Finding antiques through computerized service

Bonnie Lord, an enterprising antiques dealer in Kennebunkport, Maine, is launching a computerized service for listing and locating antiques. The computerized system may dispel the romance of finding the perfect chest of drawers in a dusty shop, but it cuts down on search time for dealers or retail buyers trying to find specific antique items.

''Like all dealers, I'm aware of how much time and money it takes to find something people want,'' Ms. Lord says. Many good dealers keep a ''want list'' of items customers are looking for and put a great deal of effort and expense into coming up with the desired items.

Ms. Lord's computerized service, called The Director, is named after a Thomas Chippendale book, ''The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director,'' published in 1754. The inventory consists of antiques listed by participating dealers in categories including furniture, porcelain, glass, rugs, paintings, silver, and textiles. Dealers can list items using a toll-free number and cancel them with a phone call when they are sold.

If a dealer is looking for an inlaid mahogany sideboard, for example, he would call the toll-free number and describe the item to the operator. While the caller waits, the operator scans the data bank to find dealers who have a sideboard fitting the description and gives the information to the caller. A printout of requested information can also be provided.

Currently the system is regionalized in New England, but Ms. Lord hopes to expand it nationally in the near future.

''I don't pretend this is the final word in selling antiques,'' she says. ''The dealer-customer relationship will always be important. It's just a better way to organize and sell items faster.''

A charter subscription to The Director costs $250 for six months. Subscribers may list up to 100 items of inventory free and make up to 50 inventory calls free. Additional items are listed for $1 each by telephone; additional inquiries are $2. Retail buyers are charged $5 for each phone inquiry.m

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