Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Willie Stargell signed baseball

Spread some chicken on the hill and get out your green weenie! Alright not all of us were fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates back in the 1970's but these would have been some of the things that you would hear when listening to Bob Prince announcing a Pirates game. Willie Stargell was one of the most prolific home run hitters of the time. In a day prior to steroid accusations when baseball ruled the airways, Willie, was a baseball hero.

As a kid I would listen to the games on a daily basis. Bob Prince announced the games in a way that was Pittsburgh all the way through. But it wasn't just Pittsburgh. Every team had its Willie Stargell, every team had a Bob Prince. Ball players would sign bats, balls and just about anything that a fan would offer. Sometimes they wouldn't.

Many baseballs (or anything signed for that matter) were not signed by the players. These items could have been signed by anyone from the bat boy to the team secretary. Why? The players just didn't have the time to sign every item that was presented to them. So the duties were passed on to the next available person.

So, how do we know if it is a real signature or not? Well if you were the original owner and you are willing to verify that you were present when it was signed is one way. Another way is to purchase a ball from a reputable company that deals in only authentic balls. The first is free, the second can be very pricey. The real problem is that the reputable companies that sell the signed balls weren't around when Willie was playing.

About the only other way to verify the signatures is to send the signed items to a company that verifies that the signatures are real. I checked online and found several that will verify, grade and provide a certificate of authenticity for around $20.00. You will also have shipping costs to add to this making the total closer to $40.00.

What is Willie worth? If it is authenticated and graded reasonably high, the price would be around $100.00. Unauthenticated baseballs sell for around $40.00. The question comes down to is it worth it to get the ball authenticated? The answer sometimes. My real response would be it is worth while only for the top players on the most popular teams. Willie was enormously popular in Pittsburgh, not so much in Cincinnati. Another Willie, Willie Mays would fall under the category of top player on one of the most popular teams and signed items by this Willie should be strongly considered for verification. Oh yeah, there is a possible negative outcome and that is your signature is not real. In this case you spent money to find out that your coveted baseball should be used as a dog toy. Sometimes we do lose on our gambles, stay tuned next week we are going to talk about how to loose money.

Fans are fickle. If a team is having a great year, guess what, the value of any collectibles for that team go up dramatically. If the Pirates have a great year this ball will be worth more. If they have a bad year less.

For the time being I'll probably hold on to this ball. Not only was Willie a childhood hero, but the last couple of years the Pirates were pretty bad. So, GOOOO BUCKOOS! So that someday I'll be able to sell this ball.


Monday, March 29, 2010

The Whiskey Jug

Sometimes the most significant moments in your life occur without your ever knowing it. This old whiskey jug was one of those moments for me. As silly as it may sound this old piece of pottery may have been the beginning of a lifelong passion. The whiskey jug purchased long ago was really the first exposure that I had to the antiques business. So here is the story.

Aunt Gladys

Aunt Gladys (my mothers sister) in a crazy way, is the reason that I'm in this business. My father passed away in a professional drag racing accident when I was 6 years old. When this happened in the 1960's women's liberation hadn't quite taken hold yet. My mother had to retrain and reinvent herself from housewife to worker. Since daycare was still a future luxury my mothers family stepped in to help fill the gaps of raising me. Grandparents, Aunts and Uncle's all helped in raising a somewhat independent young child.
Aunt Gladys was quite an interesting person. She believed in aliens, ghosts and Ouija boards. She smoked like a chimney, could swear with the best of them and had a family with 5 children. When the time came to help out with a young nephew she was always there. School days and summertime's were spent under her care. Crazy philosophies aside, she also had during the 1960's a passion for collecting mason jars and stoneware pottery. I was often taken along on the jaunts out to a local flea market called Theron's. At the time it seemed as though we were going on trips to the end of the world. The drive to Theron's seemed to take hours ( it was really about 20 minutes ) as an adult I would complete that same trip hundreds of times.
At Theron's we would peruse the booths for the rare and unusual. I can recall seeing my first nickelodeon there. I can still remember a clear as day the endless display cases filled to the top with some of the greatest treasures that a young kid could imagine. We would spend hour after hour viewing all of the great items and after careful inspection the days purchases would be made. On one of those trips the a stoneware whiskey jug was obtained.

