Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Steinway Model C, Grand Piano

Once in a while something special shows up that needs to be sold. In this case it is a Steinway Model "C", concert grand piano. The first question that I was asked by the family was "Have you ever sold a Steinway Piano before?". It seems as though that is a perfectly reasonable question to ask. My answer, "Nope, but I can." . This may seem a little cocky to a lot of people but it is an absolutely true statement. The reality of it is I have over the years sold many expensive items, its just that none of them has been a Steinway piano.

Should they be afraid to let me sell it? No. If you do your homework, remain patient and seek out more than one opinion of value, anyone can sell just about anything. The trick is ask a lot of questions, verify the answers and negotiate. The crooked people you can weed out almost immediately. You do this by having a clue about how it really works before contacting anyone.

In most cases the Internet is the answer. It is real simple, eBay and google. First, do an eBay search. See what people are asking for similar items (remember the key word similar). Then find similar items that have actually sold. The bottom line is unless it has actually sold the asking price is nothing more that someones fantasy. Next, check google. Although most dealers do not report their final selling prices for items, they do show (most) their asking prices. Figure that most dealers are willing to discount 10-20% and offer free delivery.

So now we know what it sells for, but what will they pay? I normally figure around 50% of what they can reasonably expect as a final selling price. So, if they are asking $70,000 and will discount it for 20% and they expect to pay $2,500 to deliver it and will pay 50% of the final selling price, you should expect between $25 to 30,000 as a buying price.

Then again maybe they already have ten of the damn things and won't be interested at all! I'll let you know how it proceeds.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Brass and Iron Portholes

How many of these do you see in a typical week? We had 10, $200 each!

Hyde Ships Wheel

This was one of my favorite items at the auction last Saturday, a cast iron ships wheel salvaged from a Lake Erie freightor. This item had spent the better part of 30 years as a yard decoration. It sold at auction for $450. I personally think that it was one of the bargains of the sale. It would look fantastic in a studio appartment.

WWII Nazi SS Helmet

I have performed a lot of auctions over the years. Tools, equipment, jewelry, guns and automobiles to name a few, but I have never had the response to an item like I had on this one. An authentic WWII Nazi SS Helmet. To tell the truth when I first saw the helmet I wasn't really all that impressed. I tend to look at items like this in a negative way. The history, the destruction and the Holocaust were all brought on by this group of maladjusted people. But in today's world these items now fall into the category of collectibles.

This particular helmet was well used. The helmet had multiple scratching and the emblem was quite worn, on the good side the liner was excellent and the provenance strong. My first thoughts were that the helmet would bring around $1,500. This estimate was based on nothing more than my previous experience with military items. This auction would teach me new things. I received over 30 emails and 40 phone calls. The questions ranged from "How did the owner get it?" to "What numbers are on the helmet?". I spent over 1 hour with one gentlemen on the phone detailing each and every scratch, ding and number. My initial photo's were not enough for anyone, so, a dozen new photo's were taken and placed into the ad.

The result 14 left bids, one phone bid (I refused many others because they were not even close), and multiple people in attendance at the auction for this one item. It brought a whopping $2,750 it seems that my pre-auction estimate was just a tad short. This is one of those times that the scarcity of an item can and will drive the prices far higher than normal.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guns, Nazi Helmets, Military and Weapons

Tomorrow is the big day! We have been preparing for this auction and Saturdays antiques sale for over 6 weeks. This sale has plain been a lot of work. Hopefully the payoff will be there for both the sellers and myself. The truth is, you just plain never know.

This sale has some great items, a Nazi SS helmet, an army dagger from a battle of the bulge hero, great guns and greater swords and daggers. Saturday is another great auction. It is full of clocks, jewelry, sterling, furnishings and nautical items. If any of you have the time try to show up. If you don't at least take a look at the photo's and auction listing for the two days. You will see some items that just don't turn up everyday.

To see the sale listings go to www.auctionzip.com and then put in 44077 for the zip code and dangerfield as the key word. It should return the two auctions that we are holding this week. I will do some followup on the final selling prices during the next two weeks. Thanks to all of you for your patience the last couple of weeks. I hope to begin posting regularly next week ( after I sleep in for three days straight and try to rediscover my golf swing! ).

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Brimfield, Mass

Last week on a whim I traveled to the antiques Mecca, of the world Brimfield, Massachusets. A long time friend of mine was making the trip and asked if I would like to go. After securing the proper permissions (wife, family, dogs) I said yes. In years past the trip to Brimfield, was a regular commitment for me. Three times a year I would pack up my Toyota pick up truck and make the 9 hour trip to sell antiques. That was over 25 years ago. It was when the speed limit was 55, I was 27 years old and antiques were both plentiful and sought after. So I was really curious to see how it had all changed.

First, It was much better organized. Back in the 80's rumors of discontent between the competing markets ran rampant. Gordon Reid was the original, everyone else also rans. It seemed at the time that none of them liked each other, today it is quite a bit different. It seems that they all figured out that they could make more money by cooperating than by fighting. Organization seemed to prevail. Everything from food to the openings of the various markets seemed to run flawlessly. This was quite a change from the past. The best of all changes was in the sanitary end. Plenty of porta johns. No, I'm not obsessed with them, in 1980 they were typically overflowing and not very clean. This time the exact opposite.

