Helaine Fendelman Will be Presenting at this Year’s CSC Symposium

All About Appraisals and Appraisers – What You Need To Know

All the questions you have thought to ask before beginning the appraisal process and hiring an appraiser and all the questions you never knew to ask will be addressed in this presentation.  Helaine is an experienced appraiser working in the field on a daily basis and she will address questions such as: why an appraiser is needed; when to hire an appraiser; how to find a qualified appraiser; how to determine the appraiser’s qualifications and if they are appropriate for your purposes; questions you should ask the appraiser; questions the appraiser should ask you; what to do to get ready for the appraisal and the appraiser; what an appraisal should include; how does an appraiser charge for their services; and, how an appraiser works.  Stories will be shared to illustrate the answers to these questions and there will be time for your own questions so that all of your questions will be answered. Read more about the symposium here.

Treasures: Painting May Be From Hunter, Unfinished

Is this painting by Clementine Hunter unfinished?

Is this painting by Clementine Hunter unfinished?

Dear Helaine and Joe:

In 1972, I went on a trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation in Louisiana. At the plantation, we bought two paintings from an elderly black woman. I asked her if she had any more, and she replied, “only one, that’s not dry.” I bought it, and later found out I had bought it from Clementene Hunter. Aside from being wet when I bought it, it appears to be unfinished. Can you tell me who she was and about my painting?


A. N.

Dear A. N.:

First of all, her name was Clementine Hunter, but it is actually pronounced the way A.N. spelled it – “Clementene.” Originally, this extraordinary woman’s first name was “Clemence,” but she changed it after moving to Melrose Plantation at the age of 15.

Hunter was born either in December 1886 or January 1887 at the notorious Hidden Hill Plantation located near Clouterville in Natchitoches Parrish, La. The plantation was supposedly the inspiration for the plantation in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s influential antislavery book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which was first published in 1852. Hidden Hill is now sometimes called “Little Eva’s Plantation.”

Over the years, Cammie Henry, the owner of Melrose Plantation, entertained a variety of artists and writers, and after a 1939 visit, New Orleans artist Alberta Kinsey left some paints behind. This marked the beginning of Hunter’s career. She used the abandoned pigments to “mark a picture” on a window shade.

Hunter’s career was promoted by Melrose Plantation curator Francois Mignon, who supplied the artist with more paints and art supplies and took the finished paintings to the local drug store where (at one time) they sold for a dollar. On the outside of Hunter’s cabin, there was a sign that read, “Clementine Hunter, Artist, .25 cents to look.” We wonder if A. N. paid the .25 cents to look in 1972.

Hunter was a very prolific artist. It is said that she produced somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 paintings before her death in 1988. Even though she was Creole, Hunter is sometimes referred to as “the black Grandma Moses,” and she created an important record of plantation life in the opening years of the 20th century.

It is a shame that A. N. failed to give us three vital pieces of information: the piece’s size, what it was painted on and how it is signed. Many of Hunter’s paintings are signed with her backwards “C” and “H” monogram, but sometimes they are signed on the back (verso) in pencil.

There is no question that the piece is in Hunter’s style, but there are Clementine Hunter fakes out there and buyers are wary. We are also unsure whether or not this piece is unfinished. Sure, the bottom part of the chair is missing, but the background is intact and we are not sure what might have been in Hunter’s mind. Currently, a good sized piece such as this one might fetch more than $3,000 at auction.

Read the original article here.

Treasures: Wonderful Chest Likely From 1880s Britain

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I inherited this chest, which appears to be cedar lined. It is 26 inches high, 52 inches long and 28 inches deep. I am considering selling it and would like to know how much I should ask. But I might also keep it and would like to know the insurance value.

Thank you,

C. C.

Dear C. C.:

We thought we would discuss the wonderful chest first and then explore its various values a bit later.

The email we received was titled “cedar chest.” This brought images to our minds of relatively plain storage chests that were popular during the early to mid 20th century. Many homes had them.

Brides often kept their trousseaus in them, and later on they were used to store the household’s best linens. Why? Because cedar wood was thought to be deadly to moths-not to mention cockroaches-and cedar was also supposed to discourage the incursions of mice and other vermin.

