Every year some unexpected "treasures" sell in shops, sales, auctions, even storage units. These are the best of those mentioned in Kovels Komments, 2010.
Unclaimed Vases Claim High Price
A matching pair of cloisonne vases was among hundreds of unclaimed items abandoned in a Connecticut storage facility and put up for auction on Jan. 30. The vases, estimated to bring about $2,000, auctioned for $52,900. Most of the proceeds went toward paying storage bills. See February 17, 2010, Kovels Komments.
Cracked "Umbrella Stand" Found in Pile of Trash Sells for $7,475
Steve Johnson of Circa Antiques & Historical Artifacts in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was packing and sorting things for clients to sell. They were downsizing. There were Civil War items, good glassware, furniture, charitable donations and, in a corner, a pile of trash. Steve saw the top of a crock in the trash and pulled it out. The 6-gallon stoneware crock had been used as an umbrella stand. It had a cobalt tulip decoration, the date 1857 on the side, and the impressed name "Jacob Swank" under the handle. The potter worked in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and few artifacts survived the 1889 flood, so marked pieces are rare. The owners said the crock had been in the family for years and they never noticed the marks. Crocker Farm auctioned it on April 17, 2010. See April 28, 2010, Kovels Komments.
Weird Item of the Week -Crocodile in Glass
An 1840s stuffed crocodile in a glass cabinet on wheels was sold at Christie's South Kensington in London for $17,495. See May 5, 2010, Kovels Komments.
Lock of Napoleon's Hair Sells at Auction
A lock of Napoleon's hair sold on July 1 for $13,100 (U.S. dollars) at Art+Object, a New Zealand auction house. The hair was cut from Napoleon's head after he died in 1821. Denzil Ibbetson, a British officer on St. Helena during Napoleon's exile, kept the hair. It remained in his New Zealand family until this sale. We searched for a value based on earlier sales and found that in 1915 a different lock of Napoleon's hair sold for $107.50. See July 14, 2010, Kovels Komments.
Another Copy of Batman No. 1 Comic Book Found
The comic, 70 years old, was under a drawer in an old dresser sold in an Alaskan garage sale in the 1970s. It is in excellent condition because it was stored in the cold, low humidity environment of Fairbanks. The paper is still white. It sold in August for $55,269. See August 11, 2010, Kovels Komments.
$8,000 Bike Bought for $5 at Yard Sale
The abandoned bike had flat tires and broken pedals, so the finder sold it at a Kentucky yard sale for $5. The buyer later learned the bicycle was a custom-built mountain bike ridden by Floyd Landis in a 2007 race. In 2006 Landis won the Tour de France but was later stripped of the title when he tested positive for drugs. The bike was being carried by friends on a car rack in 2008, it blew off the car and couldn't be found. Landis laughed when told the bike was gone and got a new one. The finder planned to put the bike up for sale online for $5,000. See August 25, 2010, Kovels Komments.
John's John Sold for Over $14,000
Antique toilets are collected by some, including Prince Charles. But the buyer of an antique toilet that was in a house used by John Lennon from 1969 to 1971 is unidentified. The toilet sold in August in Liverpool, England, at a sale run by The Beatle Shop, a Liverpool retailer. The toilet, marked inside with a word that appears to be "Rilcote," looks like an English blue and white transfer-printed porcelain toilet from the 19th century. Some are listed in our price books at about $500-$600. The Lennon provenance brought a winning bid of $14,748, 10 times the pre-sale estimate. See September 1, 2010, Kovels Komments.
Antique Treasure Found in Cupboard
Check every cupboard when you're moving, selling a house, or settling an estate. Last year an English auctioneer was asked to look over items in a house whose owner was moving to a nursing home. In the kitchen cupboards, he found a pair of rare English porcelain sauceboats. They were slightly damaged and stained pieces of Chelsea porcelain marked with the early blue triangle mark used from 1745 to 1749. The pair sold for almost $79,000. See September 22, 2010, Kovels Komments.
Q: I found an old child-sized coffin in an antique store in Nebraska. It has an oval glass window for viewing and a cover to go over the glass portion. It is made of a dark finished walnut with simple gold painted designs. I bought it just because I've never seen such a thing. It is about 33 inches long. Does anyone know anything about these?
A: Before the late 19th century, many children died of diseases that have now been nearly eradicated. Funeral services were usually held at home in the front parlor. The body was laid out in an open coffin or in a coffin with a viewing window or split top. The coffin cover was used to protect the window when the coffin was moved or buried. Your coffin is narrow at the bottom, the typical shape used in the past. Sometimes people think of a new use for an old item. One of the strangest we've seen is a child's coffin made into a new wall clock. The auction house offering it for sale called it "a great conversation starter" and it sold for about $350. See October 27, 2010 (Collectors Concerns), Kovels Komments.
Insulators from Pole Tops Sell
Insulators like the ones found on the top of old telephone poles are often overlooked by those who have not been introduced to them. But insulators, fire grenades, target balls, lightning rod balls and other glass made for industry in past years is now collected. A fall auction by Ray Klingensmith brought amazing prices--especially amazing for those who are unfamiliar with the hobby. A CD 726 red insulator sold for $24,640 ("CD" stands for "Consolidated Design"). A CD 726 cornflower blue example was $8,400. And a bright aqua CD 736 E.R.W. (Erie Railway) insulator with a threadless bracket brought $10,080. But some of the common insulators sold for prices as low as $168. The most common insulators offered at flea markets can sell for just $1. See November 3, 2010, Kovels Komments.
Digging for Money?
The economy has led to some unusual ways to save money. "Used" mausoleums have been quietly sold for years, but today the bargain-priced final resting places seem even more desirable. Old mausoleums were made by craftsmen. Refurbishing entails hiring experienced workmen to remove inscriptions--and bodies. Today some new mausoleums are mass-produced in China and shipped to American cemeteries. If you save money by buying a used mausoleum, you still have to pay for the cost of using the cemetery's land—the most expensive part. The Financial Times of London reports that a marble and bronze monument in a New York cemetery has been for sale since 2003 even though the original $5 million asking price has been lowered by 30 percent. About 10 percent of the 1,300 mausoleums in that cemetery have been reused. Why does a mausoleum come on the market in the first place? Decendents of decedents simply need the money. See November 10, 2010, Kovels Komments.
A 1697 Stradivarius violin sold in 1989 for $352,200 sold online by Tarisio auctions for a record $3.6 million in October 2010. But sometimes a violinist gets careless with an expensive violin. A musician who performed in Asia forgot his violin on a train in Munich, Germany, last month. A train worker found the 1748 Italian violin and stowed it in a safe place even before police arrived to search the train. The violin was not damaged, but the panic-stricken musician needed medical treatment. No wonder. The violin is worth $1.4 million. See December 1, 2010, Kovels Komments.