Publisher: Icon Books
Publication date: 9/5/2013
Indie publisher Icon Books has made quite a name for itself by releasing mass appeal nonfiction books in history, politics, philosophy, psychology and humor. The creators of the Magpie series imagine hobbyists in any category can be as curious and eclectic as the acquisitive blackbirds.
Icon Books released its most recent Magpie title in September penned by antiques expert Marc Allum. A freelance writer with 16 years as a London auctioneer, Allum shares his knowledge of collectible treasures, memorabilia and ephemera in The Antiques Magpie: A Fascinating Compendium of Absorbing History, Stories, Facts and Anecdotes from the World of Antiques.
“We are by nature acquisitive. We all collect. It’s not something that is always physically manifested in the sense of a stamp album or a collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. You can collect just about anything, even quite intangible things like thoughts.”
Alllum writes of catching the collector’s bug early. With a spade strapped to the crossbar of his bicycle, he would ride to an old bottle dump near his boyhood home and spend hours digging up 19th century specimens to load into a canvas rucksack.
“My desire to acquire objects with louder voices grew and instead of mineral water and sauce bottles I wanted 18th-century claret bottles resplendent with seals. Now I wanted to know who had owned them. And there you have it; I had caught the disease that is antiques. There is no known cure.”
The Antiques Magpie focuses on the British obsession with collecting. Allum appears as a niche specialist on the The Antiques Roadshow, which is in its 36th season with 6 million viewers every Sunday evening. Show venues include Canada and Australia and licensed formats are popular in the United States as well as Sweden.
Allum writes that a normal day on the set includes filming 50 different pieces. Producers place ads in local newspapers where filming is scheduled and wait for collectors to send letters. An advance party visits as many respondents as possible. Then the experts make decisions about what items to appraise for an episode.
A variety of hoarders have had appraised items featured on the show—bibliophiles and numismatists as well as philographists (autograph collectors), sphragistiphists (seal and signet ring collectors) and tegestologists (beer mat collectors).
“So what, after all these years, are the objects that most stick in my mind? Napoleon’s attaché case was pretty exciting; Marc Bolan’s Gibson Flying V guitar was also impressive; a plate from Captain Scott’s ship the Terra Nova, probably handled by the great man, was a very powerful object; and a torch made from an old OXO tin in the Second World War, presented by a glamorous lady in 1940s dress.”
The Antiques Magpie by Marc Allum is a worthwhile read focusing on stories, facts and anecdotes from the world of collecting from a niche specialist on the The Antiques Roadshow.
Category: Nonfiction, Antiques