Archive for July, 2010

Collecting with Jeff – July Newsletter – By Jeff Figler

July 28th, 2010 by

The following articles Jeff wrote recently for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


Arguably, a ticket to the Masters Tournament has the reputation of being the hardest ticket to get in all of sports. From my golfing aficionado friend Jerry Rockwell, a ticket is not as difficult as it has been, but it is still mighty tough. You can get a ticket if you are a patron, have connections, or, oh my gosh, have the money. Rockwell should know. A former touring pro on the Grapefruit Tour, now called The Nationwide Tour, he has been to virtually every Masters since 2005. He also holds the dubious distinction of trying to teach me how to play golf, but he failed miserably. I don’t know why, but golfing and me are simply incompatible.  Despite that, I am a golf fan, and of the Masters in particular.

Besides tickets to the Masters being difficult to procure, and relatively pricey, memorabilia also can be a bit costly as well. Try these auction results. A 2005 Arnold Palmer-signed Masters Tournament Flag went for $353, a 1974 Masters Badge for $250, and a 1975 Spectator Guide Program for $125. In addition, a 1997 Gene Sarazen button sold for $895 in a 2008 auction, while a 1998 menu signed by Tiger Woods brought in $2932.

However, one of the most unique auction items has been the 1997 Tiger Woods Masters Tournament-used golf bag. You are probably wondering how much that went for. Well, first keep in mind that 1997 was the first year that Tiger Woods won the Masters. Okay, how about $89,625. And the bag was not even signed. I don’t know who owns it, but I know I don’t. That is not your typical item. An item that is a little less expensive is a Woods-signed Masters flag. It went for $1248. A little more like it.

I wouldn’t mind adding a ticket to the Masters to my collection. Does anyone have an extra one?


One of the true annual highlights for many sports collectors is the National Sports Collectors Convention. This year the Convention will be held, for the first time, in Baltimore, from August 4-8, 2010.

As the Convention is on the East Coast, that may defer some collectors from coming if they are from too far away. But it is good to move the venue around.

The Convention is a great opportunity to see if any of your “wish list” items are available. It is also the perfect place to see old friends in the industry.

If you haven’t been to a National before you will see booths of large and small vendors from across the country. Do yourself a favor, and have a list of what you are specifically looking for. If you don’t, and if you don’t have a budget, trust me, you can easily be overwhelmed. A few years ago I had a “wish list” of four items, and wouldn’t you know it, I found three of them at the Convention. The other one took a couple more years to get.

At this National also there will be approximately 60-70 Hall of Famers and other stars from the major sports there to sign autographs. A few of this year’s signing stars include Cal Ripken, Jr., Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, Tom Seaver, Bart Starr, and Joe Montana.

What started out in 1980, when a group of collectors got together in a small hotel ballroom at the Los Angeles International Airport Marriott, for what became the first National Sports Collectors Convention, has now become a full-fledged major convention.

And if you do go, try to come one of the early days in the Convention. If you wait too long, some of the vendors may be gone, as well as some of the items that you specifically wanted.

See you in Baltimore.

Bohnams & Butterfields – Fine Jewelry & Watches – Quail Lodge Carmel, California

July 28th, 2010 by

Catalog now online

Auction August 13th, 2010 starting 12:00

Antique Jewelry: “Lover’s Eyes” Georgian Watercolor Miniatures

July 28th, 2010 by

In 1784 the widow Maria Fitzherbert was introduced to The Prince of Wales– who would later become George IV– at a gathering in London. The two began a secret affair that would continue until their controversial wedding in the drawing room of her home a year and a half later. In the interim, in order to carry a keepsake of his paramour while keeping her identity hidden, the prince had a miniature watercolor created of her—but not of her entire face. Her eye—just one of them—was drawn on a tiny piece of ivory which the prince carried around like a locket. The effect was charming, whimsical and mysterious, and “lover’s eyes” soon took off as a trend among members of London high society.

