Remember When Pricing Antiques: Two Heads Are Better Than One!
For larger estate appraisals, I frequently invite my buddy and business partner, Carl Hotkowski to join me. Providing that the two appraisers work, for the most part, independently, I believe clients benefit in such instances. The benefit has nothing to do with rate advantages. Like almost all appraisers, we bill our time out per man-hour. It has to do with accuracy. Two heads are better than one.
Carl's knowledge exceeds mine in some fields. And I likewise have areas where my interests and experiences are finely tuned. When he's looking at silver, I'm often turning old chairs upside down. After a while, when each of us have made a detailed assessment as to the age, origin, condition and value of a list of items, we swap lists to quickly see if our opinions match up. You see … antique appraisal can be an imprecise subjective business-more art than science. Still, I have not arrived at my real point. Let me blurt it out. Sometimes, even antique "experts" get it wrong.
One such story revolves around a two-generation antique dealer family, consisting of a husband, wife and their son, who was reasonably new in the business in the time. Among their family heirlooms, from the wife's side, was a 9-inch wide celluloid pin back photo button. In the 1890's technology was introduced that brought forth political and advertising buttons. A few years later, for a handsome sum, people could have their own family images printed on such buttons as a means of a keepsake. The button of our story pictures the 1922 images of sisters, Beatrice and Helen Landers. Their mother, who was known as Aunt Sil, saved up money to have three buttons produced; one for her, and one each for her two sisters. Everybody in the strong Irish catholic family were immensely proud of the two 17 years olds, for they were about to take their vows and become Sister Daria and Sister Geraldine.
In the coming years, one of the buttons would hang proudly in the kitchen of Aunt Sil's sister, Mary, while the nuns would rise in order. Sister Geraldine would serve as principal to a catholic girl's school. Sister Daria would earn the title of Mother Superior and Mary would name one of her daughters after her. Daria grew up, married, had her own children and became an antique dealer. She also inherited the one family possession that she wanted most of all -- the picture button that hung for years in her mom's kitchen.
Eventually Daria's oldest son found his way into her business, becoming an antique dealer. He studied nightly. One of his first assignments would be the running of a tag sale for his mom and dad, using his knowledge to price items from their attic. In his wisdom, he priced the picture button with Sister Geraldine and Sister Daria, from whom his mother owed her very name -- for 50 cents.
Knowing that two eyes are better than one, Daria checked her son's prices and retrieved the button. It hangs in her kitchen today. On the back of the button there is now, scotch-taped, a note reading the following: "This is a photo of Sister Daria (left) and Sister Geraldine (right) before they entered the convent. They were my mother's nieces. I was named after Sister Daria. They were beautiful ladies. Sister Daria became "Mother Superior" and sister Geraldine was principal of a catholic girl's school. Each lived to their 80's. (DO NOT SELL!)
The note was hand-written by Daria Mattox -- my mother.