Ian Grant scours the globe for exotic goods for his Minneapolis store, Björling & Grant. Each piece has its own valuable story.
1. Study the market
In Kathmandu, I was searching for a rare conch shell used to call monks to prayer. I found a few and haggled to see what they were going for. Then I spied a stunning one encrusted in turquoise. I got the vendor down a little, to $170, but we both knew this shell was exceptional—and priced right.
2. Shop out of the box
Getting into a dugout canoe in the middle of the rain forest in Suriname, I stepped over a pair of carved wooden paddles unlike any I'd seen before. I inquired with the boat owner, who sent me to the paddle maker, in a nearby village. I bought five, for $40 each.
3. Factor in personal experience
On my first trip to India, I whiled away afternoons in Darjeeling wandering the stores and bazaars. I ended up paying $150 for a robe that came over the mountains from Bhutan. Even if it was "too much," it will always remind me of that trip.
4. Let passion guide you
I bought a marble elephant at the Taj frickin' Mahal—the quintessential tourist-trap item, for $185 no less. Buying it went against all my rules. But I just wanted it. It's still in my living room.
Ian Grant's show The Relic Hunter debuts October 3 on the Travel Channel.