Being only 8 years old at the time of the purchase I was not allowed to ever touch the coveted jar. Although it was only worth a few dollars we were taught to treat it with the respect that it deserved for surviving to such a ripe old age. From the day that it was purchased I was enamoured by that piece of pottery. I would watch the whiskey jug as it was moved from place to place in the house. In summertime it would find itself on the front porch, fall would find it decoration the kitchen, winter usually meant storage in the basement and spring would bring about its annual rebirth towards its summertime vestige. That old stoneware jug just always seemed to be there.
When I was eleven years old when one of those fateful announcements of change was set upon me. Aunt Gladys, Uncle Bill and Skip my cousin would be moving. Times were hard in the construction business that Uncle Bill worked in. The rumors of employment in the construction industry in the state of Florida prompted the move. They first visited to confirm the rumors. Once confirmed the plan to move was put into action. A date was set for the final move and it was dicided that a garage sale would be held to get rid of everything that could not be taken.

And there it sat. That coveted antique that had been so carefully purchased 4 years before. I was now a 12 year old future entrepreneur with a dream of owning my very own whiskey jug. I eyed it wistfully hoping that somehow it would be mine. The price, a whopping $2.00 was well beyond my meager means. I paced, made countless inquiries and had the saddest looks that I could muster on my face. Finally my Aunt to took notice. She wouldn't just give it to me but she did reduce the price to the now affordable .25. The journey to my stash of cash was immediate. I produced a dime and three nickles for payment and that great treasure was now mine. I ran home and immediately and put it into my room, ecstatic over finally having it all to myself.

The whiskey jug has been with me ever since. A few years ago the handle was broken. It has been used as a bank and as a home decoration. It has spent time in the limelight, and it has been housed in the garage. It is one of the few items that I have never considered selling or giving away. Its current value on a good day would still be only a few dollars, but to me it is priceless.
It has been over 40 years since the purchase and I can still remember it as if it had occurred today. I am writing this because Aunt Gladys passed away this morning. I wish that I could step back in time and relive those trips to the flea market, but even though I can't the memories created from looking at an old jug are golden. I can't help but wonder how much different my life would be without the trips to the flea market, without the purchase of an old jug and without having her around to influence my life. Today, what seemed to be such an insignificant event at the time ultimately put me on the path to being in a business that I love so much. That old jug today is full, of memories. I have never been completely sure about the definition of a family heirloom before today, but now I am. Is that jug worth a million dollars, I don't think so, but it is priceless, absolutely. Aunt Gladys will be greatly missed.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bernard Bloch Amphora Vase

What a weekend! I held two antique appraisal fairs, worked two major auctions and was interviewed for a morning television show. Today's story is about amphora pottery. A piece very similar to this turned up at the weekends appraisal fair. I was able to identify it as amphora and I properly appraised it $6-700. The question was raised on one of the marks found on the bottom of the vase. The unidentified mark was a simple BB. Although I did not know exactly what the marking was I assured its owner that finding out would be very simple.

There are days when it is beneficial to be lucky instead of good. The very next day while performing the auction duties at a very prestigious auction being held by Boardman Auction Gallery, guess what turned up...an amphora vase with the same exact markings on it. As luck would have it the auction company had already done my work for me. The piece was identified as being done by Bernard Bloch. Bernard was actively using this marking in the late 1800's. Then to make it even easier yet, the vase sold for $700 virtually assuring me that my appraisal was correct.

Dumb luck? Most likely. Sometimes it is great when things just work out. CASH IT IN at a high quality auction house to get the best results.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spice Sets

Spice sets like the one pictured were standard kitchen items from the early 1900's to the 1960's. This set dates to the 1940's and would be considered a good find because of its condition and completeness. Over the years I have seen very large sets containing 25 individual bottles and many loose bottles that were the only remainders of previously full sets. Single bottles although easy to find can be difficult to sell. Typically the singles will bring $3-5 each. Sets however are a different story. A set such as this in this type of condition will sell for $40-50. Larger sets command even higher prices. Watch for these types of spice sets. They are typically quick sellers and should be considered CASH IT items.

