10 Commandments of Antiques

24 October 2016

10_commandmentstransparentI. Just because it’s old does not make it valuable.Example: Roman bronze coins are up to 2000 years old but are very common.

II. Just because it’s new does not make it worthless. Example: the Beatles “Butcher Cover” of their “Yesterday and Today” album issued in 1966 can be worth $8000 and up.

III. If something was made to be collectible, RUNReason: In 100 years, 99.9% of these are going to be in someone’s closet still MIB (Mint in Box).

IV. Sentimental value does not add any monetary value to an item. Example: Grandma’s favorite what-not is only a what-not to others.

V. Family stories connected with an item are almost always wrong. Example: A family antique is said to be over 100 years old but marked “Occupied Japan” placing it between 1945 and 1952.

VI. Buy what you like, you may have to live with it.

VII. Don’t worry about the upholstery if you plan to resale the item, no one will like your choice. Example: All high end items sold at auction are usually missing all upholstery.

VIII. Assume it is fake until you prove otherwise. Reason: When anything becomes collectible and expensive, fakes will abound.

IX. Wear and tear is acceptable on furniture but not on glass or porcelain. Example: Some missing veneer or wear on a table is expected but a chip or crack destroys the value of a fragile item.

X. Everything does not come back in style. Example: The day of chastity belts, buggy whips and chamber pots has gone forever.

(c) Copyright Golden’s Appraisal, Auction & Estate Services 2016


Ivory or Not?

16 May 2010

(c) Copyright Golden’s Antique Supply 2000

Ivory comes from the tusks of elephants. Many other substances such as bone, plastics, teeth and other tusks have been used in the place of ivory. The following is a description of ivory and the items that may be mistaken for ivory.


Antlers are hollow and the outer surface is harder than bone. They have been used for a long time in knife and dagger handles and shade from a deep brown to a light cream.


The surface of bone is duller than that of polished ivory. Bones are hollow and a cross section will reveal a grain resembling the black dots of beard stubble. The grain along the longitudinal section will display brown or black streaks.


Ivory comes from the tusk of the elephant. A cross section of reveals a crisscross pattern which is unique to ivory. Along the longitudinal side (long side) of the tusk, ivory will display a wood grain pattern. It has a soft sheen due to the oils it contains.


Since the invention of celluloid, several different plastic materials have been made to resemble ivory. One in particular, ivorine uses alternating dark and light layers of plastic to attempt the grain pattern of ivory. This pattern is too regular for real ivory. All plastics do not have the weight or density of real ivory. Plastics are a poor conductor of heat and will feel warm to the touch.


Hippopotamus – These are the hardest of all ivory-like substances. The surface is a bright white and upon examination the grain runs in one direction and is wavy.

Whale – These are most often used in scrimshaw. Items carved from whales teeth will display a striated pattern to the grain of the tooth.


Boar – Since the boar’s tusks are small, usually the entire tusk is used in the carving. If you could take a cross-section of the tusk, you would see that the tusk is triangular. Boar tusks make a very fine white ‘ivory’ and was a particular favorite of one school of netsuke carvers.

Narwhal – This tusk comes from an endangered species of whale and can often be found in lengths from six to eight feet. It is seldom cut into sections and was used in walking canes when left intact and objects such as netsukes when cut into smaller pieces. Narwhal tusks are hollow and have a graining resembling that of a tree.

Walrus – Items carved from walrus tusks exhibit a mottled appearance due the interior of the tusk being harder than the exterior. These are usually used in netsuke and dagger handles.


This ‘ivory’ actually comes from a palm tree in South America and is softer than either bone or ivory. The grain pattern is circular and indistinct. The surface is dull and was used mainly in the production of small items, ie. buttons.

The following chart shows tests for various ivory-like materials and the results of the test when applied to each material. CAUTION: Always be respectful of other’s merchandise and perform these tests only with the owner’s permission and only on a hidden area of the object.


