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. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sipper Spoons

Personal Effects 

Question: Dear Jerry, I've have these in my family for many years. I've never really been sure what they were used for. There are 6 of them and they are long with a tiny bowl and the stem is hollow. They are sterling but I can't read the mark. There were purchased here in Harrodsburg for a wedding gift for my husbands mother. I think that she was married in the early 1900's. The box says Wiseman Jewelers. Thanks for taking the time to look at this. I enjoy your articles.

A collection of sterling sipper spoons
Answer: These are great reminders from an era long since gone by, but it doesn't have to be gone. You can easily use these spoons today. You have a great set of lemonade sipper spoons. Now, some people will argue that these are soda spoons, and in a way, they would also be right. The handle of the spoon is the straw and are long and slender with an opening right on the back of the bowl. They were long so as to reach to the bottom of glass. Some people would put ice cream or sherbet in their lemonade. Using these spoons you could partake of bit of creamy ice cream or sip the beverage its floating in. Some hosts would add some seltzer water or ginger ale to the lemonade and that is where the soda part comes in. Regardless of what you call them, they are beautiful. Sipper spoons make me think of wide front porches, wicker rockers and the tinkle of ice in a tall, cool drink. They are marked sterling and the makers maker is Webster. Webster was a well-known silver manufacture that was founded by George K. Webster in 1869. His company lasted until the 1930's, when it was purchased by Frank W. Smith Company. Reed & Barton owns the Smith company today. Were never meant to match a service of flatware. But there are examples of sipper spoons that match flat ware sets. These are usually really popular patterns. Though these spoons are very plain they will blend in with any other silver that was being used. These are The date of your mother-in-laws nuptials is right on target for these spoons. Again, it was the work of the Victorians and Edwardian folks that encouraged such tools and equipment. Lemons are an ancient fruit, dating back thousands of years. They have been used in food and drinks for many centuries. It was during the reign of Queen Victoria that sweetened lemonade was considered stylish. Your spoons were only one part of the table. There could have been a fine hand painted lemonade set with pitcher, handled lemonade cups and maybe even cookie trays. The Roaring 1920's and the modern 1930's brought the sipper spoon to an end. I love the fact that you have a local jewelers box with them. That adds to their appeal, but not the value too much. I warn you, they can be a booger to clean. If you keep your eyes open, you can find long pipe cleaners, that you can run through the straw to clean them of sticky fruit, soda and silver polish. Your pretty set of sipper spoons with a local box would in a good antiques store be priced at about $75.00. Get them out and use them this summer. Thank you for sharing them.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Radio Days:

Just So You Know: 

 Did you know that I also have a radio show?  Yep, I sure do and amazingly enough its called  Personal Effects: The radio Show. I'd like to invite each and everyone of your to listen in as I and several guest hosts explore topic related to antiques, collectibles, decorative arts and books.  It airs on WHBN AM 1420 every Saturday at 10:10 right after the AP news.  Say you can't be around a radio at that time?  You can stream it live from your computer. Just go to and click on the red rooster.  Right now Jan Jennemann and I have a great time continuing our series on color.  Black is going to air this coming Saturday.  Come on listen in you might learn something.

This is as shot in the small studio back we I did all the shows live. 

Handle With Care

 Just the way it is: 

Touch, its your first education in this antiques business.  I started working on my education when I was just a little toddler. Though, I don't remember it, my Grandmother Richter often said that, as she held me in her lap, that with much passion, I would try to reach my foot out to knock off a beautiful Nippon bowl she had on a display. The family often laughs over this still.  But I don't think that I was trying to destroy it.  I think I wanted to touch it.  As I grew up, I did touch it, in secret, as its moving would have been frowned upon. Far beyond the toddler stage, I would reach out and touch its heavy, embossed gold edges. I would gently rub my finger tip over the pink and yellow roses painted in the bowls bottom.   I think that that was the start of my education and how important that touch is to this business.  I was encouraged to touch things.  Carefully so as not to break them AND to ask first if I could touch items.  I can remember the thrill of touching pieces of  Fenton glass. The velvety satin glass that was showcased and spotlighted at Brits Department store in Danville. 

