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Kovels Komments lists the top 10 stories of 2014 -- with some follow-up:

1. March 5, 2014:  Finding Gold Coins: Good News and Bad News

A California couple took a healthy “golden” walk with their dog in 2013 and found eight half-buried cans of gold coins on their property. The coins date from the late 1800s and their value was estimated at $10 million+. In 2014 the couple decided to sell. The coins are now known as the “Saddle Ridge Hoard,” named after part of the family’s property. Kagin’s, Inc., a California numismatic firm, is selling the coins through an arrangement with Amazon.com. You can buy one there. The couple is also keeping some of the coins for family heirlooms. (See Kovels’ Komments Mar. 5 and Jun. 11, 2014)

2. July 9, 2014:  Walter Keane Painting of Little Girl

A friend gave her daughter a pair of pictures of little girls with wide-open eyes as a gift in the 1960s. They were by an unknown French artist in the style of then-popular pictures by Walter Keane. They were cute but not by a famous artist and sold last year at auction for $1. If they had been real 1970s paintings by Keane, they could have sold for $50,000. A book and new movie tell the fascinating story of Walter and Margaret Keane – how Walter rose to fame taking credit for paintings that were actually created by his wife. Margaret Keane divorced Walter and proved she had painted the pictures. (See Kovels’ Komments July 9, 2014)

3. March 26, 2014:  Chinese Plate, 600 Years Old, Tops $1 Million

The seller and the auctioneer thought it was a nice blue Chinese plate decorated with a white dragon – a donation being sold at auction in Canada to raise money for Toronto’s Gardiner Museum. A mysterious and still-secret bidder travelled to Ottawa to bid against Internet and phone bidders when the price hit $250,000 (Canadian), and the price soared to $1.25 million ($1.12 million USD). The plate belonged to the donor’s Austrian grandparents. (See Kovels’ Komments Mar. 26, 2014)

4. April 23, 2014:  Be Aware of the Ban on Ivory

All import and export of ivory from African elephants, except for “bona fide antiques,” was banned by Executive Order from President Obama on Feb. 11, 2014. Existing laws are impacted by this ban, the enforcement of which falls to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Common sense made some very small steps in dealing with the new rules about old ivory, but they don’t help collectors or dealers, only musicians. This is an ongoing story. (See Kovels Komments, June 11 and 24, May 28 and April 23, 2014)

5. April 2, 2014:  Doorknob Collectors Beware

A new law in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, says lever handles are required on all doors and faucets in new housing construction. That means a doorknob can’t be used on a front or inside door. Why? To make it easier for a person with a disability to open doors and turn on faucets. The city removed old Art Deco doorknobs from doors in the historic city hall built in 1936. (See Kovels Komments April 2, 2014)

6. March 5, 2014:  $12 Jug Sells for $100,000

Janice Morris wasn't excited about the weird 5-gallon jug her husband Robert bought in a junk store 40 years ago, but she kept it in their house. In spite of children, kicks, and mishandling, the big black jug -- in the shape of a man's bust dressed in formal clothes and hoop earrings -- showed little damage. It’s marked "J.L.," the initials of a now famous post-Civil War Alabama folk artist named John Lehman. Robert gave the jug to his granddaughter, who learned the jug was valuable. A Birmingham museum that features Alabama pottery purchased the 1870s jug for $100,000. (See Kovels Komments March 5, 2014)

7. February 26, 2014: Ball Mason Anniversary Fruit Jars

A series of limited edition Ball Mason fruit jars were made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Perfect Mason fruit jar introduced by Ball in 1913. The vintage-style blue pint jars resemble the originals, but have the words “100 Years of American Heritage/Made in U.S.A.” embossed on the sides. In March the blue jars were discontinued and replaced by green jars in pint and quart sizes. Limited Edition Ball Heritage Collection jars are still being sold. (See Kovels Komments Feb. 26, 2014)

8. May 7, 2014:  Beer Bottle Found With Oldest Message in a Bottle

The world’s oldest message in a bottle was pulled out of the sea by a fisherman in April 2014. The brown beer bottle was found in the Baltic Sea near the city of Kiel, Germany. Inside the bottle was a postcard with a message asking the finder to return the postcard to the bottle owner in Berlin. The International Maritime Museum traced the bottle to then 20-year-old Richard Platz, who threw it into the water in 1913. The bottle was shown to Platz’s 62-year-old granddaughter and is now being studied to see if the rest of the postcard can be deciphered. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the previous record was for a bottle with a message dated 1914 that had been in water for nearly 98 years. (See Kovels Komments May 7, 2014)

9. April 9, 2014:  Found! A Fortune in the Kitchen

In Italy a Paul Gauguin painting and a Pierre Bonnard self-portrait hanging in a kitchen for 40 years were identified as stolen from a London residence in 1970. A retired Italian factory worker, owner of the paintings, bought them 40 years ago at an auction of items abandoned on a train. He said he is happy to have had the pleasure of living with them and was "proud" of his taste in art. It was learned that the paintings were originally owned by Mathilda Marks, an heiress to the Marks and Spencer fortune. She was married to an American, never had children, and she and her husband had both since died. After a good faith effort to find anyone with a legitimate claim to the paintings, an Italian court awarded ownership to the retired factory worker who says he is interested in selling the Gauguin and keeping the Bonnard for sentimental reasons. (See Kovels Komments April 9, 2014)

10. January 8, 2013:  The Latest Investment Among Chinese Collectors

Chinese investors are not buying as many extremely expensive porcelains as they were a few years ago. Their newest "hot" investment, in fact, is not in the art market at all—it's food. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Chinese are investing in a rare fungus that sells for more than $11,500 a pound. It's nicknamed the "Himalayan Viagra." (See Kovels Komments January 8, 2014)

 


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