BF Goodrich Advertising Ash Tray

The tire companies must have produced as many of these novelty ashtrays as they did tires for your car. These can be found just about anywhere, anytime. They are typically "box lot" items at most auctions due to their relatively low value. There are a very few exceptions to this rule: Michelin Man Ashtrays, World's Fair Ashtrays and early (1920's & 1930's) ashtrays. But even the exceptional ones bring minuscule amounts of around $30.00. So when you come across advertising ashtrays such as these don't pull out your checkbook! If they come free or almost free you will be OK. These are boarder line trash it items. Most trays like this one sell for between $3-10.00. Good luck hunting and don't be awestruck when you run into these.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

RS Prussia Berry Set

RS Prussia is a name that evokes strong memories for those of us that have been in the business for a long time. It is the name of a type of porcelain that for years was among the leaders when it came to value and collectibility. In more recent times it seems to be a type of collectible that is beginning to show signs of fading.
This fine pair of berry bowls dates back to a time when high quality hand decorated items imported from Germany dominated the U.S. market place. These items were eagerly purchased by the discerning home owner to decorate their homes "in only the best" in the early 1900's. The modern heyday for collecting RS Prussia occurred in the 1970's to the early 2000's. During this time frame any item having the coveted marks would bring absolute premium prices whenever it showed up. In the year 2010 the results are slightly different.
Today we just don't see the excitement for these items that once dominated the market. Economy, changing tastes, availability and lack of quality pieces are among some of the reasons for the decline. But even with that, these particular pieces would still fetch a tidy sum if they were offered for sale. In today's market these hand decorated bowls would bring around $150.00 each. If they were presented in their original form of 6 bowls and a master berry bowl the total price would jump up to the low thousand dollar range.
I would not wait around in the hope that prices will increase on this type of item. History has shown time and time again that the buying cycles for collectibles like this are very slow and they may never actually acheive the prices that they commanded in the past. So CASH IT!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Class Rings

Ahh, yes the class ring. That ring that many of us purchased as a final momento of our years receiving an education. These rings are often gold, usually inscibed with the owners name, they are dated to a specific graduation year and of course are for the high school that the owner attended. With the exception of the gold content these rings can be difficult to sell.

Why?? Originally these momento's were quite expensive but in todays market the only real value is in the metal content. The probability that someone from your graduating class with your exact initials wanting a class ring 40 years after the commencement occured are very slim. Then on top of that you have to find them.

The good news is that the rings typically have quite a bit of gold content. So the real question is what is a fair price for that gold? The answer lies in mathmatics, so if you are an admittedly mathmatically challenged this would be a good time to stop reading.

The first part of computing the value is simple enough, look on (typically) the inside of the ring and determine what the karat marking is. Most rings are either 10k or 14k. The second step after determining the karat marking is to actually weigh the ring. It is very important to know that any embedded stones are not part of that weight and that they need to be removed first. Purchasers of gold class rings are not interested in having a synthetic stone depicting your school colors as part of their purchase. They want the ring for the gold content only. Weighing the ring needs to be very accurate. You should find a very accurate scale that weighs in grams.
Now that we know the karat marking and the weight it is time to do the math. I will try to explain as well as I can the process. Don't let it frustrate you if you don't get it a first follow the steps and you should be able to get a pretty good estimate.
Step 1

Do a google search to find out the current selling / purhasing cost of gold. I usually use monex because they have live current prices.

Step 2

Calculate the current value per gram for gold. This is fairly easy. Gold is typically valued using onces. Since there are 31..1 grams per ounce all you have to do is divide the current price of gold by 31..1 An example would be finding that gold's current value is $1200 per once. Divide $1200 by 31..1 (1200/31.1) to get the amount of $38.58 per gram. This number will change each time that the value of gold changes.
Step 3

This part will never change so write these percentages down:
10K = .41666

14K = .58333

18K = .75000

24K = 1.0000

Step 4


Take the first figure that you have calculated in step 2 and multiply it by the percentage that corresponds to you karat weight in step 3. So using our example if your ring is 10K multiply $38.58 times .41666 to get $16.08.

If your ring is 14k then you would multiply $38.58 times .58333 to get $22.50.

Step 5

Multipy the gram weight for your karat times the weight of the ring.

10K ring = 16.08 x weight of 6 grams = $96.48

It may seem confusing at first but it is really a very simple calculation. There only items that will change are the weight of the ring (or any other gold item for that matter) and the current selling price of gold. So here you go again:

Determine the Karat of gold marked on the ring

Deterimine the current value of gold
Weigh the ring


These are a great CASH IT item. They are typically very heavy and the price of gold is currently very strong. So go ahead and grab them out of the old jewelry box and call up your old girlfriends (to get them back!) to turn them into cash.
One last note. Precious metals are weighed using troy ounces. A standard ounce has 28 grams in it a troy ounce has 32.1.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wilbur Shaw Indy 500 Toy Car

We had a great weekend appraising antiques at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio and this is one of the items that was brought in for us to see. This 1940's vintage toy car would sell for around $100.00.

