Antique Trader Inbox: What’s the single most valuable antique you’ve ever bought at a show?

Iantique trader inbox guessed it was only fair to open this question up to a broader range of sources, so we said: What’s the single most valuable antique you’ve ever bought at a sale of any kind? How’s that?

When I go to a shop or a show, I tend to forget value and buy with nostalgia. This doesn’t take me back too far, to the 1970s and early 1980s, so I always end up with a beaten-up Star Wars action figure, or dog-eared football card of some Dallas Cowboy I loved as a kid.

Once, though, on a lonely Sunday while waiting for a movie to start in Downtown Waupaca, Wis., I wandered into an antiques store to try and find something for my daughter. After an hour of looking, and believing I would leave empty-handed, I came to the last booth and saw it: A Lawson Wood print of two monkeys and a bear with the caption, “A good story, well told.”

I loved it immediately. The giggling bear, one wise ape scratching his chin with amusement, and one more monkey telling the story with an arm draped over the bear and a casual hand about to make the final point. The ground is littered with apple cores, nuts and banana peels. Simply awesome.
Monetary value? Who knows? Sentimental, seeing my daughter’s face light up whenever she looks at it and points, then says, “Papa!”?

You just can’t put a value on that.

So, what’s the single most valuable antique some Trader readers ever bought at a sale of any kind? Like me, those who responded felt that their best could not be valued monetarily, but rather, in other ways. Here’s a sampling.


After my father passed away, I went looking through many military photos online, since he was a decorated veteran. I served during the height of the cold war in Germany, so I also became interested in German militaria.

I came across a KGB file with a Gestapo arrest warrant. It contained photos of the female KGB agent, the arresting KGB officer and the agent’s sister-in-law and brother.

The file tells of her role in the Nazi resistance, falsifying IDs and documents for the resistance, her capture, torture, the torture of her family and eventual execution of her brother and sister-in-law.

She survived through all of this and I found her story inspiring. I ended up paying more than $2,000 for everything. Probably much more than it is worth but, for some reason, having the original documents seemed that important to me.

If you or anyone has any idea of their actual value I would be curious to know. My email is

Ron Wolsky

Schicke Letter AT 4-9.jpgNoah:

My wife and I collect African-American memorabilia, including the smalls like salt and pepper shakers, prints, advertising and so on.

The one piece that we couldn’t pass up was a hand-carved, ¾-life size, slave with his right arm raised in a fist. The most poignant part is that the right wrist still has a shackle with one chain link attached attesting to his former slave status, but showing that he is now a free man. It was carved in Haiti in the 1950s so maybe it isn’t a true antique, but it is our most valued piece.

Robert Schicke
Denville, N.J.


I didn’t buy my most valuable item at a sale or show.

While shopping at a local thrift store, I found a set of eight cups and saucers and a few dessert dishes by T&V Limoges. They were packed in quilted, padded storage containers and had never been used. I love them and would not part with them.

Maggie Abbott

Editor’s Note: Trader’s question of a few weeks ago, “Should the antiques business be federally regulated?” continues to draw responses from antiquers out there, with quite a few still questioning my sanity for even asking. I have been checked, by the way, and found to be normal enough. Anyway, keep ‘em coming, and here’s a few more…


My answer to “should the business of antiques be federally regulated?” is NO. Obviously our Senators and Representatives do not have enough to do…

Judy Russel

Dear Noah:

What in the world are you thinking?

I sure hope no antique dealer in the USA wants to ever let the federal government get involved in the regulation of antiques. Before anyone wades into this bog, they better understand the federal government’s track record of regulating anything.

Heck, we can’t even be sure our food supply is safe, and you ask if we should let them regulate antiques. I would strongly suggest if we are going to support the federal government in regulating anything, that we might put the pressure on in more serious areas such as food safety and runaway drug and fuel prices. Any discussion of the regulation of antiques does not pass the litmus test of common sense.

Best regards,

Bob Richardson


Should the business of antiques be regulated? Seems like a leading question, asking for a yes or a no. There should have been more background info.

From my perspective, the answer is yes. Every reproduction should be so marked with an “R.” Every piece of reproduction goods made in a foreign country should be marked with an “R” and the country of origin. The “R” should be pressed into the piece where it can easily seen.

Avoid using labels to ID reproductions.

We all know there are dishonest auctioneers and dealers who provide false info to potential customers in order to facilitate sales and profits. I don’t know how to address this situation, but there should be severe penalties to discourage the practice.

The state of Ohio has made the practice by auctioneers who award a bidder a piece and then suddenly open the bidding up so another person can re-bid, illegal. I believe that matter is best addressed by the states.
I expect there are issues that are better addressed by the federal government than the states.

Gary Coleman

Editor’s Note: Point taken, Gary. Thanks!