Here are Kovels' choices of the best stories of 2012 about lucky finds, amazing discoveries, final sale prices and what new owners decided to do with their antiques and collectibles. You can find more details about each story in the news section of Kovels Komments.
A Treasure from Goodwill
In May 2012, a Milwaukee woman paid $12.34 for a framed print at a Goodwill store. The print, a bold black, white, and red design, included black swirls that seem to represent eyes and a triangular red form that could be a nose. She spotted the Alexander Calder signature on it and realized that if it wasn't a copy, it was probably valuable. She searched online and found the same 1969 lithograph by the artist, who is now known mainly for his mobiles. It is called "Red Nose." Value: $9,000. The lucky woman doesn't plan to sell the print.
Marble Sells for Record $25,800
A rare pink swirl "Lutz" glass marble handmade in Germany sold at a Morphy auction on Oct. 20, 2012, for $25,800. The marble set an auction record for a marble less than 1 inch in diameter. It was in mint condition.
Photo: Morphy Auctions
Abstract Painting Brings Thousands
A Goodwill store in North Carolina sold a large abstract painting in 2011 for $9.99 to an amateur painter who wanted to reuse the canvas. A friend suggested she look up the artist’s name written on the back. It was Ilya Bolotowsky. Sotheby’s auctioned the painting on Sept. 21, 2012, for $34,375. The seller plans to pay bills and repair her house with the money.
Blue Pickle Bottle Brings $16,200
A rare blue pickle bottle sold on eBay for $16,200 in April. Maine Antique Digest reported that the seller, Carol Bickle of Pennsylvania, bought the bottle in a box lot at an estate sale. Bickle said the bottle had a label that said it cost $25 at a 1976 sale. She put the bottle online and wrote descriptions as she answered questions for possible bidders. The 10 1/2-inch-high blue (not cobalt) bottle has embossing, an expanded neck, and an aqua lip. Two bidders fought it out, taking the price from $7,889 to $16,200. The winning bidder was a well-known Texas bottle collector.
Photo courtesy of Ralph Finch. Blue pickle bottle (center) is shown here compared to cobalt and aqua colored bottles.
Baseball Cards Found in Attic Could Be Worth Millions
Thirty-seven of the almost 700 old baseball cards found in an attic in Defiance, Ohio, were auctioned at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore for $566,132. The cards sold in August 2012, the month after we ran the story of the attic discovery. The 1910 cards, originally packaged with caramel candies, include a Ty Cobb, Cy Young, and near-perfect Honus Wagner. The cards, stored unused in a box, were printed on white paper and have bright colors and stiff borders. The collection belonged to the 20 heirs’ grandfather and was left to the heirs’ aunt, who willed it to 20 cousins. They will share equally in the profit. Estimate of the value of the total find: $3 million.
Photo: Heritage Auctions
Wedding Cake Slice Sells for Thousands
A boxed piece of "royal" wedding cake from the marriage of Prince William (1982- ) and Kate Middleton (1982- ) with the printed compliments card from The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall auctioned on May 24, 2012, for $2,997. There were 650 boxes containing traditional fruit cake for friends and family at the reception at Buckingham Palace. Other pieces of royal wedding cake sold at auction in 2012. Two pieces of cake, one from the wedding of Prince Charles (1948-) and Lady Diana Spencer (1961-1997) and the other from the wedding of Princess Anne (1950- ) and Captain Mark Phillips (1948- ), sold in one lot for $2,746.
Photo: PFC Auctions
Picasso Treasure Found at Thrift Store
A customer in a Volunteers of America shop in Columbus, Ohio, bought a framed poster advertising a 1958 exhibition of Picasso's pottery in Vallauris, France. It cost $14.14. He took it home and did some research online. He learned that some posters were signed in red--by Picasso himself--and realized that his has what looks like Picasso's scribbled signature. It also has the penciled numbers 6/100 and the French words that mean "original print, signed proof." The print could sell for $6,000 at auction or twice as much if sold at a gallery, according to experts. The unemployed buyer of the $14 print has been looking for work in the arts for two years. He is currently refinishing and selling vintage furniture.
Photo: A similar Picasso exposition poster sold at AuctionFarm
Valuable Movie Posters Turn Up in Attic
A pile of stuck-together movie posters was found in an attic in Berwick, Pa. The posters were steamed apart, then restored and sold by Heritage Galleries in March 2012. Price: $503,035. The posters dated from the 1930s and included some that had not been seen in years.
Photo: Heritage Auctions
A $3 Art Investment Yields $190,000
An 81-year-old former antiques dealer bought a painting for $3 at a Goodwill store in South Carolina a year and a half ago. His daughter-in-law took it to the Antiques Roadshow, where it was appraised for $20,000 to $30,000. It just sold at auction for $190,000. The Flemish painting dated from about 1650.
Photo: John McInnis Auctioneers
Millions of Dollars in Comics Found in Aunt's Basement
Imagine finding $3.5 million in a basement closet. On Feb. 23, 2012, Heritage Auctions of Dallas sold the collection of 345 comic books found in good condition by Michael Rorrer when he cleaned his great aunt's basement after she died. The collection sold for $3.5 million. Included in the very valuable collection were high-priced comics like Action Comics No. 1 (introducing Superman), Detective Comics No. 27 (Batman), and Captain America No. 2 (Hitler on cover). Michael's mother sorted the comics into two boxes and gave one to Michael and one to his brother.
Photo: Heritage Auctions
A Million Dollars Worth of Gold Coins Discovered in Old Building
Workers renovating a Champagne producer's building in France hit the rafters and almost 500 gold coins pelted down on them. If no one claims the fortune, estimated at close to $1 million, it will be divided between the building's owner and the workers who discovered the coins.