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Ralph Kovel, antiques author and expert, dead at 88

by Sandra Lee Stuart (09/05/08).

Ralph M. Kovel, renowned antiques expert, died August 28 in Cleveland. He was 88.

Kovel and his wife, Terry, first came on the antiques scene in 1953 with the publication of their “Dictionary of Marks—Pottery & Porcelain.” The book was innovative in that it indexed pottery by factory markings rather than by country of origin.

Their column, “Kovels: Antiques and Collecting,” was nationally syndicated in 1954 and still appears today in more than 150 newspapers. The Kovels also produced TV series on public television, the Discovery Channel and HGTV.

Jim Kamnikar, president and CEO of GoAntiques.com, called Kovel an “icon.” “Consumers, collectors and dealers all benefited from his wealth of knowledge,” he said.

“Ralph Kovel was a pioneer in antiques price guides,” Will Seippel, founder and CEO of WorthPoint, said. “He was an innovative thinker with an entrepreneurial spirit.”

Those two characteristics were evidenced in Kovel’s endeavors outside of antiques. In the 1970s, he bought a small food company named Sar-A-Lee then sold it in 1989 to the Sara Lee Corp, for which he served as senior vice president until 2000. He was also president of a direct-marketing company and a shrimp farm in the Bahamas.

Born in Milwaukee, Kovel’s family moved to Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in the 1930s. He was a graduate of Cleveland Heights High School and attended Ohio State University.

The husband-and-wife team co-authored 97 books, the last, “Kovels’ Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide 2009,” came out this month.

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