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Knowledge is money in the collectible field

One of many passions in the antique and collectible field we have been drawn to, is art. From lithos and prints to watercolors and oil paintings. It started many years ago.
We were doing a show at the old Fair Park Womens Building. A cross section of the things we are drawn to at auctions and estate sales. There was a wonderful small water color of a chalet up in the Alps. An initial in one corner. Great attention to detail. Artist to this day remains unknown, but it is still in our collection. We had a mix of glass ware, advertising , jewelry and small furniture. Among that was a sweet simple pattern Lenox cake stand. The Lenox cream color with a simple gold band; marked under the pedestal.
A distinguished gentleman came into our booth and went straight to the cake stand. He was on a mission for an anniversary present for a friend. Picked it up – carefully checking for any possible damage. Saw the price sticker. Turned and handed it to us. We had it reasonably priced and he asked us to wrap it up. While we were finishing that and putting his purchase in a bag, he continued to look around the booth. He went for the small watercolor, and asked us if we had anything else like that. We told him about another slightly larger water color we had gotten at a yard sale. It was back at the house. We hadn’t done any research on the piece. Now for all of the younger people that may be reading this, it was prior to the wealth of knowledge at our fingertips now.
We were in Dallas at the time. To research art, we made many trips a week for a few hours at a time to the downtown public library. The fourth floor was where the Fine Art reference section was located. When we had a name to look up, we would scour the card catalog and gather all reference material we could carry. Went to one of the small tables and had our note book and stack of nickels to make copies of articles that were able to be copied.
We couldn’t remember the name of the artist exactly – the first name of the signature was difficult to read, but the last name was legible, and did remember that. When we described the water color to him and told him the name we thought was the artist, he reached in his pocket and pulled out a card. The image size was like 16 x 28. It was a landscape of sorts, with a rustic stand and covering at the top. We were later to learn this was a depiction of an Alaskan Eskimo cache, a recurring theme for this particular artist. Our customer, the soft spoken, distinguished gentleman, asked if he could call to make an appointment to take a look at it later. We said of course. The show was going to be over the next day, and we didn’t think much about this particular customer.
Until Monday morning that is. He called around 9am, and asked if he could come by later – he was going to be in Dallas and wanted to accomplish a couple other errands while there. We were on his list. So about an hour later, he was knocking at our door. We invited him in and had the piece handy for him to take a look. He pulled his loop out and gave it a good going over. Once he was satisfied, he asked us what we had planned to do with it. We hadn’t really thought about when, but told him we would probably be selling it. He made us an offer of $600. He had my complete attention with that offer – we had only paid a nominal amount at the yard sale. We explained we hadn’t really had a chance to do any research on it, and that we really liked it. He explained that on the weekends for many years, he and his wife travelled around Texas stopping at small shops on the many back Texas highways in search of art. It was a hobby, but now that he was retired, he had turned his collecting into a full time brokering business.
He offered to sell it on commission for us – charging us only 25% instead of his usual 33% fee. He explained he thought he had a buyer in California that would purchase the water color, but he would have to ship it to him and let him inspect it to authenticate it to his satisfaction. It was his way of saying it may take a few weeks to complete a transaction if he was successful. We signed his stock agreement and made ourselves busy with the other things we gathered to sell. Again, this was pre-internet, cell phones, google, etc.
About two weeks later, we received an evening call. He asked if we were sitting down. He had been in touch with the California dealer, and was calling to tell us they had made a deal, but that it would take a few days for the check to clear his account at his bank. He proceeded to tell us that his share of the sale was $1200.00. We were shocked and thrilled with that news. The dealer had several collectors in California for this particular artist and had it placed almost immediately. So we drove to Bedford – one of the mid cities between Dallas and Fort Worth a couple days later to pick up our check.
We have continued to buy and sell art ever since. One sale to a collector we know, provided the funds necessary for a down payment on our house. Knowledge is power and in most cases in the antique and collectible field, it also means money – especially when you know more about an item than the person or company selling it. Art is an incredibly broad field, but can provide a very good return on your investment, if you spend the time to develop your eye for quality.

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