Steve Duke Presents Tradio Gems: Antique Road Show
(Excerpts from Tradio)

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[audio:|titles=Antique Road Show ]

Steve Duke:
Well, about 9:30 or so. We talk about all kinds of stuff. Usually I have no idea what I’m going to talk about and today is no different.

Ken Lovejoy:

But I did do an antique road show. A lot of people don’t know that, a lot of people do know. A lot of different organizations will contact me and they’ll ask will you come and give a talk on antiques or a road show where people can bring things in and you’ll appraise them. It doesn’t cost you anything. I enjoy it. I do that quite a bit around the community. I just did it over at the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club and the girls over there were real receptive. It was a lot of fun. It cost you lunch. I mean I’m not much of an eater, so…


Now, if you fed me beer it could get expensive.

But we’re talking eating.

Yeah, we were eating.


It was a lot of fun. What I enjoy about it is you never know what’s going to come walking in the door and that’s the same way at Westchester Gold & Diamonds. I mean we buy all day long and it could be everything from sometimes a power wheelchair to a Samaria sword to baseball memorabilia to coins.

A van load of Beanie Babies? Did you ever get that?

No, we’re not doing the Beanie Babies. Unfortunately, a lot of times I have to be the one that crushes everybody’s dreams when they come in the door. They bring in all these boxes of old stuff and antiques and things and I have to be the one that says to them well, this is nice. It’s old stuff, but right now there’s just not much of a market for it and when I tell people that a lot of times they’re very disappointed.

To clarify it, possibly there’s a market out there for some of the items that they will come in with. I don’t have a particular market. I have a warehouse full of goodies that right now with the way the market is it’s changed and I don’t have the place to display them. That’s not to say that they’re worthless and I tell people that. The fact that I can’t use it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth something to somebody. How are you going to find them? I don’t know. Maybe do a garage sale and perhaps that person will show up or you can run around and try other dealers.

What was neat about being over at the Yacht Club and doing this road show, generally I’ll talk like we do on radio here. I’ll talk about some of my adventures that I’ve been out there buying when I was on the road or at the shop. I’ll give them a little bit of history about antiques as far as art deco and art nouveau, Edwardian, Victorian. There are all different timeframes that we use to explain what type of antiques a person would have.

But some of the neat stuff that came in, I’m just going to whip through some of the pieces and go over what I saw. You may have an item very similar to it and if you do and you want to get some information you can bring that by the Westchester Gold & Diamonds. We’re over in the Bears Plaza behind ABC Liquors.

We had a bunch of sports memorabilia come in that people collected and one of the things which was pretty nice is we had a bunch of signed baseballs. I explained to the girls out there that a lot of times you’ll have a ball that’s signed by the entire team. It would just seem like man it’s hard to get everybody in that team to sign this ball, so it should be worth a lot of money. Believe it or not, a lot of collectors would prefer to have a ball that’s either single signed by one player or maybe signed by two players, three at the most. The reason being you can display that.

Usually when it’s a single signed ball they sign it on what we call the sweet spot. That’s in between the stitching where it comes together. It’s a nice big space and a player can turnaround and put a nice very legible signature in that spot. He doesn’t have to scrunch it all up. A collector can display that ball very nicely and show that single signature.

When you have a multiple signed ball, you may have a lot of big personalities on there and it’s difficult to display it. Who gets top billing? Does Babe Ruth get top billing? Ted Williams get top billing? Did Mickey Mantle get top billing? Did Lou Gehrig get top billing? So the multiple signed balls don’t always bring more money than a single signed ball.

One woman brought up two different balls, both of them multiple signed. You have to realize that I’m standing there and you’re just bringing these items in cold. I don’t have a chance to do any research on it or anything else. Usually I can field most of those questions for them, but the thing that stuck me with the one ball was the fact that when you looked at it all the signatures were about the same size. When I say the same size, the lettering was maybe an eighth of an inch high. The signatures were all nice and evenly spaced. Nobody scribbled over anybody else’s name.

