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Auction Report: Brrrring in Syracuse

by Christopher Kent (01/27/09).

What felt like subzero temperatures did not deter avid antiques buyers from attending the Salt City Antique show in Syracuse, N.Y., this past weekend. (For those unfamiliar with Syracuse, it earned its “Salt City” nickname because that valuable commodity in nearby swamps lured early settlers to the area.) Thousands of people came in from the cold to scrutinize the collections the 275 dealers had set up in the Verizon Center of Progress Building at the State Fair Grounds.

Worthologists Thom Pattie and Christopher Kent and Dan “The Man in the WorthPoint Van” Borsey were on hand to represent WorthPoint at the show and give expert appraisal of the hundreds of items that were brought in.

Winnowing from the chaff

As with most appraisal events, there is a lot to winnow before the gems appear. This show was no exception. One item that was fascinating and expertly preserved was a five-shilling note issued and signed Jan. 1, 1776. Its book value was about $150 to $200, and as a piece of history, it was invaluable.

Five-shilling note

Five-shilling note

Another piece of history appeared in the form of a knife with an attached engraved metal plate bearing the name Jessie James. There was, like many of the pieces that came in over the three-day period, a story attached. It seems it was acquired from a collector of knives who had amassed many. There the story ends. Background and provenance, questionable, interesting, but not substantive enough to put a value on the piece. It should be noted that on the reverse of the knife, etched into the bone handle was Kearney, Missouri June 5 1876, the date Jessie’s brother, Frank, was married.

Jesse James knife

Jesse James knife

Real or contrived, the piece did provoke interest and debate among the appraisers. The consensus—the value was at a few hundred dollars without the addition of documented proof of authenticity.

Looks may be deceiving in the next item that appeared in the form of a last-quarter, 19th-century “Pairpoint” desk lamp with scenic shade. Although it had the look, feel and smell of a genuine Pairpoint lamp, the maker’s mark was etched not stamped into the base. While the shade was, indeed, scenic and beaded, it just did not ring true. The verdict—a nice lamp at a couple of hundred dollars. Had it been the real deal, value would have been upward of $5,000.

"Pairpoint" lamp

"Pairpoint" lamp

The crowning jewel of the show was an extraordinary ceramic piece done in the Art Nouveau style by the pre-eminent entrepreneur in the field of the ceramic industry, Bernard Bloch. Marked BB on the base, numbered and signed, this incredibly graceful piece, circa 1900, matched, if not surpassed, the works of Bloch’s fellow Czech/Bohemian ceramic makers, Johann Maresch and Julius Dressler.

Bloch Art Nouveau

Bloch Art Nouveau

The piece was originally purchased at Brimfield a year before for fewer than $500. It’s important to note that many collectors of Nouveau porcelains and ceramics are turning full attention to the Bohemian ceramics makers and designers and are vying for prized pieces such as this one. A conservative value of $2,500 was placed on the piece, and the owner went away happy.

– By Christopher Kent, a member of the WorthPoint board of advisers and director of evaluations for WorthPoint. He is also an antiques and collectibles generalist, fine-arts broker and president of CTK Design.

(All photos by Dan Borsey)

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