SEARCH FOR VALUE: APPRAISER CAN HELP DECIDE ITEM'S WORTH
Oval albumen photograph; bust-portrait; Wild Bill is shown freshly shaved with waxed moustache; circa 1869. Photo courtesy of Greg Martin Auctions.
The most commonly asked question about antiques and collectibles is, “How much is it worth?” Whether you’re talking about antique jewelry, bisque dolls or old toys, people want to know about values.
That’s where an appraiser comes in. You’ll find appraisers who are collectors. You’ll find appraisers who are dealers and you’ll find appraisers who do nothing but appraisals.
“I hear lots of stories about people who unknowingly give a priceless doll to a child for play,” says doll collector and appraiser Joyce Kintner. They find out too late about value.
Original condition is everything with dolls and taking the time to find out a doll’s worth can save costly mistakes. Kintner has been in the doll business in Pittsburgh for 19 years.
She is a collector, dealer and costumer of dolls. Using an antique sewing machine to recreate period outfits, she specializes in bisque models from 1865-1915.
“Dolls make a great collectible,” she says, “because you can always fit one more in your collection, they never complain and they don’t eat.”
“If you don’t know the value of toys, you can get stung in the buying as well as the selling,” says Bob Pierce, a toy collector and appraiser for the past 19 years in Murrysville, Pa. When you’re sitting in the auction room, he says, and the toy you’re interested in comes up on the block-emotion takes over. Unless you already have a clear idea of value, you’re probably going to spend too much.
At the same time if you price an old toy truck for 25 cents at your garage sale, you stand a chance of seeing that truck at a toy show for thousands, Pierce adds. He mostly collects toys from the classic era of the 1920s.
“These toys are so well-constructed. Everything I own I display in my home,” he says. His extensive collection includes tin wind-ups, 10-cent comic books, G.I. Joe dolls, cast- iron toys, pressed-steel trucks, Schoenhut toys, and standard gauge trains, etc.
The business of old clocks, antique jewelry and aged watches has absorbed the attention of John Keck for 47 years.
“Everyone should have an accurate record of what they own. With so many losses due to robbery, it just doesn’t make sense not to have a written inventory,” he says.
As a watchmaker, Keck handles all types of antique clocks, jewelry and watches in his Madison, Pa., shop. In terms of personal collecting he fancies art nouveau jewelry and authentic railroad watches. “I collect pieces, I repair them and then I tuck them away. For me the joy comes in restoring things to their original condition.”
How do you find the right appraiser for you? Ask about years of experience and professional background. Also, appraisers who belong to organizations like The American Society of Appraisers have to operate within defined ethical guidelines.
Q. I have a beautiful hand-painted footed bowl with Nippon on the bottom. What can you tell me about Nippon? Florence Winkler, Pittsburgh.
A. Nippon can be any item manufactured in Japan between 1891 and 1921 and back-stamped with the country of origin, Nippon. After 1921, Japan was the acceptable stamp, although the Nippon mark was still used. The majority of Nippon is hand-painted to some degree.
As a rule collectors usually only collect the porcelain items. The portraits you’ll see on pieces are usually some type of decal. The fine detail work involved in a portrait would be impossible to duplicate on a mass production scale.
As you probably guessed, the decal items do not command the prices of hand-painted examples. The portraits are one exception to the rule. They have experienced an increase in demand over the last few years.
A magnifying glass can be helpful in telling the difference between the hand-painted porcelain and the decaled porcelain. Nippon collectors often have a difficult time describing their porcelain because it was manufactured in so many shapes and patterns.
Condition is important. Hairline cracks and chips can seriously lower the price. Nippon can range in value from $25 to over $1,000. A good picture source is "The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Nippon" by Joan F. Van Patten published by Collector Books. The book includes a history as well as different Nippon marks and extensive photos.
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