Antique Loomism: Zsolnay garden seat worth $2,000


No doubt you are finished celebrating the holidays but here is one final suggestion that revolves around Christmas. My Loomism: Relax on a favorite (hopefully antique) chair and watch a vintage movie to discover more about antiques. You probably are thinking my suggestion is the charming “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but no it is “Christmas in Connecticut,” a 1945 gem with the remarkable Barbara Stanwyck.

Besides that Hollywood icon, this picture is fascinating for antique reasons which are related to the plot. Nearly 40 years before “The Thorn Birds” and 20 before “the Big Valley,” Stanwyck plays a “Martha Stewart”-type columnist informing readers that she is looking for an antique rocking chair for her Connecticut farmhouse. And here is where we learn about collecting: Even though it was the 1940s when antiques were far less costly, rocking chairs even then were at the bottom of the price heap. How do we discover this? Stanwyck’s magazine groupies send her so many that her storage room is brimming.

The funniest (and also so useful) scene is when co-star Dennis Morgan while wooing Stanwyck gives instructions for properly rocking in his family heirloom, which is her gift. Some things never change and in this case, fortunately, rocking chairs remain one of the best deals going in antiques. I have seen beauties (very similar to Dennis Morgan’s, dating from the mid 1800s) that have recently sold for a mere $35. So to get more antique dash for your cash, try a rocking chair.

And you will drool when you see Stanwyck decorating a gargantuan tree with huge glass ornaments that today would cost a fortune. So start your searching right now for Christmas oldies. Bet you will get terrific bargains since the holidays are nearly a year away and sellers would rather reduce prices than pack!

Q  This toad stool or mushroom has been handed down from my father’s uncle who worked for Park-Bernet Galleries in New York City in the 1930s. It is stamped Zsolnay, made in Austria Hungary, #3698. It is 17 inches tall and has a couple of chips. I would like to know when it was made, what it is made from and its value. Thank you.

A  What a wonderful antique, especially with its provenance of being sold at Park-Bernet, which today is called Sotheby’s! Your garden seat was made by the world famous Zsolnay firm of Hungary in the 1890s to early 1900s. Zsolnay is considered the Rookwood of  Europe. Both produced clay ceramics to decorate homes and buildings and Zsolnoy embellished the Hungarian National Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Zsolnay, founded in 1886, is known for colorful, shiny (glazed) ceramics falling under that stylish moniker “majolica.” In the late 1800s mansions often had attached greenhouses known as conservatories using fancy garden seats like yours. On Sept. 30, 2009 Lyon and Turnbull in Edinburgh, U.K., auctioned a pair of Zsolnay garden seats. This duo had a pre-auction estimate of 1,500 to 2,500 pounds but they sold for only 1,000 pounds ($1,500 USD). Who knows why they failed to reach the estimate but yours, in my opinion, is far prettier and even with those little boo-boos would still probably bring about $2,000 at auction.

Q  I have a very old, beautiful Western Garcia saddle and am wondering if you could help me. I would like to know the value of it and where I could sell or auction it if I wanted to.
Thank you for your time.
S.T.B., Micco, Fla.

A You certainly do have a wonderful saddle. Guadalupe S. Garcia opened his shop in 1882 in Santa Margarita, Calif., and in 1894 moved his firm to Elko, Nev. After he died in 1933, his sons, Less and Henry, continued the family firm. In the late 1930s the business moved to Salinas, Calif., under the name “Garcia Saddlery Company.” This is a tough one to judge via photos since you potentially have a very fine saddle.  What would make me happy is that you contact several auction houses who have had fine results selling saddles. Here are a few names: Custom Auction Service of Lubbock, Texas, (806-747-7373); High Noon Western Americana Auction of Los Angeles, Calif., or Rich Penn Auctions. After you contact these people, check back with me so you can make the best decision and also let us know the final outcome, too.  I am most optimistic for you!

Frank Farmer Loomis IV is an antiques and fine arts appraiser, lecturer, journalist and host of “Keep Antiquing!” a weekly radio show on WMKV radio in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the author of Antiques 101 and Secrets of Affordable Antiques in addition to hosting “Antiques, History & Loomis” on Anderson Community Television, broadcast on Cincinnati Public Television.

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