To Restore, or not to Restore…That is the Question! By Reyne Haines

September 11th, 2012 by

varnish-brushOver the years, antiques have been passed down from generation to generation, from one antique shop to the next, and from flea markets all over the world to your home.  With the volume of households antiques have been in over the last 50-100 years, is it any wonder any of it is still in mint condition?

In the United States, collectors often want their antiques to be flawless. In other countries, some damage is more accepted.

I am often asked, “If I buy an item that is restored, does that make the value increase?”  That’s a loaded question.  It doesn’t make the item worth the same as if it was still in “original” mint condition.  However, it can certainly increase the interest in a potential buyer.

Should I restore my things?  It all depends on the type of item you are talking about.  To replace missing stones on a piece of jewelry, yes!  Should I refinish an American Highboy, probably not.

What’s a handy item to have when out antiquing? A black-light!  This handy little tool can help you detect if a piece of glass, pottery, porcelain or a painting has been restored.  Take the item and the black-light into a dark room. Turn on the portable light and hold it over the item.  Wave it from side to side and look for any spot to “jump” out at you.  If something seems to stand out, there might be some issues with the piece.

What if you want to buy a piece that needs restoration? Should you buy it, or should you pass?  In many cases, if an item is damaged, you can expect the value to be 10-20% of what it would be worth if pristine.  If an item is rare, that percentage would change.

So if you just happen to love the item, and it is priced accordingly, then by all means, buy it and enjoy it!  However, if your plans call to restore the item, you might contact your local restorer first to determine how much it would cost to repair it.  Restoration is often not cheap, and even though you are getting an item as a cheap price because of damage, the restoration costs might bring the total investment to the same or close to what you would have to pay if the item was in mint, original condition.

With all this said, where do you go to have your antiques restored?  For simple restorations, you can do a search online for “antique restorer (insert your city/state here)” and there should be plenty of restorers in your area.  If you have a bigger project, or an expensive item you want to make sure is restored properly, contact your local museum and speak with the curator in the department that exhibits your type items.

Finally, you can reach out to Old World Restorations at:  www.oldworldrestorations.com

Or Wiebolds: www.wiebold.com

Recognized 20th Century Decorative Arts Expert and Appraiser.  As seen on CBS “The Early Show” and NBC’s “The Art of Collecting”. Haines has written numerous articles and books on collecting. Her most recent pubication is “Collecting Wristwatches” for Krause Publications which comes out April 2010.  Reyne is a frequent appraiser on PBS Antiques Roadshow.

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Buy French Antiques and French Furniture at Brownrigg Interiors, antiques shop in Tetbury, UK

September 7th, 2012 by

“Brownrigg Interiors is one of the best antique shops outside London” according to the Tattler magazine. Brownrigg Interiors has been the subject of many press and magazine articles in Britain such as the The World of Interiors, The Times, The Telegraph, Homes and Gardens and many more.

Brownrigg Interiors and antiques shop is based at Tetbury in Gloucestershire, England with other showrooms in London and Petworth, West Sussex. At Brownrigg Interiors, they specialize in French antiques and French antique furniture and also offer a good range of other antiques from Europe. Their French antiques are sourced from all over France and England… be it cities like London, Paris, Limoges, Bristol, Rouen, Marseille, Tours and the Loire Valley region of France.

Antiques buyers in the UK are particularly keen on French antique tables of the refectory table shape. French farmhouse tables or French refectory tables of fruitwood and other woods are especially suited to the modern trend for abandoning the dining room in favour of larger dining areas in the kitchen where the large kitchen dining tables used in France (French Farm house tables) fit the requirement so perfectly. Types of wood used in French farm house tables varies between the general description of fruitwood to cherry, walnut, pine and even rosewood.

Complimentary to such large refectory tables are French breakfast tables, console tables and other French tables such as French marble top tables, round tables, sofa tables, antique console tables and even French dressing tables.

Another very popular item is the French Armoire. These are large antique wardrobes or cabinets, originally used for storing weapons but are now used as bedroom antique wardrobes and cupboards. Often these French Armoires are made from walnut and feature pleasing carvings.