Between 1790 and about 1825, it became a popular custom to have a miniature watercolor of the eye of a lover, friend, or sister painted, and then sealed under glass and ornamentally framed in a ring, brooch, or pendant. Sometimes the portrait extended as far as the eyebrow, and some portraits contained hints of sideburns or soft curls of hair. The rings and lockets were designed for men as well as women, though most pieces feature portraits of women no matter which gender wore or carried them.

Though the practice of keeping a lover’s eye was persistent, it never quite became universal. The custom continued for a quarter of a century, but less than a thousand or so of these tiny portraits exist in the world today. Because of their scarcity, lover’s eyes are now considered extremely valuable and coveted pieces of antique jewelry.

It’s difficult to adequately describe the weird beauty of an authentic Georgian lover’s eye. When set in antique rings especially, these portraits are not at all out of place in the most elegant vintage antique jewelry collections. But they also call to mind a curiously modern and playful steampunk style– half ornamentation, half secret code, and suggestive of a different form of Georgian art, the anatomical sketch. True lover’s eyes are utterly mesmerizing specimens of antique jewelry, and their high appraisal value only adds to their elusively.

Even more so than with other forms of antique jewelry, forgeries of lover’s eyes abound. With modern scanning technology, the portraits have become easy to replicate, and of course high demand only increases the temptation to counterfeiters. If you own a lover’s eye, take the proper precautions before you part with it. And if you plan to invest in one, be aware that lover’s eyes represent a foray into what is considered high–risk collecting. Even skilled antique jewelry appraisers can mistake authenticity, and the sheer beauty of a piece for its own sake can be fatally alluring.

Remember: there are very, very few of these in the world. If the cost a lover’s eye seems too good to be true, it probably is. Appreciate the artistry and the history of the piece, but be cautious.

By Erin Sweeney

Asian Antiques: Japanese Combs of the Edo Period

July 27th, 2010 by

The Japanese Edo period (named for the city that would later become Tokyo) began in 1600 and ended after 1868. This historical epoch was more or less defined by the rise of Tokyo as an urban center, and by a corresponding shift from a feudal agrarian culture to that of a city-oriented, expanding and cosmopolitan middle class.

This rapid cultural shift left behind many categories of now-collectable Asian antiques– tools, artwork and household items that remain to document the lifestyle of the times. Among Asian antiques aficionados, the Edo period is most often associated with woodcuts, calligraphy, inlay, and other evidence of this flourishing age for the arts, some of which may be covered in later postings. But for the moment, we’ll narrow our focus to one specific relic of the Edo period prized by collectors of Asian antiques—hair accessories.

Just prior to the peace and economic prosperity of the 17th century, the arts in general languished in Japan. Clothing styles and ornamentation were simple and indistinct, and women typically wore their hair loose or tied back with a length of string. But with the Edo expansion of wealth came a shift in lifestyle for both men and women, and hair arrangement among women became an increasingly elaborate expression of status and artistry.

The complicated coiffures of the Edo period were designed by elevating waxed tresses into one of several forms of chignon, or bun. The hair would then be fixed in place with variations of three items: The hairpin (kanzashi), the hair stick (kogai), and the comb (kushi). These three items structured the hairstyles that we often see depicted in Edo woodcuts today, such as the maru mage, a large bun worn by actresses or courtesans, or the shimada mage, an updo often adopted by stylish housewives. Some of these coiffures took so many hours to create that women would sleep with their heads propped up on a padded wooden stand at night in order to protect the style and keep it intact.

Pins, sticks and combs need not be kept in sets in order to be valuable, though of course a set is a welcome find, especially if the kogai and kushi are kept in an original box. But some collectors of Asian antiques have a preference for one of these things more so than the others, and indeed, there is so much to know and so much beauty and artistry in combs alone that an article dedicated to Edo period combs could be volumes long and still not cover the topic adequately.

A few things for a collector of kushi to keep an eye on: First, the shape of the comb. My favorite Edo period combs are wooden and half-moon shaped, sometimes lacquered, with the tines very close together. Second, the condition. Are the teeth intact? Does the handle show signs of wear? And third, the design. The handle, or curved side of the half-moon, often has a flat surface that bears detailing, such as intricate mother-of-pearl inlay in a landscape or floral pattern. The details of the design should ideally continue onto the spine of the comb. And in some beautiful examples, the design extends across the teeth of the comb as well. This is especially appealing in combs of horn or tortoiseshell, the other materials from which kushi are often carved.

