Q: How does one find collectors? I’d like to sell two pairs of opera glasses passed down by my grandmother. They’re in excellent condition. I’d prefer to sell to a collector rather than on the open market.
A: Give me a moment as The Great Arnet shifts into mind-reader mode. I’m getting a definite vibe that our reader has qualms about selling to the general public, especially on sites such as eBay and Craigslist. For her, the ideal sale would be to a buyer found privately or through a collector club.
But that’s not the way today’s market works. Granted, certain goods sell best to other collectors. But that’s not true for most opera glasses.
Before the Net, collector clubs were how buyers networked merchandise, along with trading information and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts. That networking still goes into gear when specialized goods become available.
Almost all collector groups have moved online and now hold only occasional meetings, if any. Larger groups have regional chapters, with local meetings. And many collector groups have simply faded.
We know of no collector group for standard opera glasses. The mother-of-pearl hand-held versions, sometimes lorgnettes, that ladies took to the opera or theater decades ago fall into the category of fashion accessory. Because binoculars, even small ones, make for better viewing, demand for the older, more feminine lenses is spotty.
A look at databases of prices realized shows that standard opera glasses sell for $50-$100 tops. Glasses from Tiffany and Co. with the original case sold for $300. The name says it all.
Across the board, the most-wanted opera glasses are ornately hand painted with enamels. We saw a fine enameled period lorgnette that sold for $350.
Our reader will find the most buyers online, because that’s where collectors hunt for opera glasses. An alternative is consigning the lenses to auction. Be sure to learn about selling costs for either route.
Q: What is this? It belonged to my mother. We think it was used to hold cab fare or a nickel for a phone call. If it matters, it’s made from sterling silver.
A: An image sent shows a small rectangular case of white metal topped with decorative raised scrolling. About the size of a matchbook, the case has an inner sleeve that slides out. There’s a silver ring at an upper corner.
Our reader is right on the money thinking the case is a coin holder. To be exact, it’s a Victorian coin holder.
Proper ladies of the time had an accessory for every purpose. Not for them were tacky coins rattling around loose in a purse. Instead, ladies had silver coin holders in case they were caught in a situation where they needed a quick coin.
Big enough to hold only a single coin, the holders were useless in a serious pinch, but they certainly looked good. The attached ring was for hanging on a chatelaine, a decorative holder that ladies wore on their belts.
Clipped to a belt somewhat like today’s cellphone cases, a chatelaine could have as many as six or more accessories dangling from delicate chains of varying lengths. Pieces could include a pillbox, coin holder, small scissors, thimble, a needle case and a small cased knife.
Fine French or English chatelaines, fully loaded, sell at auction for$300-$500. Chatelaines and their accessories are collected, and buyers are always looking for components.
Our reader already knows the holder is sterling, so it may be hallmarked. Her next step is to examine the marks to determine if the case is English.
Auction action: A tan leather plaited bullwhip from the 1981 film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” brought $31,250 recently in a sale of entertainment memorabilia at Bonhams LA. One of six props of its kind used in the film, the 151-inch whip is an iconic symbol from the movie. It sold with a letter of authenticity from the film’s special effects supervisor, confirming that the whip was used by Harrison Ford and his stunt doubles for action and stunt sequences.
Q: Many readers know of Breyer collectible horse models. What other company, based in Wisconsin, also made molded toy horses that are collected?
A: Starting in Hartland, Wis., in the 1940s, the company that makes Hartland horses has gone through several owners. The company also made molded dogs. The horses still are made. Source: “Hartland Horses: New Model Horses Since 2000″ by Gail Fitch (Schiffer, $29.99). Joins the author’s other books on the toy horses.
Danielle Arnet will answer questions of general interest in her column. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.