Another interesting item under the French Antique banner is the commode. Originally, in French furniture, a commode introduced about 1700 meant a low cabinet, or chest of drawers at the height of the dado rail. A commode, gilt-bronze mounts, was a piece of case furniture much wider than it was high, raised on high or low legs, with or without enclosing drawers. This piece of furniture would be accompanied by a marble slab top selected to match the marble of the chimneypiece. A commode occupied a prominent position in the room for which it was intended: it stood against the pier between the windows in which case it would often be surmounted by a mirror glass. A pair of identical commodes would flank the chimneypiece or occupy the centre of each end wall. Before the mid-eighteenth century the commode had become such a necessary commodity that it might be made in menuiserie, of solid painted oak, or walnut or fruitwoods, with carved decoration, typical of French provincial furniture.

In the English-speaking world, commode passed into London cabinet-makers’ parlance by the mid-eighteenth century, to describe chests of drawers with gracefully curved fronts, and sometimes with shaped sides as well, perceived as being in the “French” taste. Thomas Chippendale employed the term “French Commode Tables,” to describe designs in The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Director (1753).

(Interestingly, the term “commode” is also a rurally used colloquial synonym for a toilet in the United States. This word was commonly heard in the 20th century but seems to be falling out of favour and has become uncommon to rare)

Other French antiques offered include chairs such as armchairs & French Fauteuil, French leather chairs, comfortable Louis XVI chairs and sofas. Their French antiques also include a variety of French cabinets and bookcases together with beautiful antique French mirrors and stunning antique lamps.

Brownrigg Interiors Antiques offers a comprehensive antiques search service. Contact them if you would like to search for a French Antique that you cannot find on their web site.

If you see an item you like on the web site please check it is at the correct showroom before visiting one of their three antiques showrooms. It is also possible to purchase online and they will ship anywhere in the world!

Check our web site for opening hours (Usually they are Monday to Saturday from 10.30 am – 5.30 pm).

Please contact Jorge Perez at the following email brownrigg@mac.com

For more details visit us at: http://www.brownrigg-interiors.co.uk/

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2012 Edition of Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies Just Released

September 6th, 2012 by

(Chicago, IL) The 2012 edition of Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies contains nineteen in depth original research articles and topical discussions relating to personal property appraisal. While the Journal is targeted primarily at professional property appraisers, it also contains useful insights and information for anyone associated with the business of personal property such as auction houses, estate lawyers, insurance brokerage houses, museums and cultural property conservators.

According to Michael Conner Ph. D, ISA–AM, the mission of the Foundation is to “promote the advancement of education related to personal property appraising.” The Foundation was formed in 2002 as an independent arm of the International Society of Appraisers. The Foundation raises funds to provide scholarships for continuing studies for both new and veteran appraisers by publishing the Journal

Editor Todd W. Sigety, ISA CAPP comments, “The Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies is now in its 5th year of publication.  From what started as a simple concept of creating a platform for personal property appraisers and allied professionals to publish scholarly works, reviews, primers, theories and experiences has now grown and matured into the publication of choice for our profession. The Journal has developed into an important tool to assist new and emerging appraiser as well as becoming an incubator for developing new concepts and ideas for experienced appraisers.”

Sigety continues, “The 2012 edition of the Journal contains a wealth of appraisal related content on varied topics such as the 2011 art market, photography skills, report writing, Hedonic appraisal approach, marketing through TV, radio and public appearances, the Asian market, Asian textiles, appraising Judaica, book appraising, wood identification, inspection tools, multi-part antiques, artist archives, fair value, women in 20th century design, fraud on eBay, appraising books, and artist identification. All articles are specifically written and selected for the personal property appraiser.   Appraisers from the three major personal property organizations, ISA, ASA and AAA as well as independent appraisers, allied professionals, and educators have been active supporters and contributors to the journal project.”

The 300 page 2012 edition of the Journal, edited by Todd Sigety, is available for $55 at http://www.appraisaljournal.org/contents.html. Previous editions are available for $35 on the same site. For more information visit the Journal’s websites at http://www.appraisaljournal.org  and http://www.foundationforappraisaleducation.org/journal.html to read an excerpt article and visit the home page of the Foundation at  http://www.foundationforappraisaleducation.org/index.html

You can contact the Foundation for Appraisal Education at 201 W Lake St # 214 Chicago IL, 60606, telephone 312 924-1832, email info@foundationforappraisaleducation.org.