Cedar chests were often important piece of household furniture. Print ads featured child film star Shirley Temple endorsing Lane Cedar chests as the “Sweetest Valentine of All.”

But the chest in today’s question is not the sort of chest that was made in 20th century America. Instead the piece appears to be British and done in the Renaissance revival style of the late 19th century.

To be sure, its purpose was to store linens and clothing, but it’s the heraldic emblem on the top, the elaborately fashioned lock, the pair of helmeted knightly head and shoulder busts, the foliate scrolls, the shells, the gadrooning around the edge and so forth (plus the elaborately carved paw feet) say this was a special piece probably made in England circa 1880 or so.

Now, we need to talk about the various prices the elaborate piece might have. First of all, the insurance replacement value is the amount of money it would take to purchase a similar piece from a retail source within a reasonable period of time (i.e. without delay). Whereas the fair market value is what a willing buying will pay a willing seller at a specific moment in time.

Both of these amounts are very time-sensitive. Prices, for example, were much higher 10 years ago, and in many if not most instances, both insurance and fair market value were considerably greater than they are today. The piece in today’s question is wonderful, but it is more than a bit out of fashion for modern homes and the value is less than it would have been in the recent past.

Currently, the insurance replacement value is in the $1,200 to $1,500 range, but if C. C. were to try and sell it to an antiques dealer she would probably find that it would fetch less than $500 and maybe considerably less. The massive size goes against it as does the Victorian Renaissance revival style.

Read original article here.

Treasures In Your Attic: Secretary Desk is a Useful Piece

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: My husband and I would like you to tell us anything you might know about this secretary, which has been in my family for more than 70 years. We are not sure how old it might be and how much it might be worth.

— K.M.

DEAR K.M.: Technically, this may be a secretary, which is defined as a piece of furniture that has a writing surface with drawers and pigeon holes. But the sticking point is it should be in cabinet form (either one or two pieces) with room for the storage of papers and personal correspondence, etc. The piece in today’s question only kind-of-sort-of meets this final requirement.

Reading the letter and looking at the photographs, we understood much more clearly what was in question here, and interestingly, we are not sure we would term this piece a secretary — or an executive assistant, for that matter. Most collectors expect a true secretary to be a somewhat more imposing piece of furniture complete with a bookcase or cabinet above and perhaps large drawers below. The item in today’s question is relatively small. Many people (including us) would call it a lady’s writing desk.

Basically, this is just a relatively shallow cabinet suspended on legs with a decorative medial stretcher. The box, with its fall front, is essentially square with a decorative bat wing scallop at the base and does not appear to be more than a foot deep. There are two small drawers inside the case, and what appears to be a small compartment in the center between the two sections of pigeon holes.

K.M. thinks the piece has been in her family since the mid-1940s, but it is just a tad older than that. The style of the piece suggests it was made circa 1925, which means it is not yet an antique. But this is not really all that important in the current marketplace, which seems to be enamored of items that are significantly younger than the requisite 100 years.

In fact, the current market seems to be rejecting all things Victorian and embracing items made either in the latter 20th century or in the years before Queen Victoria ascended the British throne. This situation is very distressing to some and is causing some confusion among old-time collectors.

The desk seems to have a very attractive decoration on the fall front, but we cannot see it well enough to understand its exact nature. It may be an inlay, or it might just be a mechanically produced overlay that can be easily damaged with excessive cleaning. We recommend light dusting only, and do not use any abrasive cleaning products in an attempt to brighten it up.

As for value, its small size fits into modern homes, and its somewhat dainty appearance makes it appealing to women. It is a useful piece that needs only a small chair to make it into a center for correspondence and — yech! — bill paying. It is essentially in a European Empire style. For insurance purposes, the value of this piece is in the $300 to $400 range.

Read the original article here.

Treasures In Your Attic: Value of Felix the Cat Toy Entirely Depends on Age

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I am anxious for you to provide information and value of my new toy. It is metal, the arms swing and the tail looks like a pendulum.

Thanks for your help,


Dear D.W.:

We are a bit anxious, too. The description in the letter as this being “my new toy” suggests the piece has no history either in D.W. family or D.W.’s childhood.

Couple this with the circumstance that we could find no sales records for this balance toy among old items featuring Felix the Cat and we are more than a tad troubled. We do note wear to the paint on the piece that suggests someone played vigorously with the toy, but we know all too well that this sort of wear can be artificially induced.

