Monday, September 20, 2010

The Money Issue.

I want to (belatedly) thank Selena Cate at Apron Thrift Girl for adding me to her list of  favourite "Thrift Blogs." I was wondering how my number of "followers" seemed to have jumped to 14 right after that time!  I do realize that I likely have a "readership" in higher numbers than that (they are actually at 15 right now as I write this), as many of you connect with the blog via my Facebook postings, rather than "joining" this site.

 It seems that there is no "notification" about my new postings is being sent out, and I have looked high and low, and there seems to be no way that I can control that.  But, I am still getting the hang of this site, and they also recently changed some stuff.   Being a Taurus, I am pretty stubborn when it comes to change...and I like the "Keep It Simple" premise...And, frankly, change is not always a good thing.  But, that said, I do need to look at some way of making this blog connect to my business more, in a way that there is some money being generated.  Dealers generally charge around the $65 an hour range for written appraisals, and I know I charge $35 an hour for verbal appraisals...and likely am far more qualified to do a written appraisal on an estate of antiques than many of the general "appraisers" I have come across.
That is something to be aware of, by the way. That is, to get an appraisers certificate all that is required is a course on appraising. No, you don't have to have any experience in the field you are appraising in.

 Thus, antiques appraisers don't actually have to have any experience in the antiques business to appraise antiques!

So, is that appraiser that is coming over to your house may know the values of used cars, but is appraising your grandmother's parent's 1700s bedroom suite....hmmm...

Not a good plan. Might end up being appraised equivalent to the value of some piece of junk from the local furniture warehouse outlet. Then again, it may get appraised at 20 times market value, which can cause just as many problems if it happens to be destroyed, and a claim is made.

 I have heard and seen the appraisal values dropped onto things, and seeing/hearing the figures make my eyes roll. Yes, I realize "insurance value" is generally quite high in comparison to market value, but some of the appraisals I have seen were so far out that I pity the people trying to collect the insurance money if the items were to be destroyed...they will be laughed out of the insurance company's building.

 Jewellery is one of the worst for extreme differences in appraisal value versus market value.  I bought an antique wedding band/engagement ring set some years ago (was engaged at the time.) Set had 3/4 karats worth of diamonds, mainly white gold,  and dated from 1911. Appraisal value was $3500. Purchased from an estate jeweller I knew for $350. Yes, that is correct, three hundred and fifty dollars.  Yes, I got a deal because I knew him well, but retail value was still well under appraisal value by $3000.  There is an "auction" website that sells jewellery shall remain nameless. An item will have an appraisal value of $500...and it will sell for $20.

So, what is that item worth?

What the market will bear...which was obviously $20 at the time it sold.

Hmm...getting off topic here...not unusual for this blog, is it?

So, what are the results of over 20 years of accumulated knowledge being spilled out in written form worth?

And does it have entertainment value that can be shoe horned into a dollar value?

Who knows. Sure someone out there has a formula of some sort that could figure it out, but I don't.

What I do know is that I have done, and still do, tons of work for little return. I tend to openly give free advice on antiques & collectibles; including values, research methods, markets to sell to, and lots more.

I am not complaining, though. I don't mind giving out advice (etc), to a point. 

But, I have to wonder how many lawyers give out free advice. Yeah, I know, everyone hates lawyers...maybe that is a bad example...let's see...Ok, how about a Proctologist?  Imagine him/her being quizzed about people's various ailments at some party....Oh, yeah, I guess most people wouldn't want to reveal their bowel issues in public...



Ok, let's avoid the medical profession...How about your local furnace repairman? Does he/she come by to give you free advice on how to fix your furnace yourself, refer you to all the best places to get parts, and refer you to other furnace guys who specialize in your particular furnace?  No? Hmmm...why is this business so different that SO many people have come to expect free advice?

I have gone on some "house calls" and made offers on assorted items...which in the end amounted to a free appraisal, as they wished to sell nothing despite inviting me over to make offers, or were going to "think about it"....sometimes it became obvious they never intended to sell anything, which is the most aggravating. Other times I'd get a call back from them accepting some or all of my offers. But it would be once I had heard from dealer friends that they had also gotten calls from the people to go through the place after I had, and make offers of their own...sometimes being told what offers that had already been given! A cheap "auction" is what that amounts to...if they happen to get dealers who are willing to play that game.  Many of us will pass on the entire situation.

 Sometimes I see the items for sale somewhere at just above what I offered, or see them in an auction (and I end up buying the items for less than my offers....I love that!)....or I would hear of another dealer having bought the items at the amounts my offers were (or less!), or see the items at a sale with my suggested values. Yes, I was polite, kind, honest with the sellers & have a very good reputation..and a hard earned one. Very easy to get a bad rep & it is tough as heck to hang on to a good one. I have a good enough rep that I have had a few "dealers" impersonate me!

Back to the offers I made.... is odd, not one of those times do I remember getting $35 an hour for those hours of my time.