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International Society of Appraisers Announces Fall 2012 Education Schedule

September 5th, 2012 by

[Admin Note: We receive many inquires here at antiques.com to help our users appraise their antiques. It is almost impossible (and irresponsible) to try and appraise anything via email online. Detecting the objects subtleties, imperfections, weight, smell, texture, you name it requires in person inspection. Therefore for those interested, we have the below offering from the International Society of Appraisers so you can learn the craft for yourself.]

Eight courses are scheduled for October and November including Appraisal of Fine Arts, Core Course in Appraisal Studies, Requalification Course, Advanced Report Writing, Oriental Rugs, Appraisal of Antiques & Residential Contents and the 7 hour and 15 hour Personal Property USPAP Course.

APPRAISAL OF FINE ART – October 15-20, 2012

Emphasizes the primary categories of fine art frequently encountered by appraisers and dealers: paintings, sculpture, works on paper, frames, photography, animation art, Russian icons and Spanish Colonial art. Major areas of focus: art history, looking at art works properly, identifying and researching fine art works, properly describing art works, correctly employing specific vocabulary, and art conservation. A field trip to local museums, such as The Art Institute of Chicago, provides students with close exposure to the property categories being studied.   (Covered by course fee)

CORE COURSE IN APPRAISAL STUDIES – October 8-14, 2012

This is the “original” complete appraisal methodology course for personal property appraising.  Its thorough scope includes appraisal objectives, intended uses, market identification and analysis, research methods and skills, ethics and professional conduct, and a detailed presentation of report formats and checklists.  This course sets the standards that others imitate.  The encyclopedic manual is in two sections and includes a resource directory of over 200 pages, including computer research sites, useful forms for your appraisal practice, and abridged law cases worthy of mention.  The on-site class is presented in a user friendly manner with many group activities that reinforce written and visual information.  Students learn the techniques of networking and are able to apply their new skills and knowledge in writing complete appraisal reports that are both ISA and USPAP compliant.  Minimal computer skills are required and laptop use in the classroom is encouraged.

REQUALIFICATION COURSE-September28-29(Toronto,Ontario)and October 26-27, 2012

A review and update of ISA’s Appraisal Standards covering significant recent changes including those in the ISA Core Course Manual,  the IRS, and the insurance industry.  The class is a requirement for re-qualification and provides current guidelines, checklists, and forms helpful for every member.   This will ensure that you are developing and writing appraisals to the current standards.    Our text is the current edition of the ISA Core Course Manual and much class time is spent in discussion and group activities.  No exam is given and students are dismissed at the end of the second day.

ADVANCED REPORT WRITING – October 24-25, 2012

This two day class is for all appraisers who are seeking to enhance and advance their report writing skills.  Attention is given to forming persuasive arguments in writing defendable reports.  We also cover complex, multiple value, and broad evidence appraisals and the choices we have in formatting and presentation.  Time will be spent on appraisal software and technology in presenting great looking reports.  Another section will explore appraisal reviews and how to write them.  This will include peer review of two appraisal reports that each student will bring. You will be encouraged and challenged.  The class will give you many ideas and tips that will benefit you no matter how long you’ve been in the profession.  Bring laptop computer.

ORIENTIAL RUGS COURSE – November 9-10, 2012 (Dallas, TX)

Whether they are hand-made or machine-made, appraising rugs is one of the most daunting appraisal specialties.  Winston Churchill’s description of the former Soviet Union, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” also describes the world of oriental and area rugs.  This course focuses on terminology, components of identification, rug photography, commonly encountered rugs, factors affecting value, comps, and serves as a springboard to self-study.

The class will be held in “The Casbah”, a classroom in a 100 year old oriental rug cleaning plant in Dallas, Texas.  The instructor, Ellen Amirkhan, ISA CAPP, is the president of Oriental Rug Cleaning Co. in Dallas, Texas, a business started by her grandfather in 1911 that specializes in cleaning, repairing, appraising and selling oriental rugs.  An industry instructor for 20 years, she teaches rug schools in the U.S., the UK and Australia and is a co-author of A Comprehensive Guide to Oriental and Specialty Rug Cleaning.

