Welcome to January’s Algonquin Appraisals! Author and former Sotheby’s appraiser Emyl Jenkins takes a gander at staffers and readers’ prized possessions.
Doing some cleaning for the New Year and want help separating potential treasures from junk? Shoot me an email at brittany [at] algonquin [dot] com for submission guidelines!
The first two questions answered below lead me to remind everyone that the first clue appraisers look for when examining any object is a mark. Marks can be in many forms–a label, an impressed stamp or etched symbol, a signature, a hallmark, etc.–and can be found almost anyplace on the piece, so look hard. Think of marks as shortcuts that can help you quickly know an object’s country of origin, age, quality, and eventually, its value. But if no mark is visible, or at least obvious, don’t give up. Just dig a little deeper.
Algonquin: This unusual cat was picked up at a local thrift shop. It’s about five inches in length and is made of hollow ceramic. What can you tell me about this item’s worth. . . besides its obvious value as a conversation piece?
Emyl: Though there’s no identifying mark on your cat, its big dark eyes and stylized light brown flower decoration, plus its speckle-glazed round body quickly identify its origin as Mexican. Chances are its paper label noting its country of origin has peeled off over time.
The absence of any mark might lead some people to think that the piece is an antique. Note, however, that’s there isn’t any sign of wear on the bottom. This leads me to conclude that though your cat could possibly be 30 or 40 years old, it could be of a more recent vintage.
You’re right, until it gets some more age on it, because so many of these fun, decorative doodads or whimsies were made, your cat’s greatest value is that of a conversation piece.
Algonquin: Given to me by my grandmother, this gold bracelet is at least 80 years old. It is one half of a set of twin bracelets (the other bracelet is not pictured) that can be attached by the gold chain. The surface is covered in a floral design and there is some denting along the side.
Emyl: To know the value of your lovely set of bracelets, its gold content must first be determined. Marks on jewelry can be so small a magnifying glass is often needed to see them. It is also possible, since you note there is some denting, the markings on your bracelets can be concealed by a crease. In any case, a jeweler can quickly test then for their gold content.
However, based on many years of experience, my best judgment says that chances are your bracelets are 12k (karat) gold-filled, in which case, depending on the extent of the denting, their value is probably in the $200-300 range. If, on the other hand, they should be gold, rather than gold-filled, their value will be substantially more.
Algonquin: What can you tell me about this washstand? It is about 5 feet tall, including the upper portion and is in excellent condition, aside from some scratches on the mirror. I believe it dates back to the early 1900s.
Emyl: Yes, your washstand dates from the 1910s, and is a classic example of the quarter-sawn oak furniture, and was all the fashion with the burgeoning middle classes of that day.
Though the furniture was sold at Sears and other furniture stores, this style furniture is often generically called “Larkin oak.” In the early 1900s the Larkin Soap Company came up with the marketing idea of redeeming coupons included in its soap products for inexpensively made furniture produced by a factory which was also run by the Larkin Company. To ensure that its products were affordable, Larkin also cut out “middle man” expenses by selling its products directly to the customer. Thus dressers with mirrors like yours usually “cost” about $30 worth of coupons. Today such pieces generally retail anywhere from $150 to $ 350.
Algonquin: Souvenir book from the Thirty-third National Open Golf Championship at the Winged Foot Golf Club, June 27-29, 1929. Book is soft bound and size is 8 1/2″ x 11″, 112 pgs, not counting front & back covers. Outside Front and back cover of book have come unglued from rest of stapled booklet and there are two folds on spine of cover, but otherwise, book is in good condition with minimal folds, and no major tears or stains. This book was found in a used bookshop on Topsail Island, NC about 5 years ago. Inside the booklet there was also a 6″ x 3 1/2″ scorecard dated June 30, 1929, and the scorer line is signed as Bill Simpson, as best I can read (in pencil) and a 3″ round gallery pass good for Sunday, June 30, 1929. Here is a link to a bit of history about this particular National Open year: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1128322/1/index.htm
Emyl: Wow! Finds like this make an appraiser’s day. I’ll admit, I’m not an expert in sports memorabilia, but wanting to learn more, I started digging around for additional information. Of course these days that means exploring the Internet.
My investigation led me to a copy of a souvenir book like yours that sold in 2007 (item number 182032) by the PBA Galleries in San Francisco. You might want to sit down when I tell you that it sold for was $7,474.00.
Now, what the Internet does not tell us is how the condition of the your book compares to the one they sold, or what today’s market for such items is. My advice is that you check out the PBA Galleries “contact us” page, give them a call, and learn more from the real experts.
Emyl Jenkins is a longtime antiques appraiser. She has worked at two auction houses and has written numerous books and articles on antiques and is the author of the Sterling Glass mysteries The Big Steal and Stealing with Style. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.