to part with it as long as it was going to someone who knew what he or she were buying and could appreciate what the item was. I wrote out the check on the spot and paid for it in full.

I had the item shipped to my studio and not to the purchaser, as I wanted to clean it up a little before I delivered it. In the mean time I had called the guy to tell him the good news. And here is where things got strange. When I told him what the price was, he rejected it outright as being too cheap, meaning if it didn’t cost more it must not be a very good one. Mind you he had not seen it as yet and he was rejecting it because I had negotiated a good price for it. I was left in the lurch to some extent.

The plot thickens

I’d paid for it as instructed and in full, and now I was stuck with it. I called the original dealer back and here is where the plot thickens. The original dealer of the item suggested I bring it back to his place and that he, in the meantime, had found another one that was in better condition but would cost me an additional amount of money.

I took the item to his shop and we unpacked it, placed it back on the floor, and went to his office for a cup of coffee. Finally he says to me ‘want to see the other one’ he’d found for me. Of course I said and we walked back to the front of the shop to the same item I had just returned. He looked me in the eyes and said, here’s the finest one of these on the market today. No other one like it is in existence and because of that it was going to cost more, well a lot more than what the original price was.

At the price he wanted to pay…

OK I am slow to the uptake and it took me a minute to catch what he was saying to me. This time we shipped the piece directly to the buyer and told him what a beautiful and rare item this was and that because of that the price was …………… He was delighted with the item, told me he knew I could find exactly what he was looking for and, at the price he wanted to pay. Since I had already paid the dealer for the item I was fortunate that I gained the benefit from this sale.

Now before someone attacks me for such trickery, I did not charge a commission on the purchase and what I received was only a slight amount more than I would have originally received had I charged him the original commission. Remember I put my own money out originally and I took every effort to inspect and justify the purchase. He still has the item today and he is still in love with it. If I could find one on the market today it would cost double, if not more, for one in the same condition.

I should note his ex-wife got the Tiffany lamps and Lalique glass items, while he kept the desk, the typewriter and the adding machine.

About the Author

Lawrence Klepper

Lawrence Klepper

As an artist, Gallery Management Instructor, Gallery Director, Independent Curator, and Special Exhibitions Coordinator for City art museums, college art galleries, and commercial galleries in Califor...