Monday, March 21, 2016

Vintage or Antique.....What's the difference...?

     If you spend 14 seconds on eBay you're going to run into something labeled vintage or antique. Usually with one or more of the following  adjectives cleverly attached: retro, cool, old, rare, mod, hard to find, deco, mid century,   well you get the idea.  Adjectives they say are the construct of a lazy mind.  Food for thought as I sit here typing. 
     I want to take a look at the word "vintage" as it is encountered within the world of eBay, and other outlets.  Vintage is a hot word a great buzz word that seems to be used whenever the word antique does not quite fit or in cases where if the word antique were to be used it would conjure images of the tragic cat lady's estate sale..... You know the one where the closet is full of depend under garments and you instantly realize you can't buy anything upholstered.  
    Antique is a word that has not changed with the times, it's stuffy and expensive. It's not hip, it's uncool. But vintage now that's fresh it's a new way to describe an old thing.  A replogle globe from 1936 could be antique to one collector or vintage to another a real gray area.
     I struggled when I was setting up my blog as to weather or not include the word antique in the blog title. I knew that seeingĂ  that word would round off some people, I also knew that skipping that word and going with the generic " vintage" might bring in some more initial licks but I'd loose some other people.  In the end I went with antique because I believe in the word. 
     Vintage,  however still looms large I have reluctantly learned to use the word more and more when searching the net, it seems to describe anything from 1850 to 1995!  Perhaps I'm vintage in my thinking..... Maybe I'm not hip or cool maybe I never was....?  My kids are too young to think I'm old and dated but any day now that will change and I'll be vintage. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Time vs. Money when collecting 2 sides of the equation

     I was reading a current issue of Maine Antiques Digest just today when  I stumbled upon an article about an antique cane auction that took place recently in Indianapolis Indiana at Wickliff Auctioneers.   It was prominently mentioned in the article that the collector Mr Fred Ponton was in search of some of the rarest and best examples of canes and walking sticks available. He collected at the top of the market.   I found it unusual that the auction web site as well As the article in Maine Antiques Digest went out of the way to publicize the prices paid by Mr Ponton as he was assembling his collection.  In many cases Mr Ponton paid 4X's or 5x's what his estate was able to resell these items for;  in some cases these purchases were made 10 plus years ago.
     Did this individual not know the market...?   On the contrary Mr Ponton probably knew the antique cane market better than almost anyone.  So what gives, why did he consistently overpay......?   Or maybe the question is did he actually overpay.....?
       The auction house and the magazine article both mention that the majority of this collection was assembled through M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans.  M.S. Rau is at the high end of the antiques trade, with an excellent reputation, as well as a very knowledgeable staff.  They are to antiques what Tiffany's or Cartier are to fine jewelry.  The article stated that Mr Ponton wanted to see new canes as they became available through M.S. Rau on a first refusal basis. In other words he wanted first crack at these items, and it sounded as if he probably didn't have the time himself to scour countless auction catalogues and hunt endless sales to find these treasures that way.
     Of course letting someone else find, authenticate, and acquire antiques then present them to you for consideration is a luxury that costs a considerable sum of money.  Many collectors go about this method of collecting and for many different reasons this works best for them.   This method of collecting is of great interest to individuals who have a passion for collecting but their time is constrained by their work.  Many book collectors choose this method of collecting in that they choose one or two dealers to work with to build a collection giving the dealer free reign to buy on their behalf the best examples for their collection, an exercise that takes many years to complete in some extreme cases.
     On the other side of the equation is the individual I'll call the time collector.  This individual shares a passion for building a collection, and has the luxury of being able to devote more time in the search for the treasures they are collecting. This person usually has a more constrained budget for collecting, or at least has decided that for one reason or another they are more price sensitive than the other collector.
     So let me put my theory into pictures, below I have a 12 inch Joslin globe on an offset mount dated to about 1888. A desirable piece for any mid range to advanced collector.
     This globe is available for sale often enough that I can illustrate the time VS. money equation very nicely.  Right now from several higher end dealers this globe  or one essentially similar is available at a cost of around $3500 to $4500.  That is the range of the dealers asking prices, what that means is that the piece is available now, clean, vetted by an expert, a no surprise transaction.   On the time side of the equation this globe also becomes available on the auction market at least once a year, through better auction houses think Skinner, Freemans, Bonhams, ect.... This globe does not generally rise to the best most prestigious houses, think Christies, and Sothebys, unless part of an entire estate.  If you'r willing to wait and comfortable bidding at auction then you could be rewarded with this globe in your collection for about $1500 to $2000 including auction fees. This price assumes in both examples an original or professionally restored globe free of any major defects, and needing no restoration.   So if you're in no hurry and willing to wait it out so to speak you can save 1/2 to 2/3 of the normal dealer price for this particular example.
     That is probably pretty typical, now let me tell ya.....I've been on both sides of the equation often times I wait....and wait.....and wait some more for a globe to come my way via less costly channels.  Once in a while I do go straight to a dealer or other high end venue either because waiting didn't pan out  ( which happens) or something just too good to pass up is available.
     I suspect most people who read this blog scour multiple channels looking for that next great find, we probably most often fit into the time category.  Now what king of collection can you put together using each method?  Well obviously money helps,  some items, real rarities come around only through dealer channels and that's fine,  most items that pre date 1860 or so would find their way to market this way. That is not to say all, far from it but any globe new to market that is that old needs some level of professional conservation, be it a simple cleaning, or some small repairs. These are hidden costs a dealer bears before you see the globe for sale.  Newer material say from 1900 onwards can be readily had via the time method.  Waiting and watching work well as these materials are less rare and waiting for the best example that meets your price expectation is smart in my opinion.   So given a long horizon, of lets say a decade or two  ( not kidding)  one can and will assemble an impressive collection of globes  and will probably pay on average 1/2 of what it would cost to put the same collection together via a dealer.   Now that's a life long commitment it takes a passionate  ( read just a bit crazy)  person like myself.....Ha Ha  to undertake that method.  The same could be accomplished in about 3 years if money were no object.
     Now some people are going to read this latest post and say,  Kyle you've got something against dealers!!   Not true......far from it in fact.   I'm just being realistic about a trade off every collector must make.  I maintain a relationship with several dealers with specific " want list " items  things that I realize will take years to find and that I don't want to miss as I concentrate on more readily available items.  I guess I run a bit of a hybrid system,  will I have 1st refusal as the dealers best customer,  no and I know that going in, will I get a call if the best customer passes somthing up?  Yes and I can live with that.   I guess I'm a 70% / 30%  Time / money collector.   Where do you fall?  what do you think?  message me, or add comments below !

