What's It Worth? by Leslie Hindman

What's it worth? 65 glass negatives by Ansel Adams

Talk about trash to treasure! Rick Norsigian, of Fresno, California reportedly purchased two small boxes at a garage sale for a mere $45.  It turns out the boxes contained 65 glass plate negatives of photographs shot by Ansel Adams early in his career, many of which have never been published before.

CNN reported today that the negatives have been authenticated by art expert Robert Moeller after six months of study.

Total value of the yard sale treasure trove?  Perhaps as much as $200 million, nearly 4.5 million times what Norsigian paid at the garage sale.

What's it worth? The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Marjorie Williams BiancoWe have had numerous inquiries regarding early editions of the beloved children's book, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Marjorie Williams Bianco, first published in 1922 by William Heinemann. A first edition copy in fine condition with the original dust jacket will sell for at least $4,000 at auction. First editions without the dust jacket in fine condition can sell between $400-1,000. Condition, however, is of the utmost importance - consider how often a child will request that their favorite book be read over and over again. Thus, it is very rare to see a children's book without some soiling, slightly loose hinges or crayon markings. Moreover, without the dust jacket stating the original price, it is difficult to tell the first edition from the second, as the only distinguishing characteristics are the plates, which were printed from lithographic stones.

If you have a 1922 edition published by William Heinemann in good condition, with the dust jacket or not, you have something very valuable. Aside from the publisher's name and date, it will have decorative endpapers with a repeating rabbit motif. Another valuable edition is the limited edition published in 1974 by The Press of A. Coltish in Mount Vernon with velvet covered boards and six tipped-in color plates. While its value is still too low for auction, rare book dealers are offering copies of this book for between $600-800. 

Just remember: condition, condition condition!

What's it worth? A 20th century German clock

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A German replica of a traditional Dutch clock form

A reader of ours sent in an item that may be of interest to a lot of people.  According to Mike Intihar, Senior Specialist in our Fine Furniture and Decorative Arts department, this is a traditional form of a Dutch clock, with most examples coming from the 17th and 18th centuries.  The present example is a later, German copy made in the 20th century.  There are enough of these on the market to keep the demand fairly modest.  At auction he would expect this to sell in the $200/400 range.

July Antiques Markets and Art Fairs

July is fast approaching, so here are some of the events involving antiques and the arts in and around the city of Chicago.

  • Evanston Ethnic Arts Festival - July 17-18 - Dawes Park, Sheridan Road at Church Street, Evanston - cityofevanston.org
  • Randolph Street Market Festival - July 24-25 - historic Plumbers Hall Facility - 1340 West Washington or also enter at 1350 block of West Randolph between Ada and Ogden -   www.chicagoantiquemarket.com
  • Newberry Library Book Fair and Bughouse Square Debates - July 29-August 1 - Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street - go.newberry.org
  • Lincoln Park Arts & Music Festival - July 31-August 1 - Racine Avenue between Fullerton and Webster Avenues - chicagoevents.com
  • Wicker Park Fest - July 31-August 1 - Milwaukee Avenue between Wood Street and North Avenue - wickerparkbucktown.com

What's it worth? A tiny, 19-century portrait

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Our reader Mary inquired about this lovely little portrait.  According to our Fine Art specialist, 19th century portrait paintings are abundant on the current auction market.  While this is a nice example of a young woman in profile, the artist has never been offered at auction before.  The two most important questions in appraising portraiture are the identity of the sitter and the identity of the artist.  In this case, the painting depicts a young woman but without a specific attribution and was painted by a relatively obscure artist.  This work would be estimated at $100/200 at auction.

What's it worth? A 19th-century landscape

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A 19th-century landscape with figures, unsigned

A reader recently sent us images of this round painting. According to our Fine Art specialist, it is a nice example of 19th-century subject matter.  Scenes of figures set in rustic landscapes began in the 15th century and have been produced on a large scale over the course of the last 500 years.  Nineteenth century landscape paintings are abundant in today's auction market.  Since this painting is of both a common subject matter and unsigned it would be estimated to fetch around $100/200 at auction.

Summer in the Chicago Area Means Antiques Markets and Art Fairs Galore

June is just days away, and this Memorial Day weekend will mark the kick-off of the Randolph Street Market Festival.  The festival, which runs May through September on the second to last weekend of each month, will feature over 200 antiques dealers and the Indie Designer Market.  

