Sunday, May 4, 2008

Estate Sale Treasures – You Don’t Have to be First to Find Them

While I’ve enjoyed writing about the great treasures our readers have reported to us, today I’d like to share my experience yesterday. I think it well serve you well.

Yesterday was a time for catching up for me. There were emails to send, books to ship and general paper work to do. However, one of our 31 Club members asked if I’d be willing to join her at an estate sale. I agreed to meet her later in the afternoon. Now, knowing I’d need to be in home in time to watch the Kentucky Derby, I put my efforts at catching up in overdrive so I could pack everything into my time schedule.

I called our member about 1:30 and was surprised to hear she was already at the sale. I was thinking to myself (often a dangerous thing to do) that if there were treasure at this sale for me, it would probably be all gone by now, but I’d still go to help our member.

I met our member at the front door of the house, and once I got to the sale, I immediately recognized the person conducting the sale. I asked if she thought there was anything still here for me. To my surprise she said, “Yes, the Georg Jensen silver.” We headed immediately to the dining room to check it out. When I picked up a knife where the price tag was taped, my eyes almost dropped out of their sockets. Believe it or not, they wanted $10,500 for the set. I couldn’t get away from the table fast enough, but while my mind was spinning, I decided I’d offer $2,000 if I was going to make an offer.

But that was only the first room, so we preceded to the living room where it was hard to miss a Steinway Baby Grand -- with a price tag of $25,000. About this time I was asking myself what could possibly be here for me. But, I continued on. I knew very little about the modern artwork that decorated the walls, and these pieces had hefty price tags as well. Asian artifacts were intermingled through out the house, and again, I was at a loss without any of my books in this category. I sat down on the living room couch to collect my thoughts when my eyes landed on a very large lamp. My mind wouldn’t allow me to believe I was looking at a treasure that every other dealer and shopped had overlooked. After all, it was later in the afternoon and most people would have figured all the real treasures were gone by now.

I raised my self up from the sofa, as if I was in slow motion and walked toward the lamp. The closer I came the more difficult it was to breathe. Unbelievable! There on the end table was a Rookwood vellum scenic vase made into a lamp, and the vase itself was over fifteen inches tall.

My hands began to tremble as I turned the tag to examine the price. $1,800. I knew this had to be mine. My mind started racing as I figured out at what price this might become mine. I’ve bought from these people many times before, and usually at half the price, but I knew that with this lamp, I couldn’t take a chance. I stepped up to the plate and offered $1,200. She refused, and told me I could leave a bid. I informed her that I didn’t do that, because I was here to buy. She was firm about leaving a bid, so I returned home very quickly to do some research. (My house was only five minutes away.) Let me tell you, after a little research, I broke every speed zone getting back there, just hoping the lamp was still there.

I entered the house with my wife and son with me this time. My wife went to look at the items in the dining room, while I worked up the courage to peek into the living room to see if the lamp was still there. It was. But now, I had to see if there was one of those little red tags on it, showing it had been sold. No red tag, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

We finally settled on $1,500, which was a much higher percentage of the asking price than I usually pay, but for this piece, there was no question on what I was going to do. So, what’s the value? Between $4,500 and $5,000.

Tomorrow I am going back to the sale because there were several other item that I want to make offers on but at less than 50% of their asking price. There are Royal Doulton mugs, listed prints, figurines, and glass objects that could pay for the lamp, if I am able to purchase at my price. Not bad for a day when I wasn't even intending to go out. Better Late than never, and by the way, Big Brown may be the next Triple Crown Winner. What a great looking horse.

Today’s Photo shows a set of 1945-1951 Georg Jensen sterling silver designed by Johan Rhode, Jensen's most influential of all his designers. The pattern is the very popular "Acorn" pattern, and is offered at Leopard Antiques for $3,350. Photo from

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