APPRAISAL OF ANTIQUES & RESIDENTIAL CONTENTS – October 1-6, 2012

This newly revised course provides information necessary to properly identify and value items falling into the broad category of antiques and residential contents. Focus is on analysis of construction and manufacturing; discerning the difference between “good”, “better”, and “best” quality, design characteristics pertinent to general periods and styles; and research resources for the appraiser. Course sections include furniture, ceramics, glass, silver, toys and dolls, and vintage fashions as well as general household contents. The course includes an off-site field trip covered by the course expense.

15-HOUR PERSONAL PROPERTY USPAP COURSE – October 22-23, 2012

The 15-hour Personal Property Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) material is designed to aid appraisers in all areas of appraisal practice seeking competency in the USPAP. This course is intended to fulfill the USPAP requirement for credentialed membership levels within professional personal property appraisal organizations and will be taught by an active Personal Property Appraiser.

This course focuses on the requirements for ethical behavior and competent performance by appraisers that are set forth in the USPAP. The course material emphasizes the role of the appraiser and the impartiality associated with this role. In addition to lectures, the course includes discussion examples that show how USPAP applies to situations that personal property appraisers encounter in everyday practice.

7 HOUR Personal Property USPAP COURSE – November 8, 2012 (Dallas, TX)

This is the required 7 hour update for personal property appraisers seeking to fulfill the 2 year requalification process.  This class covers the 2012-2013 version of USPAP.  The class does not include an exam.  Students must have previously attended the 15 hour National USPAP class.

LOCATION INFORMATION

ALL COURSES WILL BE HELD IN NAPERVILLE, IL, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED. COURSE MATERIALS MUST BE PURCHASED IN ADVANCE AND BROUGHT TO CLASS.   For hotel and transportation information, go to:  www.isa-appraisers.org website.

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Early American toys, trains and firefighting vehicles raced past their estimates at Noel Barrett’s May 21 ‘Something for Everyone’ auction

August 28th, 2012 by

Lionel 408E standard gauge train set with electric engine, four compartmented coaches and original boxes, sold via the Internet for $35,395.82. Noel Barrett Auctions image.

NEW HOPE, Pa. – Prior to Noel Barrett’s richly varied May 21, 2011 “Something for Everyone” sale, some collectors speculated that the whimsical clockwork veggie man on the catalog cover might take the blue ribbon on auction day. While the cheeky, 16-inch papier-mache Halloween figure did surpass expectations to sell for $16,520 (all prices inclusive of 18% buyer’s premium); it was a modestly estimated Lionel train set that took the express journey to the top of prices realized.

 

The Lionel 408E standard gauge set with electric engine and twin Bild-A-Loco motors pulled four compartmented coaches identified as 412 California, 413 Colorado, 414 Illinois and 416 New York, the latter being an observation car. All of the cars – which were finished in tan and chocolate brown with cream window frames and peacock-blue accents – came with their original boxes. The set drew numerous competitors, with an Internet participant claiming the lot for $35,395.82. The bidder eventually drove six hours to Pennsylvania to collect his prize.

 

“It was an exquisitely rare train set in that particular color scheme. The selling price was a very nice surprise for the consignor and proved yet again that, in today’s marketplace for antique and vintage trains, it’s the collectors who call the shots,” said auction company owner Noel Barrett.

 

Trains proved to be the sale’s strongest suit. An American-profile Carette gauge 1 #2350 steam loco and tender featured in Paul Schiphorst’s book The Golden Years of Toy Trains had been entered in the sale with a $12,000-$15,000 range. But with energy to burn, it powered its way to a $29,500 finish.

 

Marklin Central-Bahnhof train station #2651, hand painted with candlelit interior and furnishings, $23,600. Noel Barrett Auctions image.

Superbly hand painted and designed for illumination by candlelight, a Marklin Central-Bahnhof train station #2651 was outfitted with a table, chairs and benches. Its sumptuous details included etched and stained glass windows, doorway arches, a canopy and ticket-queue rail. Perhaps the best preserved of all known examples, the perennially popular German train station achieved $23,600 against an estimate of $10,000-$15,000.

