Killer Stuff and Tons of Money by Maureen Stanton is a wonderful book to read and a hard book to categorize. It’s part biography, part memoir, part history, and part philosophy.

This lively nonfiction book follows Stanton as she reconnects with a college friend, “Curt Avery,” who has become an independent antique dealer. She identifies Avery and several other people in the book with pseudonyms to protect their privacy and their business interests.

Avery makes his living through his ability to spot valuable objects as a result of his years of hands-on education in antiques, gained by working at auction houses, listening to other dealers, visiting shows, and, most of all, doing extensive reading and research in every spare moment he can find. The book follows Avery on his quest to find and resell items, and as the book progresses, we watch him become more specialized as a dealer, focusing on items with a higher return.

But more important than Avery’s financial life, we learn about the intrinsic value Avery places upon the history and beauty of the many unique and often forgotten pieces of our past that dealers and collectors help bring to light.

In this sense, the book is a biography of Avery, and we learn about his family, how he got into antiques by digging for bottles as a young man, and his personal investment in preserving early American items. But the book is also a memoir of Stanton’s own journeys to accompany Avery on long days and nights working at antique shows, and weekend shopping trips to large markets and tiny yard sales. We learn as she learns about the inside of the business.

Stanton also includes long sections on the history of certain antique and collectible items, and she includes some context about the recent popularization of antiques through TV shows like Antiques Roadshow and celebrities like Leigh and Leslie Keno. Her own reading and research is evident, and she quotes from a variety of interesting sources, providing the reader with a solid list of books for further study.

The writing in Killer Stuff and Tons of Money is clear, descriptive, and vivid. I enjoyed following Stanton and Avery through the world of unique objects and the people who collect and sell them. I would recommend this book not only to those with an interest in antiques, but to anyone with an interest in the effort it takes to succeed solo entrepreneur, be it at high-end antique shows or on eBay.

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