Ancient artifacts at prices that won't bury you

You know how it is. You're sitting around the house with your wife, looking at a blank space on the mantle, and wishing you knew what to put there. Finally, she turns to you and says "Honey, we've waited long enough. It's time to buy a 5,000 year old Sumerian phallus statue." You look back at her, stare deeply into her eyes and say "my God, it's like you're in my head."

Or you're hanging out in the bedroom and something just doesn't feel right. You try moving the furniture, taking down the framed posters, rearranging the curtains. Still, something is off. Finally, you realize that the room's fung shui is out of balance and can only be rectified by the addition of an ancient Egyptian Eye of Horus amulet.

Okay, it's not like anybody needs to buy antiquities. But they're still really, really cool. There's something about holding an item that has survived for thousands of years. It helps you weed out the nonsense. After all, when you're contemplating the eternal, it's easier to forget that your best buddy "accidentally" beaned you in the head when he got a little too excited by his game of "Guitar Hero."

If you want to pick some pieces of ancient detritus, there are a few options. You can try robbing a museum (be sure to wear black tights and invest in the Batman-style utility belt...and don't get caught. Even the Getty has had problems with going this route.) Alternately, you can go begging to an obscenely high-priced retailer (it helps if you have a couple of kids and are willing to sell them into slavery). Perhaps you can take the Indiana Jones route and try robbing ancient graves; this technique is always helped along by a cool fedora and a crooked customs inspector.

If robbery, retail or otherwise, isn't your bag, try the Sadigh Gallery. In addition to its extensive online offerings, it also has a paper catalog and a store at 303 Fifth Avenue in New York City. Because it deals directly with archeologists, Sadigh's prices are well below the going rate. Best of all, it is willing to dicker, in the ancient tradition. I've been visiting the gallery since the early 1990's, and have never paid more than a hundred bucks or so. Of course, I focused on the mummy beads and low-level ancient coins, leaving the more elaborate items for wealthier patrons.

Still, even though I'm a lower-level customer, the Sadigh guys have always been incredibly nice. Most important, they guarantee their merchandise, and their client list (including a few museums) bears testament to the quality of their goods.

Best of all, antiquities tend to keep their value. They might not be the best hedge against inflation, but let's face it, there will always be a market for a mummified cat.

Bruce Watson is a former English instructor, sometime writer, and all-around cheapskate. A co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea, his work has appeared in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, The Roanoker, The Brush Mountain Review, The Eccentric Monthly, The Best of Times, and College Daze. He currently blogs on Crankster.

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