The Garden Party Opener will be May 29-30 and discounted tickets can be purchased for $9 online at www.chicagoantiquemarket.com.  

We will keep you posted with the monthly arts and antiques events around the city this summer. Below are the festivities for June:

Picasso Back at Top for Work of Art Sold At Auction

Picasso's 1932 painting Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust).Kicking off two weeks of important spring auctions and just a few months after my February 4 post about a record setting Giacometti, Picasso has regained his record for the most expensive work of art at auction.  

On May 4, at Christie's in New York, Picasso's Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust) sold for $106.5 million (including buyer's premium) just surpassing the $104.3 million paid for Giacometti's Walking Man I.  

It will be interesting to see how another Picasso to be offered at Christie's in their upcoming London Impressionist and Modern Art sale on June 23, 2010 will do.  The painting, Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto, 1903, was executed during Picasso's highly acclaimed Blue Period and has an auction estimate of £30 million to £40 million. 

Victorian Reverse Painting

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Our reader Diana
 sent in an image of a painting that had been in her family. According to our Fine Furniture and Decorative Arts specialist Mike Intihar, it appears to be a late Victorian (late 1800s) reverse painting often referred to as an eglomise panel with lovely mother-of-pearl accents. 

We do see a fair amount of these and they are often framed with mirrors with smaller versions are also seen set into clocks. Mike would estimate this panel to bring $200/400 at auction.

How We Answer "What's It Worth?" Part X: Quality

Today we present the conclusion of our ten-part series entitled: How We Answer "What's It Worth?"

10. Quality

This is really a catchall for the entire group of ten criteria, a reminder that value is a combination of all of these things. In other words, is it the best there is of its kind?

There aren't many examples of the "best of its kind," but one is Vincent van Gogh's painting The Portrait of Doctor Gachet. Everything about it is perfect, from subject matter - Dr. Gachet was van Gogh's physician - to condition to provenance to significance in the history of art. And its quality was reflected at Christie's in May 1990 in its $82.5 million price, which broke all records for a painting. It was bought by Japanese Industrialist Ruoei Saito. The sale, from start to finish, lasted three minutes.

Quality is not just the consensus of  snobs or co-conspirators, but judging quality is not something you can teach. Part of it has to do with a comparison to similar objects - how the piece stands up to the artist's or craftsman's previous work, how pleasing and carefully executed the composition is, how good the materials are, and so forth. For the expert, judging quality is no more mysterious than deciding through the senses in combination with experience, whether one peach on the produce stand is of higher quality than another. Knowing quality when you see it is something that over time and with an educated eye, just develops. After a while, good things, high quality things, just look good. They look right. And they are right.

Notably missing from these ten criteria is age. Although it is important to several other criteria - authenticity and fashion, for example - just the age alone does not significantly affect the value of an object brought to auction.

How We Answer "What's It Worth?" Part VIII: Subject Matter

"What's It Worth" presents the eighth part of our 10 part series.

8. Subject Matter

As people in the auction business say, "A little girl with rosy cheeks and a bouquet of flowers will sell for more than an old man with a grizzly beard, period.: Other perennial best-sellers include pictures of nudes, landscapes, and pets. Religious scenes tend not to do so well, though they're big with museum curators. I guess people just don't want to live with a picture of the Madonna and child sitting on a golden throne or of Martin Luther and His Friends hanging in the den.

Again, a trio of pictures proves that subject matter is more than just a matter of taste - for many people, it's a matter of value.

Norman Rockwell, who created covers for the Saturday Evening Post  for forty years, was the quintessential American artist, a master at showcasing the everyday pastimes of people at work and at play, in moments of quiet repose and thrilling exuberance. His paintings of a family oohing and ahhing at the Thanksgiving turkey as it's brought to the table or of the young girl looking at herself in the mirror contemplating her impending womanhood are American icons.

Three of his magazine-cover illustrations  that had been part of a large Mid-western corporate collection were sold in 1994. The canvases were all about the same size and in equally good condition, and each had a clear authentic signature.

One of the pictures, though it depicts an adorable cheery cheeked little girl with a flower, was set against a background of war, which isn't considered one of Rockwell's most desirable subjects. It was estimated to sell for between $50,000 and $75,000, and sold for just under the high estimate at $70,000.

