Thursday, August 26, 2010

ARS Follow-up

We’re back home from Washington D.C. and our trip to the Antiques Roadshow. If you haven’t already done so, please read my previous post here,, about the items we took with us. We had a great time and the entire event was organized and coordinated to the point that everything went off without a hitch. This is no small feat considering they were expecting to see between 10,000 – 12,000 items in just the one day!

They did not allow pictures from inside the studio so you’ll have to take it from me that there was stuff everywhere! And to be perfectly honest, I saw a whole bunch of stuff that was NOT treasures! A bit of advice for you if you ever have the opportunity to attend one of these events, think twice about taking artwork or jewelry. The lines for those items were easily 3-4 times longer than any other lines.

As you recall, we took a salesman’s case of medicine pills, an old accordion, a carved cane and an old Indian doll. As we entered the appraisal area, we were given item specific tickets to meet with the appraisers. We were given a “Musical Instruments” ticket for the accordion, “General Collectables” for the salesman’s case, “Fine Art” for the cane, and “Tribal Art” for the doll. I was actually surprised we were sent to Fine Art for the cane as I was expecting it to be seen at Folk Art.

Upon entering the studio, the appraisers were all gathered in a central core with lines pin wheeling out. We were told to just find the shortest line for the items that we were having appraised, so off to Musical Instruments we went. We were able to walk right up to the table. When I put the case on the table the appraiser said “What do you have there?” (click on any of the pictures below to see a bigger image)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I opened the case to show him my accordion. He asked what I knew about it and told him I had just purchased it at a garage sale and that I had found nothing on the maker’s name or the model name when doing a search on Google.  He told me that that was not uncommon, that there were hundreds of companies making accordions in the 1920’s and 1930’s, primarily in Italy and Russia. I told him that the brand name, Riga, is now the capital city of Latvia and he confirmed that this was probably of Russian origin. From the design on the grill and the looks of the case, he estimated that it was made between the World Wars, during the art deco period. As far as value, as he said “There are a lot more accordions around today than there are accordion players.” He wouldn’t even hazard a guess as to value but said I had done quite well for my $25 purchase.

After that let down, we set off looking for the next line. We moved to the General Collectables line, but realized it wasn’t moving and was rather long. So we searched for our other two categories. Tribal Art it is, again, with no waiting in line! A soon as Shelley took the doll out of the container, the appraiser chuckled. “I know exactly what you have!”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Then he asked if we wanted the bad news first or the good news first. When I asked if there really was good news he said there’s GREAT news! Shelley asked him for the bad news first. She asked if it was a contemporary doll. He explained that this is a contemporary doll made by an indigenous tribe in central Peru. He told us the name of the tribe but I didn’t write it down and haven’t been able to find them online. The women find scraps of fabric from old sacks to make the clothes for the dolls. The good news is the sacks date back to the pre-Columbian times, around 1200 AD! So what we have is a recent doll wearing clothes made from 800 year old fabric. Value? $100 - $125.

The Fine Arts line was shorter than the General Collectables, so off to Fine Arts we went. We waited in the pin wheel line for quite a while before being escorted to the interior line. The problem here was there were still probably 8-10 people in front of us in that line. It was so busy that there were appraisers actually in line looking at the items to determine if they needed to spend more time with them. We happened to be in line right next to the furniture section, so not only did I see the Kenoe brothers, but Ken Farmer was also standing there. The appraiser came up to me and asked what I had and I handed him the cane.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         When I explained the history of the cane and the background of who it was given to, it didn’t take him long to ask if it was okay to show it to someone else and get another opinion. (That was exactly what I was hoping to hear!) I watched him mingle amongst several of the appraisers and he eventually wound up talking to Ken Farmer and another gentleman that I didn’t recognize. Ken came over and introduced himself and complemented me on the fine cane.  He explained that it had a lot going in its favor that would appeal to different collectors. It is a finely carved oak cane with a gold-filled knob. There are numerous carvings including people and animals. But there were problems, too. He explained that collectors really want to make a statement when it comes to their canes. He walked about 15 feet away and asked “What do you see?” while holding the cane up. I told him I basically saw a wooden cane. He explained that he would have liked to have seen for dimension to the carvings. When I asked about the provenance of it coming from Territorial Montana, he told me that was actually another part of the problem. You see, there weren’t too many people living in Montana then, or now, so the local interest is also depressed. It’s not all bad news, though. He said it’s a thousand dollar cane. He recommended we insure it for $1500.

So we finally made it back over to the General Collectables line. We had quite a wait there and, again, had another wait once we got in the central area. I plopped the case up on the table and the appraiser said “Well, you’ve certainly got my interest peaked. What do you have there?” That’s when I opened the salesman’s case. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I explained it was a salesman’s case for a pharmaceutical company showing the colors, shapes and sizes of all of their pills. We explained that it came from Shelley’s father’s offices when they were being cleared after his death. She said it was quite interesting and the first she had ever seen. The biggest problem she had with it is the limited number of collectors that would be interested in it. Most collectors of salesman samples are looking for smaller versions of the real thing. It would have more value if the drugs were real and belonged to someone important, “…like Elvis, which had a bottle of pills sell for $15,000 at auction.” She also mentioned a European artist who specialized in medicine bottles, pills, etc and his collection of pharmaceuticals sold for over 5 million dollars at auction.  She is seeing this case as more of a novelty for a specific collector, but she placed an auction estimate of between $800 and $1200!