By Erin Sweeney

Grey Flannel announces details of Aug. 13 Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Auction

July 27th, 2010 by

WESTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Grey Flannel Auctions of Westhampton, N.Y., has announced details of its Fifth Annual Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Auction and other special events associated with the 2010 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The live auction will take place on Friday, Aug. 13, onsite at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The excitement level is already running high for this year’s enshrinement, which is expected to draw the largest number of Hall of Famers ever to congregate for the prestigious annual event. The Class of 2010, which will be inducted in an evening ceremony on Aug. 13 at the Hall of Fame includes eight individuals and two teams. They are (alphabetically): Jerry Buss, Cynthia Cooper, Bob Hurley Sr., Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen, along with the 1960 USA Men’s Olympic team and the 1992 USA Basketball “Dream Team.” Three legendary players will be honored posthumously: Dennis Johnson, Gus Johnson and the great Brazilian center Maciel “Ubiratan” Pereira.

Grey Flannel Auctions will begin its Hall of Fame activities on Aug. 12 by hosting an invitation-only pre-induction dinner for Hall of Famers, inductees and VIPs at the Hall of Fame’s Center Court. The following afternoon, starting at 1 p.m., Grey Flannel will conduct its 244-lot auction of vintage basketball-related memorabilia.

“I think collectors are going to be ecstatic when they see what’s in store for them at this auction,” said Grey Flannel Auctions’ president Richard E. Russek. “We’ll be offering some of the rarest and most desirable basketball jerseys and uniforms, as well as some great mementos, like the Chicago Bulls 1991-1992 NBA Championship banner that hung in Chicago Stadium.”

1965-66 Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia 76ers game-used home jersey (MVP and scoring title season), style used for one year only, reserve $10,000. Grey Flannel Auctions image.

A premier lot to be auctioned with a $10,000 reserve is Wilt Chamberlain’s 1965-66 Philadelphia 76ers game-used home jersey. Exhibiting a style used for only one season, the red and white jersey is emblazoned with the all-time single game point-scoring king’s number “13” and the word “Phila.”

Also entered with a $10,000 reserve is Elvin Hayes’ circa-1970 game-used and autographed San Diego Rockets home uniform. On the front is the name “Rockets,” while the “E” on the back of the jersey needs no further explanation. The number “11” appears on both front and back.

Grey Flannel has put together a very special and unprecedented selection of 12 articles related to the career of the late slam-dunking superstar Dennis Johnson, and each of the items in the sale comes with impeccable provenance: a letter of authenticity from the Johnson family.

Johnson’s 1984 Boston Celtics World Championship player’s ring features a green sapphire shamrock with a central diamond, the name “Johnson” and other symbols and words associated with the revered Boston franchise. The ring carries a reserve of $5,000.

Other highlights among the dozen articles from the Johnson family include Dennis’ 1980 Western Conference game-used All-Star uniform (reserve $2,500), his 1984-85 Boston Celtics game-used home uniform (reserve $2,500), and two multicolored Spalding basketballs commemorating career milestones: Johnson’s 15,000th point and his 5,000th assist. Each has a required minimum bid of $2,500.

Another important commemorative basketball in the sale’s top 10 lots is the one denoting the 47 points scored for the Atlanta Hawks by “Pistol” Pete Maravich on Feb. 8, 1975. The ball is autographed by Maravich in black marker, and comes with a letter of authenticity from JSA as well as a letter from the wife of the fan who received the ball at the game and asked Maravich to sign it that night.

The pride of French Lick, Indiana, Larry Bird, is represented in the sale by a game-used uniform he wore in the 1990 Eastern Conference All-Star Game. The front of the jersey says “NBA All-Star,” and both front and back carry the record-setting sharpshooter’s number “33.” Reserve: $5,000.

