Monday, June 22, 2015

Mean While Back At The Store

 Forgive me for not getting on here and writing the latest exploits of the store.  The late spring and summer seasons have me reeling.   Thought you might get a kick out of this one.  Promise I'll write more soon.

The day was so good, the past week end was so  GREAT! The customers were beautiful, fun, interested and really wanted to be here.   Then today this happened...

Man upon leaving the store,

Man:  You sure do have a lot of stuff in here.

Me: Yeah, I try.

Man:  I mean you have a LOT of stuff in here.

Me: Well, yes, that's part of the business. You can't sell from an empty wagon.

Man: What wagon? I didn't see no wagon.

Me: The store is the wagon.

Man:  This building is on a wagon?

Me: Symbolically not literally

Man:  Now who made that symbolically wagon?  I've heard of that one. Can I see it?

Me:  No, I'm sorry I don't let people look at it.

Man:   Son, I don't blame you. People will just worry you to death over it.  Thanks I'll come back one day.

He was very elderly and I don't think he got out much. Everyday is a new experience.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

That's a Good Question

 This one made me laugh and its a short one.

Man: What's that up there?

I tear into a good description of the merits of this ultra cool sled.

Me. That... is a Sno-Rocket sled.  Its original finish.  The side boosters are still intact. Its like the holy grail of American sleds. You see the rocket boosters on the side often broke off and the kids had no sled. Its heavy American steel  and dates to the early 1950's.  Its got that 1950's space age look to it, doesn't it?  Was only made for a few years. Other than that I don't know much about it manufacturer.

 Man:  So that was made for snow?

Me: Yes, it was.   (Inside I'm thinking.... No dumbass!  It was made for grass and gravel, that's why they called it SNO-ROCKET!)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mean While Back At The Store

Here is a layman's rundown of furniture and its desirability in the OPEN market.  This is from an appraiser and retail store owners point of view.

Gorgeous  Irish 18th Century desk and bookcase. 
Antique: This can run from the 16th Century to the early 20th Century. Things that are earlier? You're not going to have much luck in finding or being given. There is a obscenely strong chance that it did not come over on the Mayflower, get over it.  It can be anything from a masterpiece to junk.  It can be valued from the millions of dollars to a few dollars per piece. One good thing about these periods is that it is almost always good quality, made from real wood and there might be, might be, someone out there who still wants it.  Each piece must be weighed on a case by case basis.  Lots and lots of variables.

Old & Collectible:  This group is going to run from just after the early 20th century to the early 1970's.  It can be valued from the millions of dollars to a few dollars per piece. The million dollar mark is now a real long shot. Basically, you're dealing with some merely expensive stuff and a lot of inexpensive to downright cheap. Its not always good quality either. You're looking a hand and machine construction, the good, the bad and the ugly. Its not always made from real wood. The later pieces will be much, much cheaper materials.  There might still be someone out there who still wants it.

This category will encompass several subcategories.

 "Regional Traditionalist"  This is the locally or state made traditional furniture. Corner cupboards,  bed and dining suites, reproduction sugar chests and hunt boards and the like. Think of TV shows such as, Leave It To Beaver, Ozzie and Harriett and Happy Days and a decorating view. Companies like Willett, MacMahan, Davies and other Campbellsville cherry furniture makers were big in my area. You'll have these types of companies in your area or state too.  They make the stuff your grandparents and parents scrimped and saved for. Their desirability is sketchy at best.

"The Stylish Collectible" These are the high end brands, many still in business today.  Companies like Century, Kittinger and the various companies that did the Williamsburg reproductions. You'd be surprised that some of these companies are hotly fought for by designers and decorators.  Many times these furniture companies may have Asian or European flavors or something is unique and different.  They can pay big bucks for these items.   But there are again, many variables.

"The Studio Set"   This category will also have the  cache of having  studio made pieces. These are professional artists, George Nakashima comes to mind as one of the most famous, though not the only one.  Provenance is a major key here.  This is not a local crafter, but a listed and reputed artist. This ain't your Grand Pap's furniture. Which leads to the next subcategory.

"All in the Family"  These are things that were made and sourced locally.  Of course, a lot of fine furniture was sourced locally, at one time.  Today that is something different.  It can run the gamut from amazingly beautiful to just horrible.  This is a sticky wicket.  Families, sometimes, will fight tooth and nail for a piece and pay accordingly. Sometimes a piece will be near museum worthy and will die from a lack of sale. Many of these pieces are subject to "The Regional Traditionalist" and its either merits or demotions. Their desirability is sketchy also.

