As staff members at Kovels, we study hundreds of books and auction catalogs filled with all types of vintage and antique treasures. As much as we love reporting the stories of items bought by others, we are often attracted to things we wish we could snag for ourselves. We asked our staff, “What (in a perfect world or if we just won the lottery!) would be on your wish list?” Here are some ideas from 2017 auctions that we are excited about:
Terry Kovel collects many things and loves political memorabilia of all types, from banners, bandannas and buttons to paper, pins, and posters. Terry would love to add this rare and historic “warlog” to her collection. It contains a 12-lb. cannon ball and grapeshot from Snodgrass Hill, site of the Civil War Battle of Chickamauga. The pricey historic item was offered at a Julia auction, estimated at $20,000 to $30,000, but the lot was passed. Maybe there will be another chance. “I’ve been collecting things like a burl basket, a root carving, or a buffalo walking stick made from a sapling that was tied into a knot when it was young.”
Kim Kovel collects many things Midcentury Modern and later, and she was drawn to these 18-karat gold earrings by jewelry designer and goldsmith John Paul Miller (1918-2013). “I like these earrings because they are starfish and made by a local Cleveland artist.”
Gay, the “mother of Kovels’ annual price guide,” travels a lot and always hunts for Christmas ornaments that are reminders of many places in the U.S., Europe, Africa and Asia, as well as family events. “I have always wanted a carved wooden Christmas pyramid from the Erzgebirge region of Germany. One with 4 tiers. I had a smaller one years ago that was damaged when I failed to notice it had stopped turning and the candles were burning the wood.” A few vintage 4-tier pyramids have sold in German auctions for $800 to $1,000. Newer ones are a bit less expensive, $400 and up.
Janet is Kovels’ graphic designer and would like to own an original Apple-1 computer, considered to be one of the most valuable and collectible computers. “I love using a Mac and the whole Apple story. It has been great to see the personal computer movement evolve in my lifetime.” Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the computers by hand in Jobs’ garage in Los Altos, California. Two hundred models were sold between July 1976 and September 1977. Apple-1 didn’t come with a case or housing, had a not-whopping 4K memory, and required a separate keyboard and television to work. Price in 1976: $666.66, equivalent to about $2,806 today. Janet especially likes the Apple-1 model in a homemade wooden case. Since it was discontinued in 1977, Apple-1 computers have sold from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Hamsy, Kovels’ marketing expert, loves everything midcentury modern and Scandinavian in design – furniture, art, ceramics, etc. “I’m in love with these dining chairs! I love their modern and distinctive design, as well as their bold color.” The chairs are upholstered beech, were designed by Eva Koppel and made in Denmark. The set of six recently sold for $6,875 at Wright in Chicago.
Danielle, editor of Kovels On Antiques & Collectibles newsletter, says, “When I was pregnant with my first child, I interviewed furniture designer Vladimir Kagan for an article. At the end of our conversation he asked about the baby. I joked that I could really use one of his beautiful rockers.” “Tell me when you see them come up at auction, they rarely do,” Kagan said. He passed away last year. I noticed this Kagan rocker from the 1970s in the fall after it sold at Rago. The wooden frame has a Scandinavian influence but with a modern biomorphic feel. It’s a functional sculpture. I’ve seen these rocking chairs sell for over $30,000, so this was a bargain at $6,250. If I bought it, I would have it reupholstered in a midcentury modern fabric, perhaps something by Alexander Girard or Boris Kroll. I think Vladimir would have liked that.
Lauren is the graphic designer of Kovels’ newsletter and chose cast iron banks that will be auctioned soon. The lot includes two banks, an owl on a stump and a pug dog, that she thinks “are cute and would fit well on book shelves.” Auction estimate for the lot: $150 to $300.
Cherrie, Kovels’ copy editor, has her sights set on this vase designed by Pablo Picasso. “I like nature and wild life. This vase reminds me of the owls we have in our backyard.” The 12-inch figural vase was made by Madoura Pottery in France and sold for just over $19,000 at a Palm Beach Modern auction.
Tina is everything tech and admin at Kovels. She was drawn to a painting. “I absolutely love this painting, “The Weary Moon,” by Edward Robert Hughes (1851-1914). If I could, I’d fill my house with art!” The 8 ½ by 5 ½-inch painting sold at Sotheby’s for $193,650.
Liz, one of Kovels' editors, would love to be gifted with a nicely shaped old wooden bowl like this black burl walnut example. “It’s a natural and rustic way to serve a beautiful salad. And no two bowls are ever alike.” This one is inscribed by Bob Stockdale, a 20th-century woodturner noted for his bowls of exotic woods. It’s 6 inches high, 12 inches wide, and sold for $485 in a California auction.
Mozella is one of Kovels’ price recorders and she has her eye set on the sparkly, like this ring. It has a yellow diamond flanked by white diamonds in a gold and platinum setting by Tiffany and Co. and sold for dazzling $18,300 at an estate sale. “I’m channeling Eartha Kitt—diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”
Don't forget, who wouldn't love to receive the 50th anniversary edition Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide! Kovels’ 2018 is the best book of prices for any collector. And one last suggestion: Put a dollar bill in the book, along with a reminder that the bill makes a perfect 6-inch ruler.