Steve Duke presents Tradio Gems: Road Trip
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Steve Duke and his wife, Janie recently travelled to in the Northeast and and in this Tradio, Steve Duke is telling about their adventures.
Ken: Hey, did you drive by the new place up there? The new store you’ve got? Did you drive, come through there on your travels?
Steve: Oh, in South Carolina?
Steve: No, actually we didn’t. We flew into Boston and visited a couple of friends of mine there.
Ken: That doesn’t sound like a road trip. You told me you were on a road trip.
Steve: In Boston, we rented a car. We drove up to Kennebunkport.
Ken: Oh, cool! Did you say hi to the Bushes?
Steve: The Bushes? Yes, we did. Funny story for you, but I won’t tell you about it now.
Ken: Was there a Kennedy involved?
Steve: Nah, I can’t.
Ken: No? All right.
Steve: There was a bridge… No. We did Maine and we did Connecticut. Then we went to Albany, New York. We wound up on the Canadian side over Niagara Falls, Let me tell you, if you want to see Niagara Falls, do it in the winter. I went over in a barrel. It was only six bucks. In the summer, they want more. So I mean, you can get a deal in the wintertime.
Ken: There’s less water.
Steve: Yeah. We came back and we stopped in New Jersey. Connecticut, New Jersey and then we went to Maryland. Visit some friends, went fishing a little bit and then we flew back home.
Steve: So it was a good road trip. We put on exactly two thousand miles on the car. Janey drove all two thousand miles.
Ken: You’re kidding me!
Steve: No, she’s the driver. I kick back and I give her directions. Sleep a little bit. We went to Cooperstown and we went to – I wasn’t going to talk about it, but somebody else is talking to us. We went to the Corning Glass Museum, which I’ve wanted to go to for a long time. Here’s this whole museum filled with nothing but cookware. Corning cookware. It’s all kinds of glass, from modern art type of stuff, to Roman glass, to my favorite which is the art glass. It’s like I tell people, if you’re going to deal in collectibles, you’re going to become a collector of things. You’re going to want to go and see and feel and touch stuff as much as you possibly can. I’ve been doing this for almost forty years now. I’ve handled, seen and sold and bought a lot of different items, but when I go to some place like the Corning Glass Museum, it’s not only a place where you just look. They have a lot of information. You can take the audio tour in different rooms, different time periods, from Egyptian glass, Roman glass to modern stuff.
Like I said, the art glass, which I love, they have an entire – basically, building of the art glass. Not only Tiffany, but Steuben. They had one entire section that was devoted to Carter, who was the director of Steuben Glass Works for thirty some years. It’s kind of neat to see how his designs have evolved over the years. It just has some magnificent stuff over there. Stuff that I’ve seen in catalogues. Stuff that I’ve seen pictures of, but never seen the item itself. Again, part of the knowledge is not only seeing. A lot of the people can look at a picture and say, “Oh, it’s a picture.” And move on to the next one. Or look at a piece of glass and say, “I see the glass. Okay, see ya.” What I look at is the way that the decorations were put on the piece of glass. In the sixteen hundreds they were decorated one way. In the seventeen hundreds, they may have a similar picture, similar design, but the decorations were applied a little bit different. In the eighteen hundreds, same thing, but a little differently as well.
So when we look at something like that, it may have a date of 1673 on it, a large glass with decoration, but when you look at it, you realize it was done in the eighteen hundreds. It may be dated 1673, but the way it was done, the way the painting was performed on that particular piece, I can see that this was a copy of a 1673 piece made in the eighteen hundreds. Was it done to bilk collectors? Because there were collectors in the eighteen hundreds as well. Maybe yes, maybe no. It was done by a particular artist and a pupil who idolized that particular artist, their style, their fashion. So they made a similar piece. With art, there’s a lot of ego that goes along with it. The pupil could look at it and go, “He was the master, but look at mine. Mine is even better than his.”
So we find this. That’s one thing I look for when I go through museums, is how things were really made and how you can distinguish a piece from the sixteen hundreds and the eighteen hundreds. So this was a road trip for me, but it was like a busman’s holiday where I ran around and really learned and saw a lot of different stuff.
