Antiques

Nov 08, 2012

I’ve just experienced a wonderful and exasperating situation – both at the same time and as a result of a single circumstance. My last column had a very positive and a negative impact at the same time.

During the last month, we had nearly 200 calls and visitations as a direct result of the column “What’s Saleable, What’s Not.”

The positive side was the dozens of people who brought us items included in the “we buy” list. The negative aspect was that dozens of readers brought things to us that we didn’t buy. This was confusing to both of us and disappointing as well. Reason: What I thought I wrote and what the majority of my readers thought they read were in many cases miles apart.

Examples:

I buy “crystal items by Heisey, Lalique and Waterford.” Some readers stopped reading after “crystal items” and brought “crystal items.”

I buy “first edition children’s books before 1970,” but children’s books that were not first editions were presented. In fact, most of what appeared was of the category that is saleable but of the wrong date or manufacturer or other variation.

In retrospect, this was totally my fault. I should have realized that most ordinary citizens have little knowledge of the brand names of crystal producers and have no way of knowing what a first edition is unless it’s so marked – and most earlier books had no such identification. And the list goes on!

The result was that a great many people spent a great deal of time selecting items to bring, packed them carefully and took time and effort to bring them to my store.

I, on the other hand, unwrapped them, inspected and rejected many, many pieces and repacked them and called the owners, who came and lugged them back to where they started from.

Too many people, including us, spent too much time, money, gas and expectations because I (who was trying to be helpful) used an umbrella of topics and definitions that were not specific enough to actually be helpful.

Today’s column is an effort to give easy and significant help to readers who are not antique and rare book dealers so that you have enough simplified information to be able to select and bring items to us (or any other dealers) that have a reasonable chance of being of interest.

I’m still not sure that this attempt will be 100 percent effective, but it will surely be better than my last try.

Today’s column adds details to items that are saleable (by my standards) that will make those of you who have item(s) to sell, better able to choose pieces that are more likely to be acceptable in today’s economy. Chances will be much better that what you choose, pack and deliver will maximize a dealer’s interest and culminate in a positive result for both parties and generate less wasted time.

The overarching criterion to sell an item in today’s economy is that it have no visible defects of any sort, plus it must have been made at a time when relatively few pieces were made or produced with a special technique.

What follows are details that will help you to better decide what items to offer us or other dealers that are likely to satisfy today’s market.

Five specific genres are included today with subsequent columns that will extend the number significantly.

 

1. Hummel figurines must have one of three marks on the underside of the bottom. 1, a crown; 2, blue or black V with a recognizable bee image within the V; 3, a blue V with a stylized bee within the V that looks like a small “O” with two attached wings on either top side. (See Photo #1)

Additionally, a smoking environment also generally produces a film on the figure that is not easily removed so that even a Hummel that has one of the noted marks will not be saleable because the nicotine residues cannot be removed without damaging the painted surface.

2. Limoges china is made in the town of Limoges, France. It is not the name of the china though many believe that it is. There are (and have been) as many as 35 or more companies that produce china in the Limoges region of France. They are not equally valued for at least two reasons: the quality of the undecorated white porcelain pieces and the surface decoration(s). Haviland is the most sought-after maker, and Charles Haviland material is generally at the top of interest. One of the Haviland family, Theodore, came to the United States in the latter part of the 19th century and is known for some high-quality decorations, but the china itself came from France. Later Theodore Haviland pieces (from the 1920s) are not as popular. Elite and Laviloette producers are also desirable.

Thus far discussion has centered around tableware, but Limoges companies also made vases and other decorative accessories. These pieces are collectible primarily for their surface art. Several French companies, such as Pickard, bought Limoges companies’ blanks and did incredible artistic imagery. The mark on this ware does not frequently include the Limoges connection.

You may possibly be bored by trivial detail by now, so – a change of pace.

3. The country of origin of products has more impact on identifying saleable items than one might guess. It is not a science but can be helpful in determining the correct age of any item.

Up until 1890, only famed manufacturers tended to indicate their country of origin. But U.S. legislation enacted in 1890 required that all imported products had to clearly mark the maker’s country. It was effectively enforced, and it is a credible way to establish proof of an imported piece’s date of production after 1891. Additional legislation passed in 1914 indicated that “Made in (country)” had to replace the name of country alone. World War I made it largely ineffective, but in 1921, there was a significant attempt to require “made in” to be used. It is useful, but not absolute, in dating an item as having been manufactured after 1921.

After World War II, Japan and some European countries that were occupied by Allied troops used marks such as “Made in Occupied Japan” etc. for various periods from 1945 – to as long as 1953 for Japan . There were lapses in enforcement, but after 1891, there is a high level of accuracy – far better than none, which is a good segue to let you know that if an item has no country of origin noted along with style and shape criteria, the absence of the country name usually can indicate very good antique pieces.

4. Trifari is a brand name for costume jewelry that began production in the 1930s. Most of its early pieces are extremely well designed, and some of its items up until the 1950s can be found made of sterling silver. This period brings much higher prices than the post 1950s. Fortunately, it can be easily determined which is early-made rather than the newer products by looking at the mark (see photo). The earlier items have a mark that includes a crown image on top of the first T. Later production has no such addition to the name.

5. Fiesta ware pottery china was made by the Homer-McLaughlin Co. in the 1930s. This early, colorful tableware has a mark that is shown in the photo. It was impressed into the larger pieces, such as plates, before it was colored and fired and guarantees that the piece is early (before the 1950s) and very collectible. Later pieces have been produced to emulate the original Fiesta ware but have no impressed mark, and such items are not of any collectible value.

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.

 

VALUES & TIPS

 

In addition to the specifics of today’s column, I wish to add a “self-help” way of helping many of you determine approximate values of items before you tote them to me or other potential buyers. The assist comes from eBay. Whether we like it or not, the real value of an item is not the prices that sellers ask for, but the prices that a specific item sells for.

An easy way to assist any of you to find what is the actual selling price of an item is to use the following process.

Go to eBay’s home page. In the upper right-hand corner, there is a box titled “Advanced Search.”

Click on it. Type in your item’s name, e.g. Hummel Barnyard Hero.

There are 30 or more options that you can choose, only one of which you should select. That one is “completed” listings.

Go directly to the “search” box. There is one at the top or bottom of the choices. Click on either.

All recent completed listings will appear. Some will show the price paid if the item sold. Many will show the asking price if it did not sell.

Assuming that your item is in the same condition as the completed listing item(s) that sold, you now know what your item is worth at retail. If you’re going to sell directly to a retail buyer, that’s the rough value. If you’re going to offer your item to a dealer, he or she is likely to offer you 40 percent to 60 percent of the completed listing value to permit covering expenses and making a profit.

If an item did not sell and its condition is similar to yours, look to see what is the lowest asking price that did not sell and you automatically know that the value is less than the asking price (or it would have sold).

Summary:

Looks complicated (and unrealistic to some), but it really isn’t.

When literally millions of buyers are searching for any one genre item, the value the item sells for is its worth at this time. The value may change in the future because of a better or worse economy or because buyers’ interest level for an item might be higher or lower, but as one of Elvis’ record album’s title proclaimed, “50,000,000 Fans Can’t Be Wrong.” Perhaps a bit exaggerated, but you get the point.

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 ray@verdeantiquesandrarebooks.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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