SMART COLLECTOR

Chinese wall hanging could be prized ‘Grand Tour’ find

Posted April 06, 2012, at 4:28 p.m.
Last modified April 06, 2012, at 7:38 p.m.
The circa 1853 rare Breguet carriage clock recently sold for $135,239 at Antiquorum.
Photo courtesy of www.antiquorum.com
The circa 1853 rare Breguet carriage clock recently sold for $135,239 at Antiquorum.

Q: Here’s a snapshot of my silk wall hanging. It’s 5 feet long and over 2 feet wide, and I bought it after WWII in a church sale. How can I sell it?

A: The embroidered silk seen in a photo looks to be Chinese in origin.

Based on the reader’s letter, the hanging came to this country with a wealthy Midwestern buyer who picked it up during travel in the mid-1800s.

Smart collectors know that that era was the time of the Grand Tour, when people of means traveled. Those who could afford to travel abroad had deep pockets, and returning with items from their journey was an additional way to demonstrate wealth. They could afford to buy the best, and they did.

Amazing goods were available on the cheap, making acquisition that much easier.

Andrew Lick, director of Asian Works of Art at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago, lesliehindman.com, looked at the reader’s photo and told us the textile pattern is mid-19th-century Chinese. Our reader was on the button.

The design is a classical Chinese composition. And, he added, it is a type favored by visitors of the time who wanted to return with something Chinese.

“Textiles can be folded or rolled and placed easily into a suitcase,” he explained. It’s not like hauling home a bulky statue or fragile ceramic.

He did note some fading, which is normal for a fabric of this age that has been on display.

Textiles should never hang in direct sunlight. They can be hung if placed behind museum glass to protect the fabric from UV damage. The glass is available at better frame shops, as is museum framing.

If the fabric is unframed or can be removed from its frame, Lick will be happy to put it in a Hindman auction. He estimates a result of $400-$600. Note that auction involves fees. Be sure to ask any auction house that you consult about their selling fees.

FYI: Email Lick at Andrew@lesliehindman.com.

Q: Do any of these figures have value for collectors? We’ve had them for several years. We need to know what to sell or keep if they have value.

A: Accompanying the note were photos showing a variety of advertising and pop-culture images. We’ll deal with the best-known few.

The reader raises an interesting point: How does one decide what to sell or keep, hoping it accrues more value? If something is hot today, should they hold on to it? Read on.

Around since 1971, Pillsbury’s “Poppin’ Fresh” chef has been a popular small toy for decades. A female companion was also made, ditto children and, rarest of all, a dog and cat.

We found a set of four finger puppets — Mom, Dad and the kids — that sold on eBay for $15.99. A set with the dog and cat brought $34.03. A 1971 version of Poppin’, mint and in a pristine unopened box, brought $39.95. Single used and unboxed figures, especially post-1972, are a hard sell.

A Thomas Dam troll bank from Denmark could date back to the early 1960s. EBay has a brisk trade in vintage trolls, but buyers pick and choose. We saw completed prices from $3.99 to $34.99, depending on variables of eye color, hair color, costume, condition, etc.

A Mickey Mouse figure that looks like vinyl or rubber must be examined for a mark. Value will depend on the maker.

In all cases, I suggest a search for similar figures on eBay. The site is the best place to research real-world prices.

After our reader determines what he has and has found a range of current values online, he can decide whether it is time to sell.

Most smart collectors agree that the time to sell is when a genre is hot. If, after checking prices realized, you think you might get an amount you can live with, why not try? Could you get more if you wait? Who knows. I can tell you this: Too many sellers are paralyzed by the “what ifs.”

Do the research, mull it over, and then make a smart decision. Don’t act until satisfied you’ve done your best homework.

Auction action

A circa 1853 Breguet carriage clock sold for $135,239 in a recent Antiquorum sale in Geneva came with its original gold-tooled, red Morocco leather, fitted traveling case and papers. Considered extremely rare, the clock stands 10 inches high, 4½ inches wide. Both dial and movement are signed. Made of cast and engine-turned gilded bronze, the clock has Corinthian columns at the case corners.

Collector quiz

Q: What is tramp art?

a) A form of woodworking by itinerant workers.

b) Folk art at its crudest.

c) An art movement created by untrained artists.

d) Art made by traveling hobos.

A: C is the purest definition. Add that tramp art was formed from discarded materials. Think cigar boxes, wooden crates and other found materials. Source: “A Legacy in Tramp Art” by Clifford Wallach (Schiffer, $69.99). A beautifully photographed and thoroughly researched book from America’s premier dealer in the art form.

Danielle Arnet will answer questions of general interest in her column. Send emails to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

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