We went to Cooperstown, Baseball Hall of Fame, which was very cool. We saw a lot of different things. We looked at autographs. We looked at uniforms. I saw a lot of gloves and how different stuff was made. Because again, this helps tell you when they were produced, the age of them, whether they’re reproductions or not reproductions when someone brings stuff into the store. So all that stuff is really important.
That was at the sporting museum. Then the one thing that was just fantastic – if you’re a collector and you enjoy art and antiquities and stuff like that – when I was in Maryland, there’s a place called the Walters Art Museum – Walters Art Gallery, now called the Walters Art Museum. It was started by William Walters and his son, Henry Walters. William Walters was born in 1819 and started becoming a collector. The pieces that are in this museum are just unbelievable. It is an internationally known museum. People from all over the world come to look at this. He was the bomb. I’ve got to tell you, he was the man when it came to collecting. There’s over twenty-two thousand items in this museum that all belonged to this father and son combo. One piece is more magnificent than the other. Everything from bronzes to mummies to Faberge eggs to Art Nouveau and Art Deco jewelry. Some of the earliest of the Lalique known pieces of jewelry are on display. It’s funny, but as you go through, you sit there and you really appreciate it.
Someone like myself, I’ve got a fantastically keen sense of appreciation of what I’m looking at, but you can’t help looking at a piece and saying, “Wow, you know what that thing is worth?” And your mind is like a ticker-tape going on and on and on. And what’s cool is, it’s not just expensive pieces, it’s unusual things. In one room, there was a thing where he had a dragon, which is certainly a mythological beast, but there were people who would take pieces of animals and put them together and sell them to people as these fictional animals.
Ken: You mean like a jackalope?
Steve: Yeah. But this thing was made out of a stingray and a bat and some other animals. It was really a cool endeavor to create a dragon. This was in one of his collections. His Asian art is unbelievable. He’s got Russian art. He’s got one room of what we call “Illumination.” A lot of times people would bring me old Bibles to the shop, at Westchester Gold. “This is from the eighteen hundreds. It’s go to be worth a lot of money.” And I’ll tell them, I’ll have to break the news to them that everybody’s big old Bibles aren’t worth a whole lot of money. Number one, it was a Bible. The text never changed a whole lot. And it was passed down from generation to generation. It was a family Bible. In the back of them there was always a little journal of who owned these things. What really makes them expensive or collectible was the fact that they have what we call “illumination.”
This is what they would do, they would take and they would have pictures in there and they would gilt the pictures with gold leaf. The more illumination, the more illuminated pictures they would have, the more valuable the Bible would become. Basically, not because people collected the Bible, but because people would remove these pictures and have them framed and sold. He’s got one area with all kind of illuminated pictures. This is stuff we’re talking form the sixteen hundreds, because Gutenberg Bibles date from the fifteen hundreds, with first movable type. It’s just amazing to see what this man has collected.
Then as we were driving out of there, Janey and I were talking, “Man, I’m going to stop selling my stuff. I’m going to keep everything I buy and open up my own museum.”
Ken: Charge admission.
Steve: Which doesn’t seem to really work when you look at the big scope of things, when you’re in the business of buying and selling. But then we stopped in Connecticut and I have a nephew over there. He’s Janey’s stepsister’s son. His name is Brandon. Brandon has been to the house quite a few times. He’s eleven years old. I guess I sort of wore off on him a little bit. He was excited that I was going to come to their house and stay there for the night. We got there and talked for a little while and Brandon said, “Do you want to see some of my collections?” I said, “Yeah, sure.” I found out later that in school, his teacher had asked the students, “Are there any collectors in here?” A number of the students, “Yeah, I collect baseball cards. I collect this and that.” Brandon raised his hand. “What kind of collections do you have Brandon? What do you collect?” “I collect collections.” I thought, “Oh, okay.” So he explained to her.
That sort of went around in my mind for a while, “I collect collections.” We proceeded to go upstairs to his room. I understood what he meant. He was a bigger pack rat than me. He had collections of Transformers and different toys. He had board game collections. He had license plates that he collected. He had whistles he collected. He had knives he collected. I mean, I thought I was a hoarder. This kid, I don’t know where he got it. He’s not related to me, evidently.