 I have been at plenty of places AND bought a number of things, and assisted the seller in valuing other items, some/many/all of which were not for sale. No big deal, the person is not taking advantage of my kindness, I am offering it as a bonus service for allowing me into their home to purchase some of their things.  It is just those who take knowing advantage of my generosity of spirit without any form of payment that annoy me.

And I am not necessarily talking about cash here. Some appreciation goes a long way.

 I gladly assist friends & family, as they are my FRIENDS & FAMILY. Their love/appreciation/caring/support/etc/etc is enough "payment".

I openly help folks on Facebook, eBay, other chat type antiques groups, and the like, if I can. Most of the time I get "payment" in the form of verbal (or, typed, as the case may be) appreciation. It is also part of business promotion, getting my name out there, making myself visible in the "community".  I have helped lots of other customers, as well as strangers who call, came in to the store, etc. 

I have come to realize that I'd be a millionaire if I had been paid for all the advice I have given away for free over the past 20+ years.

 Oh well, I am in the antiques business....

One thing I was a little annoyed at recently is that I somehow missed a casting call for hosts for the new program "Canadian Pickers" back in April (a spin-off of History Channel's ultra successful American Pickers).  Yes, I know, some of you who know me figure I would have been a "no brainer" choice. Thank-you to you for the sentiments, encouragement, etc. I also did send a "resume" that the "headhunter" person seemed impressed with, but I was simply too late...the "hosts" had already been selected, and filming was supposed to be starting right away. 

I am pretty involved in the business online, but I guess my slant tends to be more frequenting the American based sites, and the "call" came on a Canadian slanted site...stands to reason, I guess.

The largest market is the USA, or, rather, it is the largest market easily accessible to Canadians. Many Canadian sellers online cater more to the US market than to the Canadian market.

  I had searched "Canadian Pickers" on Google several months ago, and got ZERO hits.  Search it now, of course, and up comes the TV show, the casting call, interviews with the "hosts", interviews and such with Mike & Frank where they mention Canadian Pickers, etc.

Why did I search "Canadian Pickers" in the first place? Well, I planned to register

And did.
Guess I should have copyrighted it, too.

I thought I would pursue something in that vein, as I had essentially the same concept that American Pickers uses...and easily 15 years ago.  I ran it by some movie/TV industry folks; not the "big guys", but people who worked in the industry those years ago. I planned to pursue it further than just talking about it, but, life as it is interrupted plans, and it "got in the way."

  So, when American Pickers appeared on the scene early this year, I registered "Canadian Pickers" at the prompting of my wife, and because I figured it was really high time to revive the idea.

I am glad someone eventually ran with the that idea and pushed it until it caught hold, as this business does need a boost. I'm even happy for Mike & Frank of AP. Nice to see my chosen profession being truly "recognized" as an actual profession, a real business... which, to me, has always been a real business.  A few of the pickers & dealers I have talked with about the program are not happy with the show, but I think they seem to be in the minority.

But, there is that "pang" of regret. It is like seeing some new product that is making the inventor of it rich, and thinking "Geeze, I thought of that 10 years ago."

On the other hand, it has gotten me making some inquiries, talking more to people, digging deeper into my own contacts, doing more networking than I have in the past.

 Maybe something will come of the inquiries I have made/am making, maybe not.

 At least I have finally started writing about my experiences, that is a plus. I do have another blog, one I have neglected for awhile. It is on environmental issues, easily a 3 year stint of fairly regular writing. It was mainly environmental related, with recycling being the main focus. My interest in "junk" went past "old junk" for a few years, and still stray there at times, still.  I have another business that is essentially in limbo, awaiting government legislation changes, and a government program being implemented that may destroy its potential for it being a viable business in rural areas...or, may elevate it to a decent money making enterprise. Only time will tell.

I have strayed from my antique-ing path a bit, but, considering the state of the market for the past few years, it is not surprising. Even in the last 20 years, while I was making my full (but meagre) income for easily 15 years on just buying & selling antiques & collectibles, easily 95% of the dealers I knew had other gigs to bring in money. They were refinishing furniture, doing repairs/restorations, handling estate sales, running antique malls, running flea markets, doing work for auction houses, working a 9 - 5 job, a part time job, operating an inherited family business, were retired with a healthy pension, their spouse was working a good paying job, etc, etc, etc...

Winnipeg, where I lived for 20 years, is a tough market. It is even tougher when the economy is not rockin' and rollin'. Many shops have closed their doors. Many collectors have stopped buying they way they have. Many have even died. Antiques shows all over (western Canada) can't bring in the crowds they used to, and some have decreased their size dramatically. Flea markets used to be buzzing on the weekends, but are no longer humming like the "old days". 

The market has changed.

Was it 9/11?

The world economy?

Fashion & decorating trends?


The Internet in general?

Martha Stewart going to jail?

Ok, that last one is unlikely to really have had an effect...though she is responsible for Jadeite's popularity & prices going insane, I am sure...

I am sure that it is a combination of most of those things, among others.