1969-70 Bill Bradley New York Knicks game-used NBA Finals home jersey, worn during series-clinching game, photo match, accompanied by letter of provenance, reserve $5,000. Grey Flannel Auctions image.

Other game-used apparel includes Bill Bradley’s 1969-70 New York Knicks NBA Finals home jersey (reserve $5,000), Steve Green’s 1975-76 Spirits of St. Louis home uniform (reserve $2,500) and the only known Dolph Schayes Syracuse Nats jersey, which was autographed by the 6ft. 8in. prodigy known for his shooting and rebounding skills (reserve $5,000).

Grey Flannel’s Friday, Aug. 13, 2010 auction will take place at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, 1000 W. Columbus Ave., Springfield, MA 01105, starting at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. In addition to in-person and phone bidding, Grey Flannel welcomes absentee bids, including by phone (please call to reserve a line) and through its Web site: Printed catalogs are free to all registered bidders. The fully illustrated electronic version of the catalog may be viewed online at

To request a catalog, register as a bidder or obtain further information on any lot in the auction, call 631-288-7800, ext. 223; email

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About Grey Flannel and Grey Flannel Auctions:

Grey Flannel was founded in New York in 1989 by Richard Russek. With its respected team of experts and long-established friendships with athletes and their families, Grey Flannel rose to become the world’s foremost authenticator and dealer of game-used jerseys. In 1994, Grey Flannel became the official appraisers and authenticators for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1998, the firm was hired by Sotheby’s to authenticate the Barry Halper Uniform Collection, which rivaled in scope even that of the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1999, Grey Flannel entered the auction arena, and since then has auctioned some of the most important sports memorabilia ever to reach the public marketplace, including Babe Ruth’s 1932 “Called Shot” uniform, which sold for more than $1 million. Grey Flannel continues to achieve record prices, most recently in April 2010 with the $564,930 sale of the iconic New York Yankees home uniform Yogi Berra wore during the 1956 World Series perfect game pitched by Don Larsen.

The Art of Picking – Vol 13 – By Reyne Haines

July 26th, 2010 by

How can a good yard sale item quickly diminish to bad? When you are Vaneisha Robinson of Ohio.

Robinson claims four years ago she bought a pendant at a yard sale for $5.  She thought it was neat, and wore it around her neck not realizing its value.

The pendant is a replica of LeBron James’ jersey for the Kings. It is enameled, and encrusted in diamonds.

Robinson claims only a few months ago did she notice the diamonds were set like authentic ones are, and decided it might have more value than the $5 she invested.  She took photos, and listed it on eBay.

Shortly thereafter, Robinson was contacted by someone from James’ camp claiming he wanted the item for himself and asked to meet her.

When she arrived at the meeting place, James was not there, however one of his associates was and “forced her to hand over the pendant.”

Police in Ohio have her listed as one of five people in connection with the theft of the pendant valued at over $10,000.  The case is currently still under investigation.

The Art of Picking – Episode 4

July 23rd, 2010 by

Reyne interviews more dealers who display items they have attained while out picking. In this episode we see antique glass plates that were bought for a song and some interesting sewing items that are worth a lot more than you would think.

Antiques as an Investment: Rewards, Risks, and What to Consider Before You Begin

July 23rd, 2010 by

So you’re considering the purchase of a beautiful and potentially valuable set of antique furniture, a piece of antique jewelry, or an antique toy, tool, or work of art. How do you proceed? We’ve all heard stories of items like these purchased for a few dollars and then sold later for five, ten, or a hundred times their initial cost. How realistic are these scenarios and what steps can you take to optimize your investment? How can you move forward while maintaining an acceptable level of risk?

There are two very important truths to bear in mind before you make your purchase. First, every antique is valued within its own market, and this market fluctuates in accordance with demand. The current value of an antique toy—say, a 1907 stuffed mohair teddy bear has little correlation with the value of an Asian antique vase from the 16th century. Collectors control the worth of each of these items, and collectors can be fickle. Rarity is not always a guarantee that an item will have value, and neither is a momentary spike in speculative interest (a surge of buyers who are drawn by the possible resale value of the item, not the item itself.)