But it was amazing all the stuff that he had. I guess I just flashed back to when I started collecting. I had the stuff that most guys will have when you’re growing up. You had your baseball card collection and you had your comic book collection. Maybe insects or something, they wound up in a shoebox somewhere. It’s funny when I talk about collectibles and things on the radio, my mind jumps around to all kinds of expensive types of collectibles. I try to give you insight over the half hour that we talk on the radio here. But I guess it sort of flipped back a couple steps when I was looking at his stuff and I said, “You know what? I’ve just come from two of the most fantastic museums in the world and I stepped into this eleven year old’s bedroom and I’m looking at all the stuff he collects. After forty years of doing this stuff, I guess you sort of get jaded. I’ve handled a lot of inexpensive pieces – five and ten dollar items. I’ve handled a lot of extremely expensive items – in the over hundred thousand dollar price range on more than a few occasions. Because we buy and sell and there’s always a market for a really high end collectible.
But this time I looked and said, “This is the epitome of what I tell people about collectibles.” If you look at it and you touch it and you feel it and you play with it and it makes you smile, then by all means collect it. It doesn’t matter what the value of it is. The value is in the eyes of the beholder. So if there’s things out there that you enjoy collecting, forget about someone saying,. “Man, I wouldn’t collect that. What are you saving that junk for?”
When we look at some of the shows that they have on television right now – the Pickers. Yeah, I look at some of this stuff that people have and I guess they get a lot of enjoyment out of buying a lot of these items. But it gets to the point where it’s heaped on top of ten feet of other stuff, I don’t know how you get to enjoy that piece anymore. Maybe in their mind, they know where that particular piece is that they bought twenty years ago. But by now, it’s probably deteriorated and destroyed. I don’t profess for you to go and become that type of collector.
Ken: Yeah, because you would need to become involved more into the restoration of the piece.
Steve: Yeah. Some of these guys – I look at this stuff and I think, “Man, this is sick!” Janey constantly tells me, “Well, you’re a hoarder.” I probably have more than the average person does. But I buy and I sell, so we’re probably going to wind up with a lot of inventory. We stopped at a bunch of the antique shops on the way, on our road trip. You’d go into these three and four story buildings that were just chock full of stuff. I mean, you couldn’t move without bumping into something. All of a sudden, my addiction didn’t look too bad anymore. You can move around, you can push stuff around, you can see table tops. Where in these stores, there was just so much stuff, it was crazy! But theoretically, these people buy and sell.
It’s true, you may buy a baseball mitt from the forties, and you may have twenty of them in a room – this one woman had a complete athletic room in this place she had. It was wild, how much stuff she had. There’s a lot of stuff from the thirties and forties and she probably had twenty or thirty baseball mitts. And these babies had been there for a long time. Not that they weren’t priced at a reasonable price, it’s just that finding a market for them has changed dramatically. So as a dealer, you’re always buying. You always need inventory and you always believe that whatever you buy is going to sell eventually. The whole thought process of buying and selling, the whole thought process of collecting through the eyes of an eleven year old, it was all very enlightening.
I came back to the shop. I was gung ho. I was rested. I had a good time. Started seeing some great stuff come in and I thought,. “Oh man, do I buy this and sell it or is this for the new Duke Museum?”
Ken: Duke Museum.
Steve: You just kind of laugh and it’s like, whether we keep this or we sell it – then you get back to the world of reality and it’s like, I’m in the business of buying and selling. So yeah, you buy this stuff and you sell it.
A piece came in the other day which was very neat. A lady and her son came in. She needed to raise some money for her sister. He listens to me on Tradio, brought her in. I appreciate that, thank you. She had a piece that, if I was going to buy it myself – you have to leave a little bit of room so you can sell it. It was an unusual piece, nothing that someone’s going to break your door down for, but it was collectible and desirable. I made them an offer on it and they said, “Well, that’s just not enough. Not that it’s not a realistic offer, it’s just that we’re trying to raise as much money as we can.”