Generally when you look at ball like this, the story was the fact that her husband had been at the ballgame and they had given him this multiple signed ball. Well, that’s great, but you don’t know where that ball came from. If you caught that ball and you ran down and you had each player sign it for you then we have sort of what we’ve talked about before – province. We know where it came from. We watched it get signed. When all of a sudden they just give you a ball and everything is just so even and nice, people don’t write that way. Players don’t write that way. Personalities don’t come out that way when you’re writing a signature.

We’ve all seen people’s names on checks and things and usually a big personality has a big signature. Same thing about that big personality when they’re signing a baseball, they have a big signature on that as well. So when you find a ball that all the signatures are basically the same, it’s usually either been stenciled or I’m going to say nine out of ten times it’s not an authentically signed ball. I’m not going to say that every one is fake, but I’m going to tell you nine of ten times that I’ve seen most of those aren’t.

We also had somebody come in with a sheet of notebook paper with all the signatures of all the players and we looked at it. Now, these were different looking signatures. They weren’t like the baseball where everything was the same. You could see everybody had written on this thing and signed it. It looked great, except if you have some knowledge and you looked at it. Lou Gehrig had put his signature on here and the G was just made a way that I’d never seen Lou Gehrig sign before. As we went down and we looked at various signatures, there was a difference. There was a discrepancy in the way that a lot of these players normally sign their names.

Now, true, not every autograph, not every signature is going to look the same. If you write your name 100 times, you’re probably going to have pretty close to 50 or 60 variations of how you’ve written it. But, in general, a lot of those letters are going to be the same no matte how many ways you do it. There is always going to be a certain amount of similarity in that autograph.

So when I look at a piece of paper like this with all these signatures, I said how did we go about getting this? She said “Well, you know, when my husband was younger he took it over and got the players to sign it.” I said did he get the signatures himself or did he say here’s a piece of paper could you get these signatures for me? She said “I don’t really know, but I’ll find out for you.”

I had told them I wasn’t real comfortable. If I was put on the spot to buy that right then and there, I would have passed on it just from the general knowledge of a lot of the signatures that I’ve had, bought and sold, these signatures didn’t look like the typical signature of a lot of these bigger players. Her husband got back on the phone with me a couple of days later and he said “You know when I was younger I was a fireman and I gave this to one of the guys and he said he would take it into the clubhouse and he would get it signed for me.”

Well, as with a lot of people who don’t have that much time to sign all these autographs, whether it be a presidential franking or a presidential autograph or a dignitary, they generally would have secretaries who would sign their name for them. Later on they came up with a device called an autopen that actually copied their signature to the tee and the autopens would sign all these letters and stuff for them, but before this they used their own secretaries.

What happened even back in the ‘30s and ‘40s we had what we called clubhouse signatures. A lot of times the batboys would actually wind up practicing the signatures of all these different players and they would sign the players’ signatures. Basically, what he had was a whole page of signatures done by a batboy or done by someone, but what we refer to as clubhouse signatures.

They look great and it’s a wonderful thing to pass down through generation to generation and keep the story alive, but in reality it doesn’t have any value because none of those are genuine signatures. They were a little disappointed, but I think they were actually more surprised that I picked up on the fact that out of the clear blue here’s a whole list of signatures, big personalities, and I knew the fact that they weren’t genuine.

I recently had a Mickey Mantle picture come in and Mickey Mantle’s Ms are really, really distinctive. I told the people this isn’t genuine. “Whoa, we had him sign it ourselves.” I said well, I’m not going to tell you didn’t see him sign it, but I’m going to tell you that these are not correct. They said “Well, can you send it off and get it authenticated?” I said yeah.