Life throws us curves. (It is weird how many sports analogies I use, considering I'd rather be out picking than watching some football, hockey or baseball game)

I have been planning to write a book on my experiences for quite sometime.  The idea was planted in my head...well, actually I was TOLD I really should write a book about one particular experience I had....a trip with another "dealer" (this guy turned out to be a shyster/gun runner) to a show 3 provinces away.

A good friend told me I really should write it all out, and, for one reason or another, I haven't.  The story itself takes 2 hours to tell fully.

Halfway through the trip I met up with this friend and another friend at the hotel we were staying at.

Exhausted, frustrated, injured, on pain killers, bewildered to still be alive, among other things, I related the story of this harrowing first leg of the trip to them.

Before I was done, one friend was laughing so hard and so uncontrollably he rolled off the hotel bed he was sitting on, and couldn't gain enough control to pull himself back up for awhile.

The other friend was blinded by tears of laughter.

My one friend had me tell other friends the story over again, and again, in his presence, and it keeled him over in laughter every time.

I guess it never got old.

It will take a fair bit of time to write, will be the size of a novella at least.

Which brings me back to making money.

How? Well, bear with me for a bit.

Been "eBaying" (how did that become a verb?) pretty much every weekend (and throughout the week, between packing, shipping, answering questions, etc, etc) since 1998.  I have noticed a steady decline in sales, as well as profits on those sales over the last, oh, 7 years.

The ol' nag ain't what she used to be.

I have weathered out the changes, stupid as many of them were, the rising fees, worn & struggled in the straight jacket that eBay has fitted sellers with, dealt with the brick wall eBay represents as "communication" with its users, and all the rest that has given most sellers "eBay induced ulcers."

I could go on and on about eBay and its faults, as I am sure many sellers can. But, I am tired of eBay...exhausted, pretty much. I know I will still have to use it for some things, but it is not a reliable sales platform for the antiques/collectibles market any longer.   I have been in business long enough to know when it is no longer good business to deal with the hassles when you consider the returns. Again, I could go on and on, but I am tired of talking about eBay. Been doing it too long.

So, I need some other sort of weekly income to replace what I was making on eBay. Realistically, it should be about $500 - $1000 a week, which is what I used to do on eBay....and at one time, I reached those figures with little effort. Now it takes literally 25 times the effort to make the same $ figures coming in...and the expenses are higher....Oh, wait, I said I wasn't going to talk about eBay, didn't I?

So "that website" is now just a minor part of that income...the ol' nag is near to the point of having to be shot to put her out of her misery.

Which brings me to this question:

What would you pay for?

Access to this blog? No, I figure that access to this shouldn't cost anything.

But, would you be wiling to toss in, oh, say a buck, just a dollar, to receive a fresh-off-the-keyboard page, two or ten of "The McDowd Chronicles"?

Ok, some of you look a little confused. Let me explain.

That is to be the title of my "adventure" I intend to write out as I mentioned earlier, just prior to my eBay rant. Interested parties each would pay a set amount for access to "X" number of pages of my work in progress. Or, you only pay for what you want to read. If you decide you don't want to read any more past the first few free pages I provide (likely here in the blog), then you don't need to pay a dime. But, if you want to read more, you will have to pay per page. Maybe it won't be a buck, maybe it will be 25 or 50 cents a page or something.

Get the picture?

I'd likely have somewhere below the first few free pages for you to leave comments, encouragement, criticism, etc, as well. Kind of a participatory thing for those of you who are so inclined. Plus, the "pressure" of having a readership "clamouring for more" would encourage me to keep at it on a regular, perhaps daily, basis.

So, drop me a note on my wall on Facebook (add "Fedora Antiques" as a friend),  leave a comment here, or drop me a private email via Facebook, etc. I'd like to hear/read your thoughts.

If I don't have to be dealing with eBay (and its related daily annoyances), I can spend more time writing. Problem is, I also need to make money to pay bills, and to go picking (of course!) Now, in winter it does slow down picking wise "up here." It gets cold, and tends to be uncomfortable going through unheated buildings, and when the snow starts getting deep, it is worse...and can be substantially more dangerous being on little travelled back roads. I used to go picking in all kinds of weather, but I have gotten older, and thus...well, smarter. Ok, well, maybe also a bit more paranoid...feeling more mortal than I used to when I was in my 20s, you know?

So, I do more around home, and when I do go picking, I choose more comfortable environments. Like, doing some picking of basements in buildings that are still in use, and thus usually heated, that sort of thing.

If there is money coming in from some other source, I don't have to post items on eBay (and get pennies on the dollar...but I digress.) I'd also like to use some of my time to get my own website started.

Question is, are there enough of my "readership" to support me in that endeavor of creating a book? That is, are the numbers high enough, and would there be the amounts contributed to make it a viable situation?

  I have a grand total of 15 followers. Say all of the 15 bought access to the number of pages I write in a week. With that "grand sum" coming in I'd also have to apply for welfare. Not really an option as far as I am concerned.

