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Behind the Scenes: The Making of a Price Guide

What in the world possessed us to commit to producing a 550-page reference book that would take nearly 12 months to complete - and thousands of hours? I'm still not sure, writes Julie Carter...

So this is how it started...

There we were one evening, Christine and I chatting about the antiques trade and how it could really do with a Price Guide. There hasn't been one produced in Australia since 2013 and the market has changed quite a bit.

Some prices have gone up, some have (gulp) gone down and we were hearing too many tales about people who had bought things on eBay, Gumtree and other sites, only to find they'd wasted their money on reproductions and fakes.

And sometimes they'd wasted quite a lot of money.

What could be done about it, we wondered to each other. Well... a Price Guide would help. At least then people could look items up, find a market price and make an informed decision about whether that too-good-to-be-true bargain on eBay really was too good to be true.

But how would we fit in the work behind producing a Price Guide, when we were already flat out producing four antique magazines and designing two other quarterly magazines for other clients? What about, well, Sundays off or evenings watching Game of Thrones on telly? We'd have to give them up for a while.

We thought about it. And in our wisdom, we decided it couldn't be that hard. After all, we've already worked on 28 Price Guides when dad (Alan Carter) was producing them. We know what to do and how to do it.

And so we decided to go ahead and announce the Carter Sisters Handbook and Price Guide to Antiques, Collectables, Vintage & Retro in Australia 2017/18 Edition. Catchy title, isn't it? If a bit long. But it does tell you everything about the book... and already it's been shortened to the Carter Sisters Handbook, which is fine by us.

It's all in the timing

Once we'd decided to go ahead and produce a Price Guide, we had to decide when it might be released.

How long would we need to pull it all together? We had no idea, so we decided on April 2017 as the release date because it seemed achievable and was also far enough away so as not to induce panic.

That was towards the end of last year. At the beginning of this year, we decided we'd actually better set up a plan of action if we were going to get started on this book.

A few months went by - late January to mid-May passed in what seemed like a fortnight - and when we checked our proposed Price Guide schedule after sending the Autumn 2016 magazine to print, we discovered we needed to be Getting Started. Immediately.

And so we did. Our regular photographers Craig, Willie and Russell were dispatched across the country to visit antique dealers and centres, and nearly one hundred more dealers were contacted separately to see if they wanted to send in their own entries. We got permission from several auction houses to include specialist sales (this is because the sale results can affect the market) and we started compiling all the extra information - all the fun tidbits and quirky facts, the record prices and specialist bits and pieces we want to include.

There's a whiteboard in my office with the schedule scrawled on it and a quick glance tells me so far, so good. We've got more than half the item entries in already, and we're on target to get the rest in by early October. We'll start sorting after that (thanks dad - he's going to be commandeered as our Chief Editor, which will be interesting as he'll need to use a computer!) and then the design of the layouts will start.

By the time we get to that stage we'll be home and hosed, because that's the part we've done 28 times before.

Australia's Most Informative & Entertaining Antiques Magazine

I always wanted to be a model...

One thing we couldn't decide on was the design of the front cover. Given the descriptive name of the book, we didn't think we could represent everything with one photo. And we also thought - and this was a truly horrible idea - that we probably needed to be on the cover so we can brand it properly as The Carter Sisters.

And that's why, a week after this magazine goes to print, we'll be in Sydney photographing whatever is going on the front cover of the Carter Sisters Handbook. We've booked a photographer and have some vague ideas on what to do but you'll have to wait a month or so to see the finished result. And the great thing about publishing your own book is if we decide we don't like the cover, we can always create a new one.

The other main sticking point when we were nutting out how to do the Handbook (see - the name's already been shortened to one word!) was how much it was going to sell for. Because it turns out this is not a cheap book to produce. To be honest, we were shocked at some of the costs and that's why we ended up getting six and a half different print quotes (I say half a quote because for that one we only tweaked a couple of things, so it wasn't a completely new quote. I'm not sure the printer viewed it the same way).

Anyway, with some masterful cost-cutting we got the expected expenses down to where we could manage them. I just hope it's not like every episode of Grand Designs, where the budget ends up at double the estimate and everyone looks shocked.

Australia's Most Informative & Entertaining Antiques Magazine

And now for the good news

We had to get the costs down so we could sell the Handbook at a reasonable price, and that's where you come in (hopefully).

We're going to offer all ACPP readers an exclusive saving on the Carter Sisters Handbook. The recommended retail price in April 2017 will be $109, but everyone who registers for a pre-order in October will be able to buy it for a flat rate of $79 - and that includes secure courier delivery with Fastway Couriers. I almost wish we could throw in a set of steak knives (vintage with Bakelite handles) but instead we'll save you $30. It can go towards the steak knives.

The best part, if you're a subscriber to ACPP, is that we'll automatically send you the pre-order offer in October, which means you don't have to do anything at all. Just wait for the offer to be sent to you.

If you're not a subscriber to ACPP, you can register for the pre-order by calling us on 02 6653 7723, or clicking through to the pre-order notice.

And don't worry - just because you register to pre-order it doesn't mean you have to buy the book when we send you the order (although that would be nice). It just means you'll receive the order form.

Got questions? Call us on 02 6653 7723 or email info@acpp.com.au and we'll do our best to answer them. In the meantime, please excuse us - we have to prepare a few thousand images for print....

Vital statistics for The Carter Sisters Antiques Handbook:

  • 550 pages in full colour
  • 185mm x 260mm (slightly smaller than A4)
  • more than 5500 items fully described and priced
  • more than 400 snippets and current record prices
  • market overviews from specialist dealers
  • important results from selected specialist auctions
  • brand new categories for growing markets
  • hard cover with dust jacket
  • RRP $109 - pre-order offer just $79 (includes courier delivery)
  • release date mid-April 2017

Register now to receive our pre-order offer and SAVE $30! Fill out the form below:
(Pre-order registration will close on Monday October 10, 2016)

* All fields must be completed for pre-order registration

You'll need to supply your email address if you'd like us to email you the pre-order, or your mailing address if you'd like us to mail you the information. But we need one or the other!

NOTE: You are NOT entering into a sale by registering for pre-order information and no payment is required. Pre-order registration will close on Monday October 10, 2016