Mickey Mantle’s signature sells for somewhere around $200 and to get it authenticated with insurance and sending it off is around $50 to $60. They said “Well, we’ll pay for it.” I said okay. I’d like to get paid up front just in case you’re disappointed when it comes back and it’s not. They kind of looked at each other and said okay. They paid, we sent it off and it came back that it was not an authentic Mickey Mantle signature.

So if you get into autographs there’s a lot involved in that. The only thing I can tell you about that is know the signatures. Know what they look like and know the fact that a lot of times these signatures are copied.

We had a couple nice pocket watches come in that I looked at while I was doing this road show. The majority of pocket watches that we see generally are not gold. They’re just gold plated or gold filled. They’re usually the smaller size or sometimes they’re the bigger size watches, open face rather than having a cover on them.

Sometimes I’ll get two or three of the little small watches, what we refer to as a ladies lapel watch. The reason being, a lapel watch there used to be a little lapel pin that you could actually put on your dress. This watch would hang off of it and you could pop open the cover and see what time it was. You know when your arms start to get a little shorter it’s close to your face and you can see the numbers a little easier.

Now, somebody usually will have a railroad watch and sometimes there’s a nice hunting case watch or something unusual. One of the women there had a watch that was made in Glasgow. How did we know it was made in Glasgow? Well, it didn’t say anything on the dial. It didn’t say anything on the movement, except it had the watchmaker’s name on it. It didn’t say like an Elgin or a Hammond or something like.

It’s was what we call a fusee movement which was done in the early 1800s and this is actually driven by a chain. You would wind up a spring and then the gears would be attached almost like a little bicycle chain which would make the wheels and gears run inside of the watch. We turned around and opened up the case and the case was silver and it had a Glasgow silver mark on it.

We’ve talked about hallmarks on silver and how the English had one hallmark and the Irish have another hallmark. Danish have a different type of hallmark. Most of the countries who had silversmiths had specific hallmarks or little marks they would put on the side of the cases that would tell what country it was from. By looking at this I could see that it was made in Glasgow. I proceeded to date the thing for her and give her an idea of what it was worth.

Then we came to another watch that when I opened it up what was neat was she had the original wood box that it came in and it had the original invoice with it. It was a great watch. It was made by the Howard Watch Company and all these pieces were all handmade in a Howard Watch. They were extremely expensive back when they were made. This watch was $140 back in the ‘20s. She had inherited it. It had no real super meaning to her, but she wanted to know what the thing was worth.

It was an open-face watch; it didn’t have a cover on it. We opened up the case and the back lid had been ripped off of it. The hinge was bad, but on an expensive watch, if it was necessary, that kind of work can be fixed. It’s going to affect the value, but not dramatically. When I opened it up it was a high-jeweled movement. It was a 23-jeweled movement. It was a very rare watch and I got excited. I said what we have here is $1,500 to $2,000 pocket watch.

We went to wind it up and we had a problem, it didn’t work. What I did is I took a little pen and I opened it up and looked inside. There’s a little wheel in most all these pocket watches you’re going to look at. That’s what we call a balance staff and that’s basically the heart of the pocket watch. Now, if it happens to be broken it’s an extremely expensive piece to fix. On probably 80% of the watches that I see where a balance staff is broken we’ll still buy that watch and use it for parts or if the case is gold we’ll buy it for the gold content or if it’s silver we buy it for the silver content, but it’s just not worth fixing.

This Howard Watch went from a $1,500 to $2,000 watch down to probably a $500 to $800 watch because the balance staff was broken. Now, this has to be specifically made for this particular watch. On the Howards, more than any watch that I can really think of as far as a fairly middle of the road higher-priced American watch would be, the Howard Watches are very, very difficult to get worked on and especially to replace the balance staff.

She said “What do you think it would take to get a balance staff for something like this?” I said you’re probably talking $500 to replace this one little part from that watch and is it worth it? If it has significant sentimental value it’s worth it. As a dealer, I have to be able to buy the watch at a reasonable price where I can turnaround and spend that $500 plus spend another $100 to get that lid fixed and then have some room left to be able to sell the watch.

