Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Research

I have been wanting to do this blog for awhile, so I finally decided it was time to jump in with both feet.  I plan to post on lots of different subjects: antiques, painting furniture, displaying your treasures, estate sales, researching values on different items, and on and on!  If there is something you would like to know more about, please send me a note.  I love research and have lots of sources.

 Which brings me to today's topic;  research sources.  Many times when I'm preparing a home for a sale, I have to do some research on items.  I need to find out the age, the maker, the value, the rarity and anything else I can dig up.  It is much easier to sell something if you can fully describe it and show it's purpose or usefulness!  So, depending on what it is, I usually start with a Google search.  It's amazing what will come up with just a simple name search.  If you don't know what the item is, trying typing in a description of it.  For example, "metal cone with wooden stick" pulls up lots of different items and pictures.  Looking through them, I see this:

Rapid Washer
Which is not what I am looking for.
 But I want to know what it is so I click on it and I find out that it's a clothes washer!  You put it in your tub of soapy water full of clothes and with lots of manual labor, it agitates the clothes and cleans them.  That peg at the top is to wrap your hand around so you could get a good grip even if your hands got soapy.
                                                         
 Back to my search, I find the item that I'm looking for.  Clicking on the picture takes me to Ebay and I find a description of the item. The seller says it is a "vintage aluminum cone potato rice sieve strainer wooden pestle".  Ok, I actually knew what this was, but I wanted to illustrate to you how you can usually find an answer to whatever question you may have.  If you type in "berry strainer" (without the quotes), you will see lots of pictures of these.  Numerous descriptions pop up and lots of sources to buy one, so now you have a general idea of their value.  Simple, right?

But let's say you have an item that you know generally what it is but you don't know who made it, how old it is, or it's value.  An item like this:

I bought this at Fleafest a couple of years ago and knew I had a treasure!  I wasn't sure of much about it except that it is beautiful and I knew it was "a good piece".  When I say it's a good piece, it usually means I can tell it is exceptional quality and probably expensive, I just can't say why yet because I don't know enough about it.  You know that "feeling" you get?  You just know it's good!  So I started my search and eventually I decided that I'm pretty sure it's Loetz green aurene. Why do I say pretty sure?  Well, because of the three top makers of aurene glass, Loetz, Steuben and Tiffany, it most closely resembles the pictures of Loetz glass that I can find.  I searched using the shape, the color and the decoration.  Loetz is the one maker who matched all three.  I found out that aur comes from the Latin word for gold, aurum, while the ene comes from the Middle English form of the word sheen). So the Aurene literally means "gold sheen." Aurene glass was first made by these companies in the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century meaning this piece is probably 100 years old give or take a few years.  As for a value, I estimate somewhere in the $1500 to $1800 range. Anything more precise than that would need verification from a glass expert.

So what sources did I use to find all this information? Well, again, I started with Google.  I also used Warman's Antiques & Collectibles 2016.  I searched on the PBS "Antiques Roadshow" site and found information there also.  I also used the database maintained by Certified Appraisers Guild of America. These are just a few of the places I use when researching items.  Some of the others are:
  • Ebay-great for finding values (refine your search using "sold" listings)
  • Etsy-lots of good photos
  • Kovels.com-they have paid and free accounts (I pay a subscription and find it worth the money, but I do lots of research)
  • Rubylane.com-items are for sale, good for finding pictures and descriptions as well as asking prices
  • Collectorsweekly.com-lots of great information on a wealth of topics
I also have tons of books I use, many of them very old.  But the great thing is, the information doesn't change, so they are as useful today as they were 60 years ago.  For example, I have some books on American glass patterns, some on vintage toys, vintage jewelry and antique furniture.  I use them all the time to identify patterns, makers and styles.  Last but not least, I have many wonderful friends who are collectors and they are always happy to share their expert knowledge and wisdom with me. When someone loves something enough to collect it, they usually know quite a bit about it.  I value these sources more than all others! 

I hope you find some of this helpful, let me know if you have some useful sites or books that are invaluable.  Let's all share our knowledge and become better sources for others!

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