Next, the crowds. The crowds overall seemed to be about the same size, but they lacked the excitement. I can clearly remember the rush of buyers that would be at every shows opening. It would be crazy, people unloading your vehicle for you, fighting over the best antiques and not even asking for a discount because they were afraid that the person next to them would take the item. This time the buyers seemed to meander. There was very little enthusiasm and definitely no imperative buying. The truth is the buyers took their time and thought out their purchases. No fighting, no help unpacking no rush. It was busy, but no rush.

So what has happened? Is it because of the Internet? Is it moneys tight or are they just being more careful? I really don't know. I see more enthusiasm from the buyers at the local flea market. These people get excited about dollar items, Brimfield practically no excitement at all. Remember what I am comparing it to, 25 years ago people were in an antiques frenzy, today however it seems that the reproductions ruled.

And what about those reproductions. Twenty five years ago a dealer would be asked to put away any items that did not qualify as an antique, or a a minimum a very old collectible. In some cases the dealer was asked to leave if they had too many non antique items. Things have changed. I estimated that over 50% of what was being offered for sale did not come even close to being antique. Huge tents full of reproductions were present in all of the markets (to be fair several of the larger markets had not had their openings yet). I personally think that this is the main reason for the lack of enthusiasm. The buyers did not feel any of the anxiety that they had felt in years past because they felt that another item was already on the cargo ship from China. They didn't have to worry about getting one because a thousand others were at the ready.

In summary I had a great time. Despite the changes it is still something that every antiquer should see. Just like Mecca, This is a pilgrimage that you should try to make at least once in your lifetime.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Auction Food!

How bout dat! Auction food, its either the best, or worst, absolutely no in between. As an auctioneer my main goal is to get it for free. Unfortunately it does not always work out so well. So today we are talking about George.

Several years back I ran my own auction house. We tried to keep it simple, stuff for sale, easy parking, nice location and simple foods. My auction house actually had none of these. The stuff for sale was usually junk, the parking needed a security guard (we will tell the story about him in a later article), outside of the man being chased by the police while carrying a fully automatic AK47 the location was OK (another story for later) and the food.

You would have thought that Graham Kerr himself was the cook. Hot dogs, hot ssssaussauge nacho chips, soda, and some other stuff. George was our galloping gourmet. First, lets describe George. Relatively demure in stature (pot belly, stained shirt and with just a hint of alcohol) George was the epitome of an auction cook. His thinning (greasy) and receding (with some obvious scalp disease) hairline accented his well groomed (unevenly unshaven) rugged looks. His jawline was accented by a gleaming (toothless) perfect (green) smile. He wore only the finest (Goodwill) clothing. A slight but distinct speech impediment that involved the prolonged usage of the letter S completessssss thissssss dessssscripssssssion.

George came with a girlfriend named Kitty. Kitty was a benevolent type whose soft spoken manner was equal to her beloved George. Kitty would show up at each auction with an uplifting personality that could be best compared to Randel Patrick McMurphy. She could be manic, sane and serene, all at the same time. Her favorite topic, George. Kitty was always seeking advice (from anyone who would listen) about her love life. In particular she wanted someone, to explain to her why she was still with George. She would ask me, Stephanie, my children or anyone attending the auction to tell her about why she should stay. Since none of us could come up with a good reason we assumed it was because of his cooking.

His cooking was extraordinary. It was out of this world. It was without comparison. It was usually 3-4 weeks old. The food was usually brought in the night of the auction pre cooked. Now I am not really sure about where it was cooked, how it was cooked or when it was cooked. I do know that he tried to cook it. I know this because the hot dogs were always a nice charcoal color. Not the charcoal that would make you think of a nice rich black color, the charcoal that is actually charcoal. Over cooked to the point of turning to ash. The buns could not be steamed back to life. This seems to be somewhat of a contradiction since they obviously did contain life. The rich green and red spotting that was contained throughout the bottom of the bag made you think of rainbows and squirrels run over on the road.

The hot ssssausssagesss were without comparison. The only thing burnt worse that the hot dogs was the hot ssssaussagesss. The sssaussage came complete with pickled peppers and onions. The peppers and onions (still in some type of brine) were kept warm with the ssssaussage in some type of candle heated tray. We always made it a point to keep a fire extinguisher nearby just in case the candles ever became a problem. We also feared the the hot dogs and ssssaussagesss might reignite causing some type of Beverly Hills supper club incident that we really didn't want to be responsible for.

The nacho chips and cheese dip are another story that could stand on their own. The cheese was always hot. The chips always stale. This may have been caused by the storage methods employed upon completion of the auction. After the auction was completed the leftover cheese was was put with all of the other condiments into the sun filled oppressively hot storage room that we had provided to him. The open chip bag would always be set right next to the left over hot dogs so that forgetting to use them all up would be an impossible task. Some nights he would have specials. We still are not sure about what his specials really were but I suspect that it may have been the leftovers of the leftovers, mixed with some ketchup. Bona petite.

To top it all off they had a helper. Not hamburger helper like most auction food people use, but an assistant. When the helper showed up it his shirt would be partially tucked in shirt, with the tail protruding from his zipper, the standard greasy hair and a very distinct smell. This smell was one that if captured and bottled for sale as a perfume would have to include the words "boozncheapcigsnobath" in the title. A truly rare scent that can only be reproduced in the finest bridge trusses in the world.

Like I said earlier, auction food is either the best or worst with no in between. George was one of the best. Some day I'll tell you about the worst. For the time being keep on eating those weenies.