The next picture is a classic Rockwell: an image of small-town America, with a bright new fire engine juxtaposed against a pass predecessor, meant to illustrate Rockwell's - and America's - can-do spirit and optimism. Certainly collectors would find this scene to be much more Rockwellian, and desirable and this was proved to be true when it sold for $220,000 at auction.

the third picture was an even more ideal Rockwell scene. Called The Fumble, it was painted in 1925 and illustrated two themes that Rockwell returned to often: youth and sports. Estimated to sell for between $100,000 and $150,00, it sold for more than twice its estimate, fetching $400,000.


Paul Revere III Spoons


One of our readers was having a difficult time finding information about his spoons and turned to us for assistance.

According to Mike Intihar, our Fine Furniture and Decorative Arts specialist, and based on the images provided by our reader, he believes the five spoons appear to be by the maker Paul Revere III, son of the famous American silversmith and patriot Paul Revere.  

Being that he was outlived by his father, the son did not have a very long career.  He would date the spoons to right around 1800 and value them in the $1000/2000 range.  

American Dining Room Suite

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One of our readers requested information on her lovely dining room suite.  According to Mike Intihar, our Fine Furniture and Decorative Arts specialist, this is an American dining room suite made in the first half of the 20th century.  It borrows motifs from several European sources, primarily French. 

Furniture like this was made in fairly large numbers and it is likely to be labeled with the manufacturer's name either in a drawer or on the back. 

Due to the quality of the pieces fair amounts have survived, keeping the demand stable.  Depending on the completeness and overall condition of the group, he thinks this set could sell between $2000 and $6000 at auction.

How We Answer "What's It Worth?" Part VII: Medium

"What's It Worth" presents the seventh part of our 10-part series.

7. Medium

Is it an oil painting? A print? A drawing?

Three pictures - an etching, a drawing, and an oil painting - by the nineteenth century French genre painter Jean-François Millet, all rendered in the 1850s, sold in New York during the hot art market years of the late 1990s. Two sold at Sotheby's, one at Christie's. As a group, you'll see how medium can affect price.

One was an etching titled Les Glaneuses (The Gleaners), from 1855-1856. It was a nice image printed in brown ink, estimated to sell for between $5,000 and $7,000. But etchings, which are produced in editions sometimes numbering in the hundreds, aren't as rare as paintings, and the estimate proved too high. It not only didn't sell for much; it didn't sell at all.

A few months earlier, a drawing by the artist had come up for sale at auction. It was also called The Gleaners and completed in 1853. The drawing was of exceptional quality, and a significant work of art. It had been previously unknown, but once rediscovered it quickly became one of Millet's most memorable compositions. The drawing had a presale estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It fetched $167,500.

A few months before this sale, Millet's unrelated, though similarly titled, oil painting Summer, The Gleaners, also completed in 1853, was estimated to sell at auction for $800,000 to $1.2 million. The painting turned out to be significant in Millet's artistic development, a consolidation of his personal painting style. It sold for $3,412,500.

How We Answer "What's It Worth?" Part VI: Size

"What's It Worth" presents the sixth part of our 10-part series.

6. Size

It should go without saying that in collecting, size doesn't necessarily matter. Bigger isn't absolutely better. A Sam Francis oil on canvas, like the one offered for sale at Christie's about a decade ago, measuring 9 by 10.5 feet won't be as easy to sell as a smaller picture, because even important collectors don't always have that kind of wall space.

A few years earlier, two similar early-1900s Tabriz rugs were included in the same sale. One was 11 feet by 7 feet, 11 inches, with an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold easily for just below the high estimate. The next rug was a glorious 27 feet, 8 inches by 16 feet, 10 inches, with an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It was an incredibly beautiful rug fit for a pasha, but it was just too big for most rooms, and it failed to reach it's reserve.

Sometimes, the ability of an item to sell at a high price is determined by the size and convenience of moving or owning the object.

Don't Clean Your Old Coins...

We recently had our inaugural coin auction in conjunction with the Fine Books and Manuscripts department. According to our specialist John Walcher, many numismatists (coin collectors) were in attendance during the preview and auction, while curiosity sparked interest in others. One question arose during the preview that will make any numismatist cringe; "Should I clean my old coins?" While one may assume that a cleaned object of any kind may be more desirable, this doesn't always lead to be true.

One should never clean a coin of any kind. Cleaning a coin can ruin years of patina and can scratch the surface, which will hurt the value greatly. It is always best to leave any item with potential value in its original state until referring to a specialist in the appropriate field for further advice.

