Sunday, May 18, 2008
Antique Bronze is Too Often Overlooked
Most people today seem to be looking for silver candlesticks or candelabras and often pass by the bronze ones too quickly. Unless they are figurines, most people pass up the bronze items. What a mistake this is.
Remember the story about the oriental vase that I sold way too cheap? If you recall, the dealer kept pressing me and finally I put a price on it before I had thoroughly done my homework. I did put a price on it that I thought would be rejected, but I was outsmarted when he said, “Sold!” Well, at the same house I bought the oriental vase, I also purchased a set of unmarked bronze candelabras.
I had already spent several thousands of dollars with the woman when I noticed the bronze candelabras. Even though they were unmarked, I knew they were well done but didn’t have any idea of their value. So, I offered the lady $50 for the pair, which she graciously accepted. Being unmarked and using my general rule, I figured I could get $200. But, I also figured I had nothing to lose if I started them at $2500. I could, after all, lower my price.
Since it was mid-summer at the time, I thought it would be a great time to have my own garage sale. After all I had accumulated several things I wanted to sell and had plenty of garage sale items to clean out of my house. I always place some of my better items in my sales so the ad will look particularly inviting to dealers. Right off the bat the dealers started ringing my doorbell several hours before the time listed in the paper. This happens all the time, and its one reason why I tell you to arrive early at garage sales. To be polite, you may want to wait until the seller allows another person to enter first. That’s quite all right.
The first person into my house was a lady I knew very well. She did her shopping and bought a few things, but she continued to visit the candelabras. She asked if I would lower the price, and I said,” It’s still very early and I think that’s a very good price. I think they should sell as more people come.” I took a chance. I knew they were special and I didn’t care if I held them a little longer. Psychology is very important in this business, and it’s good if you practice reading your customers. I was pretty sure that she had a keen interest in the pair. Finally, she gave in to her desire to own them and said, “Sold!” And, she paid me $2,500 for them.
There is several great lessons to be gleaned from this example. First, something can be quality without being marked. Second, if it is quality, mark it as such in your price. Third, once you’ve priced a piece, shut up and let the customer think about it.
Old bronze should have a very mellow patina. If it’s too bright, then I usually think that it’s new or has been polished, both of which reduce my interest. The truly great pieces of bronze should be well molded, with out seams, and their detail should show the work of a true master. Newer pieces will look cheaply crafted, and the details will tell you that it isn't a master’s work.
Most good bronze candlesticks will sell from $1,000 up, depending upon the marker or its quality. At most sales, I am surprised if I find a bronze candlestick or candelabra priced over $500. At this price they should always be a buy.
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