Second, since this is the case, it is wisest to purchase an antique when you have a real and personal interest in owning that specific item. If you expect to enjoy the antique furniture or antique jewelry for its own sake, and would be happy to keep it for an indefinite period of time, this mitigates your level of risk.

A Few Tips for the Potential Investor:

Don’t spread a wide net. In-depth knowledge is important when investing in antiques, and the more specific your collection, the deeper your knowledge is likely to grow.

Know the difference between investing and speculating. Investing is long-term, researched, lower risk, and requires patience. Speculating often means buying an item that one has no long-term desire to own, intending instead to resell the item as quickly as possible for a profit. Speculation requires a keen eye set not just on the item itself, but on other buyers and collectors in order to gauge shifting levels of interest. Speculation requires strong nerves and a high tolerance for risk. Both investors and speculators benefit from in-depth and specific knowledge– For example, a skill in identifying provenance, an eye for antique furniture construction, or the ability to spot counterfeit components in the mechanism of an antique clock.

Remember the ten-to-fifteen percent rule: Most financial experts recommend keeping art and antiques within ten to fifteen percent of your investment portfolio.

Be aware that some antiques are easier targets for forgery than others. Forgeries tend to rise when an item becomes highly sought after by speculators. When an item seems to attract the interest of serious collectors only, counterfeits decrease.

And finally: Know yourself. Just as we’ve all experienced “buyer’s remorse”, there is a similar feeling that cuts in the other direction. “Non-buyer’s remorse” is more common in the antiques world than elsewhere, since antiques are one of a kind, and an opportunity to buy an item, once missed, may never come again. How high is your tolerance for either of these feelings? What items are you willing to pay a steep price for, and why? The heart of an antiques collector is a funny thing. In the antiques world, purchase decisions are frequently based on money, and just as frequently are based on factors that have nothing to do with money at all.

By Erin Sweeney

Treadway/Toomey Galleries – 20th Century Art and Design Auction

July 23rd, 2010 by

An important three session sale including over 1100 lots. Featuring Arts & Crafts/Art Nouveau, Fine Art and 1950’s/Modern Furniture.

September 12th, 2010  10am

Morphy’s July Premier auction led by O’Hearn collection tops million-dollar mark

July 22nd, 2010 by

DENVER, Pa. – Worldwide competition for a high-end collection of antique toys resulted in a million-dollar gross at Morphy’s on July 16-17 as the central Pennsylvania auction house presented the 28-year collection of retired California architect Michael O’Hearn.

“Interest in the O’Hearn collection, and in all of the toy consignments for that matter, was fierce,” said auction house owner Dan Morphy. “The gallery was busy all day with in-house bidders, and we had the largest number of Internet bidders in Morphy’s history.” The final tally for the 1,354-lot sale was $1,050,000. All prices quoted are inclusive of 15% buyer’s premium.

Atom Jet tin friction race car, Japanese, 25 ½ inches long, all original parts intact, $15,500. Dan Morphy Auctions image.

A futuristic postwar Japanese friction racer known as the Atom Jet, measuring an impressive 25½ inches long, commanded a strong price due to its originality and excellent condition. Against an estimate of $4,000-$8,000 the bizarre, dorsal-finned vehicle finished in a mint green color sped across the finish line at $15,500.

A toy vehicle of quite a different type, a 21-inch-long red metal Ferrari made around 1952 by the Italian manufacturer Toschi, had the added appeal of a (reproduction) factory tag featuring the trademark Ferrari horse logo. With hopes of making $2,000-$3,000, the car confidently achieved that and more, closing its hood at $5,200.

Of a much earlier era, an early 20th-century German-made Karl Bub clockwork limousine, 10½ inches long with original lithographed driver, front headlights and gearshift levers on both sides of the front door, was won by an Internet bidder who paid $4,680.

1956 Haji (Japan) tin friction Ford Sunliner convertible with original box, 11¼ inches, $7,500. Dan Morphy Auctions image.

