ABC - Antiques, Books, Collectibles
By RAY deTHY
We frequently have customers come to our store or contact us on our web page and ask “What is the item(s) that people are buying?” or a variation, what are we buying? These questions are really the same except one is asking what they ought to buy and the other is what can they most easily sell to a dealer. These were so intriguing that I decided to use a questionnaire to find out what selected antiques and rare book dealers thought were best answers.
The rather astounding result was the preponderant response – for both buying and selling – lamps. This may seem as strange to you as it was to me, but in retrospect, it is “right on.” Lamps can be useful, attractive, antique, collectible and nostalgic. They also can be expensive, as a high-end decoration and/or as an investment.
We have always tried to buy antique or collectible lamps, but they are offered infrequently because of the reasons mentioned above. When an estate is being dispersed, for example, there are heirs who want utility or collectibility or investment possibility, or rembrances of the deceased, so few lamps make it to the open market. Thus, the results of the survey are appropriate. A great many customers want lamps (of varying age and quality), and a large number of dealers want to buy. Both circumstances lead to scarcity!
Today’s column presents views of various lamps together with a brief disclosure of each and ends with the customary values and tip.
1950 Stiffel 28-inch table lamp. This classic post-war lamp was a prime example of decorating a home at a time of good economic growth. It cost $60 then and sells for $175 now.
1910 Arts and Crafts 14-inch desk lamp with slag glass inserts. This is an example of the movement that emphasized clean lines and simple decor with quality workmanship. Today’s value, $250.
1926 Handel 22-inch bronze base and etched pattern glass shade Library lamp. Handel was the designer/maker of lighting fixtures that were “almost” competitive with L.C. Tiffany’s in the early 1900s. The workmanship was equivalent, but Handel never reached Tiffany’s cachet. Value, $800.
1950 Knoll Industries stainless steel swivel-turn Club floor lamp. During the 1950s, there was a resurgence of ’20s and ’30s Art Deco styles. The major player in this movement was New York’s Knoll Co. It had distinguished designers who did plain line pieces made of quality metals. Value, $225.
Pair of 1930s 28-inch sterling silver bases with cream glass shades Banquet table lamps. These large, high-end torchiere style lamps (defined as open tops rather than light flowing downward) were expensive in their day at $100 each. Today, with the high price of silver, they are $750 per pair, mostly because of the silver value.
Handel 1910s bronze base and stained glass shade 24-inch side board/table lamp. Another classic Handel that is almost undistinguishable from Tiffany except a similar Tiffany is valued at $20,000 and the Handel shown here is valued at $2,500.
1930 brass 14-inch desk lamp with “chipped ice” shade. A quality, vintage lamp made by a less prominent maker from one of the Connecticut firms. Value, $150.
Tiffany 1920s bronze harp style floor lamp with “chipped ice” shade. This example of Tiffany’s designs is one of the simplest forms. Valued today at $2,000. This makes it one of the least expensive Tiffany designs. It’s interesting to note that the shade is the valuable part of the item because of its fragility. The bronze base (by itself) is a $200 to $250 price tag.
Modern 2010 faux bronze and stained glass floor lamp. This is a poor copy (both in design and workmanship) of a Tiffany/Handel original. It looks great, and at a distance it could pass for an original. Its value, though, is only about $250.
21st-century 15-inch faux Arts and Crafts style desk lamp. Another reproduction of a sought-after earlier original style. Again, “looks good, but isn’t.” Value, $40 to $50.
Pair of 1940 small 12-inch crystal cubes and marble base boudoir lamps with small silk shades. The clean lines and simplicity of these well-made lamps were typical of the 1940s style. Value, $150 for the pair.
Quality 1980s crystal 15-inch boudoir lamp. This item is well made and mimics rather well earlier cut lead crystal lamps made by Waterford and other glass works in the 1940s and ’50s. This example is lead crystal, but its design is achieved generally by a “molding” process rather than by hand cutting. Thus, the value of $100 to $125.
The things to consider when buying or selling lamps include the following, each of which markedly impacts the price:
Highest prices are paid for fine-condition examples, including all aspects except wiring. From a safety point of view, new wiring will nominally increase value.
Shades (especially those made of glass) usually represent up to 75 percent of the total value. Any damage is a major negative for the item.
Signed pieces as opposed to items that are “attributed” to a maker bring highest values.
Lamps that have known makers’ bases and shades that are not original to the item (known as “married” pieces) are worth far less than matching original parts. This is the most significant concern when buying investment-quality lamps. Make sure that all aspects (except wiring) are original.
Beware of lamps described as Tiffany or Handel (or any other known maker) style of lighting unless you’re buying or selling a lower-value decorative fixture.
Finally, be clear within yourself on the reason you are buying or selling lamps or any other items. The basis for a transaction should be compatible with that. Decorative, investment, utility, nostalgia are all acceptable rationales, but do not believe that just because a decorative purchase gets 20 years older, it is going to make it anything other than a decorative lamp. The same applies to the other original reasons for buying or selling anything.
Ray deThy is the owner of Verde Antiques and Rare Books and Verde Appraisal Service, both in Manahawkin. He has been an appraiser since 1985.
If you have an item you would like to have considered for a future “Values & Tips” segment, e-mail particulars and a photo(s) to email@example.com or mail to Verde Antiques and Rare Books, 73 East Bay Ave., Manahawkin, N.J. 08050. Also, include a telephone contact. Material submitted will not be returned whether it is published or not.
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