If you have an old coin and may be wondering "What's it Worth?" please send us a picture and brief history of how you obtained the coin. We would love to give you a complimentary estimate.

How We Answer "What's It Worth?" Part V: Historical Significance

"What's It Worth" presents the 5th part of our 10 part series.

5.  Historical Significance

This may sound like it is similar to provenance, but it's actually quite different. The best way to explain historical significance with respect to determining value is with a story.

In 1989 a Philadelphia man bought a $4 painting at a flea market, hoping only to salvage the frame. Dissembling it, he found a folded copy of the Declaration of Independence, which he assumed was a nineteenth-century copy. Finally, however, a friend persuaded him to get it appraised, which he did at Sotheby's. To his great surprise, the specialists at Sotheby's declared that this Declaration was one of the originals printed on July 4th, 1776. This document came up for auction in 2000, and was one of only twenty five known to remain in existence (remember the importance of rarity?). All the others were in or had been promised to museums or other institutions, making this copy the only one that could conceivably ever remain in private hands. It sold for $7.4 million to TV producer Norman Lear and a partner, a record price at the time.

Its clear that this document, in and of itself, was a piece of history.

How We Answer "What's It Worth?" Part IV: Provenance

"What's It Worth" presents the 4th part of our 10 part series.

4. Provenance

Provenance is the history of the object's ownership. Following periods of upheaval, such as World War II, the record of provenance also establishes whether the work has passed legally from one owner to the next. To some people, the former owners of the work are unimportant, but to others, especially dealers and serious collectors, knowing the provenance of a work of art is one more way to authenticate it. When the authenticity of an object is in question, provenance becomes extremely important.

Knowing where something has been can make a huge difference in an object's value.

Provenance, of course, is what celebrity auctions are all about. The sale of jewelry belonging to the Duchess of Windsor is a good illustration of the power of a good provenance. In the spring of 1987, the duchess's estate chose Sotheby's to sell her jewelry. The sale took place in Geneva, Switzerland, under a tent at the Beau-Rivage Hotel, with an international collection of jet-setters, celebrities, social dinosaurs, important collectors, onlookers, hangers-on, and just about anyone else with enough money and ambition to attend.

In approaching the collection, Sotheby's knew the value of the owner's name. The duchess was the first to wear wonderful animal brooches that Cartier had made for her, and the collection overall reflected her passion.

Ultimately, Sotheby's placed estimates on the jewelry based on its intrinsic value. Anything above that would have to be determined by the auction goers. And determine it they did, bidding about eight times the estimate for a total of $50 million.

Provenance, in a sense, can be a security blanket; if a work of art is consigned by a connoisseur, it ensures that someone else important, someone whose choices were less limited than those of the buyer, thought it was great.

What's A Blue Period Picasso Worth?


Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto, Pablo Picasso, 1903

That is what the world will find out when Christie's sells an important masterpiece by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) in their upcoming London Impressionist and Modern Art sale on June 23, 2010.  The painting, Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto, 1903, was executed during Picasso's highly acclaimed Blue Period and has an auction estimate of £30 million to £40 million, with all proceeds from the sale to benefit the Andrew Lloyd Foundation.

Garcon a la pipe, which sold at Sotheby's in May 2004 for $104,168,000 once held the title for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.  Other notable Picasso's sold at auction include Dora Maar au chat selling for $95,216,000 at Sotheby's  in May 2006 and Femme aux bras croises, another Blue period painting, selling for $55,006,000 at Christie's in 2000. 

It will interesting to see if a new auction record for a Picasso will be set or if he will once again claim the record for the highest price for a work of art sold at auction.

How We Answer "What's It Worth?" Part III: Rarity

"What's It Worth" presents the third installment of our ten-part series.

3. Rarity

All ten of these criteria are subject to one overriding law -- that of supply and demand -- none more so than the rareness of the work of art or object. Rarity, of course, means that there are fewer of whatever it is, but that is too simplistic. After all, a rare object is only valuable if people exist who covet it. In other words, there has to be a demand for the supply to even matter.

Additionally, an object is rare if few of them were made in the first place. For Easter 1884, Czar Alexander II gave his wife an egg fashioned from jewels and cloisonné by  the house of Fabergé. He followed the next year with another Fabergé egg, and every Easter thereafter. His son, Czar Nicholas II, carried on the tradition by giving his own wife, as well as his mother, a Fabergé egg each Easter. In all, Fabergé produced sixty imperial eggs. The best-known of them is perhaps the one with the grille on top from which emerges a rooster flapping its wings. Malcolm Forbes paid $1.7 million for it.