Nippon bowl.
I never passed up the opportunity to touch, feel, hear and even smell an item. We'll cover using your other senses with antiques in some future blog posts. You have to, you can't just rely on static sight in measuring up an antique.  Oddly, I have many people who come into the store and just stare and look. My first response is "Feel free to handle anything you want."  Its always been strange that you see dealers post signs in their stores that say,  "Touching is fun but break it you buy it", I think that is just negative. You know legally, you really don't have a leg to stand on anyway, as accidents happen. Besides, if its that fragile, expensive and precious in needs to be behind glass.  Now, granted some people are naturally clumsy and they, as adults, should know their limits.  There are also children who have issues with being destructive with things. In my opinion, some of this stems from the parents lack of regard for property, theirs or others.  But any child old enough to handle an Iphone can begin to touch and handle antiques.  Touch will give you a lesson, far beyond that of a book or magazine.  Now granted, I don't think that you need to hand a seven year old a $8,000.00 piece of Tiffany glass
. But maybe they could touch it as you hold it or touch it as it sits on a shelf. My grandmothers nippon bowl sits in a cabinet in the living room today. I treasure it and though I'm very gentle and reverent with it, I touch it and handle it and think of her. People who are taught not to touch are often preordained not to buy or collect.    

Monday, March 2, 2015

Just The Way It Is: 

You know I always have dashed hopes when it comes to the store and winter time. When I first really began to hang around the book and antiques trade, I subjected myself to one of my favorite bookish winter experiences.  I can remember it well, The Book Emporium on Main Street. It was operated by a good friend of mine, Ruth Cubert and I was drawn instantly to her and this marvelous little store she had. The winter time seemed to be such a cozy time.  Though the books were mostly paper backs, they were stocked pillar to post, with little sections to sit and read in. I dreamed that one day my own store would be this way.  The snow would dance outside and hot chocolate would be served from steaming mugs.  That old man with his roasted chestnut cart would peddle his way up and down the street selling scalding, hot chestnuts in pink stripped paper bags.  Then the.... wait a minute!!! What the hell!  Those things never happened. Sorry, I must have slunk off into one of my Rockwell moments.  I mean the Book Emporium was a great place, but Ruth HATED winter, and the store often went shuttered for weeks, due to bad weather.  It was cold outside. It was slick in spots. Even the very air we breathed was grey, damp and unfriendly.  Winter is rough on a small business.  Rougher still in a small town that depends on tourists to keep the doors open. 

Fast forward twenty some odd years and I'm still dreaming those dreams. Every year I become more and more disappointed with the cold reality of winter on Main Street.  Like my friend Ruth, I hate winter.  Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and all its special meanings and the warmth of friendship and glad tidings. Its after the holidays that winter bites the hardest.  I always wanted to schedule book readings or book clubs in January, to entice those snow bound citizens, to come in and warm themselves by the fire.   Well, that was part of the problem. There was no fire.  In fact, there was little heat.  I can remember in those early days, that an expensive heating bill would be, maybe,  $200.00 and the store would be toasty warm.  Today, you would call that a pilot light bill.  Lets make this theory,  Old un-insulated building + sky rocketing natural gas bills +  ancient heating elements + a desire for heat you can actually feel =  A couple months worth of  mortgages, at the least.   Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to have good old reliable furnaces. Lets face it, tanks that they are, they ain't going to win no "green" awards.  But when I really examine things, its basically me and the die hard book lovers and antiques scouts that will be in there anyway. For my stock and trade, people just don't come out like they do for summer seasons.  Besides the more modern customer is one who will exclaim when they come in, " OH MY GOD!  Its freezing in here. How do you stand this?  I just can't look any more."  Yeah, there's that word again, LOOK.  Suzy Saturday here, is used to pounding those hard floors at Fayette Mall or other more tony antique venues.  Looking is about all she's up for.  Amazingly, I've had some really great winter sales over the years.  Sales from dealers, dyed in the wool collectors, history buffs, book hoarders, in other words, people who are used to standing at cold winter auctions or poking through old antiques stores.  We be a tough breed, unlike the Suzy Saturdays of today. But we are growing older and our flock thins every year.  And I'm left chilly waiting for a spring that never seems to come fast enough.  So its between a rock and a hard place that I rest for now.  No eco friendly furnaces blowing constant streams of  hot  air out of their iron lungs, no fireplace of crackling logs, no pots of hot chocolate and no Suzy Saturday to come browse and maybe buy a thing or two as she listens to someone read from a vintage novel. Worse yet, there are fewer and fewer of the old soldiers who don't care what the conditions are, they want their stuff!  Its the clash between the Browser (maybe we'll buy if you entertain me enough) v/s The  Old Collector / dealer who just doesn't care and muck through it anyway. Spring can't come soon enough for me.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Invisible on Main Street

Just The Way It Is: 