"Paint Me Pretty"  This is a recent, but a big addition to this lineup.  This covers a lot of furniture from the 1920's to the 1950's.  Good bones but poorly made.  Comfortable but weak.  Hated but loved.   A lot of it is poorly made. A great deal of was literally churned out by thousands of box cars over these decades. There is little if any love and care and attention paid to the construction of this type of furnishing.  This is a lot of the furniture that you see that's painted in the home and shelter magazines.  And rightly so.  I doesn't bother me.  Its better than being in a land fill. It DOES bother me when a piece from one of the other categories is painted, much to the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Cheap thin veneers, gum wood bodies, watery stains all equal up to poor quality from this period.   Still, there are some hidden gems here, but you're going to have to dig for them.   Most of the value here, lies in what else you can do with it.

Now, for the last category.

Modern: This is going to date to the late 1970 up to yesterday.  This is going to be a shocker to you. That recliner you bought a year ago, that dining room set you purchased 10 years ago, that sectional sofa you bought last week, its all USED FURNITURE!   Period.  I don't care if you bought it from your local furniture store, Macys or The Ralph Lauren Home Store in New York.  I don't care if you home has been featured in Home & Gardens, Veranda or Architectural Digest. Its USED FURNITURE!  I don't care if you took great care of it or if you never sat or ate from it. Its USED FURNITURE!   If its from this period, even if you paid thousands for it, its used furniture.  Its not what you paid for it its what the market says its worth today.  Of course, there are exceptions to every category, this one included.  However, I've I see more and more modern furniture selling at a nice, public auction for pennies on the dollar. The whisper of bed bugs, even from fine homes, ruffles across the antiques trade.   Sometimes a modern piece doesn't even get a bid.  In my opinion, don't buy new furniture.

So there you have it.  A layman's guide to furniture. Remember each piece must be weighed on a case by case basis and there are lots and lots of variables. Bear in mind, the market is soft and real picky about what it loves. In all categories, things sell for less than what they did 5 or 10 years ago.  So now you know how furniture functions on the open market.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mean While Back At The Store

 Dear readers forgive me for not being more timely with my blog entries.  I promise, now that I have some breathing room, I"ll post up something with some meat on its bones.  In the mean time, here's something that you make you either chuckle or sadly shake your head.

This just happened today.  As stunningly beautiful as it was it was slowwwww.  I had a man to come in.

Man: I'm gong to get this book.

Me: Than you will that be all for today?

Man: Yeah.

He then proceeds to throw a American Express credit card on the counter.

Me:  I'm sorry I don't take credit cards.

He says in a very snotty way.

Man: Your sign says otherwise.

Me:  What sign??

Man: Hello?? The sign in the window.  Shop small.  American Express excepted here.

Me: I'm sorry that was a give away.  American Express promotes that slogan but I don't take American Express. In fact I don't take any.  I honestly never saw that it was there I just saw the slogan.  I love the canvas bags they give small merchants.


ME:  I'm sorry sir but I've never taken any credit cards.  Because....



Man:  Fine I'll just pay cash for it.

He proceeds to toss down a $100.00 bill.

Me: I can't break that. I did a deposit last night.  ( really could)

Man: Well, what now?

Me: The ATM is up the street.

Man: Fine I'll be back in a few minutes.

I guess he got lost cause I've not seen him since.  Ahhh! The joy of small business.  Needless to say I took the Shop small sign out of the window.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Personal Effects the Column

That's a Good Question: 

Personal Effects Dickens April 2015

The little Dickens figures
Question: Jerry---Can you tell me anything about these little figurines that belonged to my grandfather? He was born in Scotland in 1890 but spent most of his adult life in America.  Pop was a great reader and all his life he preferred British authors. These figures represent characters from the novels of Charles Dickens. From left to right they are Little Nell, Mr. Pickwick, Sam Weller and Mr. Micawber. They are made of solid bronze or a similar metal, although two are much lighter in color that the others. They are approximately 4 inches high and are heavy for their size, with a lead weight in the bottom. They are quite detailed. I assume there were other figures in the series, but these are the only ones I have. Were they purely decorative? I keep them on my bookcase, just like my grandfather did. I look forward to an intriguing explanation!