I bought a couple things, one of them is a piece of what we call “Plique-a-jour.” It’s a type of jewelry – we’ve talked about it before – sort of in the Art Deco period in the twenties, some of it up into the forties, in the retro period. It kind of looks like stained glass. What they would do is they would take enamel and they would spread it between pieces of gold and you could see through it. I happen to have a collection of plique-a-jour pieces. I was excited because she had a really beautiful piece that I bought for myself. Then she had this Art Deco pendant that I had made her an offer on, but they needed more money. I turned around and I called New York, called California to the bigger dealers that I know in the country who deal with this stuff. For what she wanted, we weren’t able to get her exactly that price, but I said to her, “Look, here’s what they’re going to offer. I’m not making anything on this deal.” I explained that to him on the phone. I said, “You don’t need to throw me any type of commission on this deal.” These people were trying to get as much money as they can. They need it for something special. We were able to sell it for just about what she wanted for that item.
At the end of the day, I sat back at my desk and I looked at my new found treasure that was going in my collection. And I looked at this Art Deco pendant and I thought, “This is really a cool piece.” At one time I had a lot of collectors for this, but not so much any more. This dealer was lucky enough to have a market for the piece himself. He was glad that he got it. I was glad that I got it. And it helped everybody all the way around. I guess you sort of sit back and you say, with as much stuff as we buy at Westchester Gold and Diamonds, there’s not always a market for it right then and there to sell that particular item. But again, we’re buying it for the future with the hope that the market’s going to change, more collectors will be coming up.
It’s something that I talked about to a couple of different dealers when I went on my road trip. The market has changed dramatically. The high end has changed, the low end has changed, the middle has changed. Because with Internet right now, we find that a huge market at one point in time was Hummel. If I go to ten houses, I guarantee you, three houses have Hummels of some sort. They’re going to have one, two, three or a hundred of them. Hummels were designed by Berta Hummel, who was a nun. The Goebel company actually produced these for her. She would come up with different designs for her little children. They started in the forties and they were very, very popular. It was a nice Rockwell kind of thing. It was all about America. Well, the Hummels were all about the kids. People loved them. They were made in Germany and they were sold all over the world. GIs brought them back from Germany to the US. People loved them over here. The market just exploded for Hummels.
Now, with a new population coming up, the younger people are not interested in these little kids staring back at them with these blank expressions, or doing different things during their period of life. They didn’t make Hummels with iPhones and they didn’t make Hummels with kids sitting on the…
Ken: …couch gaming.
Steve: Yeah, the couch gaming and stuff like that. So that time frame has changed. There were a lot of Hummels – a lot of the earlier ones that were done with the early marks on them, which happens to be a crown which is impressed into the bottom of it, rather than a stylized V. It looks like a V with a little insect on top of it. There are some collectors for that stuff now. But, it used to be very difficult to find them. If you were a collector and you were looking for that particular piece, you could travel all over America and you could maybe find two or three of them in different shops and you could look at your price guide and say, “Okay, this is what they sell for. Let’s see what kind of deal I can get on this.” Now, you sit in front of your computer, you push up “Hummel,” you put in your style number, “first mark” or “early mark” or “crown mark” or whatever and boom! All this stuff pops up. You just kind of thumb down and thumb down. “Well, I think that looks like a pretty good one. That’s a great price. I think I’ll buy it.” And you send money to Paypal and the next thing you know, you’ve got your Hummel here.
As the years go by, there’s less and less collectors and there’s more and more merchandise coming out on the market. So the price on these Hummels has plummeted. I have people come in with Hummels all the time and I say, “I’d love to buy your Hummels, but I’ve probably got three hundred of them in my warehouse that I can’t come close to getting my money out of. They look at you like, “Oh yeah, sure. You just want to buy them cheap.” And I’m like, “No, I don’t want to buy them at all.” It’s not that I want to buy them cheap, I just have no market for those any more.
