Linda Dawson

Show 'n Tell for Grownups


Linda Dawson is an expert in tangible personal property. If she hadn't sold her business to a young man from Sotheby's, and if she and her husband Ken hadn't retired, she would be busy providing appraisals for estate planning and estate administrative purposes, charitable donation, insurance scheduling and loss, or marital division and litigation. In the business for more than three decades, Linda's prowess encompasses art, antiques, fine furnishings, jewelry and collectibles.

However, Linda didn't start out as an adept appraiser who went onto learn the fine art of auctioneering, she started out as a first grade teacher.
"Apparently, I fell in love with show 'n tell, and the rest is history," Linda said. Her appraisal and consulting business came about after her grandmother died and she inherited many wonderful antiques. "I started my business in 1977 only because I had made so many mistakes," Linda admitted.

Linda Dawson has a mission in life. When a person inherits an heirloom, she believes they become a caregiver. "My mission is to help people learn about what they have," Linda said.

When she is not visiting her mother in North Carolina or summering in Maine, she volunteers at the Bargain Box pricing collectibles and teaches classes at the Lifelong Learning Center. She also started an antiques interest group for the Sea Pines Women's Club and has developed a series of talks for the residents at Seabrook. Her instruction, for the most part, focuses on how one would go about researching vintage possessions.

Linda went from simple estate tag sales and auctions in a gymnasium at the Gill School in Gladstone, New Jersey to a rented fire station in Basking Ridge. With a burgeoning business, Linda eventually ended up setting up a 16,000 square foot gallery in a warehouse in Morris Plains. Linda made profitable connections at Sotheby's and Christie's, which meant regular trips to Manhattan. Linda and Ken, who left his field of engineering to join his wife in the antiques business, were busy seven days a week serving the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.

In 1999, the Dawsons opened an office in Palm Beach, Florida. From there, they were chosen to handle estates of notable celebrities, Perry Como and Charles Kuralt, for example. For good reason, Linda was a frequent participant on "Chubb's Antiques Roadshow" appraising decorative arts and silver. She often appeared as a guest on a popular Palm Beach television program called Wealth and Wisdom. Clearly, when you routinely sell a thousand items a month, sometimes auctioning sixty items in an hour seven days a week, there's not much guesswork. You're the expert everyone wants to talk to about their stuff.

When asked, Linda said, "Yes, we knew the Keno twins quite well. They've been to our gallery and we've been to Leigh's shop. Leigh Keno gave a presentation at a fundraiser I helped organize."

So what exactly was the event that triggered Linda's illustrious career? "It was the discovery of a woven blue and white jacquard coverlet made for my great-great-grandmother Leah Post in 1834 by I. Christie Weaver, a well known Bergen County weaver," Linda said. "My grandmother thoughtfully documented the piece. It's in a cedar chest, protected and preserved for the day I will pass it onto my son." Naturally, there's a bigger story behind the coverlet, but Linda would have to show it to tell it.

Going from Show 'n Tell to the Antiques Roadshow is a remarkable journey, but the concept is exactly the same. As one might expect, daughter Heather has chosen to follow in her mother's footsteps, thus preserving Linda's knowledge as well as her collection of cherished family heirlooms, which, like Martha Stewart says, is a good thing.

-Up Close-

Family: Husband, Ken, daughter, Heather (35), son, Jeff (33)
Moved here from: Morris Plains, NJ by way of Palm Beach, FL to be closer to her mother who lives in NC
Summer vacation spot: Swan's Island, ME
Auctioneer style: Formal English, dignified, not frenzied
Greatest joy in life: Having grandchildren
Latest fad: Collecting and selling, but not wearing, costume jewelry (