 

Toys with a firefighting theme “never suffer a shortage of interest,” Barrett remarked. A case in point was the salesman’s sample fire ladder wagon made by Seagrave Co., the oldest continuous manufacturer of fire apparatus in America – and still in existence. The 50-inch-long sample fire wagon from the 1890s included an array of ladders, fire axes, extinguishers, lanterns and fire buckets. It settled just short of its high estimate at $10,030.

 

Fire pumper model, spirit fired and believed fully functional, 21 inches long, weight 32 lbs., $8,260. Noel Barrett Auctions image.

A mechanical marvel replicating a spirit-powered fire pumper was described in Barrett’s catalog as “one of the most amazing…we have seen.” Fully functional, it included double-pump pistons, valves and a flywheel crafted from brass and iron, with nickel-plated wheel rims and other components. Estimated at $6,000-$7,000, it blazed to $8,260.

 

Early automotive advertising showed its muscle in the form of a self-framed Marathon Tires sign depicting two anxious couples in a red open tourer, navigating a narrow, craggy ledge. Retaining an original paper label on verso from the famed tin sign maker Kaufmann & Strauss, the 22¾ inches by 19¾-inch advertisement applied the brakes within estimate at $16,520.

 

George Brown painted-tin horse-drawn omnibus stenciled “Broadway & Central Park,” $12,980. Noel Barrett Auctions image.

Several highly desirable American painted-tin toys were offered in the May 21 auction. Two of the best were attic finds. Discovered in California, a Fallows 1886 (patented) Buffalo Hunter, whose design includes a pair of rocking buffalo on a wheeled base, surpassed its $2,000-$3,000 estimate to realize $7,670. A George Brown horse-drawn omnibus stenciled “Broadway & Central Park” was a fresh find from a Long Island home. It had a smooth ride all the way to its above-estimate $12,980 destination.

 

A third 19th-century American toy highlight in the sale was the Hull & Stafford “America” clockwork locomotive that came directly from the collection of Disney animator and train collector extraordinaire Ward Kimball (1914-2002). Made of stenciled tin and wood with cast-iron wheels, it was one of only two toy trains retained by Betty Kimball (1912-2010) when her husband’s incomparable collection was consigned to Barrett’s in 2004 and 2005. “The Hull & Stafford ‘America’ was always one of Betty’s favorites,” Barrett noted. Estimated at $3,000-$4,000, the charming, primitively styled red and yellow locomotive was a crowd favorite. It ended its bidding run at $11,800.

 

Set of McLoughlin paper litho on wood Brownie ninepins, $7,670. Noel Barrett Auctions image.

Other standouts included a set of McLoughlin paper litho on wood Brownie ninepins $7,670 (est. 2,000-$3,000) and an Erzgebirge painted-wood village consisting of 12 structures and numerous accessories, all housed in a bentwood box, $5,310 (est. $700-$1,000). An antique Parisian perfumery came to the auction podium stocked with a multitude of miniatures that included various fragrances in glass bottles, powders, soaps and pomades arranged on mirror-topped counters and on vanity shelves. The deluxe emporium was also accompanied by a shop attendant: a well-dressed, bisque-head doll outfitted in fashionable turn of the 20th century attire. Estimated at $2,000-$3,000, it clinched a winning bid of $4,425.

 

Barrett’s next sale is planned for the weekend of Nov. 16-17, 2012.

 

To contact Noel Barrett, call 215-297-5109 or email toys@noelbarrett.com. Visit Barrett’s website at www.noelbarrett.com.

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Maybe it’s Time to Restore That Cherished Piece of Fine Furniture

August 23rd, 2012 by

by David J. Currie

President, David J. Currie Upholstery

www.currieupholstery.com

Many of us have a favorite sofa, wingback chair or love seat that we wouldn’t think of parting with, but really needs some repair. Maybe the fabric is worn or the wood finishing has tarnished or the cushioning has gone flat. Or maybe, tucked away in the spare room or attic is a cherished antique or family heirloom that you have always wanted to restore, but didn’t quite know how to go about it.

