My special guest tonight is author and antiques dealer Duane Scott Cerny who's here to discuss his experiences buying and selling haunted possessions of the former living.
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SELLING DEAD PEOPLE’S THINGS is a wry, behind-the-curtain peek into the world of antiques and their obsessive owners—while still alive and after their passing. An amusing observer of the human condition, author Duane Scott Cerny entertains in illuminating, scary, sad, or frightfully funny resale tales and essays. Whether processing the estate of a hoarding beekeeper, disassembling the retro remains of an infamous haunted hospital, or conducting an impromptu appraisal during a shiva gone disturbingly wrong, every day is a twisted treasure hunt for this twenty-first-century antiques dealer. While digging deep into the basements, attics, and souls of the most interesting collectors imaginable, traveling from one odd house call to the curious next, resale predicaments will confound your every turn. Be careful where you step, watch what you touch, and gird your heart—Antiques Roadshow, this ain’t!
Awarded a poetry scholarship by Gwendolyn Brooks, the Poet Laureate of Illinois, I graduated from Northeastern University into the economic downturn of 1980’s unemployment. For a few years I stumbled from one (soon-to-be-going-out-of-business) employer to the next, then decided to try to fail in my own self-employment. I founded a legal word processing firm, On Disc, Inc., and it was a small but surprising success.
Parallel to this company, I partnered with my musical muse, David Bell, creating Persona Records, one of earliest house music labels in the U.S., producing legendary DJ Frankie Knuckles’s first vinyl releases and licensing music via my own band, Danny Alias. To this day, Danny Alias is bootlegged throughout the world and is even (legitimately) released in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and other fandoms of obscurity. Our mid 80’s underground hit “Civil Defense: The War Dance” has never gone out of print in it’s 30+ year history. So, yes, I am LITERALLY a collectible and have resale value!
But back to yesteryear: In 1988 I met Jeffrey Nelson and together we set off on an antique odyssey. From 1990 to 1998, we operated The Wrigleyville Antique Mall (WAM), one of the first modern multi-dealer vintage stores in Chicago. After tens of thousands of sales, countless fails, and the revelation of too many startling stories to tell in a single night of vintage debauchery, “Selling Dead People’s Things” documents a slice of those early years of vintage retailing.
Today, Jeff and I own The Broadway Antique Market, home to 75 top dealers. It’s Chicago’s largest multi-dealer shopping destination and every bit the vintage department store we had hoped it could become. For collectors of mid century design, BAM is a mini modern Mecca; for others, it’s a fun place to idle away an afternoon, people watch, and/or try not to buy something.
As for me: I’m older, not much wiser, creakier, and crankier. Oh, and my feet hurt. Thanks for asking. But yes, I’d still like to sell you a vintage chair. I’ll sit later