Red Hot Pin
(Touch to Surface)

(Draw Across Surface)

(Apply Drop to Surface)

Sulphuric Acid
(Apply Drop to Surface)


No effect

Light scratching

No effect

No effect


No effect

Light scratching

No effect

No effect


No effect

Light scratching

No effect

No effect


Smoke or visible hole

Deep cut

Begins to dissolve



No effect

Light scratching

No effect

No effect


No effect

Light scratching

No effect

No effect





Brown stain

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Auctions – Buying at Auctions

16 May 2010

I have always wanted to write a series of articles on the benefits and possible pitfalls of buying and selling at auction. Auctions can be an exciting learning experience whether you are an antique aficianado or just looking to furnish your home.

Let’s call this first installment “Buying at auction”. Here are a few pointers that may help:

  • Most auctions sell items “as is, where is”. Be sure to examine any item you are interested in BEFORE you buy. Once the hammer falls, it belongs to you. The only recourse you may have is if the item is grossly misrepresented. Don’t take that chance.
  • Auctioneers usually disclose at the start of the auction announcements concerning buyer’s premium, payment methods accepted, etc. These announcements override anything that my be in the printed information you have, so pay attention.
  • If you are considering a major purchase and do not feel qualified to authenticate the item, it would be advisable to hire an expert to check it out first.
  • If the item is going to need restoration and you are going to have to hire someone to do it, get an estimate from them first.
  • Set a limit on the amount you are willing to spend. It is too easy to get caught up in ‘auction fever’ and overpay. I see this at every auction I attend.
  • Attend a few auctions and just ‘watch’. You can learn more from observing the crowd than anyone can teach you. Watch and listen to old-timers, they have a better feel for what is going on at the particular auction you are attending.
  • And finally, most auction houses charge a buyers premium. This is a percent of the selling price added to the amount you won the item for. For example, if the auction house charges 10% buyers premium, and you winning bid was $100, your final cost would be $110 ($100 bid plus $10 buyer’s premium). Don’t forget that sales tax is usually added to this.

I am planning on adding a calendar to our website antiquesupply.com showing all local auctions. In the meantime, you can go to auctionzip.com , enter you ZIP and the distance you are willing to travel. You can see all the auctions in the area and they each have details, contact information and usually photos.

Auctions – Selling at Auctions

16 May 2010

In this article, we will cover some of the things to be aware of when selling at auction.

We have many auctions here in the Atlanta area, ranging from small weekly auctions selling everything from yard sale quality merchandise up to large formal auctions selling items up to $100,000 plus.

If you have items you would like to sell at auction, be aware of the following:

  • The auction house will charge you a percentage of the selling price, called the “commission”. It can range from 10% to as high as 25%.
  • Most auction houses will allow you to place a “reserve” on your items. This is the price below which the auction house will not sell your item. Be aware that some auction houses will charge you a commission on items which do not meet the reserve. Be sure to discuss this with the auction house in advance.
  • If you have a number of low value items, the auction house may put several related, and sometimes unrelated, items together in what is referred to as a lot (or box lot). This is done when the items would not sell on their own or for so little that it would not be beneficial to do so.
  • The auction must provide you with a consignment form showing the items you have consigned for sell.
  • After the auction, you should receive payment from the auction house with a settlement sheet showing items sold. The time it takes to receive your payment may vary from the same night to up to a few weeks. Discuss this with the auction house before consigning your items to them.
  • When you think you have decided which auction house to use, attend a few of their auctions to see the prices they get for similar items. You can ask them what they think you would get for your items, but it is an auction and there are no guarantees.
  • If you consign your items to an auction house that advertises their auction as an “absolute” auction, be aware you cannot set a reserve prices. “Absolute auction” means there cannot be a reserve, a seller cannot bid on their own merchandise, and the item must sell for whatever price it brings, regardless how much or how little.
  • The auctioneer’s first loyalty is to you, their customer, not to the seller. A good auctioneer will work hard to get you (and them) the most money for your items.

I will be covering some of the tricks pulled by less honest auctions in the next article. It is unfortunate, but they occur far too often and I will give you some things to look out for so you don’t get taken, whether you are buying or selling.

You can see all the auctions in the area at auctionzip.com. Contact them for their selling terms. .

Auctions – Buyer Beware!