There is a significant difference between repairing and restoring furniture. With a repair we are achieving functionality of the furniture piece, ensuring that it will now work as originally intended. Replacing broken or squeaky wood members, torn upholstery and flattened or disfigured cushioning would be included here. This can bring on a new life for an otherwise well-worn or even beat-up piece of furniture.

Simple repairs on furniture can sometimes be done at home by someone who is handy with tools, re-gluing a broken chair leg or replacing a screw or bolt. But repairs involving refilling cushioning or replacing upholstery should be left to a professional upholsterer.

With fine furniture and antiques, one may desire to go a bit further, into restoration of the piece. The main goal of restoration is to bring back the original appearance of the furniture, as well as its functionality. Furniture restoration can be as simple as a light cleaning to remove disfiguring dirt or grime, or it may include an almost complete rebuilding or replacement of the piece. Restoration can even extend into conservation of the furniture, which is aimed at preserving the piece against future deterioration.

Restoring furniture properly not only requires extensive technique and an understanding of the history of the item, it is also an art form.

For many people, there is little value in an antique that is unusable or not able to be displayed, but most would still like the item to reflect an aesthetic that shows its age. An over-restored item can actually take away from its originality and perceived value.

Restoration of wooden furniture can involve a number of steps such as paint stripping to reveal the natural wood, sanding to remove knocks and scratches, joint repair and gluing, the reduction or elimination of warping and bowing of individual frame wood pieces and other steps as needed. All wood surfaces should then be sealed with a deep coat of penetrating preservative to protect the old, and usually, dry wood. In the finishing process, it is generally desirable to match the original patina of the wood.

The patina is the natural sheen on wooden furniture produced by age, wear and polishing. Harsh stripping can remove this naturally-aged finish. If the original patina-look is not desired, then a finish which retains the essence of the piece and its time period should be created. Producing an aged finish requires a fair degree of skill, however. The finish also acts to preserve and protect the furniture. When the finishing is done, the piece can now be reassembled or put through whatever reupholstering is needed.

Reupholstering fine furniture and antiques usually involves complete restoration. Beginning with the removal of all of the old fabric and padding right down to the frame, any necessary repairs can now be done and reconstruction can begin. Traditional padding materials and techniques are used to ensure authenticity. This includes the installation of fresh webbing, retying or replacing coil springs, burlap, hair pad, cotton padding, buttons and tufting, channel backs, and adding any new cushioning required to restore the original shape and usable state to the furniture. The right selection and matching of fabrics, leathers and patterns is critical to a properly finished or restored piece.

Each piece of furniture is unique, and should be worked to achieve the finished product desired. When restoring fine furniture, and particularly antiques, it will be found that each piece has its own individual character, history and challenges. Therefore, no two pieces are handled with exactly the same procedures. Techniques will vary somewhat to accommodate the individual needs of each piece of furniture.

The complete restoration of a furniture piece usually results in far better quality than what is commonly available on the market today. Custom upholstering, for example, that provides an unlimited selection of fabric textures, styles and colors to choose from is far superior to any ready-made factory furniture.

Furniture restoration, professionally done, not only ensures that a piece retains or increases its perceived and monetary value after restoration, but more importantly it creates a beautiful and functional piece of furniture that can add character, color and renewed life to a room. And that, many will agree, is the real beauty in restoring a cherished piece of fine furniture.

About David J. Currie Upholstery

David J. Currie Upholstery has been servicing clients in the Western New York area since 1980 and is skilled in all facets of furniture repair, restoration and conservation. It provides expertise to antique and fine furniture owners, including private clients and antiques dealers.

Currie Upholstery services include replacing fabrics and cushioning, polishing and repairs, period and hand-rubbed finishes, touch-up and color matching, chair repair and re-gluing, French polishing, reconditioning existing finishes, gilding and frame repair, faux finishes, hardware and metal polishing, furniture refinishing, stain removal, mold and mildew removal, repairs to chewed furniture, and inlay and carving repair. The shop provides free estimates and in-home consultations, and no-charge pick-up and delivery.

For more information on David J. Currie Upholstery, please contact David Currie; Phone 716-374-3632; 332 South Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, New York 14201; email currieo@yahoo.com; www.currieupholstery.com.

