Objects of Desire
This leaves the collector in the uncomfortable position of being dependent on others for judgment and in the antiques business that judgment costs money. The fallacy of this approach becomes clear, when you read this book and learn that not only do the eyes not have it, they often do not agree among themselves. I suspect it mostly comes down to ownership. A dealer who owes a piece will naturally prize it and another dealer, who doesn't, despise it. It probably comes down to communication and business skills like just about everything else.
Comparisons to the book business are interesting. It too is awash in collectible material and also faces unique challenges. Invisibility in the pre-internet era was the bookseller's boon companion. Material was generally difficult to find and led, with some dealer encouragement, to casual application of the label "rare" to many things it's now painfully obvious are common. Even today it is possible to see this most over-worked adjective applied on eBay to items plentiful and cheap on the listing sites. What is actually rarer is accuracy. And this makes it difficult for book collectors to get comfortable collecting.
For books, manuscripts and ephemera this is inexorably leading to a confluence of great cataloging and easily accessed research. The facts are increasingly available. What sells a collectible is its story and the buyer's ability to confirm the story before closing the deal. It turns out, by degrees, easier to be a skilled collector of works on paper than it is to know furniture. But don't take my word for it. Objects of Desire is a very satisfying book, available for less than the price of a Big Mac, not fattening and more satisfying.