As I went through America these past two weeks looking at different things, I realized that a lot of the early antiques, what we call the period antiques – 1700s, early 1800s – there’s a lot of architectural stuff that has become popular. Why? Because we have some of the younger people that have done well and they’re moving into older Victorian style homes and they’re realizing, “It would be kind of neat, since this house was built in the 1860s – 1870s, it would be kind of cool if we had the same architecture on the inside as we have on the outside.” So a lot of the architectural stuff has become quite popular again – lighting fixtures, panels, ornate doors, wall hangers. Things that would go back to the period style homes. The glassware, however, not that much. That’s an accessory. That’s really not the way that these people are furnishing their homes. Yeah, they’re restoring the house back to pretty close to original, but they really don’t want to have that much of the Victorian style glass, because that’s not the era that they grew up in. They can appreciate the architecture, but not everything that goes along with it.
So we find that the price of a lot of Victorian glass stuff has come way down. I looked at a set of what we call lustres. Lustres are almost a type of candelabra, but with glass and they would put a candle in it and it has prisms that would hang down on the edges of it. Some were clear, some were colored. They’re pretty neat. It’s kind of an elaborate type of lighting fixture. These used to bring a lot of money. They were expensive. I just watched how the prices have come down, down, down on these.
In one of the antique shops I went into, a woman specialized in lighting things. She had the most fantastic lustres I’ve seen in years. These things used to sell for five to ten thousand dollars, with the ones that she had – French lustres. We sat there and chatted. She had five thousand dollars on this one pair, which probably is not a crazy price at one point in time. We talked about it and she said, “You know, Steve, I paid five thousand dollars for these lustres when I was in Paris, back in the seventies.” I said, “I can appreciate that. I understand that. I’ve seen stuff like that. You’ve got some fantastic stuff here. But I’ve gotten older. I’ve been doing this for fifty years. My mother did this. That’s how I got into it.” We brought up the Internet and we discussed how the antique market has changed so dramatically, that the antique market really has tumbled over the years.
Certain things are always going to be collectible. There’s always going to be people that want the best that they can buy. There will always be somebody after them who would like to buy it from them. But a lot of the middle of the road, or lower end antique stuff just sort of sits. A lot of the antique dealers continue to buy it. And it sells. It doesn’t sell for the kind of money that it used to sell. But if you have the store you’re supposed to have, you’re going to have to have a variety of items that will appeal to a lot of different people when they walk into your store.
You go to Arcadia and you see stores with everything from old glass that doesn’t mean anything, Depression glass, Victorian glass, art glass and stuff like this. People say to me, “What can I do with this?” I say, “Well, take it over here because I think that this fellow still deals in that type of thing, but I don’t have the room in my new store to go through that.”
I guess the gist of the whole thing is we’re always looking for a fine item. You may not know it’s a fine item. If you’ve got antiques and glassware and things that you’re not sure of, you can give us a call over at Westchester Gold and Diamonds. We’re in the Baers Plaza behind ABC Liquors. I’m always happy to have you bring it into the shop. Take a look at it for you, give you an idea of what you have. If it’s something that we can’t use, I’m always more than happy to try and find a home for that particular item for you – you know, if it’s something good. Or if it’s not anything that we can use, a lot of times I can pick up the phone and call a dealer and say, “Here’s where you need to take it. They would be interested in your item.”
The fact that it’s old or unusual – don’t throw it out. You will always have time to throw it out. Box it up, bring it over to Westchester Gold and Diamonds. I’m happy to look at it for you. At least I’ll give you an idea of what you’ve got. Then you can throw it out. Or you can take it somewhere else and try to sell it. But, you know, we’re always happy to take a look at your items. If you have anything that’s really great, unusual pieces, I am more than happy to dip in to my wallet and buy those at a reasonable price for you. Stop in and see us please. We’ve been doing this for almost forty years.
I’m Steve Duke, the owner of Westchester Gold and Diamonds thanking you for listening to me today. With that, we’re going to take a quick break and return to Tradio.
Hi, I’m Steve Duke, owner of Westchester Gold and Diamonds. Westchester Gold is paying cash for your diamonds and vintage jewelry. Westchester Gold is buying gold and silver in any condition. Coins, flatware, key sets even broken jewelry. Fine antiques, art glass, oil paintings, even vintage pocket watches and wristwatches. Anything old or unusual. Please bring your items by our new location behind ABC Liquors in Port Charlotte for a free evaluation and fair cash offer.