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Know Your Top Hats

August 22nd, 2012 by

Collectible antique hats come in all varieties, including the perennially popular cowboy hat (I have a Stetson that I plan to give to my granddaughter someday) and the beautiful and often very feathery products of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, arguably the golden ages of ladies millinery.  I’m also a huge fan of the bowlers and derbies, which, as I understand, are making an only partially ironic comeback right now. I’m a little excited about this rumor.

But for the moment, let’s take a look at another venerable classic: the top hat. Top hats made their first appearance in paintings and written records during the early 1790’s. It’s possible that something similar in style to the top hat, with a tall cylindrical crown and modest brim, existed in Russia before this time, since certain members of the Russian Imperial army were wearing uniform top hats by 1803.

In the US, the style rose quickly in popularity and by the 1820’s the look was almost universal. The appeal of the top hat is credited to its straight, formal lines, its suggestion of authority, and the fact that it makes the wearer look taller. Until about 1850, the most expensive hats for upper class gentleman were made of beaver fur, and more accessible hats were made of rabbit fur or a kind of felt. Though in truth, many of these “beaver” hats were actually made from the skins of a variety of animals that were being trapped and hunted on the wilderness of the American frontier during this time, like muskrat and fisher. After the 1850’s hats were more often made of “hatter’s plush”, a kind of silk– Possibly because beaver populations were dropping.

By the middle of the 19th century, the top hat had evolved several slight variations including the following:

  • The stovepipe hat: This hat was tall at the crown, with a brim that was flat and perpendicular.
  • The chimney pot: This was similar to the stovepipe, but the cylindrical part of the hat had a convex curvature. Original hats in this elegant style are not easy to find.
  • The ladies riding hat: Women wore top hats for formal or cross country riding. Also known as a “side-saddle hat”, the riding hat has an upward-curving brim. Sometimes you can find these hats with original veils still attached. Ladies hats were often designed with a kind of silk bandeau inside, to hold pinned-up hair together. They were usually manufactured by men’s hat makers rather than ladies milliners.
  • The men’s riding hat: Riding hats for men also typically had an upward curling brim.
  • The opera hat: In 1823, a hat designed by Antoine Gibus appeared on the scene. Top hats were requisite formal wear for a night at the opera during this time, but they impeded the view of the person behind the wearer and they were easily squashed and damaged in cloak rooms. The Gibus hat (or chapeau claque) was a collapsible hat that folded down onto itself via a set of invisible springs. Once collapsed, it could be safely stowed under a seat. The Gibus opera hat is possibly the most delightful gentleman’s hat ever created, as all good magicians know, but there are very few of these in decent condition on the market today.

Top hats had more or less disappeared by the 1920’s, having been replaced by bowlers and fedoras. It’s worth noting that many surviving collectible antique hats that have remained in good condition are in unusually small sizes. A wearably-sized original Gibus hat or Knox ladies riding hat with a veil– if you can find either of these– are top hat treasures, and will probably be priced accordingly.

By Erin Sweeney

for Antiques.com

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Antique Jewelry: 19th and 20th Century Gypsy Jewelry

August 8th, 2012 by

The Gypsy people, also called Roma or Romani, can trace their origins back more than 1000 years to the Indian subcontinent. Gypsy bloodlines and cultures have since proliferated across Europe and most of the rest of the world. During the early part of the 20th century, many Gypsy families arrived in the United States, bringing with them their culture and of course their possessions, which tend to showcase the Roma’s unique skill with intricate metalwork. This skill is easily recognized in a form of rare and now highly valued antique jewelry.

Metal smelting, plating, and shaping skills were believed to have developed among the Roma more than a millennium ago and have since been passed down from one generation to the next. As a result, the most beautiful and prized antique jewelry of this century is often set in or composed of various metals, specifically copper and gold. Gold cuff bracelets and earrings, gold belts, and gold medallions made by Roma are often more valuable then the gold used to make them– worth more than their weight, so to speak. But there are other reasons why these pieces are so sought after, many originating in aspects of the Roma culture and lifestyle.