A colorful fleet of toy ice cream trucks found favor in the midsummer sale. The bell rang loudest for a 7-inch tin friction truck made by the Japanese company HTC and emblazoned with advertising on both sides that says “Fresh Delicious Ice Cream.” Its bonus feature is a three-dimensional vendor figure that pops out to offer an ice cream cone when the truck is activated. Against an estimate of $700-$1,000, the truck scooped up a winning bid of $3,700.

Of the two-wheeled vehicles, a 15-inch-long Japanese tinplate Harley-Davidson friction motorcycle with smartly dressed and helmeted rider fared best. Made by I.Y. Metal Toys, the bike exhibited true, unfaded colors and crisp lithography. It rolled to the top of its estimate range at $4,900.

The last lot of the opening session hit a nostalgic note with those who could recall riding in Dad’s new car – a Ford – in the carefree 1950s. Made by Haji, the faithful depiction of a 1956 Ford Sunliner convertible in a snappy red and white color scheme with peppermint-striped seats came with its original pictorial box showing a young family out for a leisurely drive. One of the most desirable of all postwar Japanese tin cars and described as the same example shown in Dale Kelley’s book titled Collecting the Tin Toy Car, it easily glided past its $3,000-$6,000 estimate to a final bid of $7,500.

Painted-lead still bank depicting Mickey Mouse on a round of cheddar cheese, 5 inches tall, $4,600. Dan Morphy Auctions image.

Character toys put in an impressive performance. A lot consisting of a pair of 80-year-old Amos & Andy walking toys, each 11 inches tall and with the correct individually named “Amos” or “Andy” box, sashayed to $5,200. In other character highlights, a 1932 Chein Popeye Heavy Hitter wind-up toy flexed its muscle at $4,300; while a rare and very charming painted-lead still bank fashioned as an early-style Mickey Mouse standing on a round of cheddar cheese earned every penny it deserved, with a winning bid of $4,600. The perennial popularity of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters was evidenced by the above-estimate $15,000 price paid for the artist’s original daily comic strip panel dated “5-2-1967.”

While toys were red hot, so were virtually all other categories in the sale. An exceptional single-owner collection of antique occupational shaving mugs attracted spirited bidding, with a china mug depicting a roofing contractor in his 1920s-vintage, spoke-wheeled truck taking top honors for the group at $16,100 – nearly five times the lot’s high estimate.

Yet another auction surprise was the $11,000 price fetched by a 10½-inch-tall cast-iron mechanical bank replicating a lighthouse of red brick. “It had everything going for it,” said Dan Morphy. “It was all original, in near-mint condition with strong red paint, and it was a form that isn’t seen very often.” The bank had been entered in the sale with a $3,000-$4,000 estimate.

There was a surge of bidding for early Coca-Cola advertising, such as the 1903 tinplate “pretty lady” tip tray that earned an $8,600 gratuity (est. $3,000-$5,000), and the 1940s cardboard sign of a bathing beauty sipping a Coke atop a beach blanket, $6,900 (est. $3,500-$4,500).

Convex porcelain Campbell’s Soup sign, 22½ inches by 12¼ inches, $8,190. Dan Morphy Auctions image.

In other advertising, an Internet bidder claimed a convex porcelain Campbell’s Soup sign in near-mint condition for $8,190 (est. $4,000-$6,000); and a tin Robert Smith Ale sign featuring the image of a forward-leaping tiger met presale expectations at $5,500. A Hi-Ho Tobacco pocket tin with an image of scullers rowing past the Houses of Parliament on the River Thames reached the upper level of its estimate range at $4,600.

Dan Morphy Auctions has a full slate of Discovery and Specialty sales planned for the remainder of 2010, all of which are detailed on Morphy’s Web site. The company’s next Premier Auction, featuring antique toys, dolls, trains and advertising, will be held on Oct. 15 and 16. A special highlight of the sale is the antique, vintage and contemporary doll collection of the late Martha Cristol and her daughter, Merle Cristol Glickman.

For information on any upcoming Dan Morphy event, call 717-335-3435, e-mail or visit the Morphy Web site at