Once and awhile you pick an item that makes your heart skip a beat, a real treasure. This garage sale find was one of those.
What was the item? Only a Currier & Ives hand tinted print, titled AMERICAN EXPRESS TRAIN.
I've since sold the print, so I can only offer you a photo of a photograph I have, as seen below.
It was impressive, being quite large, roughly 3' wide, and it had been matted and framed. The frame was a modern one, with holes drilled in the edges. That does raise a red flag, as it usually indicates it was screwed to the wall of a restaurant or hotel room, and that would scream that it was likely a reproduction.
However, this one had all the hallmarks of an original! Plus, add to the fact that many places were decorating with vintage items, and there were plenty of people who fancied themselves to be decorators at the time, who were basically pillaging some attics and using whatever they found as decor in some restaurants. I have spotted some formerly very good pieces in some of those restaurants....and I say "formerly" because some fool drilled holes through the items, impaled them on lag bolts, etc. It is sad to see what used to be a $500 item reduced to a $25 decor piece...
Anyways, the print in question was well done, and as far as any of the knowledgeable local dealers could tell, it was the "real deal."
Now I was getting enthused!
Why? Well, I had been looking through a magazine, and there was an article on that very print....the last one of these that sold at auction not a year before I found mine, had sold in range of $50,000!
So, the next thing I had to do was send it to an auction house, which I did. I seem to recall it was Sotheby's in New York, I believe.
So, I sent it on its way, rolled in a tube, and awaited their assessment.
I was told it was a very high quality piece.....but they would not be interested in consigning it in their auction, as it was also a reproduction.
They sent it back to me....with a bill for professional art packing, amounting to $250 US or so!
So, my initial $15 purchase now totalled a cost of nearly $200. It was most certain professionally packed, flat, and well protected....but I would have been happier had they sent it back to me in a tube as I had sent it to them.
On the plus side, they appraised it at $500.
In the end, I did sell it on eBay, for $350, as a high quality reproduction.
It was a learning experience, which luckily I basically broke even, between postage, eBay fees, time, etc.
Oh well, can't win them all....but winning one once and awhile would be nice, wouldn't it?