When it was first brought in I had to admit to its owner that I had never had a similar one. My first estimate on the toy was that it would sell for between 100 and 200 dollars. My estimate was on a best guess and was based partially on the fact that the toy had some problems. The toy appeared to be missing its original tires and the paint that was embedded in the script writing on the side of the car was very faded. After doing some research on ebay for similar items I found out that the cars originally had rubber tires on them and the script writing and car seat were painted red. The ebay description for the toy stated that the seller had sold of this type of car in the past and that they were not sure if they were originally sold as a toy or if they were sold at the race as a souvenir.
These toys complete and with original paint will sell upwards of $300.00. Condition will always be a factor in determining final value. On most items you should discount the value by 75% for damage (more if damaged extensively). Always buy conservatively whenever you are dealing with items that are missing parts or have noticeable damage.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

One Mans Trash is Another Mans Treasure

Sometimes beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. A few weeks ago this bicycle was found in the trash. No wonder, two flat tires, bent up plastic basket, repainted a very pretty shade of robins egg blue, the original handle bars were missing and everything (not painted blue) was covered with a coating of rust. The people throwing this away must have thought that they were doing the exact right thing.

They weren't. I noticed this honey placed between two garbage cans on trash day. After some very momentary soul searching about digging into someone Else's trash, I decided to stop and throw it into the back of my fully loaded van. When I got home the realization struck me that my garage was also full to capacity. I put the bike in the only space that was available, on the ground outside of the garage. Putting it there seemed like a very responsible, rational decision at the time. The only thing (or so I thought) that I did not account for was the forecast for snow later that day. Originally the forecast was for "just a light dusting", it in fact turned into an over 30" snowfall. This of course resulted in the bike, being completely covered with snow. It quickly became a forgotten item. But then the snow melted and that is when the real trouble began.

My wife puts very few rules on me when it comes to this business, I am not allowed to leave major messes out where everyone else in the world can see them, I have to bath regularly and dress in a normal fashion and finally nothing with living creatures in it is allowed to be brought into the house. Non compliance with any of these rules is also known as assisted suicide. In this case, my wife who is usually very sympathetic to my obsession with junk, (I'm sorry antiques) will not tolerate having her yard look like the city dump.

The snow that covered the bike did provide some temporary relief from this rule, but once it melted the violation became immediately apparent. The question was very simple "what the heck is that piece of trash doing in our yard". I tried explaining that the bikes sitting outside was only temporary. I then tried telling about how great it was and that it was totally free. She really wasn't all that impressed with either of these explanations. She reiterated that I had promised not make a total mess of the yard. It was one of the few times in my life that I was truly sad to see the snow melt, because once it had melted, the bicycle that had previously been OK (because it couldn't be seen) now became a point of potential matrimonial distress.

I made several attempts to make the bike less conspicuous by moving it behind the garage so it couldn't be seen. She said "nice try" and followed that with an emphatic "NO". I then tried to make it look like a yard decoration by putting birdseed into the basket and calling it a feeder. Although the feeder idea was original it still was not convincing enough to allow it to stay. At this point, it was determined that the best possible solution was to get rid of it immediately. This may be the reason that the original owner put it out to the curb for trash collection . I however, could not make myself put it into the curb. I just cannot make myself throw out something with any value whatsoever, so off to the local junk auction the bicycle went.

WOW!! WHAT A SURPRISE!! The bicycle brought $160.00. I was really hoping for about $10.00, but what the heck I'm not going to complain. This unexpected cash resulted in my being forgiven for the short term mess in the yard. I am still not allowed to make the yard look like we are some type of #%!%^&* hillbillies and I have been told not to let it happen again.

But we both know that it will . Oh yeah CASH IT, CASH IT , CASH IT!

Stereo View Cards (Stereoptican)

These are potentially a great item to find. Stereo cards were very popular in the late 1800's and early 1900's. These cards were produced by Underwood and Underwood and came in various boxed sets. Collectors will pay a premium price for boxed sets that are complete and in good condition. Full sets will sell for $200 and up. This particular set that depicts scenes from Egypt is worth over $500.
Don't make the mistake of bypassing single cards. Although most cards are worth a few dollars each some individual cards can reach into the hundreds and even thousands of dollar range. The typical viewer is worth around $40. Stereo cards and the viewers can be found just about anywhere. So keep your eyes open for these sure fire CASH IT items.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chalkware Figurine Boston Terrier

Chalkware figurines were often given away at carnivals, festivals and amusement parks as prizes for winning games of skill or chance. Today they are inexpensive collectibles that can be found at many auctions and almost all flea markets / antiques shows.
This is one scary looking Boston Terrier. A novelty like this can be purchase for $20-25. Watch out though once in a while you will find them for a dollar or two. Because of the relatively low cost and wide availablility STASH IT. These are a good bet to go up in value....in time.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Civil War Grouping

When we do appraisal shows we never know what is going to show up. Sometimes really great and interesting items come out of the most unexpected places. These items were brought to us contained in an old covered cookie tin.