 It never fails that someone will come into the store and say, "What a darlin' store." I respond, "Thank you and where are you from?" Often they will say, we live on the lake or in Salvisa or some other location in Mercer or Boyle County. But, I already knew that. Then the conversation will turn back to me and I get hit with, "How long have you been you been here?"  I reply, "I've been here for twenty (or twenty one or twenty two) years."   That twenty something  year changes as the calendar flips over and over. "Oh, My God! I had no idea you were even here.  I mean we've lived here since 1999 and I never knew you were here."  Yeah, I get that a lot. That's part of the invisibility cloak that get pitched over Main Street, mostly over my store.  I guess it comes from being in a small town or maybe people just don't care to come onto this beautiful street and head to other venues instead.  You know, for a long long time people thought that Highway 127 was Main Street.  When they opened the new-ish Highway 127 by-pass several years ago, I heard time and time again, "That by-pass will put you out of business."  Little did they know that Main Street had already been by-passed, many a year ago.  It was called Highway 127. You  know its the place that the Ben Franklin store held sway. Ben Franklin has been gone a long time, but it left its children. Later they grew and expanded down the road to include Wal-Mart, Kroger and the other necessary modern day shopping venues.   We survived that by-pass and we'll survive this one.  Though at times, I wonder if we are surviving or if we will survive.  I guess that you never see what's at your finger tips. 

Its invisible me. lol
Now, lets explore another customer profile. I like to call this one the, "I've been lost since the 1950's" customer.  Unlike the other mentioned customer, this one is a local, born and raised right here in the burg.  I've learned to breathe deeply and unclench my fists when they manage to come into the store.  They push open the door as though they are pushing open the door to an inner sanctum.  They step in, with eyes already watering, their heads pushed heaven-wards,panning left and right. "Oh, this used to be the Gem Store.", they'll say.  " I bought my first tube of lipstick here. RIGHT HERE! God, I remember that like it was yesterday." I'll spare you the diatribe of how they paid for it, who checked them out, where they wore that lip lacquer to that night, what color it was and how it was such good quality.  Now bear in mind that this happens as they climb over book shelves, foot stools and display cases, as thought they aren't even there, all in a quest to walk the walk of fifty years ago when they were young, happy and had a great life in front of them.  If they took the time to shed the scales off of their eyes, they would see that I have some great stuff that could also enrich their lives and maybe even help to transport them back to the past, that they gild and wax poetic over. But they pay my "old" stuff no heed.  I've also discovered that this customer, though not always, is fairly tight with a pocket book.  I don't mean to be that way, they mean well. But it can be hurtful when you put such time and effort into your business, only to have someone compare it to a past that will never be again. Its a kin to seeing someone you saw grow up and saying, "Well, you were such a cute little baby and look at you know." I love nostalgia and history but pay attention to the history and nostalgia that's growing in front of you.

 Next time I'll let you know about one of  my favorite  customers, the out of town or out of state frequent shopper.  They make me smile and often laugh. Until next time. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Personal Effects Mango Forks January 2015

Question: Jerry, what kind of fork is this? Its mother of pearl with a sterling band. Both are marked Henckels near the tines. I've had them for over twenty years. I've been curious about them all this time. What are they worth? Thanks for looking at them. I enjoy the articles.

 Two Mother of Pearl handled mango forks.
Answer: I had to do a little digging on this one. I've always had an appreciation for silver flatware, but this one had me stumped. Finally, I found out what it was. Leave it to those persnickety Victorians to create something like this. You have, of all things, a mango fork. Cool isn't it? This was a fork that was designed for wealthy patrons, for a fruit that only the wealthy could afford. Let me tell you, this fork, its history and its manufacture is elusive. I could find very little on it... at first. If doesn't have, one single listing for a mango fork, then its hard to find. I did find a few, on other sites, that were obviously modern and fairly cheap. Nothing like these beautiful pieces. There was one interesting posting, on an antique forum page, that helped shed some light on these unique pieces. I found that many, many times, these forks are mislabeled as cake forks, snail forks, lobster picks, olive forks and chicken forks. I have no idea what a chicken fork is. However, they are all wrong, as I've already stated, this is a mango fork. Here's how it worked. A fruit knife was used to cut off the top of the mango, about an inch, you should just see the tip of the mango pit. The fork was held firmly in ones hand and driven into the top of the mango. You should pierce the mango pit, in that “joint” or ridge that goes around the pit. The central long tine went into the pit and the two shorter tines were anchored into the flesh of the fruit. Now stand your mango up on its end, holding the fork firmly in your hand. Picking up your fruit knife you scored the thick skin and peeled back that skin, revealing its orange meat. Still holding the fork upright, use your knife to slice off slabs and transfer those pieces to your dessert plate. Then you would use your fruit fork and fruit knife to consume your hard earned mango. Sounds complicated doesn't it? I think Carson the butler from Downton Abbey would have trouble with this one There was a reason to this madness. It separated the well to do folks from the down trodden. If you couldn't pass table etiquette, then it was likely that you'd not fare well in proper society and you would be shunned. I'm going to say that your mango forks date to the later 1890's to the early 1900's. This was a grand time for formal dining. Your forks were made by the J. A. Henckels Manufacturing Company in Germany. They are a well known blade and table ware power house and their knives can still be found in fine stores. I saw some all sterling mango forks and many modern versions in stainless steel. Yours are extra special with the pearl and sterling ferrels / bands I love the mother of pearl handles. You don't find this thickness of mother of pearl anymore. Value? In at a good antiques show I'd expect to see them priced at $50.00 to $60.00 each. Congratulations on owning the only mango forks I might see in my career. Maybe you should try your hand at using them at your next dinner party. Or maybe not. Thanks for sharing them with us.         

