“My Dream is to Buy a Room Filled with Antique Silver and Gold”
Interview with Moshe Orman
Moshe buys and sells items of value. That includes gold and silver items (even if damaged or broken), watches, antiques, interesting coins, bronzes and pretty much anything he finds interesting. He has bought 100-year-old Rosh Hashanah post cards, collectable pocketknives and oil paintings.
How did you get involved in the buy and sell business?
It was completely by chance. We had some silver kiddush cups, candlesticks and bowls lying around my parents’ home. They were all tarnished and simply not pleasing to the eye. I asked my dad if we could go to the Agripas fair and sell it. We rented a table for the day. Everything sold. The next week I bought some silver from someone and did the same thing. That’s how I got into it.
What are the most common types of items that people sell and why do they sell them?
Most people have old gold items lying around. Everyone has old tarnished silver. In Israel there is a lot of that Judaica stuff that comes up. You know, like bisamim (spice) towers, candle holders, kiddush cups, silver cutlery, and jewlery. These are items that people have lying around and they would rather have the cash for them instead.
How does the saying, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” apply to your business?
Well, on one hand, my business is just that personified but, on the other hand, it’s all just treasure. Often when I go to someone’s house to look at certain items, the person is astonished when he hears how much I can pay. He looks at the item as if it is nothing special. I look at it as a gold mine. I have an important rule in my business transactions. I never buy according to the knowledge of the seller. I buy only according to my knowledge. Sometimes I can’t pay the price that the seller expects and sometimes I can pay much more. One thing is certain, if he has a treasure, I look at it as just that and pay accordingly.
I just read about a man who bought a Declaration of Independence in a flee market and sold it for 2.5 million dollars. What is your dream object?
I don’t have a dream object but I do have a dream buy. That would be a room filled with antique silver and gold collectables, all predating 100 years. It’s enough fun to find a few pieces here and a few pieces there but I would like to buy the lifetime collection of a big collector. That would be great.
What is the best thing about being a dealer?
The best thing about being a dealer is being able to meet all different types of interesting people. Interesting people collect interesting things. I would love to write a book one day on all of the interesting interactions that I have had.
How do you source your items?
I read a lot on what I deal in so I learn a lot that way. Also, a lot of items come up multiple times. At this point, I don’t see a new item every day. Things tend to repeat themselves with slight variations. There are also architectural designs which are a sure clue as to the time period. Sometimes the seller remembers where the item came from. There are many ways to source an item but some items’ limited data will leave me only with a hypothesis.
Who is your typical client?
I have no typical client. Everyone is my potential client. I guess that’s partially an answer to your last question. It’s great being a dealer because my clientele has no bounds. Some people want to scrap some gold and others want to sell a coin collection. Either way, I’m interested.
What has been your best buy?
I don’t know my best buy but recently I bought a silver enameled spoon made by Ivan Klebnikov, a competitor of Carl Faberge. It’s a beautiful piece and was fun buying it.
Are you scared you may buy something no one wants?
It’s very unlikely. Anything I want, someone will be interested in at some point. I can’t possibly be the only person who appreciates the aesthetic or historical beauty of a specific item. There will always be another person who will join in my enthusiasm and be happy to buy it.
What has been your biggest mistake?
I have made plenty of mistakes such as getting too excited about something. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that you have to sell the item in the end! Buying is the easy part. I once bought a fake Omega watch. I was sure it was real. Imagine my disappointment when my watchmaker opened it up and showed me the fake movement made in China. That’s part of the business. Risk-free is success-free.
What’s your next goal?
I want to continue learning about pieces and be the most knowledgeable dealer in Israel.