So, how did I add to that meagre dollar amount?

Well, one thing I thought of is doing a "Save Karyn" type of site. But, people have "soured" towards online begging, from what I have read. Still, maybe a few "shekels" could be brought in that way. A "donation" button here on the blog is also a possibility.

I have also thought of a fund that readers can contribute to as a "picking trip" fund. And, those contributors will receive a share in the profits of the sale of the items picked.  The main problem is that it would be tough to keep track of, seeing as not all things get sold right away...and depending oh how much profit is made on an item, and how many contributors there are, I'd be writing checks for pennies every month. Plus, it would likely mean I'd have to get even more into the eBay grind...something I'd like to do less of, not more....I at least want to switch to decaf.

A variation on that same idea is that I would film the picking trip, and contributors would get to watch the entire trip (bathroom breaks not included). Your own personal "Canadian Picker" show.  Heck, if I could figure out how to do it, I'd do live streaming video!  Problem there is that many areas I tend to go don't have cellular reception....last thing you'd want to do is pay for a blank screen when the signal is lost.

I really am not one of those folks who expect to get money for nothing. I have worked my ass off my entire life for what money I have made. Even when I was a teen and working for other people, I worked damn hard for my wage. I suppose that is part of the reason I am self employed. I got quickly tired of seeing others around me doing half the work for the same money I was getting. If I was going to work so hard, I might as well be the one benefiting in the end, aside from the immediate (meagre) cash return.

So, back to benefiting, money wise, from my work.

How can this blog generate cash? "Click throughs" on ads that are shown around some blogs can be constructed to "monetize" your blogs. But, I have implemented that, and it is only mere pennies added to my pocket, so that is not all that feasible..and they only pay out to the blogger once the total reaches a $10  minimum, so that is not going to go very far now, is it? Pennies add up, eventually, but not quite as fast as required! If I have to save up for a year just to buy a single Starbucks coffee, that won't cut it. (Actually I prefer "Sunstone Coffee" ....and no, I don't get anything from the click-through on that....just don't mine promoting another small business....and their coffee IS far better than Starbucks or Tim Hortons anyway..and you can make it at home and it tastes the same as in any restaurant that serves it.)

I've thought of creating t-shirt designs (mottoes, sayings, picker lingo, that sort of thing), getting transfers made, and offering them for sale, but that is pretty time consuming as well. Plus, the whole idea is to get this writing thing paying for itself, or at least in conjunction with selling stuff.....but not on eBay. Getting to be a bad 4 letter word, that one. about a t-shirt that says "FUEBAY!"?  Bet there are lots of disgruntled eBay sellers that would buy one of those! I have a feeling that has already been copyrighted, though.... and "" is already gone....!

So, I write and write and write. Have you learned anything? Has that knowledge made you any money? Willing to give ME a cut of the profits?  Oh, wait, I forgot, I am in the antiques business, people don't pay me for my advice most of the time.

I do jest. But, you know, I am willing to do research on your finds, and give you some advice, history, values, etc, in lieu of a fee.  Maybe that is the ticket. Online appraisals! Just giving folks an idea of what their stuff is worth. An online "Antiques Roadshow" sort of thing. Pay $5 or $10 for a rough market valuation of what your item is worth, its history, etc.  A possibility, I suppose. But, if I put more than an hours worth of time into the item it is a pretty darn low wage, that $5, isn't it?

So, I continue to contemplate what I could do to make this writing thing pay for the time it takes.  I am genuinely interested in your thoughts. Can always use someone else's view!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

WARNING: This object is not as old as it appears!

Don't you wish it was that easy? All old looking items that are not all that old being marked as such?

Forget it...will never happen...SO, we need to LEARN what things are NEW and what is OLD...and HOW old....

How do you learn this?

Well, in a variety of ways. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH...on a variety of topics is one of the ways to branch your knowledge out a bit. Lots of info online on how to detect old things from new thing, modern fakes, forgeries, etc.  There are a fair number of books on the subject out there, too.

AND don't forget to triple check that information you are reading. As an example, the use of a black light to find repairs & fake items can assist you in eliminating some fakes & repaired items...but don't think it is an all out "Sure thing" to determine age or the condition of those items. Use it as a tool, but not the perfect one answer.  You see, I know a fellow who repairs porcelains...he is very good, his repairs are tough to spot....and, he has figured out how to fool a black light, too. However, he adds a hidden "signature" to all his repairs, so if the item turns up at an auction, sale, estate, etc it can be determined if it is one of his repairs.

I note this as an example only, on how you really need to know FOR YOURSELF how to avoid fakes, forgeries and those "old looking" things that just are not that old.  You really can't trust all the reference books out there, either.


Well, I present to you as an example, (and certainly not the sole and only book with this issue) the "ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PORCELAIN ENAMEL ADVERTISING" by Michael Bruner, copyright 1994.

