For love of things that stood the test of time

16 Nov 2014 Khaleej Times

On the ground floor of Times Square mall, opposite the Italian eatery Biella, Hani Samman, a businessman originally from Syria, has a store called Seconds Used Items.

A boutique that buys mostly high-end luxury items and sells them at a fraction of their retail price, Seconds has a display of handbags from designers such as Gucci, Fendi, Chanel and Prada. They’re not big on American brands. Other than handbags, there are watches, tableware, jewellery, clothes, and even the odd pair of unworn shoes.

An imitation Monet hangs framed on the wall along with other paintings attempting the vintage look. There is also a motley collection of tables, bureaus, mirrors and sofas.

If it is to your taste, and wallet, and if the owner thinks you’re an ‘appreciator’ and not just a buyer, you could have yourself a deal. “Everything sells at one point,” he says, but not everything is for everybody. Time and patience factor in the business of selling antiques. “A fur coat doesn’t depreciate,” Samman explains. “There are some things I can’t sell to just anybody.”

And so a 1952 Patek Phillipe, even though it was seen and desired by many, finally went to a well-travelled watch collector, a local, to whom vintage meant something.

It’s Samman’s call what he keeps in the store but he says “he buys anything” — provisionally that is. The condition of the object naturally matters. And there are a few areas of which he stays clear: No books, no rare manuscripts, sports equipment or electronics. Roughly: Bags, jewellery and watches.

The colour and model matter, he says, straightening his posture behind his office desk and adjusting his curly grey mop. Quality and authenticity, too. If you go to him wanting to sell an antique clock that you believe has been handed down five generations in your family, and is at least 200 years old, Samman will want documentation to support the claim.

For the handbags too, sales receipts are important. Even though Samman says over the years he has developed an eye to instinctively tell what is original and what is fake, he has people do that for him. A purchasing manager with nine years experience in Sweden does that for him here. Also, the bags are taken to be evaluated to the companies they’re bought from, whether a Rolex or a Chalet; professionals will declare its worth.

The one thing Samman repeatedly states is that Seconds is not a consignment store. “All the items here have been paid for.” Nor do they buy and sell online, every transaction is done in person. “I once sold a (second hand) Chanel bag from 1981 for double the price of a new Chanel.”

And many of the bibelots in the store are not bought from people. They’re his own, Samman says, bought from boutiques in Europe and the US.  “Many of the items are second hand but not used,” he says. A lot of these are gifts.

Samman lived the first 20 years of his life in France, then three years in Canada — he has a Canadian citizenship. He has been in Dubai for the last 21 years and says, “Home for me is Dubai, and back home for me is Dubai.”

Samman is loaded with rich-people anecdotes. He talks about one villa in Al Hamriya area that “has the most beautiful antiques with $20 million worth of antiques. Oh easily! Easily!”

He talks of the man who walked into his shop and wanted to buy an antique engagement ring as he was about to propose to a lady. “I did not have an engagement ring, but I showed him a silver scroll used by the Sultan of Turkey and sent to the ruler of Rome ...” Samman suggested to the client that he write a letter on an aged paper and put it in the scroll, and if she accepts, to frame the letter in the future and have it printed on a cushion. The gentleman later returned with his fiancé, and she apparently said no one had ever done something so romantic for her ever before.

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