ANTIQUES - BEWARE
OF THE KNOCKERS
| Knockers have their eyes on your antiques
You may be aware of the pitfalls
when it comes to door to door selling, but what about door to door
buying? Known in the trade as knockers, they doorstep the vulnerable
with their eyes firmly on those treasured antiques.
Mrs Smith (not her real
name) from from Hadleigh, Suffolk, who wishes to remain annonymous, knows
all to well about the activities of this unscrupulous trade.
A few months ago, a well dressed, well spoken man in his
early forties, arrived on Mrs Smiths' doorstep attempting to rid
her of an antique chest of drawers - he was not going to take 'no' for
Unfortunately, Mrs Smith is not alone. Although
the practice began on the south coast, knockers now operate throughout
"These people push the borders of legality,"
says Detective Inspector Perkins.
"They try to persuade people to part with property
they may not want to part with
accepting prices well below market
are used to trick owners into selling their treasures
Tricks of the trade
Not one to be easily fooled, Mrs Smith assured the
caller that she had no desire to part with her property. However the knocker
had a trick - literally - up his sleeve!
A handful of live maggots posing as furniture beetles
were slyly placed in the drawer before the knocker offered to take the
chest away for free woodworm treatment.
Paul Hendry, a reformed knocker, informs us that in the
trade this is known as the Australian woodworm trick on account of the
creatures working their way up from 'down under'.
Knocking is by no means a new phenomenon. It dates back
to 1964 when a Brighton By-law banned fruit and veg sellers from working
on the streets.
The sellers adapted their patter from selling to buying
and began talking their way into people's houses, parting them from their
Paul Hendry began his career as a knocker when he was
only a child.
"I went on the knock aged 14 in 1978," explains
Paul. "In the first week I had earned £200 which was about
two or three times the weekly wage of a man."
Smith reveals how auction houses are fighting back
And Paul was not alone. In the past, knockers worked in
large groups of anything up to about 50 people.
Cheap holiday accommodation offered at seaside resorts
would form the perfect base for the knockers - Great Yarmouth Butlins
was a particular favourite informs Paul.
Today, knockers usually operate in smaller groups, calling
upon 'heavier' knockers, or even burglars for the more resistant clients!
In a bid to crack down on illegal dealing, auction houses
in Norfolk introduced a code of due diligence eight years ago.
The principle is a simple one. All sellers at auctions
are paid by cheque. For this, name and contact details are needed - a
requirement guaranteed to send rogue dealers packing as Alan Smith explains:
"The more the auction scene can do to make it difficult
for the thief to sell goods by auction, the less attractive it is to steal
in the first place."
But until doorsteps become knocker free, Paul has this
piece of advice.
"Any person who is going to knock on your door and
offer to sell something, or buy something off you - close the door!"