There is a Coca-Cola sign in the book, shown on the back cover, and the top and middle pictures on page 68.  It is said to date from the mid 1890s...and even has a "94" as the date code on one corner.  has an eBay auction listed of that same sign, with a selling price of $9300, sold not that long ago (11/14/2006).

Funny, it was determined this item was a fantasy item (IE: never originally made)
 long before that....but, I digress...

Surprise, surprise, on we also find the identical sign...with the true story given...a "Replica sign".... "Only 2 were made by a graphic artist."...."one of two made" which sold 11/15/2007...for $199.

My first thought when bought the book back in 1995, and I saw the sign, was that it looked "wrong" for some reason...I couldn't put a finger on it at the time, but my gut said that something was just off.  (You also sometimes need to go with your gut feeling in this business, but that is yet another blog post!)

If you look at advertising from that period, and study the types of graphics used in the ads by Coca-Cola featuring that slogan, you will see they just don't jive with what is on this sign. But, in 1994, I had over 10 years less experience than I have now, so who was I to judge?

But, obviously the "experts" were fooled.  The back looks "right", the thickness & depth of the porcelain seems right for the period, the name of the company who made it is correct for the period. The date code is even "plausible"....but I wonder if it stands for 1994!  And, frankly, if it popped up at an auction of items that were of that period, all supposedly from the same source, say, being some old store or hotel's basement, that might have even tipped the scales for me to decide it was "right"...but, I'd have begun to wonder once I got looking at all the other period advertising using that slogan...and the graphics really not being similar at all....might have been an expensive lesson, too.

Dates shown on things don't always mean a whole heck of a lot. Take maker's marks on various things...the date as part of the mark may just give the date the company was founded (and the fact it is on the shelf in Wal Mart should be another tip-off...!)

Sometimes the number is not a date at is a model number, or mold number, decorator number or some one's old high school locker combination....

BUT, on some things a prominent date should really say something to you...

"Is it really that old?"

Many repros, fantasy items an outright fakes have prominent dates on them.   I saw an "1800s" wooden sign being "shown off" on a chat thread on a particular antiques website...the thread was started to essentially promote the eBay auction of the sign.  No big deal, we all do that/have done that...more exposure the better. That's legit, I'd even encourage it, especially with the lack of  and declining collector traffic on eBay these days.

Problem is, they represented the sign as being from the period of the date on the sign....from the 1870s.

I collect old advertising, and am particularly fond of old wooden signs, so I have had the opportunity to handle (and own) several of them...and be the person to have the, umm, "pleasure" to have dirt & dust dumped in my face during their removal from some of their long term "storage" locations....which, if you have been following my blog, you will have already read about one.

So, when the dealer posted the sign on this public forum, it invited comments.

 Mine was "sorry, this is a modern decorator piece." I also went on to disclose and describe why it was of recent manufacture, and not old. It used lots of old, recycled wood, so it appeared to have some age...problem was, the wood was of various ages, and various sources.

My statements were followed up by other dealers' comments, all who agreed, and even pointed out OTHER reasons why there was no way it was even describing how a particular type of board used in it was not even manufactured until 30 years after the date painted on the sign.

Even after the various somments were posted, the sign remained on eBay, represented as 100% original 1800s.

Sold for just over $600.

Hmm...As a decorator piece, it MIGHT have been worth $250....$350 if you really, really loved it.

As a piece of modern "folk art" done in an old style,  signed by a prominent artist, ok, maybe $600....But this was represented as an old, authentic piece of early Americana

I contacted the "editor" of the website regarding this piece and the poster of it, and questioned if they really should be allowing such things, and the reputation this sort of continued actions could give such a site in its infancy.

The editor wrote back and asked for a "link" to the thread....which I thought was rather odd...

I went back to find the thread to supply her with a link...and it was GONE.

Hmmm...that bothered me, and made little sense, until I dug a little deeper...

The poster of the sign and the eBay auction was ALSO the OWNER OF THAT WEBSITE.


This little episode has made me question the reputation of this particular dealer(s)...and it bothers me that they are running a website that is gaining significant ground in the antiques community.  It is a license to rip folks off. I know many eBay sellers are paranoid that eBay is ripping us off (yeah, I know, whole different discussion there), reading/filtering our internal emails, whatever...But, if this person/these people will blatantly censor their screw-ups how can you be sure they are not messing around with internal stuff as well? 

Actually, what I am most concerned about is that is was not a "screw-up" that went unnoticed and then got covered up by the embarrassed party, but a blatant misrepresentation of a fake item as real, meant to deceive the unaware purchaser/bidder.