This grouping of civil war era accouterments was brought to us at the Aurora / Hudson Home and Garden Show. The owner found these in a house that he had purchased as a restoration project. What a great little unexpected gift. Among the items in the group were:

Civil War Union Belt Buckle

Two Powder Horns

A Set of Spurs

Bullet Mold

Cap Box

One Brass Epaulet

What are they worth? A lot of that questions answer lies in what additional information (if any)is available. The first question that we always ask when confronted with this type of collectible is do you have any provenance for the items? Who was the original owner? Where did they come from? Do you have any photography or documentation that might lead us to the original owner? These questions are very important in determining a valuation. A definable history can take a simple group of army surplus items and turn them into a gold mine. History can and will enhance the value of these types of military items. Always keep this in mind for your own collections. Every piece of information that you can obtain on these types of items will increase their value.

On this particular civil war grouping the owner had no additional information. Or so he thought. I dug a little further and found out the home that they came out of was an old family homestead that had been in one family up until the time that he purchased it. He believed that the home was originally built in the mid 1800's.

This great clue could help us in identifying the original owner of this grouping. Because of the strong history of the homestead we may be able to trace back and find out potential owners of the artifacts. I suggested to him that he should look into the history of the home and try to determine if there were any civil war veterans in the family. He said that he would look into it and contact me when he found out.

Valuation of this group will have to be based on intrinsic value only. Civil War belt buckles similar to the one shown sell for around $150, cap boxes sell for $150, powder horns $75 each, spurs $250, epaulets $4-500 and the bullet mold around $50. Total value for the group $1,250...not bad for something just left behind in the house. If these items can be traced to a decorated veteran the price can jump by 2 to 3 times or even more. Positively worth putting in a little research. Definitely a CASH IT.

Kalahari Show March 12,13 & 14, 2-4 pm Daily

Our next antiques and appraisal show will happen at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. For anyone interested in attending the show will go from 2-4 pm March 12, 13, 14, 2010. Come on out we anticipate a great show.

Hudson / Aurora Home and Garden Show

First and foremost thanks to everyone who took the time to bring out their antiques and collectibles. This was one of our best crowds ever! The crowd was huge, the antiques great and it was one of the most knowledgeable groups that we have ever had.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lets really talk about trash!

Alright, now we are really going to talk trash and what you should really try to stay away from.

I have been buying and selling for over 30 years now and even after all of that time I still occasionally make a really big mistake. This is one of those mistakes.

I started attending storage unit sales several years ago as a way to purchase large quantities of items at one time. It is a very simple process. The storage companies put the entire contents of the storage units up for public auction due to non payment of rental fees. The manager cuts the lock on the storage unit door and the auctioneer calls for bids on the entire contents of the unit. It is pretty much a toss of the dice for the buyers because the only previewing allowed occurs when the door is opened. You are not allowed to go inside or open any boxes to see what is in them. These types of sales can give you huge rewards but they also come with huge risk.

I purchased this unit because upon looking in the door it looked like it had great potential. The unit measured 10x20 and was completely full. Everything looked very old. There was a triple curved glass china cabinet in the front of the unit and I thought this is going to be a great one! Oops...it wasn't.

What I found for my $500 was a $350 curved glass cabinet and 10 (yes ten) trailers full of trash. I will barley be able to break even on this one. Count in the time to sort through and then throw away all of the unusable items and it nets out to be a gigantic loss, both monetarily and time wise.

I spent 2 full days painstakingly going through bag after bag of old clothing and papers in the hope that something great would turn up. What I found was $225 worth of change (90% of it in pennies), the curved glass cabinet and what you see remaining in these photos. Out the items in the photos two small tables were eventually filled. The remainder, 9 more 55 gallon contractor bags, went into the trash dumpster.

High risk / high reward purchases like this can be great when they hit. When they don't hit, the pain of working endless hours on something that will only get your money back ( at best ) can be very depressing.

Learn from your mistakes. I still haven't. I will be attending more unit sales starting next week.