It can be a confusing world out there for the uninitiated. Long gone are the days when you could simply pick up a price guide, flip to your desired page and get an idea of the cost of any given antique.
Not only is there the great abyss of the Internet to deal with – and we all know that info gleaned from the Web is best viewed with a skeptical eye – there are appraisers galore, auction houses, television shows and more than a few blogs.
Add to this the proliferation of price guides – there is a guide for just about any subset of collecting you can think of – and it’s hard to be sure where your information is coming from, if it’s current and, most importantly, if it’s correct.
I tend to turn to an expert I know, or any of the myriad Web resources available when I need to research, but that’s mostly because my job means I need to be online and on the computer more often than not. It’s a matter of convenience, really. I do have to say, however, nothing is quite as satisfying as paper; a big, thick book, well-used and dog-eared, in which I can just turn to the right page at a flick and get what I need.
This, then, is what Trader wants to know this week: Do you use online resources, or print resources more when researching your antiques these days?
I use both all the time.
The Internet finds are varying, some false, some inflated (and sometimes the item misidentified), some dreadfully underrated and then there is “beauty (or in this case value) is in the eye of the beholder.”
I have a large library of research books – some very old, some quite current. I look up the information in the books starting with the oldest, work my way forward and then look at the Internet. If the same item appears in all places, it’s a good indication to me that it is “valuable” to someone. How valuable becomes a judgment issue for me based on the information I have gleaned from all possible sources.
I’m an eclectic collector – my family says my house looks like a store. It’s my son who owns a store and I frequently help him in the research. It’s fun and I’m addicted.
Your question regarding sources for arriving at pricing for antiques and collectibles is an interesting one. I’ve grown a nice library of reference books and price guides over the years for the items that interest me and that I collect. However, it is clear in these areas that the price guides are not accurate for the 2008 economy.
Nonetheless, I use them as a starting point for buying and pricing and I back that up with Internet searches of prices realized on several sites that allow members access to recent sales data. The other thing that I use to arrive at my prices for selling antiques and collectibles is knowledge of the venue in which I plan to sell them.
In my brick and mortar antique mall booth, I know the typical clientele, what sorts of things sell well there and the price points that I need to observe in order to sell consistently. In my online store, I know that I have the entire cyber-universe as potential customers and as such, there are things that will never be offered anywhere but on the Web.
Fragile items, more valuable items, items with international interest, rare and unusual items will only be offered on the Internet where it is likely that they will reach a larger audience, not be broken by excessive handling, not be subject to shoplifting and are likely to be found by the special or advanced collector/buyer who is looking for very distinctive pieces for their own collection or for a specialized customer. In either venue, however, all prices are negotiable!
Carolyn’s Timeless Treasures
As a certified personal property appraiser I find the Internet to be a valuable source of information when researching. I can type in “silver marks” and there they are. I can type in a pattern name and find both current retail prices and auction results.
I still do research at local malls, shows, retailers, etc. when the situation calls for it, but I rarely use price guides except for information on makers, experts, etc. If all else fails I will use a current price guide.
Beverly Morris, ISA CAPP
Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago we asked our readers what the single best thing they ever bought at a shop, show or auction was, and the responses continue to come in.
I love the Antique Trader (which I’ve taken for many years), and your recent articles including readers’ comments have been very interesting. In answer to your question “What is the single best antique you’ve ever found at an antiques show?” how would I ever decide?
We have 98 pieces of antique furniture plus two sets of dining chairs (I just counted) plus 40+ lamps, etc., etc., etc. I love them all! Many were purchased at antique shows.
I guess the one item I’m most enamored with is a very unusual, small 28-inch-wide mahogany china cabinet I found at Scott Antique Market in Atlanta. For a long time, I had been looking for a corner cabinet for a little corner in our dining room and could not find one. Then I found this cabinet!
It had probably been in a barn for 40 years because it was all grungy, had a loose leg, and didn’t look like much. Now, after getting it cleaned up and having a mirror put in the back, it looks absolutely gorgeous. It has glass on three sides and holds all our pink elegant glass serving pieces, which we use with our Heisey flamingo place settings. What a glorious piece! Quite reasonable, too. I will keep it until I die! (Our son and his wife want it after that.)
Hi. I am replying to the question in the antique trader: What is the single best antique you’ve ever found at an antiques show?
I haven’t been to an antiques show yet, but look forward to it. I did, however, find an original Charles Schulz Peanuts comic strip, which was kind of rare since it had a character that had only been in a few of the strips, and was faded out of the series very early.
I bought it at an estate sale for $4,000 and sold it for $24,000. Also I recently went to an estate sale and got a box lot that had a silver plate piece by Bernard Rice & Sons. It was a water pitcher in the Skyscraper art deco design. It was designed by Louis Rice, one of the first skyscraper designs.
I bought the box lot with a total of five pieces in it for $7. The water pitcher is roughly valued at $2,500-$3,000. Some great finds.