For example, as a nomadic people, Gypsies historically limit their possessions to what they can carry or wear, so jewelry has become a form of wearable currency. But this exposes items to damage and loss and so, as generations go by, truly antique jewelry can become harder to find. The Roma also traditionally bury possessions with their owner upon the owner’s death, the possible exception being a single ring given to the owners oldest daughter. Jewelry belonging to a deceased person cannot be sold, and even as these restrictions have changed and lifted over the years, it still remains taboo to sell this jewelry within the Roma community. All of these factors contribute to a general attrition of truly authentic antique jewelry displaying Roma metalwork. The current rarity of these items can also be traced to the 1930’s and the great depression which left many families in financial circumstances that forced them to pawn or melt antique jewelry pieces down in order to sell the gold.

A few features to look for when evaluating antique jewelry with Gypsy origins: First, the metalwork. Gems and stones are often set in the pieces, but Gypsy owners typically preferred to invest in gold, since gold is more difficult to counterfeit. Intricate wirework, or filigree, is also a common feature of authentic Gypsy pieces.
Keep an eye out for Gypsy motifs as well, the most popular being horseshoes, hearts, and the head of a beautiful woman in profile, often referred to as “the Gypsy queen.” If you happen to own antique jewelry displaying these images, keep in mind the Gypsy belief that such pieces are good luck to own, but bad luck to sell. This also, of course, escalates the pieces in both rarity and value.

- Erin Sweeney

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Buyer Beware: Tips for Furniture Buyers – by Marko Kareinen

August 7th, 2012 by

At first glance, this looks like an authentic Empire chest. It is a fine intarsia decoration, old-looking fittings, good varnish etc. To a new collector, this would appear to be made around 1850 but buyer beware.  This is a new product!

This chest is actually made around 1950.

How can you tell?  A closer look behind the chest is the giveaway.

The back of the chest and the bottom of the drawers are made of plywood.

Plywood is an older wood, but a real Empire chest would have a solid back and the drawers would be solid also.

Below are a few images to help you identify old from new:

Take a look at the back – does this look like a solid back?

Here is a reproduction drawer base in plywood.

Here is an old drawer base. (Neo Renaissance chest 1890 ) It is made of solid wood.

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Selling Your Antiques Online -By Reyne Haines

August 3rd, 2012 by

At some point in time collectors are faced with the need to deaccession, or pair down their collections.   They often tire of their earlier purchases, deciding to upgrade to more rare, or one of a kind pieces. Sometimes they shift gears altogether, collecting a completely different artist, or era.

Selling your antiques online has both risks and rewards.  It offers you great opportunities to get in front of large audiences and obtain a good bang for the marketing buck.  After all, what could be better than getting to enjoy something for a while, then sharing it with some else by selling it for a profit?  For the addicted, this generally affords you the opportunity to purchase another great item, perhaps even more rare and expensive, which starts the process all over again!

As always, marketing your items is very important.  For this, you’ll need really good pictures!  Since the buyer is unable to hold the item in hand, you’ll also need to provide thorough descriptions.  Be open to answering questions from inquisitive buyers.  Price your items based on your research and current market conditions.  Keeping a list of which client bought what type of item can prove handy in the future when selling similar things.

There are many venues you can use to sell your collectables.  So which ones are best?  That depends on what it is you have to sell.  There are sites like eBay and Craigslist which work well for certain items,  but would they really offer the serious collectors for your Tiffany glass collection?

Other venues exist to help your efforts.  Google “selling antiques online” and you will find over a million results for auctions, online antique malls, and collectors clubs that might help you get in front of the right kind of buyers which should bring you more opportunity.

When working with online auctions or an online mall, it is important to know a few things.  First, do they deal in items like the ones you have?  Second, you should find out what kind of agreements they have between buyers and sellers.  Ask how they settle the purchase and what fees could be charged to you.  Finally, what kind of protection do they offer for both the buyer and the seller?

Remember, do not ship your item until payment has been received.  If you accept credit cards, be cautious when accepting credit cards from certain countries. You may not want to sell your entire collection to the Nigerian prince offering to pay you with his credit card.  PayPal is often the safe method for accepting credit cards if you do not already have merchant status in place.

Whether you use a popular online auction or mall, or create a web site yourself, you should be knowledgeable and exercise a sound strategy when offering your antiques.  In today’s world it isn’t just “caveat emptor” but also “vendo cum cautela” (sell with caution) as well.

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