Let's see, sixty eggs. That's only five dozen - barely enough for a few Easter omelettes. Now that's rare.

Keep in mind, however, that something can be so rare as to be uncollectible. If there is no market for an object because there just are not enough of them to create a demand, then the object is worthless.

Early Issue Mickey Mouse Magazine

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This week we reviewed a group of items sent to us by our reader Bobbie; including this early Mickey Mouse Magazine issue. According to Fine Books and Manuscripts specialist Mary Williams, this item is relatively rare and has the potential to be quite valuable. In order to give a more accurate estimate, Mary would need to know some more information about the item such as a specific issue number and the content and characters depicted within the magazine. However, this type of item typically has a relatively strong demand among collectors and a first issue could easily bring $1,000 or more, according to Mary. Without inspecting the magazine first hand, she would place an estimate of $400-600 on this unique item of Disney memorabilia.

Thank you Bobbie for sending us this picture of your wonderful item.

How We Answer "What's It Worth?" Part IX: Fashion

"What's It Worth" presents the ninth part of our 10 part series.

9. Fashion

Just as hemlines and heels go up and down over the years, so too do trends in collecting. Tiffany lamps and Frank Lloyd Wright furniture were for many decades so out of fashion among collectors that you could barely sell them at flea markets. Now the very wealthy can barely afford them at auction.

Taste changes. Federal-style furniture was popular in the 1920s, out of favor by the 1950s, and back in the collecting limelight in the 1980s. In 1888, a picture of a sheep grazing in a meadow by the nineteenth-century Dutch painter Anton Mauve, who was known for his renderings of rural life in the Netherlands, sold for about $8,000, a fair amount of money back then. By 1904 the craze for sheep-grazng-in-a-meadow pictures had really taken off and the picture sold for $40,000, however, Mauve's pictures lessened considerably in popularity - until the early 1990s, when in a rather small way Mauve sparked some interest. One of his typical rural scenes sold for $42,000, which wasn't such a bad price, and there was some buzz in the art world that Mauve was back.

If you are careful, in both the stock market and the art market, you won't jump on something at the top of the curve. After all, that's when it may begin its descent.

How We Answer "What's It Worth?" Part II: Condition

What's It Worth? presents the second installment of our 10 part series, How We Answer "Whats It Worth?"
The first installment can be found here

2. Condition

One of the most important of the ten criteria, condition defines what kind of shape the object is in or how far off it is from the day it was created when the artist or artisan shouted voilá! Once you see and understand the condition, you can decide if it's something with which you can live. But I think you should always buy the best you can afford. It's better to buy something of lesser overall value in great condition than the opposite.

What constitutes good condition, of course, depends on the type of object under consideration. A painting whose canvas seems to be in perfect condition, that is unchipped and clean, may be considered in poor condition if over the years it has been varnished too often, lending it an unpleasant sheen. Rips, of course, even when undetectable to the naked eye, can also lower a picture's value. In the late 1990's, a painting in perfect condition by Alfred Sisley, the nineteenth century Impressionist painter, would have been valued at auction at about $4 million. When one that appeared perfect in every aspect came up for auction in 1997, the auction house, as well as collectors who knew of the picture, became very excited. But under a black light it became apparent that the picture had at some point in the past been ripped horizontally from side to side. Though the repair could not be seen by anyone not carrying a black light (in other words, almost no one), the picture fetched only $2.3 million.

Condition affects some categories of objects more than others. In the past several decades toy collecting has become particularly trendy. People collect not only Lionel trains, Barbie dolls, and old Corgi cars, but baby boomers have honed in on toys from their childhood - Mr. Potato Head, board games like Clue, Lego sets, and Easy Bake ovens, among many others. Collectors prize condition above virtually all else in this era because toys generally were not made from the sturdiest materials and were meant to be used. If you find a Barbie in perfect condition, in its original box, you'll have a real prize.

Romain de Tirtoff (Erte)

This week, we reviewed photos of a print sent to us by our reader Thomas.

Romain de Tirtoff, better known as Erte, was one of the most prolific artists of the early 20th century and a pioneer of the Art Deco style.  Erte was a sculptor, fashion designer, set designer and print maker.  These two prints are great examples of Erte's ability as an Art Deco costume designer.  With that said, their value is merely aesthetic as they are both large edition posters that were made to promote the artist.  These would be estimated at auction for $200/400 as a pair of works.