Felix the Cat first appeared in 1919 in an animated cartoon titled “Feline Follies.” This anthropomorphic cat had all-black fur with huge white eyes and a gigantic grin. He became a very recognizable cartoon character along with Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry and Mickey Mouse. He was so popular that some of our World War II armed forces even used the image of Felix as a sort of mascot.

Unfortunately, the origin of the iconic cartoon character is a bit murky — even a bit messy. Australian cartoonist and filmmaker Pat Sullivan claimed to be the creator, but American animator Otto Messmer also claimed credit for creating the beloved character.

It is known without question that Felix was born in Sullivan’s studio, but beyond that, there is some debate and we will leave it at that. What is unquestionable is Felix struck a responsive cord with the American public and became popular very quickly. Now this lovable vagrant cat is an indelible part of our popular culture.

Felix the Cat merchandising has never stopped appearing and everything from clocks and watches to puppets, cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers, bubble bath containers, pencil boxes, crayons, music boxes, sand pails and a myriad of toys, all of which can be found on the current market. Some of these are quite old, many are quite new.

Beginning in 1923, Felix had his own comic strip syndicated in more than 250 newspapers, but the character was eventually somewhat eclipsed by Mickey Mouse. But in 1953, Felix came to American television, after he had been redesigned with longer legs by Joe Oriolo. In fact, Oriolo owned the rights to Felix until they were passed on to his son Don Oriolo.

Within the past few years, the rights to the Felix character have passed to DreamWorks Animation, now part of Comcast’s NBC Universal division.

There is some thought that the balance toy is 1930s, ’40s vintage, but we have been unable to confirm that with any certainty. If it is indeed of that age, the insurance replacement value is probably in the $25 to $50 range, but if it is more modern that value falls by half or more.

 View the original article here.

Treasures: Cannon is a Model of Famous Zamzama

This beautifully made piece was probably a souvenir from the city of Lahore, Pakistan.

This beautifully made piece was probably a souvenir from the city of Lahore, Pakistan.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

This beautiful cannon came into my family as part of a “gun trade” by my father-in-law over 40 years ago. The individual who originally owned it said it was a gift from Pakistan to visiting dignitaries. Is that possible? I am more interested in its history than its monetary value. I believe it is made from solid brass (it is very heavy). The carriage is black wood with brass and silver decoration. There is a brass plate that reads “Zamzama” and “Scale 1 inch equals 1.25 feet, Ordnance Depot Lahore Cantt.” The base is 20 inches by 141/4 inches.

Thank you for your help,

D. and I. W.

Dear D. and I. W.:

This is far outside our areas of expertise, but when we got this letter we felt challenged and decided to try and provide some sort of answer. To our collective surprise, we found the answer readily available. The end of the string was the word “Zamzama.”

Zamzama — which means “murmur” or “pealing thunder” in Persian — was cast in 1762 in Lahore, Pakistan, by Shah Nazir, a metalsmith for the Mughal viceroy Muin-ul-Mulk. In real life, the weapon of war is a little over 14 feet long and has a bore (barrel aperture) of 91/2 inches.

It was reportedly cast from an alloy of copper and brass. But since brass is made from copper and zinc, the actual metal composition may be closer to bronze: copper alloyed with tin.

This, of course, is speculation on our part, but it is said that the people of Lahore funded the making of the cannon and donated their kitchen utensils to help the project.

The cannon is decorated with floral designs plus the names of the monarch and craftsmen who did the work. On the barrel, Zamzama is called “The Taker of Strongholds” and one inscription in Persian translates as, “A destroyer even of the strongholds of the heaven.” One Persian inscriptions on the original cannon also calls it “… a mighty fire dispensing dragon.”

Zamzama went into battle in 1762 and was captured. It was passed around for a time, but in the early 19th century (circa 1802) it was used by Ranjit Singh in various battles until it was badly damaged and retired at the siege of Multan (now the fifth most populous city in Pakistan).

The cannon was brought back to Lahore (now capital of Pakistan’s Punjab Province) and placed at the Delhi Gate until 1860.

