RINKER ON COLLECTIBLES: Savitsky Folk Art, a Violin, and a Lady on a Dolphin

Our reader is inquiring about a Jack Savitsky folk art drawing. This Savitsky piece listed in our Worthopedia sold for $45 in August 2018.

QUESTION:  My husband I acquired a Jack Savitsky folk art drawing featuring a lion and lamb sitting together.  The notation on the back reads: “9 x 12” pastel 1990 / Peace / Jack Savitsky 90 / To Stella and Jerry Williams / Happy 50th Anniversary / from: Jack & Mary Lou Savitt / RE: ISAIAH 11: 6-9.”  What is it worth?  C, Blandon, PA, Email Question

ANSWER:  John “Coal Miner Jack” Savitsky was born in 1910 in Silver Creek, Pennsylvania, and died in Coaldale, Pennsylvania in 1991.  He lived most of his life in Lansford, Pennsylvania.  As a resident of the Lehigh Valley, especially the western edge of Lehigh County, I encountered Jack Savitsky’s paintings and drawings on a regular basis.

After completing sixth grade, Savitsky left school to work as a coal miner.  When the mines closed 35 years later, Savitsky began painting.  His love of painting began during his brief tenure in school   A self-taught artist, Savitsky painted advertising signs on trucks and windows.  In addition, he did murals for several local Pennsylvania coal region speakeasies.

In his early 50s, Savitsky developed black lung disease.  Unable to find work, he spent the rest of his life painting and drawing.  When the use of oils aggravated his black lung disease, he switched to markers, pastels, pencil, and prismacolor.  He sold pencil sketches as well as colored pieces.

Savitsky focused on life around him.  Coal related scenes from mines to railroads, historical events, patriotic, human figures, religious, and rural subjects were among his favorite topics.

 Savitsky’s paintings are represented in the collections of the Abby Aldridge Rockefeller Collection in Williamsburg, National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Museum of American Folk Art in New York.  Initially classified as a “folk” artist, contemporary sellers label Savitsky as a member of the Outsider Art community, clearly an attempt, albeit unsuccessful, to drive up perceived value.

Savitsky was prolific as an artist.  As a result, the secondary market is flooded with his work.   An eBay check on September 10, revealed 64 listings with prices ranging from $30.00 to over $250.00.  The vast majority were offered for under $50.00.

A search by sale date on WorthPoint.com indicates that the secondary market for Savitsky paintings and sketches is soft.  Subject and size outweighs age as value factors.  Hence, the fact that your painting was done in the last years of Savitsky’s life does not add or subtract from its value.  A reasonable secondary market value is between $50.00 and $65.00.

A violin with “Joseph Guarnerius fect, Cermone. Anno 1651” printed inside.

QUESTION:  I inherited a violin and bow.  “Joseph Guarnerius fect, Cermone.  Anno 1651” is printed inside the violin.  A 1914 repair sticker also is inside.  The bow is by Bausch.  I would appreciate if you can tell me any history and value.  BL, Hubbard, OH, Email Question

ANSWER:   Once or twice a year I receive an email and a half a dozen times or more at appraisal clinics, I encounter violins attributed to famous seventeenth century violin makers.  Stradivarius is the most common name.  I searched past “Rinker on Collectibles” columns to determine when I last answered a similar question.  Much to my surprise, it was column #731 in 2001.  The following is excerpted and updated from that column:

“The label provides all the clues necessary to determine the age of your violin.  It is twentieth century in origin and possibly as late as the 1910s or 1920s.  The 1891 McKinley Tariff Act required that goods imported into the United States be marked with their country of origin.  The marking did not have to be permanent. Paper labels were acceptable.

 “The following information is found in my ‘Official Price Guide To Flea Market Treasures, Fifth Edition’ (House of Collectibles, 1999):  In the late 19th century inexpensive violins were made for sale to students, amateur musicians, and others who could not afford an older, quality instrument.  Numerous models, many named after famous makers, were sold by department stores, music shops, and by mail.  Sears, Roebuck sold ‘Stradivarius’ models.  Other famous violinmakers whose names appear on paper labels or in printing inside these instruments include Amati, Caspar DaSolo, Guarnerius, Maggini, and Stainer.  Lowendall of Germany made a Paganni model.”

