Q: I have old newspapers from the American Civil War that describe battles. How do I determine their worth?
A: The first thing to do is key rarenewspapers.com, the site of Timothy Hughes Rare Newspapers in Pennsylvania. A collector/dealer for decades, Hughes has thousands of old newspapers in stock. Perhaps your papers are listed. If so, note retail prices. Remember, a seller will get far less.
By the way, in America, papers go back to before the Revolutionary War. So “old” is a relative term.
Next, consider that many newsworthy editions of old papers have been reprinted. Those battle issues may or may not be authentic. The site lists common reprints.
Even if they are the real thing, where did the papers originate? In the world of newspaper collecting, headlines from the locale of a historic event are more desirable than a paper removed from the action. As example — and we’re stretching it — a local paper in Antietam with a reporter on the scene writing first-person about prison conditions there would have more value than a Charleston paper with general coverage on the same topic.
Also consider the matter of condition. Collectors pay for as close to new as possible. In the paper-collecting industry, that means, “tight, white and bright.” That includes no discoloration, smudging, watermarks, fold damage, tears, etc.
Bottom line, the papers must be seen for proper authentication. Hughes and his staff will authenticate for a fee of $35 plus cost of return shipping.
If you think you have the real thing, authentication is the way to go.
And if you’re serious about preserving those papers, Hughes’ site sells archival supplies for storage. As do most art supply stores.
Q: What is this brass thing? One end has a brass casting of a building shaped like The Old Curiosity Shop from the Dickens book. The title is cast on the building, plus 1837 and the maker.
A: I’m thinking that the piece is an English curtain rod or tieback.
Remember that Charles Dickens was a huge sensation of the Victorian era.
His works, first released as serials, were wildly successful crowd pleasers. He was the “American Idol” of his time, but bigger.
All sorts of knick-knacks relating to his characters were made, and this is probably one. The long rod held a hanging fabric panel, or may have been used to hold or hold back heavy drapes. A loop on the back was to hang the fixture.
“The Old Curiosity Shop” was printed as a separate book in 1841. I suspect that the earlier date on the piece has to do with the metalsmith, not the novel.
Q: How do I sell an extensive collection of Department 56 Dickens Village buildings, including accessories and figures?
A: Since their introduction in 1976, Department 56 Christmas collectibles have been popular with collectors. You’ll find them on the secondary market on eBay, in online stores, for sale at yard and house sales, at replacements.com, flea markets, you name it.
The smart place to start is by researching the going rate, or rates, on eBay’s completed sales and online. Get a feel for what sellers ask for the pieces you have.
Once you know what similar pieces bring, you’re equipped to decide how to sell. Traditional auction should be a last resort. Auctioneers too often dump lots into boxes and sell off collections as a whole.
Q: My Japanese Byobu screen is antique, handpainted and signed with the artist’s seal. It is 35 inches high by 60 inches wide. There is one small tear (repaired) on one panel. Value?
A: Byobu is the term for a Japanese folding screen. Value depends on age, art, materials used, the artist and other variables.
The screen has to be seen by someone who knows Japanese screens, old and new. Also, educate yourself on what’s out there by Googling the term.
You’ll see a variety of screens and prices.
Auction Action: Smart collectors know that postcard collectors buy according to category. An Americana, holiday or celebrations fan was probably the buyer when a lot of 45 early Fourth of July postcards brought $275 recently at Morphy Auctions in Pennsylvania. Part of their appeal was that many depicted children and/or Uncle Sam. Fireworks also appealed.
Excellent condition boosted the sale, as did the fact that six cards were by noted postcard publisher Raphael Tuck and Sons.
Today’s quiz is a twofer.
Q: When was the Golden Age of postcard publication and use: 1903-1917; 1885-1907; or 1898-1918?
Q: Name two factors that contributed to their popularity: Color lithography; the penny stamp; the divided back card (address on one half, message on the other).
A: The Golden Age was 1898-1918. Any answer for the second question is correct.
Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.