“I’ve never seen one before, so it must be valuable!” is a common comment made by collectors.
But rarity doesn’t always add to the price. Fame, beauty, workmanship, even usefulness adds to the dollars paid for an unusual piece.
A recent Skinner auction in Boston sold an 1840s-shaped sofa that was completely covered with shells — not fabric — as upholstery. The frame was made of wood and trimmed with rope. It probably was not a comfortable seat, but a unique conversation piece.
The sofa came from New Brunswick, Canada, likely from a seaside town. A talented original artist painted the wood red, then added mussel, clam, scallop, cockle, quahog, snail, starfish and other shells as well as pottery shards. The seat was covered in net. The sofa’s price was estimated at under $2,500, but it sold for $4,613. No doubt the buyer liked the ocean and had an independent taste in furniture.
Q: My family has an original print titled “The American National Game of Baseball,” “Grand Match for the Championship at the Elysian Fields Hoboken, N.J.” I searched your pricing guide and did not see this print. How can we determine its value?
A: From 1857 to 1907, the Currier & Ives Co. produced and sold more than 10 million “colored engravings for the people” in thousands of subjects. In August 1865, the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn won a baseball championship, defeating the Mutual Club of Manhattan by 13-12 at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, N.J. This scene was the subject of an 1866 Currier & Ives print titled “The American National Game of Baseball.” Many reprints of Currier & Ives prints have been made, and this classic baseball scene has been reproduced in great numbers. If you believe your print is an original, you can have your print evaluated by a specialist.
Start by looking at your print with a powerful magnifying glass or a jeweler’s loop. If you see tiny spaced dots, the print is a “photolithographic” reproduction. Currier & Ives made all their prints in black and white, and it employed artisans to hand-color them. In 1991, $44,000 was the winning bid at auction for the full folio size of this baseball print. Repros, particularly the 1930s lithograph by S.Z. Lucas, sell for $25 to about $175.
Q: I’m looking for information about a pair of salt and pepper shakers marked “Quaker Silver” and “506.” There also is an emblem of a Quaker on the bottom. Can you give me an estimate of value, please?
A: The Quaker Silver Co. Inc. was in business in North Attleboro, Mass., by 1926. It made sterling silver, silver plate and pewter hollowware. The company was bought by Gorham in 1959. Salt and pepper shakers marked “506” are made of pewter. They usually sell for $15 to $20.
Q: I have an old wristwatch that my mother found on a beach in southern England years ago. On the face is a likeness of Hopalong Cassidy in a cowboy hat and his name. It has a leather strap and a Western-style buckle fastener. I’m wondering about its value.
A: Timex U.S.A. made the first Hopalong Cassidy watches in 1950. Hopalong Cassidy watches like yours were first made by Timex Great Britain in the 1950s, probably at their factory in Dundee, Scotland. “Good Luck from Hoppy” was engraved on the back of the stainless-steel case, and the original cardboard box was printed to resemble a log cabin with a saddle-shaped support under the watch. The character first appeared in novels and went on to star in feature films, radio shows, comic strips and television. Hoppy wristwatches sell for about $25 to $40. If it works, it sells for up to $275 with the original box.
Q: I inherited a set of eight Boehm plates, “The Musical Maidens of the Imperial Dynasties.” They picture Asian maidens playing different musical instruments. Each plate is in the original sleeve and box and has a letter of authentication. What are they worth?
A: Edward Marshall Boehm and his wife, Helen, founded Edward Marshall Boehm, Inc., in Trenton, N.J., in 1950. In the early days of the factory, dishes were made, but their elaborate and lifelike bird figurines are the best-known ware. Edward Marshall Boehm, the founder, died in 1969, but the firm continued to design and produce porcelain. In 2015, the assets, molds and trademarks of the company were bought by the Museum of American Porcelain Art in South Euclid, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. The museum is scheduled to open later this year.
The Musical Maidens set was made in 1984. Each plate pictures a beautiful Chinese woman playing a musical instrument. The plates, which say “Inspired by the Golden Age of Chinese Porcelain” on the back, include ceremonial flute, gong, reed organ, balloon guitar, three stringed guitar, the common flute, harp and lute. The plates sell for under $30.
Tip: Use one type of furniture polish. If you switch from an oil polish to a wax polish, the surface will appear smudged.
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