So it was unusual. It was like do you fix it or don’t you fix it. I said if you need work on it let me know and we can get it done for you. I’ll get you an estimate before we do it and you can decide what you want to do. But it’s neat to see all the different types of pocket watches that come in.

People bring in jewelry and every time I’ve ever done a road show I’m always inundated with cameos. This was another thing that we saw a lot of. Cameos, basically, most of them come from Italy or Europe at some point in time. The reason being there’s so many conk shells available in the ocean there that this was a very easy thing to bring up in their nets and it’s very easy to actually carve and really get some nice work going on with it.

So we’ll generally find all kinds of different cameos. It was neat because we saw different various types of cameos. We saw a lot of shell cameos. Most cameos you’re going to see a profile of a woman and we got a couple of those that were profiled, but what was neat we saw a full-face cameo, which is a little unusual. The entire face of the woman was facing out as opposed to the side, which meant that the artisan had to really take a lot of time to get all the details in the work.

One of the girls said “How do you actually tell how old these things are?” Basically what we look at, let me go back a minute. The reason we call them cameos is because cameo is a type of work where we have a background and the rest of the design sticks away from the background. So there are different levels, different layers of work on it. This is actually the reason we call it a cameo effect.

The older cameos we’ll find that the detail is much, much deeper, much higher relief than the more modern pieces. The more modern pieces the idea was okay, get this product out so we can sell it. The older pieces, you had an artisan who really took his time. This was a work of art. He wasn’t under the gun. You know you have to turn out 20 of these a day. They sat there and they took their time. They would have pictures out of book a lot of times or they would come out with thoughts out of their mind where they would sketch it. Then they would sketch it onto the conk shell or whatever item they were carving out of and really, really work it to the nth degree until they actually had a work of art.

So when we look at these older cameos, again, the relief on them is much, much higher. The detail is much finer and, generally, you’ll find it had a silver frame around it. Sometimes it had a gold frame around it. Later on they turned around and used what we call gold fill or brass frames and, again, these became more and more commercial as opposed to finer pieces of art.

We saw a lot of various pieces of costume jewelry and one of the things we look for in costume jewelry were different companies that made finer pieces of costume jewelry. People say “Well, how do you tell a fine piece from just costume?” Sarah Coventry never really made any fine costume jewelry. No, Monet didn’t do a whole lot of fine costume jewelry. Trifari, believe it or not, didn’t do a lot of it, but they actually did some earlier pieces made out of sterling and those are quite collectable.

I’ve told people when you look at a piece of costume jewelry if it has prong work. When I say prong work, if they have stones that are set into a piece of costume jewelry and there’s little almost like fingers that hold those gemstones in place that’s generally a little bit better piece of jewelry than one where the stones are just glued in. So one of the things when you’re out there prospecting looking for pieces of costume jewelry, you want to look for a piece of jewelry that looks like there was a lot of work involved in putting it together, forming it and making it look really, really nice.

We had a couple different pieces of china come in, different makers, Lamose China. Actually, we had a Samaria sword come in which was kind of neat. It was what we call a wakizashi, which is a small blade sword. We had some other memorabilia come in. We had some old land grants from the 1700s come in. That’s what makes my whole job fun, is the fact that every day I get to see different things, new things, unusual things.

If you happen to have anything that you want to live without out or at least you’d like to find out what the heck you’ve got, you could always bring it by Westchester Gold & Diamonds. We’re in the Bears Plaza behind ABC Liquors. We’ve been doing this for over 35 years now. We buy your coins. We buy your gold. We buy your silver. We buy your diamonds. We buy your fine antiques, art glass, paintings and things like this, but we always like to look at that stuff. Like I said, we’re never too busy to have you come in. Bring your stuff, I’m always happy to look at it and give you an idea of what you have.