Jingle: Westchester Gold Fabricators.
Ken: Beatles. There you go.
Steve: Sing it. Sing it, Kenny. Come on, I know you want to. Come on, Lady Madonna.
Ken: I only do karaoke after drinking.
Steve: All right, we’re back. Our phone lines are open, 206-1580, if you’d like to give us a buzz. We’ve still got some time to put you on Tradio, if you’d like to buy, sell or trade some items. Kenny was just asking me when we took that break how I got started in antiques. It’s not a real big story – well, it’s a long story, how I got started. Basically, I grew up around antiques. My mother had a lot of antiques around the house, or as my brother and I would call it, “old stuff.” She used to go to auctions with my grandmother. We’ve got a caller, so I’ll shut up.
Ken: You can blame it on Grandma.
Steve: I’ll blame it on Grandma.
Ken: There you go.
Steve: Good morning, you’re on Tradio.
Steve: Yeah, you’re on Tradio.
Bob: Yeah, I’d like to sell a sterling Roadmaster tow bar. My name is Bob and my phone number is 941-426-6131.
Steve: And how much did you want for it?
Bob: Seven hundred dollars. It retails for nine hundred and sixty-five dollars, but I’ll take seven hundred for it.
Steve: All righty. We’ll see what we can do. Thanks for the call.
Bob: Okay. Thank you.
Steve: Bye now. Going back to my quick story, there was a green vase that sat in our house. I always liked this thing. It had silver on top of it. One day there was at the auditorium, the old auditorium, there was an antique show. I had just started to get into this business. I didn’t really do too much with antiques. I said to Mom, “Hey, you want to go to the auditorium? There’s an antique show.” So we went down there and as I walked down the stairs, the dealer had this little green vase with silver all over it that looked very similar to the one that we had. The one we had was like fifteen inches tall and his was like four inches. I was like, “Wow, this is so cool! How much is something like this?” I never equated this stuff with being worth money. This was just old stuff that Mom had bought with my Grandma. He said, “This is three hundred and seventy-five dollars.” Forty years ago, three hundred and seventy-five dollars was a lot of money.
Ken: A lot of money.
Steve: So I said, “Suppose you had one that was like fifteen inches tall?” He said, “Oh, that’s impossible. You’d never find anything like that.” I said, “Really? What would it be worth?” He said, “Oh, it would be worth thousands.” I said, “Well, I’ve got one of those.” His eyes perked up, “You want to sell it?” “No, it belongs to my Mom.” I brought my mother over and she looked at it and she just kind of smiled. She was kind of a quiet lady. We left and then I kind of walked around and saw other stuff that was around our house and saw what dealers were asking for it. I thought, “Man, some of this old junk is worth a lot of money.” That sort of started me on my quest for collecting and buying and selling. A lot of times when I would buy something that was really cool, I’d bring it home and give it to Mom and she’d put it on the wall and stuff. You know, she would enjoy it. She’d look at it and fondle it and touch it and it made her smile.
I guess that’s how the whole thing basically started. That’s how I got that warm fuzzy feeling from looking at a lot of this stuff. So if that’s the kind of stuff that you enjoy and you can play with it and fondle it and look at it and it makes you smile, by all means be the collector. And if you’re looking for more stuff that’s warm and fuzzy and makes you smile, please stop by at Westchester Gold and Diamonds. We’re in the Baers Plaza, behind ABC Liquors. We’d love to meet you. We’d love to see you. We’d love to take a look at your stuff.
With that I’m going to say pretty much, goodbye to everybody until next week.
Hi, I’m Steve Duke, the owner of Westchester Gold and Diamonds. I could tell you that Westchester Gold and Diamonds has the largest collection of gold and diamonds in three counties…
Have Questions about your antiques, estate jewelry, collectibles or old treasures?
If you have questions for Steve Duke to answer about your jewelry, antiques or collectibles, just send a photo of the item and your question directly to Steve Duke at WGDiamonds@HotMail.com and Steve will research it for you and you may be contacted to participate in an upcoming Tradio episode. Be sure to include your name, email and phone number along with your question and email it to: WGDiamonds@HotMail.com