Answer: I love these little figures. Something about small literary figures that just excites me. I guess it stems from my being a book dealer. There is nothing as classic, as the characters from the works of Charles Dickens. At first these were a puzzle, but I worked it out. They were made by the Jennings Brothers Manufacturing Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The company's earliest date is about 1890. They had a very successful business manufacturing metal clocks, candlesticks, silver plated wares and other novelties. Their goods were shipped all over the world including North America, New Zealand , South America and... Great Britain. Which is where your grandfather come across them. So from American to Scotland and back to America. In 1926 the company remained in the same family with Henry Jennings remaining president and his son Edwin Jennings becoming secretary. In 1937, both Henry and Edwin Jennings passed away and the company soon there after was sold.

This company made some incredible items, but I think that their bookends are my favorites. Some of these bookends can cost retail upwards of $400.00. I found several bookends with these same metal figures on them. I'd wager that this was a line of products for those not needing bookends, but still admired Dickens. In a stroke of merchandising, a figure that could have been on a bookend, instead was, filled with lead, and was touted as a curio cabinet figurine. That's what the lead weight was for, it kept them standing up. Many Jennings pieces are marked with the initials of JB in a diamond shaped shield for Jennings Brothers. I would assume, that like many other companies, smaller pieces didn't always get marked, as yours aren't marked. I believe that these pieces are actually brass with various patinas applied to them. A patina is a chemical wash that's applied to metal to give it an aged appearance. The first two figures, from the left, are in the Florentine bronze patina and the other two are in the Ormolu Gold. This gold patina used by Jennings, was very popular in its day, for its richness and quality. Ormolu means that its an alloy of copper, tin and zinc. So, I guess, roughly translated, it means gold gold. Be sure to dust these treasures with a dry soft cloth. Any polishes, dips or anything abrasive will strip off the desirable patina. It will also wreck the value. I'd think that at a good antiques show, that these would be priced at about $45.00 each. Thanks for sharing them with us. Be sure to write down their history for future generations.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Well I'll be damned ,it was one!

That's a Good Question:

 Phone rings I answer.

Woman: I have a painting I need you to appraise.

Me: Well, what kind is it?

Woman:  I think its on wood and its a black background. Really thin.

Me: How big is it?

Woman: About one by  thirty six.

Me:  One by thirty six what?? Inches?

Woman:  Yes, one inch by roughly thirty six inches.

Me:  One inch high?  OK, what's the design of the painting?

Woman:  I don't know what you mean?

Me:  What's it a picture of?

Woman: Ohhh. Its got all kinds of flowers and vines and a few butterflies and green leaves.

Me:  Uhhhh. It sounds pretty but I still can't wrap my mind around the size.

Woman: I think that it belonged to an elderly aunt or something.  So its old. I can bring it over in a few hours.

Me:  But that size is strange. I mean was it a yard stick or something?  

Woman:  I'll be over as soon as I can.

She brings it in in a few hours.


It was a gorgeous, folkly floral painting PAINTED  on a yard stick! It measured roughly one inch by thirty six inches.  I dated it to the 1890's to the early 1900's. Obviously was a handcraft of one the delicate lady painters.  It was beautifully done and I said that it would be priced in a store for maybe $75.00. I begged her to let me photograph it and put in one of the newspapers. But she didn't want other family members to see it.  So, I'm here to tell you that you never know what may come your way.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A mid Week Funny

Just The Way It Is: 

A goofy acting guy comes in the store. He points to a book I have on laying on a blanket box. 

Man: Boy, that's what I like to read.  I love that stuff.

I look up and over and notice that he's pointing at a copy of Gideon's Sword. 

Man: You ever read this?

Me: Yes and  I love Gideon.  To be honest I've never read one, but I listened to the whole run, on CD in my van. I have to say that Gideon Crew is my favorite next to the Bourne series.  I mean that Gideon is like a sober Archer.  Really an entertaining story.   And I go on and on over the merits of this cool outer edge character. 

So, this man starts this kind of sing-song type chant. 

Man:  NUMBER 17, NUMBER 17, NUMBER 17! 

Me: Number 17? They've not written that many books? 

Man:  No man, Number 17!  Number 17 is Abe Lincoln. 17th president.  He's my hero. 

Me:  Yeah, but what's that got to do with Gideon's Sword? 

Man:  Abe wrote it?  Him and Fred Douglas.  My favorites. 

He points the authors names at the top of the book, names highlighted in gold, by the way. 

Me:  Hmmm that book is written by  LINCOLN Childs and  DOUGLAS Preston.  President Lincoln and certainly Frederick Douglas had nothing to do with it.  It was written more than a century and a half after they both had died?

Man:  Yeah, I'm all in to that history shit.  

 I'm not sure what he was into but it wan't history.  Or the books of Childs & Preston.