If you are reputable, you should be willing to "eat" your screw-ups.  Don't pass a fake you bought as "real" on to someone else as "real" after you have found out that it is a fake. And, if it IS found to be a fake AFTER you have sold it, stand behind your merchandise, and willing take it back, with apologies. Otherwise, you are risking your reputation and future sales. That really rare item you find next time and want to sell for big money is automatically suspect....tainted by your unwillingness to accept the fact you screwed up on something else previously

Just learn from it and go on. Maybe keep the piece as a reminder...even to compare it to other similar items to gauge their authenticity. Yes, I admit it, I have tossed some of my screw-ups into auctions...I think most dealers do that at one time or another. But, I also don't represent them as what they were represented as to me. They are what they are, "Caveat Emptor", as you likely know with most auctions. But, there are many items I just stuck away in a box, destroyed, etc...the odd one that involved larger sums of money I returned to the seller, who feigned ignorance, or was genuinely unaware that the item was not what they said it was. I will strive to not get rid of those screw-ups anymore to the potentially unaware!   Actually, what I strive for is to not be deceived by those items in the first place.....but, you learn everyday in this business...the education never stops.

However, for you, my loyal readers (ok, that is enough hoity-toity-ness...) maybe by reading this blog you won't have to learn as much via the hard (and potentially expensive) ways.

Sometimes you may come across "fakes" that are not "fakes" per-se...they are things like "museum models"....items to represent the real thing, which is either unavailable for display, too valuable to be shown/handled by the public, on loan elsewhere, etc, etc.

Others are created for deception for monetary reward, or personal satisfaction...

A friend of mine (who passed away some years ago) dealt in transportation collectibles. There was one particular "collector" in the field who proclaimed himself an "expert" who knew everything there was to know. He was even writing a book.

WARNING: Arrogance can get you in trouble.

There was a particular drinking glass type with a thick bottom that a Canadian railway used. Their logo was etched on the glass.

Oddly enough, a gas bar at the time was giving away a strikingly similar glass set.

Other than being too clear (older glass used in such glassware tends to be slightly grey, or otherwise ever so slightly tinted due to ingredients used at the time), it had one other difference....a 1/4" size bubble in the middle of the bottom. The originals had a thick base without any encapsulated center bubble.

My friend was tired of this fellow's constant acts of supposed "superiority" to him and others in the collecting community.

He got a set of the gas station promotional glasses together, and had them etched with the identical logo.

This fellow bought them, swearing up and down they were the real far as I know my friend did not represent them as real, he sold them as "unsure", but, then again, I wasn't present at the time of the sale.

They appeared pictured in the book he wrote AS THE REAL DEAL.

My advice to you is to avoid being full of yourself...that dangerous arrogance...there is always someone out there who will take advantage of is a weakness, not a strength. Stay humble.

I do not condone what my friend has did, but he was still a good friend, and would have given the shirt off his back for you....but, he hated arrogant people. He sold tons of authentic items, don't get me wrong, but there were items he sold that were "restored" and "finished"...and one early Baird-type advertising clock that was a real, old clock...but had a repro paper Orange Crush or was it (Coca-Cola?) dial, sold to a very, very knowledgeable picker,who really should have known better....though, given the constantly eroding reputation of this particular picker, it is possible he knew full well it was not authentic, but appreciated the fact that it was a well done "fake" and had someone he knew he could stick with it for a substantial profit....My friend sold it for what it was worth as a non-advertising version of the clock, by the way.  He had created it just to see if he could create an authentic looking piece, and it was originally "not for sale".....but, someone who he likely felt deserved to be taken down a notch stepped into his store.

No, that is not my way of looking at things. Karma is a hell of a thing. I use the word loosely, but the way, not in the literal Indian religion sense. My view is more simplified down to "if you do good things, good things will do bad things and bad things will happen." I don't dabble in any particular religion,  nor is it my claim that any religion is better than any other.....just to make myself clear. I'm a picker; not a Priest, Pastor,  Rabbi, Sahib, etc, etc.  

I pray to the "junk gods!"

 Maybe it came back to bite my friend in the butt. His departure form this world was a way too early, and excruciatingly painful & tortuous exit. 

My ethics are much more rigid, and I did not approve of this actions, nor his repairs/restorations of items and their later sale as being in original condition.  But, his heart was good, and pure in intentions towards those he cared about.  I have been treated poorly in the past by others who claimed to be more honest & forthright than they actually are/were.  People have flaws, but they can be purposely overlooked, and overshadowed by other good traits that overshadow those flaws.

Hmm..went off on bit of a philosophic tangent there, didn't I?

Back to the important stuff...old junk!

So, there are things out there that will deceive you. Some are made intentionally to deceive, other items are made to look old as an pleasing aesthetic, and other items have just aged or been changed in some way by natural causes (etc) that make them appear to be something that they are not.

Check this old coin out:

Looks kind of like those encrusted Roman coins you see all over the Internet...or a metal detector discovered freshly dug coin, doesn't it?

Check out the date on the other side...definitely not Roman!

Here is a complete view of the other side:

Neat, eh?

So, 1896, and being that it is 2010 now, this coin is 114 years old, right?


Sure looks old, doesn't it?

Well, it IS old...but only about 35 years old. Yes, it dates from the early 1970s.

I happened to recognize what it was right away when I found see, this is part of a set of coins made for the public to collect. They were given away individually with gas purchases in the 1970s by Shell gas stations in Canada.

