Q: My original ink and watercolor art is signed Ruthven Todd and numbered 26/70. There is a poem by Todd on the sketch. The Library of Congress has copy 4/70. I know this is an important piece. Should it be in a museum? How should I sell it? I need help.
A: Our reader adds that the sketch was bought for $3 at a church sale. Her concern is “to determine true value.”
First, a little background: The number 26 means the piece is 26th in a total of 70. Also, Ruthven Todd, pronounced “Riven,” was a male Scottish poet (1914-1978). An editor of the works of William Blake, Todd also wrote adventure novels, many for children.
Reading between the lines, I infer the reader thinks that because works by Todd are in the Library of Congress, her piece must have significant value. But talking with a source in the Rare Book room at the LOC, we learned that materials are there for any number of subjective reasons. Some have historic significance, others add to collections. Intrinsic value and rarity are not determinants.
Yes, the LOC has a similar Todd print, but it is an intaglio print decorated with watercolors after being printed. And theirs dates to 1975.
The reader has, says the source, “an earlier manifestation.” That’s rare book room talk.
In this case, is earlier better? An expert must decide.
It’s critical to know exactly what the reader has. That $3 find might be something special. Maybe — and we’re surmising here — it’s an experimental version by Todd, especially if it is indeed a sketch and not a print. A print is a whole other story. Only an expert can tell.
For a definitive ID and study of possible value, a qualified, professional appraiser is needed. Yes, costs are involved. See contact info below.
FYI: The LOC site is loc.gov. To find a professional appraiser in your area, visit appraisersassoc.org; International Society of Appraisers, isa-appraisers.org; or American Society of Appraisers, appraisers.org.
Q: My mother had a painting signed by Thomas Pell. I looked one up on eBay and found two paintings by the artist listed for over $500. I Googled him but did not find my painting. How can I determine value on this art? I cannot take it to an appraiser.
A: This reader can research from the comfort of home. Here’s how: Visiting liveauctioneers.com we found two sales results for Pell oil-on-canvas paintings. One was a pass, meaning it did not sell. The other was a 2005 sale for $250. Value today is not automatically less or more; the market changes.
Finding a match on Google would mean that the reader’s painting, or a copy, had hit the market at some point. Not a likely scenario.
Paying for short-term use of artfact.com often yields info. In this case, the site showed another Pell that did not sell at auction. Researching him on the site’s artist database brought a zero.
We found two Pells listed on eBay, where sellers can ask for any amount they wish. That’s not market value.
Putting it all together, we concluded that most Pell paintings end up on eBay, where some sell but most don’t. Plus, auction results are few and not encouraging. See how easy it is to research without leaving home?
Q: How can I sell my old French 20-piece barber’s set?
A: Our reader adds that the set includes a brass shampoo bowl and a water dispenser with two faucets. Without knowing if the grouping is old shop equipment or a traveling rig, plus details on condition, size, composition of pieces and a host of other variables, it’s hard to imagine.
The reader lives in Maine, where a number of auction houses may welcome the lot. Shop the set to several.
Barbershop items are a popular collecting category. The best way to reach the greatest number of motivated buyers is auction, but you must consign your item to a house that will advertise and promote it properly.
Auction Action: A fine and rare illustrated Hebrew prayer book of vellum manuscripts from the 1490s called a Mahzor, or festival prayer book, sold earlier this year for $2.4 million at Christie’s Paris. Only 6⅝ inches by almost 5 inches in size, the book, covered in gold tooled goatskin, combines Hebrew square script, Italian script and hand-painted illustrations with burnished gold. The style has been traced to a master of Renaissance illumination.
Q: One of these Matchbox toy cars sold for $9,000 in a private transaction in 2000. Which one?
Opel Diplomat in sea green color.
Chevrolet taxi with gray plastic wheels.
Ford Zodiac in green color.
Eight wheel crane in mint green.
A: All are rare (some in high four figures), but the Opel brought $9,000. Source: “Collecting Matchbox, Regular Wheels, 1953-1969: Edition 2,” by Charlie Mack (Schiffer, $29.99).
Danielle Arnet answers questions of general interest. Send email to email@example.com 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.