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New ‘Warman’s’ celebrates the ties that bind

Finding meaning and emotion in an appreciation for antique and collectible objects is easy and important, according to the editor of Warman's Antiques & Collectibles price guide.

Consider for a moment the ties that bind. A wedding. The birth of a child. A funeral. Beginnings and endings. Through the laughter and the tears, they bring us together.

There are more, of course, big and small. Personal and communal.

Events and Objects That Shape Sentiments

 Noah Fleisher, current editor of Warman's Antiques & Collectibles (Photo by Eric Bradley)

Noah Fleisher, current editor of Warman's Antiques & Collectibles (Photo by Eric Bradley)

From adopting a dog to watching fireworks on the Fourth of July. Our lives are filled with events that give and shape meaning, defining not only who we are but how we see the world.

But can things do the same? Can objects – distant and seldom seen – touch our soul, bringing us joy as well as tears?

For Noah Fleisher, editor of Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles and amateur philosopher, the answer to this cosmic question is a resounding yes. More on Fleisher’s thinking in just a moment. First, news about the book.

Showcasing Objects of Interest

The 52nd edition of the annual reference that celebrates the things we love is available in March. I’ve been intimately involved with Warman’s in some fashion or another for 20 years. New in hardcover and freshly re-designed by designer Nicole MacMartin, this is easily my favorite edition. Bright, bold and beautiful, when it comes to the things we love, Warman’s leads with its heart. And backs it up with its head.

Which brings us back to Fleisher and a piece he believes says a lot about this field, and about us.

“The past year was a decidedly good year for antiques and collectibles, as the past decade or so has been, but it all seems to boil down to one spectacular piece for me – not the most expensive, or the shiniest, but one that reminded me of what I think is best about our collective memory, our shared pop culture history and the best of our insanely creative human brains,” Fleisher says.

And that object? A 1946 Italian poster for Casablanca. The poster, featuring a stunning illustration by Luigi Martinati, is significant because it was for the first Post-WWII release of the movie, which premiered in the U.S. in 1942. The poster sold at auction for $478,000. A staggering amount, no doubt, but not the most important part of the story.

Classic Casablanca

Casablanca poster

A prized Italian movie poster for Casablanca. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

Starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as star-crossed lovers in a war-torn world, Casablanca is one the greatest films of all time. It is a masterpiece of writing, acting, cinematography, dramatic tension and – as evidenced by this poster – art.

“The poster was unknown when it showed up at Heritage Auctions and set the collecting world abuzz. It doubled as an amazing piece of film memorabilia and a great piece of art,” Fleisher says. “It hit me, and so many others, squarely in our guts and made us take notice.”

American versions of the Casablanca poster are prized. Original posters in good condition always bring top dollar. Considering the world was just crawling out from the rubble of war, the Italian poster, publicizing an American movie of hope, love and bravery, is remarkable.

“This piece, having stayed carefully hidden and preserved across the decades, is a survivor, the only one of its kind and a piece of exceptional delicacy and beauty, much like the film itself,”

Sharing the Experience of Collecting

Fleisher says. “In its discovery, presentation and sale, it transcended its original purpose – a paper advertisement meant to draw people like you and me into a movie theater for a few hours of distraction – and has become a timeless piece of art. It is now a piece of our collective memory, something to be treasured.”

It doesn’t matter the poster will likely hang in a private collection or gallery. “What matters,” Fleisher says, “is that the poster exists.

“The mere fact of its presence on the planet, just knowing this magnificent poster exists, is enough for me. It is part of our shared experience for all of us to hold dear because of its very essence of timelessness.”

The Italian version of the Casablanca movie poster, Fleisher argues, “embodies the very best of this business of collecting antiques and collectibles. This shared affection, wherever the actual physical thing itself lives, bestows an immortality upon it and, by association and appreciation, on us all.

Humble Beginnings Lead to Helpful Present

 Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles, 52nd edition

Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles, 52nd edition

“That, to me, is the very essence of why we collect, why things – great and small, priceless and worthless – matter.”

In 1948, Edwin G. Warman published the first edition of this book, called then Warman’s Antiques and Their Current Prices. It was a brilliant yet humble beginning. Seventy years later we continue to celebrate the ties that bind.

“Long after the writers, editors and all the other contributors to Warman’s have faded into the dust of days past,” Fleisher says, “the things we love will still be here. They will bear witness to our collective memory and, in so doing bestow upon each and every one of us who love them a shared immortality, even if our names are not written upon it.

“The love we hold for them, so alive today in our hearts, and passed on to posterity, assure it.”