16 May 2010

In the first two installments we covered some basics of buying and selling at auctions. I now must touch on some of the tricks and scams pulled at auctions.

  • House Numbers – Before you bid, look around. Some auction houses use what are called ‘house’ numbers. These are numbers the auction house has reserved to use to bump up the bidding. If you hear the same bidder number winning over and over, and you cannot associate it with a real person holding that number, the house may be bumping the bids and got stuck with the item.
  • “PFA” (Pluck from air) or “OTW” (Off the wall) – These are both terms for the same thing. Some auctioneers will make up bids that do not actually exist in order to raise the selling price. Be observant and look where the auctioneer is looking when he is taking a bid from the audience. If you repeatedly fail to see a live person bidding, you may be witnessing this trick.
  • Left bids (or Commission bids) – A true left bid gives buyers the opportunity to leave a list of items they wish to bid on and the maximum they are willing to pay. The auctioneer will bid for them as if they were there. The ethical method of doing this is for the auctioneer to open with a reasonable bid using the left bid if necessary. They should NOT open the bidding using the maximum bid left by the bidder. If you leave bids for items when you cannot attend, and they seem to always be close to, or at, the amount of your maximum bid, you are not being treated honestly. If you are outbid by a left bid, an honest auction house should allow you to see that it is a legitimate left bid. If they won’t, I’d suspect they were bumping the bid, got stuck with it, and they don’t want you to catch them.
  • Shills (or Plants) – A common trick that some auction houses play is to put someone in the audience to bump the bids. This can be an employee or some even allow the consignor (the one who put the item in the auction) to bid on their own items. This is both unethical, and in some places illegal, but is widespread.
  • False reserve – A reserve (the lowest price that an item can be sold for) is an honest procedure in auction. However, some auction houses use it to not sell an item if they aren’t getting enough for it. A good auction house will Annice that there is a reserve on an item before the bidding begins, not use it as an excuse not to sell an item when it doesn’t bring what they want. It is fine for the auctioneer to not sell an item if he/she feels it is going too cheaply (unless the auction is advertised as an ‘absolute’ auction, but it is not okay to use the ‘failed to meet reserve’ as an excuse.

These are but a few of the ways unscrupulous auction houses operate. If you attend a couple of auctions before you buy, you’ll be able to see if the auction is honest or is trying to pull something.

Do I Really Need An Appraisal?

14 May 2010

As an appraiser, and one who does a lot of “Appraisal Fairs” and “Roadshows” for antique malls and shops in the Atlanta area, I am often asked that question.

Let’s get the nasty business of terminology out of the way. What you receive at one of my “Roadshows” (and even the ones on TV) are not appraisals in the true sense. They should be correctly termed “Estimates of Value”. A true appraisal is done through research on the item included “comparables”, just like in real estate. A good written appraisal is a document that will hold up in court or with the IRS or your insurance company.

It should contain the following:

  • A cover letter stating the purpose and use of the appraisal.
  • A statement of the methods used and sources for obtaining the value.
  • A section giving a detailed description of the item. It should be good enough to describe the items even if photos were not included (but they should be).
  • Where and when the inspection was done.
  • A statement from the appraiser they they have no interest in the value of item.
  • The list of the appraiser’s qualifications.

Do not accept an appraisal that does not cover at least these points.

Appraisals can be needed for:

  • Insurance policies
  • Estate settlement
  • Divorce or bankruptcy
  • Donations and tax purposes

Written appraisals can be expensive, some appraisers charging by the hour or by the item. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have an appraisal done where the appraiser’s fee is based on the final value!

What you may need is just an estimate of value, to see if the item needs a written appraisal. If you have many items, or even a whole house full of stuff, a ‘walk-through’ may be the best place to start.

You can get free estimates of value at one of my or others “Roadshows” or some appraisers will give them free or for a small charge. These are just educated opinions and are not binding. You can get a ‘walk-through’, which where someone qualified goes through your house or shop and gives advice on each item. This can include approximate value, where to dispose of it to get the most for it, or even that an item should receive a written appraisal. ‘Walk-throughs’ are done on an hourly basis and are an excellent idea if you have a lot of items to dispose of.