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Tiffany Santa Fe Railroad tray could roll to $1,200

Dr. G. Marchelos offers a valuable tip about maintaining the authenticity of items to maintain value, such as with the antique Santa Fe Railroad tray produced by Tiffany, and the focus of an Antique Trader subscriber inquiry.

Q I found this Tiffany tray at an old antique store about 10 years ago and paid about $100 for it. It was in bad shape, dirty, so we sent it to a silver guy to fix it up. Was this a good or bad idea? It looks like new now.


We have no idea of value, but the Tiffany logo must give it some value. Due to a map on the tray, my guess is it was used on trains. Honolulu is on the map, which is why I bought it. But we have no train system – so I found it strange.
— T.S.
Honolulu, Hawaii

A This is a case of good news/bad news. This is a great item that has a genuine Tiffany mark. Moreover, it was used in dining cars of the Santa Fe Railroad more than 100 years ago. The re-silvering destroyed quite a bit of the original value. Original finishes, even if flawed, are preferred. That’s the bad news. The good news is more about it being a Santa Fe Railroad item, than Tiffany.

Together, this is a great and scarce collectible which is called a crossover, where collectors in several different areas of collecting want the same item. All said, railroad collectors probably would pay as much or even more than Tiffany collectors.

This item, refinished, in great condition even with the original patina removed should sell for $800 to $1,200 or even more, depending on where it is sold, who sees it and wants it for their collection.


Q Enclosed are photos of an object that we found with our metal detector in the yard of an old house that was being razed. It’s very heavy, but located only about a foot down in the earth, so it may not be old. We would like to know if it is a treasure or an ordinary paper weight. Hope to find an answer. Thank you.
— M.M.
Glen Ellyn, Ill.


A The object is a brass swan with some basic detail. These were originally in sets with different sizes and used in gardens or yards as decorative items. These were quite common in the period from the 1950s to the 1970s, although they were used before and are still made today.

Why it was buried is not known, but there might be others buried as well for safe keeping.
Sets are still found at tag or yard sales and normally sell for $25 for a set, sometimes less, other times more.

In any case, this is a commonly found item and is not valuable. There were and are many manufacturers.

About our columnist:
Dr. G. Marchelos is an honors graduate and certified appraiser of the Asheford Institute of Antiques. Additionally, Dr. Marchelos has a PhD in history, is a professor of antiquities at the University of Alabama, and is a nationally recognized appraiser working for both private and public institutions across North America. Dr. Marchelos is also a well established antiques dealer, operating both in the U.S. and Europe.

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