Monday, January 19, 2015

Everyone is an appraiser

Just the way it is: 

 I can't help but to be angry and sharp tongued over it. I had a dealer to tell me that she was always so miffed when she went to do an appraisal and, "They won't sell me anything!" Arghhh! That makes me pull my hair out. Good for them I say. You get what you pay for.  Both parties are in the wrong.  The dealer for ACTING as an appraiser and the client for not knowing who to call and when.  People are so vulnerable when it comes to selling property.  Even worse, when they don't want to sell but need information. Many a time a crafty person has toted off someones treasures for a pittance. All because they didn't make the effort to contact a knowledgeable appraiser.  Everyday people make this mistake, even in this day and age of the internet and hokey cable antiques shows. People ask their hairdressers or mechanics before asking someone who knows.  Often this leads to that antiques dealer looking to buy for a song. Or it could lead to a wonderful relationship with an honest and thoughtful dealer who will pay you top dollar for your stuff.  But do you know what top dollar is and why?

You know, just because I know how to debone a chicken, doesn't mean that I should attempt to repair your torn shoulder.   It seems as though that every dealer in the world is also an appraiser.  In a moment of total disclosure, I too, am an appraiser and a dealer.  However, there is a difference.  I know which hat to wear and when.  You see I have hats that I wear at certain times.  I have an appraisers hat, a dealers hat and a book dealers hat.  You can only wear one hat at a time.  It is not right morally or ethically to purchase the items you appraise. You are showing bias towards your client and being disrespectful towards the property.   Appraisers are advocates first for the property and for then for the client. Being an advocate is not the same as showing favor, its informing your client, you speak the truth, good or bad. The main role of an appraiser is to Identify, Witness and Value, period.   Don't get me wrong, there are collectors and dealers out there, who know so much, in a particular field, that its awe inspiring. I call on these folks often. Sometimes, they are the right person to sell to.  I've learned that there is a great difference between a collector and a dealer.  Just by the mere fact of economics, a dealer has to make a living.  Making a living in this business is hard, real hard, and every pinched dime and tweeked dollar counts. As clever as they are, I think that the majority of collectors and almost all the dealers, would have trouble laying out an appraisal for charitable donation, insurance coverage or the settling of an estate.

Anyone can appraise. But what they are doing is making an offer to purchase or making a value statement.  Appraisers look at several markets levels and we weigh a lot of variables. A good appraiser should ask why you want an appraisal. Because you see, there are different values to different intended uses.  Obviously, you don't want a fair market value if you're looking to have your items insured. You want a replacement value. This allows you, the owner, to go into a store and purchase a like, kind and similar item. Just be careful who you call when you need some advice on your property.  That's why my business cards say Unbiased, Impartial and Independent.  Fore warned is fore armed.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Little Pink Roses

Mean While Back At The Store: 

In this case its pink POPPYs 
 I shared this on Face Book a few days ago and wanted to feature it here. Also I wanted to elaborate on it some more.  When I worked at Graves Jewelers many years ago, at least once a month, some woman would come in and ask Miss Graves what her china pattern was. Usually without a hesitation, Miss Graves knew and often could remember several generations of who had what china patterns. If it was someone who didn't frequent the store often, Miss graves would ask what the pattern looked like.  Without a doubt, they always said, "Well, I'm not sure, but it had little pink roses on it."  So, it was a running joke, for all the years that I worked up there, when someone would ask what a china pattern looked like and we'd say, "It had little pink roses on it." It was funny to us as most china patterns had some form or little pink roses on it.  Fun times. 