Currently, Zamzama can be found in Lahore near the Punjab University and the Lahore Museum. Zamzama is also known as “Kim’s Gun,” because Rudyard Kipling’s novel “Kim” opens with the protagonist straddling the cannon’s barrel. In addition, Zamzama is also known as “Bhangianwala Toap.”

The model of this famous cannon owned by D. and I. W. was reportedly made from bronze and wood in India. The phrase “Lahore Cantt” refers to the Lahore Cantonment, which is an elite area of Lahore established by the British in the mid-19th century. We have found some indication that the cannon can be fired, but we adamantly do not recommend anyone to try.

This Zamzama model is just a desk or shelf ornament suitable for a domain, and a souvenir from the city of Lahore. A similar cannon sold at auction in 2015 for $450, but today, prices for this sort of thing are down a bit.

Read the original article here.

Treasures: Post-World War II Rocking Horses Mass Produced

Rocking or hobby horses have been popular with children for a very long time.

Rocking or hobby horses have been popular with children for a very long time.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I am hoping you can provide me with information about the hobby horse I received as a Christmas gift in either 1956 or 1957. I have searched online and found my toy ranging in value from $20 to around $115.

However, most examples I have found do not include the strings or the stand. As you can see from the photographs, mine has both the springs and the stand and is in good condition. Do you have any ideas about the value and would you suggest trying to sell it to a vintage toy collector, or putting it in a yard sale? Or should I donate it to a thrift shop?

Thank you,

A. G.

Dear A. G.:

Today’s children (and many adults for that matter) find toy cars, trucks and airplanes endlessly fascinating. But in days-gone-bye when the horse was king of the road, the hobby or rocking horse was a favorite diversion.

Hand-painted hand-carved Georgian or Victorian examples can bring thousands of dollars when sold at auction, but 20th century examples can bring much less.

To be sure, certain Scandinavian and other European examples from the early years of the 20th century (up until World War II) can still bring over a thousand dollars at auction. Danish modern examples by Kay Bojesen and English pieces by makers such as F. H. Ayers can still fetch more than $1,000 at auction if they are in excellent or fully restored condition.

But, unfortunately, essentially mass-produced, post-World War II pieces can bring very little and can go begging for a buyer. Still, when the hobby horse in today’s question was manufactured, the cowboy (and cowgirl) was big on television and every little tyke wanted to spring into action and ride like the wind on a horse like the one belonging to A. G.

The label on this particular object reads (in part) “Hi-Prancer The Delphos Bending Company, Delphos, Ohio.” The history here is that about 1899 two firms — one a sawmill in Delphos, Ohio, and the other a hoop company in Bluffton, Ind. — merged to manufacture barrel hoops, and in 1912 the company name became The Delphos Bending Company.

In 1934, the company began manufacturing tables, chairs, desks, toy chests, rocking chairs and other useful pieces for young people. They also made toys including the teetertot (some people call it the “teetertoter”) rocket ships and yes, rocking horses. They used bent and straight wood or metal frames coupled in many instances with plastic animals.

Most of the rocking horses were made between 1945 and 1979 with little or no changes to their design. It is hard to distinguish between those made right after the end of World War II and those produced in the late 1970s. Interestingly, the company also manufactured traffic cones and chemical tanks!

Recently, a horse like the one belonging to A. G. sold on eBay for $100, and that would be the approximate value of the piece. There are a number of ways to dispose of the item, but we feel a children’s hospital might be nice. This would allow the good times to rock on.

 Read the full article here.

Professional appraiser best bet for finding item’s true value

Pricing antiques and collectibles requires knowledge, experience and good judgment.

Pricing antiques and collectibles requires knowledge, experience and good judgment.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I inherited an adjustable, silver-plated shaving mirror made by the Knickerbocker Silver Company. It has been dated back to the 1890s. I cannot seem to find anyone who can give me a true estimate of value. Dealers say it is worth $20 to $30. An appraiser several years ago said $250, while another said $500. I would like to know what it is really worth.

Thank you,

R. M. S.

Dear R. M. S.:

The Knickerbocker Silver Company was located in Port Jervis, N.Y., which is near where the states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania come together. It is part of the Poughkeepsie metropolitan area and some consider it to be a distant suburb of New York City.

The company started as the Knickerbocker Manufacturing Company, but around 1904 the name changed to the Knickerbocker Silver Company.