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

So.......Who made this globe......? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

     It's not always clear when you look at a globe and read the cartouche to determine where the globe came from and who made it.  Kinda counterintuitive isn't it?    Most branded  products we encounter are easy to identify.  if it says Apple or Samsung those companies designed and engineered and sold the product, if the car says BMW it was designed and engineered and sold by that one company,
     Not so with globes, especially in America.  They were different.  For example I own a globe with gores made by GW Bacon ( U.K. ) then assembled by Weber Costello ( Chicago ). Finally sold by Hammond's ( NY )  So who made the globe?  Where did it come from?  Why was this done?   To what benefit?  Most importantly, how can we spot these subtleties?    Well let's explore together.
     The case of Kittinger.  Kittinger furniture is a beloved American furniture brand, they happen to be based right here in my home town of Buffalo NY.  On a regular basis their globes come up for sale, the cartouche usually reads "Kittinger globe, Buffalo NY".  But they never made globes, not even close, they probably didn't even make the ornate stands that their globes came in.  Most everything they sold as far as globes was made by W and A K Johnson  ( Edinburgh). It was shipped to America, probably with the Kittinger label already in place.  Why do this?  Well quite simply if your selling high end home furnishings wouldn't it be great to offer a globe in a matching finish  to accessorize your new furniture?  Marshall Fields, and Wannamaker's did the same things selling globes on furniture quality  stands as home accessories in their furniture departments. This cartouche shows A rather decorative Kittinger label, even using the word "Manufactures"  but clearly below it states copywright by W. & A. K. Johnston Ltd.
      Ok so what about Weber Costello, and Rand McNally and Hammonds,  well at various times they made and re labeled for each other.   Here is one example from my own collection a Weber Costello made, but Hammonds labled globe.   As you can see to the left Weber Costello's manufacturing label is prominently displayed above the Hammond & CO Label that is affixed over the Weber cartouche.  So then who made this globe?  Weber Costello made this example, and Hammond bought the globe, re labled it and passed it into market as it's own.   This was common practice but  can become confusing 80 or 100 years later when we try to determine a point of manufacture.
     Below I want to show another rather rare example of this practice.  Here we have a globe "manufactured"  by a school supply company  A. P. Mott & CO  but this is a total fabrication on the part of this school supply company.  Rand McNally made this globe in the early 1890's and they then sold it to many school supply houses, as well as retailing it themselvs, some of those companies saw fit to over label as their own and here we have an example of that in action.   When you look at the globe it is clearly copywright 1891 Rand McNally at the south pole, and if you look very closely the eadge of the original Rand McNally cartouche is visible peeking out on either side of the Mott over label.   So If I had to answer  who made this globe?  I'd answer Rand McNally, and sold by AP Mott.

A few notes about collecting,  It is interesting to discover all of the different school supply, department stores, and furniture makers that did this.  It becomes more confusing because Rand McNally, Weber Costello, and Hammond, all made globes of their own, and also engaged in the practice of over labeling other globes. Then you've got the many school supply companies who manufactured nothing and were just middle men. And if that were not confusing enough. There were furniture companies and Department stores that did not manufacture the orbs, but certainly had a hand in the design, and sometimes the manufacture of the stand.

****A special thanks to Omniterrum for the picture of the Kittinger Cartouche, that particular globe is currently available here: Kittinger Globe  ****