Charles Tupper was the Canadian Prime, yes, 1896....the shortest serving Prime Minister in Canadian history...serving from May 1st, 1896 to July 8th, 1896.

Lots of these (and others with older and newer dates) around, and one of those things that are constantly brought in to weary Canadian coin dealers and Canadian antiques dealers by the general public.


Well, most coin dealers have them in their 3 for a buck that will give you an idea of their "value"....or, rather, lack of value.

So, how come mine looks SO old?

No, I didn't age it.

I found it, just like it is, under a carpet in an old house I was cleaning out....but a house that was built in the 1950s, not 1800s....perhaps if it was in an older house, I might have had to study it for more than a second to assure myself it was not that old. And, had I been unfamiliar with these coins, I might have even been deceived for awhile longer. But, the age of the house, and the location I found the coin in adds to the reluctance to believe the date on the piece represented the age of the coin.

Amazing what years of moisture, carpet leached chemicals, carpet cleaners, and who-knows-what-else can do to a cheaply made piece of bric-a-brac! These were made of a plated zinc, thus deteriorate easily in a variety of conditions.

So, this sort of thing pops up, and you have to be careful with judging an item strictly by wear, corrosion, etc.  Same goes for LACK of wear on an item.  Dealers often turn items over, and this is not always to look for certain marks, but to see if their is "appropriate" age related wear on the bottom. 

Take for example a glass candy jar of the type used in a store, or a Planter's Peanut jar. There should be scuffs/scratches/wear on the points on the bottom where it rubs on the counter. Being moved and shoved around for 50, 75, 100 years tends to wear things down, glass included. The item might be outrageously in good condition for something so heavily used that you suspect it to be a repro, but when you turn it over and it is heavily worn on the bottom you may well, and likely correctly, assume it is authentic.

But, this is NOT the only reason you should be deciding it is old and not a repro.

You should also include the glass's hue being correct for the period, the thickness or thinness of the glass, etc, etc, etc.  What if the piece was never used, and had sat on a basement shelf for 75 years, and was only recently well washed and put on that thrift store shelf, or on that table for in the auction? 

So, wear isn't always the determining factor.

The more knowledge you have behind you the better. Though, experience is always the best teacher.

Familiarizing yourself with items issued for celebratory reasons is something to do, also.

Take, for example, a coin I saw advertised at a local auction. It was a 1670 coin with a ship on it.


I immediately had my doubts it was actually from 1670, and if it was, could well be a common foreign coin...kind of like those common Roman-era bronze coins you can buy by the hand full quite cheaply.

I went to the auction preview in the morning and looked at it up close, and quickly decided that it was indeed old.....but only as old as I was. Yes, that is correct, I wasn't born yesterday. I was born in 1970.

And so was the coin.

I should get a picture of the coin. I know who bought it, for a sum nearing $300.  He was new to the business, and paid a premium dollar figure for that lesson. Maybe will add it later, we'll see if he still has it when I stop by his shop. 

You see, his was pretty beat up, had a dark "patina"....

Yes, just click on the sentence...then page down on that page to a red rectangle...which is the case the coin came in when given to employees of the Hudson's Bay Company on the 300th anniversary of the 1970.

Note how the 9&6 are intertwined, essentially one in the same....

And how easy it would be to smack the coin right on the tail of the "9" and obliterate it the fact it exists.....add some more marks, then bury it in some acidic soil for a year or more, and VOILA, an "antique" coin....

Whether this was a purposely done to deceive in that particular case, or just something someone found as it was, like my "1896" coin, and incorrectly assumed was actually quite old, is unknown.

I didn't attend the auction, as there wasn't really enough there to justify me staying all day. I left some bids, and went on with my day. But, I did find out who bought the coin awhile later. And, yes, I had pointed out to the auctioneer, before the sale, that it was not from 1670. He sold it as an "old coin". There is that caveat emptor, again. I'm sure auctioneers get told things by people viewing items at their sales all the time; things that may or may not be correct...he just has to do his job.

So, you need to use a combination of the various things you know to determine age and authenticity of items. You can score a fantastic piece that everyone else has passed up as a "repro" or "fake" if you have the knowledge to back you up....and, you can avoid getting stung by using that same knowledge. You will make use of your knowledge for the latter more often than the former, as there are more suspect items out there than gems, but don't dismiss those items entirely that seem "too good." Be suspicious, sure, but don't make a crack judgement, unless there is that glaringly obvious "issue" you identify right off that screams FAKE or REPRO. Besides, handling those fakes & repros assists you in making a more educated decision next time...just don't BUY the fake/repro....unless, of course, you want it as reference or comparison and the price is "right".

Yeah, the beads on that native artifact may be 100% authentic fur trade era trade beads from the 1700s/1800s...but the leather hasn't been tanned in the fashion of the period....then you notice the thread isnt; "period".