How We Answer "What's It Worth?" Part I: Authenticity

Here at "What's It Worth" and at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, we are often asked how we go about determining the values of people's property. In order to answer this timeless question, we must first explore what "value" itself means.

The value of anything at auction - or anywhere else, for that matter - is whatever someone is willing to pay. But the only way to truly judge the worth of a work of art or decorative object is to understand the ten criteria for determining value. These ten criteria are consistent among art professionals - from dealers to museum curators to appraisers. When buying at auction, these ten criteria - authenticity, condition, rarity, historical significance, provenance, size, medium, subject matter, fashion, and quality - will help you decide if what you want is worth the cost.

Every Monday for the next ten weeks, we will be featuring one of these ten criteria and providing some information on how it affects the value of an item.

1. Authenticity

Is it real? Is it what the seller is claiming it to be? Accurate identification is key. Without it there can never be proper evaluation. The difference between real and fake can be the difference between one dollar and a million. However, there are no hard and fast rules for identifying authenticity. After all, signatures, labels and markings can be forged. No one thing proves a work of art or any other object is authentic, only a group of criteria will allow an expert to deem an object the real McCoy.

This was the case in October 1998, when Alan Wintermute, an impeccably dressed, fastidious Old Masters expert at Christie's in New York who might have walked straight out of Central Casting, received a photo of an oil painting from a woman in New Orleans. "The picture had been in her attic for years," Alan told me, "and she had no idea who painted it or if it had any value beyond the cost of its canvas and frame." She had inherited it from her parents, and believed that her grandmother had bought it at an estate sale in Texas some thirty or forty years earlier.

From the Polaroid snap-shot, Alan says, he could see that the painting was oil on unlined canvas, and he believed it was from the hand of Gaetano Gandolfi, one of the most talented members of a dynasty of artists who dominated painting in Bologna, Italy, throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Alan telephoned the owner and explained that, judging from a photograph, he thought it might be worth $40,000 to $60,000 at auction, considerably more than your typical garage sale find. When it arrived in New York, Alan was relieved to see just how beautiful it was, and in perfect condition. Alan flipped it over and it read, painted on the reverse in the artist's own hand, the painter's monogram and the date of the painting "G.G. 1791."

This was about as authentic as authentic could be. The painting eventually sold for $660,000 setting a world record price for the artist. Had it not been an authentic Gandolfi, the picture never would have been coveted as it was.

What's It Worth? James Dixon and Sons Coffee Set

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Today's item was sent to us by our reader Burl. It is a pewter coffee set by the James Dixon and Sons Company.

James Dixon started what became a prominent manufacturing company in the early 19th century in Sheffield, England. Around 1835 he had a second son join his firm, thus changing the name to James Dixon and Sons, and allowing us to date Burl's items to after that time. The items would be made of Brittania metal which is an alloy of pewter which was rolled out in sheets. It was used as an inexpensive alternative to silver or even silverplate.

Because pewter doesn't rust and is fairly durable, many 19th century examples have survived, keeping the demand and thus the value down. I would expect a set like yours to bring around $100 at auction. The retail price for a similar set would be around $300.

Thank you again to Burl for sending us photographs of his coffee set.

What's It Worth? is happy to review our reader's items and provide appraisals or auction estimates on all submissions regardless of whether or not they are the topic of a post. Please email us at blog@lesliehindman.com. All estimates or appraisals are performed in-house at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago, Illinois.

Determining the Authenticity of A Potential Treasure

Rick sent us this wonderful stoneware pitcher he recently acquired from a thrift store. The mark on the side has him at a roadblock, but he feels it may be Rookwood. If one were looking at just the mark and had researched pottery marks, that is certainly what it would appear to be.

The mark is very similar to that of the Rookwood mark, which has the classic backwards R and forward P connected to each other. Unfortunately, this particular mark is deceiving. Rookwood almost exclusively marked the base of their finished product and the company never made stoneware pottery like this example. The R and the P would be crisp in nature and there would be a more defined opening at the top of each. There may certainly be additional letters, ciphers (artist initials) or numbers representing a particular mold, but there would not be an additional letter, similar in size, next to the mark impressed in a square.