The mark that R. M. S. indicates as being on his mirror was not used until after 1900 and this means the 1890 date referenced in the letter is too early. A circa 1910 date is probably more accurate.

This is something of a quibble, however, and makes very little difference to the monetary value or to the interest of the piece.

We really want to discuss the disparity in the values mentioned by R. M. S.

The first point we want to make is owners of items should not take them to antiques dealers to get a valuation unless they understand the price they receive is generally what the dealer wants to pay and not what the item might actually be worth.

It is unfortunate that many (but certainly not all) antiques dealers encountered around the country do not know Chippendale from chips and dip and may not be able to distinguish the difference between an original and a later reproduction. Professional antiques appraisers, however, should know.

These are the people that should be consulted when an owner wants to know the true value of a given object.

OK, then why did one appraiser say $250 and another $500?

Well, some appraisers are more knowledgeable than others, and some do more accurate research than others (yes, research is vital and must be coupled with good judgment plus a knowledge of the current market).

With that said, the difference in price may be explained with one of two variables.

One is time, and the other is the reason why the valuation was given.

When it comes to time, the antiques market deflated considerably after 2008 and insurance appraisals given before that date are for the most part too high.

Any formal appraisal given before 2008 needs to be revisited because the values stated may be too elevated for the current market.

For the other factor, if the appraisal was given for fair market value (what something can be sold for in the proper market), it would be significantly lower than the insurance or replacement value, which would be the price required to replace an item from a retail source.

Our research suggests the piece should sell at auction in the $125 to $150 range if it is in excellent and complete condition and have an insurance value of approximately 50 to 80 percent higher.

Read the original article online.

Treasures In Your Attic: Hall clock is from Scotland

This Scottish tall case is a little younger than the owner thinks.

This Scottish tall case is a little younger than the owner thinks.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

The face of this clock has M. Ferguson Mauchline as the maker. I was told it was made in the late 1700s. It is a tall case clock made from walnut with a flat top and an ornate hand-painted dial of the four seasons. The top painting shows a hunting scene with the title “Death of a Stag.” Can you give me the approximate date this clock was made and the approximate value? Are you interested in purchasing it?

Thank you,


Dear H.D.:

The first issue that needs to be dealt with in this letter is that we never, ever, under any circumstances purchase — or offer to purchase — an item that we are asked to evaluate in this column. It is unethical, pure and simple.

Taking it a step further, it is a very bad idea to sell an item to the person who appraises it. Or in this case, offers to suggest a price based on a photograph and information supplied by the owner, which is not an appraisal but an opinion. An appraisal is a formal process that involves seeing something in person, carefully examining it and then doing research to determine a value for a stated reason (i.e. for sale, for insurance, etc.).

These are important rules that govern our impartiality and we do not get the opportunity to state them often enough.

With these issues out of the way, we think we have discussed a similar clock made in the Scottish village of Mauchline once before, but it was a long time ago, and a revisiting this subject will not hurt and may help those who did not see our earlier response.

It is important to understand where this clock was made and not just when. The place of origin is in the Scottish Civil parish of East Ayrshire. In 2001, it had a population of just a little over 4,000. It traces its history back to 1165, when the High Steward of Scotland granted land to the Cistercian monks of Melrose. They built an abbey, the ruins of which are now known as Hunters Tower or Mauchline Castle.

The town of Mauchline is known for the making of curling stones (yes, the ones used in the sport of curling), the production of sandstone, the making of small boxes (with pictures of famous places, representations of Scottish tartans or actual ferns glued on) and the making of clocks. Some of the boxes are called “Mauchline ware” by collectors, others are called “tartan ware” and still others “fern ware.”

Clockmaking was big in Mauchline in the 18th century, but it declined in the 19th and that is when the tall case clock in today’s question was made. Notice, we did not use the term “grandfather clock,” because this is not the proper term for this sort of timepiece. Tall case, long case or hall clock is correct.

Little is known about the maker of this clock, but it was probably Montgomery Ferguson, who worked in Mauchline circa 1837 to 1850. These dates are confirmed by the style of this clock with its elaborated painted dial, which is quintessentially Scottish from the first half of the 19th century. Value? Probably in the $1,000 to $1,500 range for insurance if it is working.

View the original article here.