I'm waiting of a lady to come in for me to identify her Haviland pattern and it set me to thinking. Bet you didn't know this? At one time porcelain manufacturers did really crazy things with their patterns. Lets say that there is a pattern called "Queen's Garden." Its heavy with pink & yellow flowers and a brown trellis. That's Queen's Garden. Then there might be Queen's Garden with BLUE & RED flowers & brown trellis. Lets call that QG1 ( Queen's Garden 1.) Then comes QG2 with Purple & Green flowers and a GRAY trellis. Then there might be QG3, QG4, QG5 and on and on. NOW, couple this with shapes. Queen's Garden might be in the Louis XIV shape or the Princess Louise shape or the St. Augustine shape and on and on. Cups can also vary within the SAME shape. All the time bouncing and switching back and forth. So you might find YOUR pattern, but you'll discover that the shape is wrong. There can be just 1000's of combos. Don't even gt me started on the hand painted or commissioned pieces.  Believe me,  if your great Aunt Mildred, way back in 1900, painted a chocolate set. That's it,  its the only one.  When Mary McKercher had her Havilnad booths in the store twelve or thirteen years ago. She hated the hand painted porcelains and refused to carry them.  Reason??   You couldn't match them.  Each hand painted piece is a one of a kind original. For most it doesn't matter too much, but for the scholar or serious collector, it can make you pull your hair out.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Querulous Quandaries: 

 This was a new one for even me. It happened just a few days after Christmas. 

Phone rings

(me) J. Sampson Antiques...... How can I help you? 

(man) Can you tell me it this is the right way to fix cranberry glass? 

(me) Fix it how? Is it broken? 

(man) No, no.  Its not broken, just faded. 

(me) Faded?

Now, get ready for it. 

(man) Yeah, I had someone tell me that these vases were cranberry but the color faded out.  If I was to soak them in cranberry juice it'd bring back that color.  

I'm stunned. 

(me) Sir, glass is an inert material.  You can't just soak it in a liquid and expect it to absorb that color.  All that will do is make them sticky. 

(man) Well shoot.  So I can't make them back to cranberry?

(me) They never were cranberry or they were a pale color of cranberry.  You can't make them anymore cranberry than you could cobalt or canary or emerald. 

(man) Canary?  

(me) Its the color of the bird not the actual bird. 

(man)  Well I never thought that!  Thanks for your help.

(me) Thank you. 

I'm thinking, "Well I didn't know.  You thought that you could soak clear glass in cranberry juice and make cranberry glass.   So hell, I thought that you were considering grinding up some birds to make yellow.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The New Years Wish

Just The Way It Is:

This is the tea pot that someone should have used. Instead it was sold in an auction. 
 Here is my New Years day wish to all of you readers. I wish for you all to use and enjoy the items that surround you.  You want to know something?   I'm a contractor. Didn't know that did you?   Yep, I'm a contractor. I sell materials for building and designing your home. I provide you with materials that will make you and your home happy, joyous, welcoming, inviting, warm, stylish and interesting.  The decision to make that happen, is up to you.  Remember,  I'm providing you with materials.  If a "real" contractor builds you a pool and you never get in it... who's fault is that?  I wish that everyone would appreciate the things that fill their homes.  You can have no idea of the times that I go into a house after a death and am meet this situation.  The family is usually in a state of chaos. Emotions run high and are tightly strung.  I reach over and select an object and begin to talk about it.  Simple enough.   There is always one person who will say, I've never seen that before?"   Is that their fault.?  No, its Granny's or Mom's or Cousin Lottie's.  They never enjoyed it, they never shared it with their family and friends.  They and myself don't know if it was a family heirloom or if it was bought at a yard sale last year.  Many of your are thinking, " Well, I don't have anything."   Really??   If you have a bed to lie in, a roof over your head, more food than you can eat in one sitting and a pair of shoes, you already have more than half of the rest of the world.  Yet, you have books that you've never opened. You have dishes that you've never eaten off of.  You have clothes that you've never worn.  Likely many of you have have rooms of furniture that you've never sat on.  Use what you have.  Enjoy it.  If you have so much that you can't possibly use it, move it on to someone else who has less than you do. You'll be blessed all the more for it.  Now, when you're really really ready to design your home call me. I've got the perfect piece for you.