Certified appraiser Tony Lorentz gave a mini antiques road show at our local library last night. About 30 of us brought items we wanted to learn about. I had a Mid-Century Modern wall scroll I got years ago in a box lot and forgot about. Others had interesting family items – a farmhouse mirror, a candy tin, chairs, prints, a transferware platter, a few pieces of glass – and Mr. Lorentz spent a few minutes on each one.
Several attendees said their grandparents had brought the item back after a war or visit overseas, and we saw several pieces from Japan including a silk scarf painted with a scene that was designed as a wall hanging. Most of the foreign-acquired items had been mass produced, sometimes made for the tourist market, and thus not very valuable from a financial perspective. Of course they were valuable family memories!
One lady had a lovely pink depression glass muffin plate, about 11 inches across with two handles, curved up sides and a beautiful floral cutting. This plate had no damage whatsoever and he estimated it might sell for $60, a nice amount for depression glass. Another person had etched crystal creamer and sugar with sterling bases. I tried to get a good look to see the pattern but was unable to do so. (Several Cambridge patterns included creamers and sugars with sterling bases.)
A handful of people brought prints, often ones produced in the early 1900s or even a little earlier. Since these too were mass produced and there are often umpteen editions he valued none more than $20-40. I couldn’t tell whether people were disappointed, but a few seemed to hope that their prints were valuable because of their age.
Mr. Lorentz made several commentsduring the evening that are worth sharing:
- The value of your collectible is what someone is willing to pay. If no one is looking for something it won’t sell.
- He didn’t talk about supply and demand explicitly, but he did stress that demand drives prices.
- Location matters. He mentioned a square baby Steinway that got a best bid of $5000 here in Michigan, sold for several times that – plus shipping – in New York to a Japanese buyer.
- Right now people aren’t collecting depression glass like they used to and that lowers prices.
- Mass produced items tend not to have much value, especially prints, despite age. My inference on this:
- Remember that applies to our glass too: Glass companies produced depression glass by the railcar load, and while much of it has broken over the years our most common items are abundant.
- Elegant glass may hold its value better since there was usually less of it, and the rarer pieces in the most popular patterns also hold their value.
- Made-on-purpose collectibles are a lousy investment.
- He used Hummel figurines as a good example of something that has lost its value. I know back in the 1970s our local fine jewelry store sold Hummel plates for $25-40 (roughly $100-250 today) and about 10 years ago I bought some at sidewalk sales and was glad to get $10 each.
- Young people don’t use creamers and sugars so they don’t sell for much at all.
- Furniture that’s reupholstered or altered loses its value. This is true from a selling perspective, but if your choices are to have a piece of junk or a nicely-finished item I’ll take the usable item that’s updated. A chair that has its original covering is pretty valueless if the insides are falling out and the fabric is in shreds!
- He prefers estate sales to auctions as they tend to give better results for the sellers.
I’m in awe that one person could have such broad knowledge, sufficient to give at least a general sense of age and identification and value for so many different types of items. I’ve some knowledge of glass but am in no sense an appraiser and respect those who are. If you need an appraiser then look for a local member of the Certified Appraisers Guild as they have the expertise to advise you. (Please don’t ask me for values as I cannot give them.)
I enjoyed the evening very much and thank Tony Lorentz for his time and the Richland Friends of the Library for hosting the event.