“All these violins were sold through advertisements that claimed that the owner could have a violin nearly equal to that of an antique instrument for a modest cost; one ‘Stradivarius’ [model] sold for $2.45.  The most expensive violin cost less than $15.  The violins were handmade, but by a factory assembly line process.”

If these early twentieth-century violins are properly cared for, they develop a rich mellow tone.  The key is playability, something that can be determined by personnel at a local musical instrument store.  If playable, the value of your violin is between $300.00 and $350.00. If restorable, it is worth between $100.00 and $150.00.  If not, it is a wall hanger.  I confirmed these prices using a “sale date” search on WorthPoint.com.   These prices include a bow.

Unstrung Bausch bows bring between $20.00 and $30.00.  Restrung and playable, the price for a Bausch bow jumps to $75.00 to $90.00.  Selling a twentieth century violin without a bow lowers its value.

Laszlo Ispanky enjoyed a worldwide reputation, receiving commissions from private individuals, museums, and institutions around the globe.

QUESTION:  I recently paid $40.00 for a Laszlo Ispanky sculpture at an estate sale.  The sculpture features a bikini clad woman riding the back of a dolphin.  The only markings on the bottom are a replica signature of Ispanky, a printed version of his name, and number 15 of a limited edition of 250.   I want to sell it.  Can you help me name and date the piece?   Is there any internet database that can help? – WM, Grand Rapids, MI, Email Question.

ANSWER: Laszlo Ispanky was born in 1919 in Budapest and died in Hopewell, New Jersey on July 9, 2010.  He immigrated to the United States during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.  Shortly after his arrival, he received a Fellowship at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Deerfield, Michigan, where he taught sculpture.  In 1960, he moved to New Jersey and became a master sculptor for Cybis Porcelains.  Along with George Utley, he founded his own production company in 1966.  Ispanky Porcelains, Ltd., was headquartered in Trenton, New Jersey, until it moved to Pennington, New Jersey, in 1972.  Ispanky did contract design work for Boehm and Goebel in addition to Cybis.   He enjoyed a worldwide reputation, receiving commissions from private individuals, museums, and institutions around the globe.

Ispanky limited edition porcelain figurines were made in the 1960s and 1970s.  I was not able to establish a specific date for your figurine.  However, comparable themed figurines featuring a young woman and sea motif date from the early 1970s.  While knowing the exact date would be nice, it has no impact on value.  Ispanky’s son Jason Toft Ispanky still lives in Hopewell.  Try contacting him to see if he can help.

WorthPoint.com lists a March 11, 2013 eBay sale of a figurine captioned as “Art Deco Lady on a Dolphin,” clearly a title created by the seller, that is identical to your piece.  The listing does not contain a date for the figurine.  The final price was $193.71.  It is the only example of that figurine among over 12,000 Ispanky pieces listed on WorthPoint.com.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no reference book on Ispanky figurines.  Amazon.com does have several Ispanky catalogs listed.  Replacements, Ltd., may have a number of Ispanky’s catalogs in its collection and may be able to date the piece.

As to value, the following most likely will hold true.  If you ask $80.00, it will sell quickly.  If you ask $125.00, it should sell in a few weeks.  If you ask $150.00, you might sell it in a few months.  If you ask over $200.00, you may wind up owning it for quite some time, perhaps even a lifetime.


FREE TO A GOOD HOME:  I recently received an email from an individual who owns a Hog Joy Co. hog oiler and would like to gift it to someone who will “give it a good home.”  The price is right.  It is free.  The hog oiler is located on a farm between Haven and Yoder in Reno County, Kansas.  The only catch is that the individual will have to travel to the Kansas farm to pick it up.  If you are the “right” person, send an email with your contact information to harrylrinker@aol.com.  I will forward it to the hog oiler owner.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Selected letters will be answered in this column.  Harry cannot provide personal answers.  Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned.  Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Point Court SE, Kentwood, MI  49512.  You also can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com.  Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered.

You can listen and participate in WHATCHA GOT?, Harry’s antiques and collectibles radio call-in show, on Sunday mornings between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM Eastern Time.  If you cannot find it on a station in your area, WHATCHA GOT? streams live on the Internet at www.gcnlive.com.

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