 We are not sure who the potter is, as there are many contemporary stoneware potters and many different marks that have not been documented. At auction, an estimate on a pitcher like this would range from $50/150. Keep up the hunt, Rick!

Giacometti's "Walking Man I" Breaks the Bank and a World Record



Just this week, a life sized statue entitled Walking Man I by Alberto Giacometti considered to be one of the most important sculptures of the past century, narrowly broke the record for the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction.

The statue sold for roughly $104.3 million at a Sotheby's auction after being estimated at what now seems like an extremely modest $19.33-28.99 million. The record breaking price was said to be the result of a furious bidding war between two audacious bidders determined to get their hands on this desirable work of art.
The previous record had been held by a famous Picasso painting entitled Boy with a Pipe which sold in 2004 for an approximately $104 million.

Melanie Clore, Co-Chairman, Impressionist & Modern Art, Sotheby's Worldwide, said: "The competition which generated these exceptional results demonstrates the continued quest for quality that compels today's collectors."

In a strange twist however, questions have been raised regarding the true record holder. Comparisons involving the hammer price (selling price not including the buyer's premium) of the two pieces have been made. An increase in percentage of buyer's premium was thought to be the reason for the Giacometti's top placement, but according to Lee Rosenbaum of ArtsJournal.com:

[It] turns out that the Giacometti's hammer price, as reported by Sotheby's was $93.09 million, compared to the $93 million hammer price for the Picasso---still (narrowly) a new record, even without figuring in this year's larger buyer's premium. The dollar is stronger against the pound now than it was in 2004, so I don't believe that conversion rates were a factor in making the London-sold Giacometti a record in dollars.
    Record or not, this staggering price has sent a shock wave throughout the art world and should no doubt help boost confidence among potential sellers.

Look for more entries in "What's It Worth" highlighting other record breaking auction items from different categories in the weeks to come.

Steuben Glass: A Clear Reputation

The item you see pictured here is a Steuben vase model 7913 belonging to one of our wonderful readers. It was designed in 1942 by George Thompson, a long time senior staff designer at Steuben who worked at the firm from 1936 to 1974.
    Steuben Glass Works has an interesting history as the maker of some of the purest crystal in the world.
    The company was founded in 1903 by Thomas Hawkes, a glass engraver, and Frederic Carder, an English glassmaker specializing in Art Nouveau glass. Carder studied the intricacies and potentials of glass work obsessively throughout his career. The company operated independently until 1913 when it was acquired by Corning Incorporated.
Corning Incorporated was a manufacturer of optical glass. Carder stayed on board with Steuben even through the acquisition as managing director. In 1932, a technological breakthrough resulted in a new glass formula that had such high refractive quality that it permitted the entire spectrum of a light wave (including ultraviolet light) to pass through it. The formula was presented to Corning Incorporated, but due to its purity and clarity, it was rejected by the parent company because it was not ideal for the optical glass they manufactured. It was, however, ideal for the company's artistic design division. The new crystal formula catapulted Steuben to the pinnacle of the crystal design industry, and it is the same formula still used in Steuben glass today.

This piece belonging to our reader is similar to ones sold at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in the past. These similar vases have sold for around $200, but due to the fact that our reader's vase has been monogrammed, its value would be estimated at about half.

Cameos: A Colorful History

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This week we reviewed a wide range collection of cameo jewelry belonging to one of our readers. There is a very long history associated with cameos, dating back more than 2,000 years to ancient Egypt.

Cameos have been carved from various materials such as: shell, onyx (a multi-layered and multi-hued form of chalcedony), lava rock, and other hard stones.  They often depict the classic male or female in profile but are not limited to this.  In fact, it has only been since the 19th century that this motif became the most well known form of cameo carving.
The key to determining the value of any cameo is found within the age of the carving and technique used to create it.  When examining a cameo one must pay close attention to the intricacy of the carving and the overall quality of the image produced.  Shell cameos in large part represent the most recent wave of cameo production while agate and hard stone cameos encompass the most sought-after and rare examples for the most part.

 The cameo jewelry belonging to our reader appears to be predominantly of the shell variety.  The various setting materials will play a role in determining the value because of the vast differences in the cost of gold (in its many different karat concentrations) and silver.  

 According to Alexander Eblen, of the Fine Jewelry and Timepieces Department at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, the cameo bracelet pictured above, if assumed to be 14 karat yellow gold, would carry an estimate of approximately $300 - $500.  

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