Trea­sure hunt

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - HELAINE FENDELMAN AND JOE ROSSON

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: I inherited an ad­justable, sil­ver-plated shav­ing mir­ror made by Knicker­bocker Sil­ver Co. It has been dated to the 1890s. I can­not seem to find any­one who can give me a true es­ti­mate of value. Deal­ers say it is worth $20 to $30. An ap­praiser sev­eral years ago said $250, while an­other said $500. I would like to know what it is re­ally worth.

— R.M.S. DEAR R.M.S.: Knicker­bocker Sil­ver Co. was in Port Jarvis, N.Y., which is near where the states of New York, New Jersey and Penn­syl­va­nia come to­gether. It is part of the Poughkeepsie metropoli­tan area and some con­sider it to be a dis­tant sub­urb of New York.

The com­pany started as the Knicker­bocker Man­u­fac­tur­ing Co., but around 1904 the name changed to Knicker­bocker Sil­ver Co. The mark that R.M.S. in­di­cates as be­ing on his mir­ror was not used un­til af­ter 1900 and this means the 1890 date ref­er­enced in the let­ter is too early. A circa 1910 date is prob­a­bly more ac­cu­rate. This is some­thing of a quib­ble, how­ever, and makes very lit­tle dif­fer­ence to the mone­tary value or to the in­ter­est of the piece.

We re­ally want to dis­cuss the dis­par­ity in the val­ues men­tioned by R.M.S. The first point we want to make is own­ers of items should not take them to an­tiques deal­ers to get a val­u­a­tion un­less they un­der­stand the price they re­ceive is gen­er­ally what the dealer wants to pay and not what the item might ac­tu­ally be worth.

It is un­for­tu­nate that many (but cer­tainly not all) an­tiques deal­ers en­coun­tered around the coun­try do not know Chip­pen­dale from chips and dip and may not be able to dis­tin­guish the dif­fer­ence

be­tween an orig­i­nal and a later re­pro­duc­tion. Pro­fes­sional an­tiques ap­prais­ers, how­ever, should know. Th­ese are the peo­ple who should be con­sulted when an owner wants to know the true value of an ob­ject.

OK, then why did one ap­praiser say $250 and an­other $500? Well, some ap­prais­ers are more knowl­edge­able than oth­ers, and some do more ac­cu­rate re­search than oth­ers (yes, re­search is vi­tal and must be cou­pled with good judg­ment plus a knowl­edge of the cur­rent mar­ket). With that said, the dif­fer­ence in price can be ex­plained with one of two vari­ables. One is time, and the other is the rea­son why the val­u­a­tion was given.

When it comes to time, the an­tiques mar­ket de­flated con­sid­er­ably af­ter 2008 and

in­sur­ance ap­praisals given be­fore that date are, for the most part, too high. Any for­mal ap­praisal given be­fore 2008 needs to be revisited be­cause the val­ues stated could be too el­e­vated for the cur­rent mar­ket.

For the other fac­tor, if the ap­praisal was given for fair mar­ket value (what some­thing can be sold for in the proper mar­ket), it would be sig­nif­i­cantly lower than the in­sur­ance or re­place­ment value, which would be the price re­quired to re­place an item from a re­tail source.

Our re­search sug­gests the piece should sell at auc­tion in the $125 to $150 range if it is in ex­cel­lent and com­plete con­di­tion, and have an in­sur­ance value of 50 per­cent to 80 per­cent higher.


Pric­ing an­tiques and col­lectibles re­quires knowl­edge, ex­pe­ri­ence and good judg­ment.

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