"In the January 9th, 1965 edition of the
Canada Coin News on page 31 there is a picture of actress
Carroll Baker and a policeman. Her Furs, Jewelry, and Coin
Collection had been recovered after a burglary.
Further to Mr Kolbe's comments on AUCTION ETIQUETTE
in that same paper there is an article on "knock-out" rings. Here
is the story, headlined "British Dealers Face Scandal":
[I've edited the article a bit to cut its length. Many thanks to
Dan for scanning it in. - Editor]
Disclosures of how some antique dealers get rich without
dealing has provoked a major reshuffle in their official British
organization. Membership in the British Association of Antique
Dealers is supposed to provide a sort of testimonial of reliability
to the public who buy and sell. The president and 13 members
of the Association's council have resigned after a public scandal
that exposed what one member called "club practices," and
others called plain cheating, and illegal at that.
It all began with an expose in London's Sunday Times early in
November. After five months of detective work, which included
sneaking a reporter with tape recorder and radio transmitter into
a secret meeting, the paper published details of a profitable game
called "knockout" by its players. Names were named,' figures
In one case, a small group of dealers shared a 500 per cent profit
made through the technique within a few hours. Despite Britain's
stringent libel laws, the Sunday Times had so many hard and
undisputed facts that nobody seriously tried to make it swallow
its words, or defend them in court.
The "knock-out" is run by rings of dealers. They get together
before an auction and agree among themselves to keep the
bidding extremely low on items of special interest. As soon as
the public sale is over, they gather in private for another auction
among themselves. The difference between the first purchase
price and the highest bid behind closed doors is then shared out
among the group participating.
In that way, some dealers can make several thousand dollars
on a transaction by neither buying nor selling, and everybody
involved shares in the bargain except the public. One
documented case of how the "knock-out" works involved a
Chippendale commode. It was knocked down at public
auction for $2,100, with the dealers in the ring deliberately not
competing with each other. An hour later, secretly, the
commode changed hands for $12,180, with the difference
divided up among the ring. Within 24 hours the ring winner
resold the commode at a further considerable profit to still
another dealer, not in on the game but with a wealthy,
well-known clientele. Eventually it showed up at the annual
Antique Dealers Fair and was valued at about $30,000. The
family who sold it got the $ 2,100, minus fees and commissions.
The "knock-outs" are organized in such a way as to make rich
dealers much richer, but they also make little dealers a little
better off. In fact, there are some people who make their
modest living as travelling non-salesmen in the antique business.
They turn up at country auctions where they expect the ring to
operate, help it by buying up the cheaper lots, or bidding on
them just a little, to give the appearance of diversity at the sale.
They they hurry to the "knock-out," turn over the acquisitions
they never wanted anyway, and go off with their share of a few
dollars for having cooperated.
What really brought the scandal to a head in the end was the
diffidence of a number of the former leaders of the Association
at demands to clean up the trade. Major Michael Brett, one
dealer, told the Sunday Times, that "I blame the stupid public."
The ring system, he said, "is inevitable" so long as sellers fail to
have their treasures properly valued."