We haven’t decided what we’re going to do with these items, yet. They may wind up in the store or they may go straight to eBay. Let us know if you have any specific interest in any of these items!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Antiques Roadshow

Most everyone, especially those of you who are inclined to read a blog such as this one, is familiar with the PBS show ‘Antiques Roadshow’. This is basically a filmed appraisal fair where people can bring in their items and learn a little about them including their value. I was fortunate enough to attend one in Cincinnati, Ohio during the second year of production. Back then all you had to do was arrive early, get in line and hope the doors weren’t closed before you got a ticket. But with the hopes of confirming treasures over trash, PBS went to a sweepstakes format where you applied for tickets and only a specified number of tickets were awarded.

I have been in the antiques and collectibles profession for about 8 years, now. I have applied for tickets to the Antiques Roadshow every one of the past 8 years and was never selected, UNTIL NOW!

ars tickets

I finally got tickets for this year’s show in Washington, DC on Saturday, August 21. The ‘Roadshow’ is travelling to 6 cities this year, though none of then were in Georgia. I chose DC because I wanted to meet one of the appraisers, Ken Farmer. You’ll find out why in a moment.

When I tell my friends and co-workers that I am going to the Roadshow, invariably the first question is “What are you taking?” I have 2 tickets and each ticketholder can bring 2 items so here are the four items my wife, Shelley, and I are bringing (click on any picture to see a larger version):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         You’re probably still asking “Well,what are they!?!” Here we go:

Number 1 is a cane that was acquired at a family run estate sale in Marietta, GA by one of the owners of A Classy Flea. There are several different types of canes that are valuable to collectors. One type of cane has a secondary, hidden purpose. These canes often have something hidden within the handle or at the top of the shaft such as a flask, a dagger, or even a pistol. Another type of collectable canes are the presentation pieces, those that are made to commemorate a specific place, person or event. And then there are the folk art canes, those hand-carved pieces of artwork often done just for the enjoyment of the carver. This cane actually falls into 2 of the categories.


As you can see from the engraving on the knob, this cane was made for Tom McTaque of Deer Lodge, Montana. Who is that? He was the Superintendent of Prisons for the Territory of Montana before it became a state. He was also brought in after Montana achieved statehood to correct problems that arose after the state took over.

What is also interesting about this cane is the carvings down the shaft:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Please click on the image to see a larger view!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         More carvings moving down the cane.


…and even more carvings!

When it comes to folk art canes, the more collectable ones are those with figural elements, especially people and animals. This cane has 39 different carved figures.

The second item is:


a doll! Right after Shelley and I moved back to the Atlanta area we watched an episode of Antiques Roadshow where an old Indian doll was appraised. It was worth several thousand dollars. Shortly after seeing this episode, Shelley found this doll at a local garage sale.








We don’t know if this doll is genuine or if it is a reproduction made to look old. That’s one of the exiting times of the appraisal – when you get the expert’s opinion.

Let’s take a closer look at the third item:

A suitcase with 2 sets of latches and “Lemmon Pharmacal Co” printed on the front. Looks like a salesman’s case maybe…









Yes! A case of dummy pills showing the colors and sizes of the pills available for distribution. And below:


sample liquid drugs, as well. I only wish the case had been more complete with the samples. This case actually came from the office of Shelley’s Dad who spent his entire adult life in the pharmaceutical industry.

The last item was just purchased this week from a customer that came to the store wanting us to buy his excess furniture and accessories from a recent downsize. On his list was this item for $25 that I accepted, sight unseen:


a piano accordion in its original case. The bellows appear to be free of leaks and all of the keys and buttons work! This model has 120 bass buttons, one of the most intricate types of accordions available.


But I could find no reference to any accordion made by Riga or with a name of Orchester. I knew that the only way I could determine whether this is a $25 instrument or a $2500 one would be to take it to someone who was familiar with musical instruments. I still needed a fourth item for the Roadshow so on it goes.

I would love for my readers to leave comments guessing what you think the value of each item is. Next week, I will write a follow-up and let you know what I found out about each item!

Now, why did I choose Washington DC and how does Ken Farmer play into this. I have watched Ken give numerous appraisals on ARS and I really like his style. He owns an auction house in Radford, Virginia so I was pretty sure he would be there. But why Ken? A couple of years ago PBS filmed a special segment to show during an episode of Antiques Roadshow that featured Ken and his personal folk art cane collection! I have contacted Ken’s business and they have confirmed that he will be there. Though he is not working the folkart table at this show, he has asked me to bring it over to the furniture area for him to look at. I can’t wait!