 And, if you happen to know that those antique beads still do turn up in unused batches, plus are easily obtained from far less valuable AFRICAN native made artifacts of the same period, you might be clued in to look for more clues as to the item's age. Everything should add up.  Sometimes there is information out there not generally available to the public. Though it may be tough to determine origin, thus the item is assumed to be authentically "Indian made" or something like that.  In Manitoba, as an example, there was a community of squatters, located near a larger community. These squatters had access to willow...and the population, made of both native Canadians, mixed-blood and Caucasian (and possibly even other races), made aboriginal type willow baskets...for use and for sale in the larger center. It is essentially impossible to tell the difference whose hands made them, however. This particular detail doesn't really make them any less valuable, nor thought of as potentially "fakes". Though around that area, many people are aware of that tid-bit of history, and thus us local dealers marking them as "authentic aboriginal willow baskets" may get a slight roll of the eyes from the odd person reading the tags...and, they are found more commonly around that particular area than elsewhere.

Another thing to be careful of is the "it was my grandmothers" story.

Certainly, it well COULD have been owned by their grandmother...but, grandmothers shop at Wal Mart, too.

They quite likely even are not lying, and they could well believe the item is old, and some folks may not even be convinced in a million years of anything other than how old they think/were told by granny how old the object is, 'cause granny/mom/dad wouldn't have lied to them....

And, just because someone is old, doesn't mean they are, even if you are buying it FROM that sweet, little ol' granny, make sure you know what you are buying. Plus, people's memories do change, and things do get mixed up in the telling of stories...that ancestor's "Civil War" used  rifle may actually be great-grand dad's hunting rifle. They aren't trying to purposely deceive you, so tread carefully, don't accuse, but just be aware of what you are buying, and if you are offering an "old hunting rifle" price and not a Civil War relic price, explain why you believe it is not Civil War period...having some irrefutable reference material on hand helps. But, disproving family stories can be touchy with some people, so it might be worth while to you to let sleeping dogs lie, and pass on making an offer at all.'


So, there are a few more things I have learned....and am freely passing on to you....which will hopefully save you/make you some money sometime.

Which brings me to another be covered in a future blog!

Long time no write.

I do have to apologize for not getting another blog posting up sooner. I actually did have one that I had worked for a couple hours on almost ready several days ago. However, this site has an "automatic save" feature that saves every few minutes, which is darn handy....except in this one case. With my combination self-taught-half-properly learned typing "skills" combined with fatigue, I managed to hit some combination of keys that highlighted my entire 2 hours of work, and deleted it...and at that moment, the page automatically "saved" that "change".....So, 2 hours of work disappeared in a split second. I was not impressed.

SO, what follows is a few hours of work (again), for your learning/reading pleasure (or your nightly sleep aid, whichever), there will not be a test tomorrow...maybe next week, though!

Friday, September 3, 2010

A debate: Do pickers "target" the elderly?

I have been responding to posts on this Facebook group, regarding Mike & Frank of American Pickers.  The whole topic is about pickers & the "elderly."

Part of this blog post is a somewhat editted version (for congruency of this blog, only) of one of the posts I left. I felt it was an important bit of writing and information that should be included here, so away we go...


In my opinion, as a profession, pickers generally don't "target" the elderly.

We look for old stuff. Yes, many elderly folks own old stuff. Stands to reason that if you have been on the planet for an extended period of time, you may well have accumulated older stuff.

There are many older folks that don't own much, if any, old stuff, so we don't deal wtih those folks much, if at all.

Elderly or not, if you have all modern stuff, we aren't interested in doing any buying from you. So, are we targetting the elderly? No, we are targetting old stuff, that may or may not belong to older people...THAT is the business. If you are 25 and own a bunch of old stuff, we are interested!

No doubt that there are individual pickers/insurance salesmen, car salesman/computer repair people (and any profession you can think of) that "target" the elderly. And as the Boomers get older, they are the "targetted" generation for the bulk of business in the world, just by their sheer numbers bulging in the population.

But to say that pickers target the elderly? No, that is a generalization that really isn't true when it comes down to it. We target old stuff.

Yes, many people we deal with are older, they have been around longer, thus have had the chance to accumulate more old stuff than the average person.

And you know what?

We appreciate those people for their knowledge, experience and stories. We will sit and chat and listen to their stories, the information, history, etc they have accumulated over the years. You may not want to listen to some "old person" babble about the old days, but we actually appreciate their stories; learn from them. The older generations have lessons to relate, history that is unrecorded, and information about our past that does affect our future. They are the most valuable resource we have in our world.

Then there are the "oddballs""... What may seem like some "strange old person" to you that you think is mentally ill, we know as eccentric; and eccentric does not mean they don't have all their faculties about them. Looks and actions can be deceiving. As an example, "Hobo Joe" (as seen on American Pickers) is eccentric, but he is 100% in charge of his mind, and is quite likely a highly intelligent individual....he is also a fellow picker. Younger pickers generally learn from experience...and from fellow pickers who have been in the business longer.

Are we "targetting" the elderly?


Appreciating them, yes.