‘Valuable’ gifts not always what they seem

This circa 1900 Tiffany sterling silver flatware service for 12 sold for $18,135 recently at Quinn’s and Waverly, Falls Church, Va.
Photo courtesy of Quinn's and Waverly
This circa 1900 Tiffany sterling silver flatware service for 12 sold for $18,135 recently at Quinn’s and Waverly, Falls Church, Va.
Posted Oct. 14, 2011, at 3:25 p.m.

Q: About 50 years ago, a neighbor gave my dad some flatware and told him it would be worth something one day. The logo on the flatware reads, “Arizona Silver-Ditat Deus.” There’s a deer with mountains in the background. The flatware doesn’t look special, but the comment from the neighbor makes me think we should not disregard the set. Any info?

A: Specifically, the reader wants to know if I’m familiar with the maker. But what she calls the maker’s name is Arizona’s 2nd territorial seal, formally adopted in 1910. “Ditat Deus” translates to “God enriches.”

Without any info on the shapes or composition of the flatware, I suspect the pieces were created around 1900 as commemorative or souvenir silver. I also surmise that they are spoons. At the time, varied silver makers, including English manufacturers, used “exotic” locales when naming their products. Hence the then-unusual “Arizona.”

As for the giver’s comment, if I had a dollar for every time a reader told me they heard the same phrase when presented a gift, I’d be out buying antiques.

Q: I have an autographed baseball with the names of Honus Wagner, Ralph Kiner and six other Pittsburgh Pirates from years ago. I’ve not had it authenticated, but I know for a fact that it’s authentic because the autographs were collected by my father as a young man and we’ve had the ball all these years. How do I find value and about selling it?

A: You can swear up, down, sideways and any way you want that the signed ball is authentic, but any potential buyer with smarts will insist on proper authentication.

As the seller, the burden falls on you to prove that the item is what you say it is. Especially when and if serious money is involved.

Several authentication services can do the job. And yes, there is a fee. Two of the biggies are PSA/DNA, psadna.com, and for sports signatures, James Spence authentication at spenceloa.com.

When you decide to sell, favorable authentication will help you pitch the signed ball to a reputable sports auction. Any auction house worth its salt will demand that piece of paper.

Q: You once wrote about Czech china. I bought these Czech soup bowls — that’s what I think they are — at a sale because they’re pretty and delicate. Any info?

A: I’m glad you bought what you like. Smart collectors know that’s how to buy, because you may end up owning the objects for a while. Only seasoned speculators should consider buying for investment. Speculation is never a sure thing.

Czech-made china was and is made in many varieties and styles. Earlier, we wrote about a studio-ware bowl. Made in smaller quantities, studio china costs more than production pieces.

The reader’s bowls are production line double-handled bouillon cups. The bowl style was popular up to the 1940s when a clear soup opened formal meals.

After large shallow soup plates became the choice of “modern” hostesses, bouillon soup bowls went the way of high-button shoes. Today, they’re a matter of personal choice.

We found several similar bouillon cups listed on replacements.com. Online dealers are your best source for replacement prices on cups in specific patterns.

Book it!

“Early American County Homes” by Tim Tanner ($35, Gibbs Smith) shows lived-in historic homes from Maine to Ohio, Virginia and parts west. They range from restored originals to originals with modern additions and new homes made with original, salvaged materials. An additional section shows original materials used as accents. Imagine using an old cabin as a guesthouse. Color photos and a personalized text make this a solid reference, as well as a look book for all early home fanciers.

Auction Action

A complete Tiffany and Co. sterling silver flatware service for 12 that brought $18,135 recently at Quinn’s and Waverly in Virginia dated from 1900. Sold in its original custom triple-tier satin-lined chest, the set in Tiffany’s Florentine pattern came with a dozen serving pieces, from asparagus tongs to a pie knife.

From Tiffany’s retail side (as opposed to Tiffany Studios), the set represents high-end commercial Tiffany.

Collector Quiz

Q: Bridle rosettes, the ornamental round pieces seen paired behind a horse’s eyes, are specialized collectibles. Often utilitarian, sometimes exquisite pieces of art, rosettes have been made of many materials. Which of these is not a traditional form?

Glass

Horsehair

Metal

Coal

Rubber

Precious metals

A: Coal is not traditional. Source: “Bridle Rosettes: Two Centuries of Equine Adornment” by E. Helene Sage ($59.99, Schiffer). Instructive and attractive, the book illustrates a variety of rosettes from organizational to military, contemporary and rosette pins. Not a price guide.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

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