Tuesday, November 26, 2013

THERE'S VALUE IN EVERYTHING.... Yard Sale Treasure Finds

I've been posting the high-end items that are rare estate sale finds.  In this post, I'd like to focus on every-day items that anyone can find at flea markets, yard sales, or even in their own closet.   Many "mundane" items are often marked for Goodwill donation or tossed in the rubbish bin (a big no-no).  But it's very smart and financially responsible to do a bit of research to determine what kinds of treasures you have.  

During a recent yard sale excursion, I found four signed costume watercolor and ink drawings marked for $4.  The drawing, signed by "Santiago," each measured approximately 15" x 20". None of the drawings were identified, but after a bit of online research, I discovered that the drawings - by Emile Santiago - were from the 1950 motion picture, THE ROBE, starring Jean Simmons, Richard Burton and Victor Mature.   Unfortunately, these wardrobe drawings were for secondary actors, but they nonetheless sold for $50 to $85 each (if I had found drawings for the principal actors for this film, the price could have gone as high as $500 each). 
In the coming weeks, I will be posting more cheap yard sale  finds, and suggestions of what buyers should look for, and in the case of sellers, what not to throw away.   Keep checking back with our blog

Another goodie we pulled from a pile of to-be-donated clothes was a vintage 1960's H Bar C embroidered western shirt.   It was in excellent condition and subsequently sold online for $275.   Apparently, any vintage western clothing with a label from H Bar C or Nudies brings big bucks, not only in America, but all over the world.  The new proud owner of the shirt lives in Paris (not Texas), France.   C'est bon y'all....

If you have a hard time finding good yard sales, you probably need a good map.  However, in the case of the maps pictured here, they were found in a dusty box of miscellaneous papers.  I bought the maps for whopping $3.  These twelve maps from the Automobile Club of Southern California, were road routes from various parts of California circa 1915-1920.  Vintage maps usually bring good money, but only if they are of desired locations such as major urban American cities. These maps sold online for approximately $150. 

Finally, how about paint by number artwork.  You may not realize that this kind of kitschy artwork brings some good money, especially those of animals or unique places.  In my own yard sale trek, I found three vintage Disneyland scene paintings from the early 1960's which were marked for 25-cents each.   Had these cardboard canvases been unpainted, in their original box, they would sell for between $50 and $75.  In their current condition, they may be work $7 to $10 each.  Not big money, (and certainly not in the Monet league), but well above the change I plucked down for this artwork. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

BBC Documentary Casting Light On the World of Art Appraising

Just saw a very fascinating BBC documentary show last week that detailed the process for authentication of a supposed Monet painting entitled Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil. The owner of this painting had been trying to authenticate this painting for almost two decades.  Art expert Philip Mould attempted to navigate the murky and complex art establishment world and found that - at least in the case of presumed Monet artworks - one authority, in the form of the Parisian-based Wildenstein Institute, has a veritable world monopoly on Monet authentication.

Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil
During the course of the documentary, the filmmakers and art experts researched and pieced together historical records and conducted a barrage of tests to determine this painting's pedigree.  This concrete documentation was formally presented to the Wildenstein Institute in Paris [the institute which had previously denied the painting's authenticity on numerous occasions in the past].  Without reviewing the incontrovertible evidence of authenticity, and without explanation, the Institute again denied that this was a genuine Monet.  In effect, their denial of this work casts a pall of illegitimacy on this painting and locks it out of the art world market.

Since this documentary first aired in the UK in 2011, most world-renowned art experts have reviewed the documentation and have steadfastly affirmed that Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil is an authentic Monet.   The Wildenstein Institute however, is still unmoved.

Some art authorities believe that the Institute is hoping the painting eventually finds its way to the market, where they can pick it up at a low sum and do their own follow-up research, and then miraculously confirm its authenticity.  Others claim that if the Wildenstein Institute reverses its position after so many years of denying the painting's authenticity, this reversal will undermine its own prominence as the dominant authority in the art world.  Whatever the reason, the Institute has opened itself up to criticism and condemnation for what some claim is its pompous and arrogant attitude (what the Institute calls its "connoisseurship").  Yet, this one sole entity still wields supreme power in the art world when it comes to the authenticating the works of Monet. 

This is a fascinating story, and I encourage all who are interested in art to research the internet on the Wildenstein Institute, and the patriarch founder of the Wildenstein dynasty, Daniel Wildenstein. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Agathon Leonard Bronze


We have another estate sale coming up in October.  This sale is chock-full of great antique and vintage items.  In the coming weeks, I'd like to profile some of those items and give a little back-story.  

This blog will focus on a bronze statue by Agathon Léonard (1841-1923).  Léonard was a French Art Nouveau sculptor.  Having studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris, he became a member of Societe des Artistes Francais in 1887 and a member of the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts.  In 1900, he was made a chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur.  He is known for his studies of dancers, with his most renowned sculpture inspired by Lois Fuller (pioneer of modern dance), which was displayed as a centerpiece at the 1900 World's Fair at the Pavillon de Sevres in Paris. Leonard has produced works in marble, quartz and ivory.   

The bronze pictured will be offered for sale at the October Claremont sale.

Recent auction results for bronze dancer statues vary, and often command prices in excess of $4000, to a high of $22000 for "Danseuse au Tambourin ", signed, Sussex Frères Paris foundry.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


We have a mantra that we continually recite to our clients...."NEVER throw anything away."  

Whether or not you believe you have items that deserve a place in a landfill, you could very well be tossing out hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.  

An example of a 35mm Las Vegas travel slide
A perfect example of this occurred several months back.  We met with a client representing the estate of her father.  Aside from his profession as a military contractor, he was also a traveler and a very accomplished hobbyist photographer from the 1940's - 60's.  The client did not believe his photographs were worth anything to anybody and tossed out thousands of 35mm slides.   After evaluating the estate, we determined that many of these lost photos were of early Las Vegas, Beverly Hills and the Sunset Strip, military sites and general travel pics.  

From past sales experience, we determined that some of these photos could have been worth up to $40 each (particularly the early Las Vegas slides).  We conservatively estimated that somewhere between $1300 and $3500 in slides were forever lost.  Who buys these slides?  How about historic archives and stock photo agencies.   

A good (but all too late) lesson learned.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

We completed a very successful sale, and are now cleaning up (the unfun part of this job).  It may take us a few days, but we expect to have the home in "sell-ready" condition by Thursday.

Of the unique items we had on hand, we were able to sell a c. 1910 banjo uke; a couple of original gouache and watercolor illustrations dating from the 1920's (the artist was Charles Charleton, who created early 20th century movie poster art for Universal, and later Castle Films.  I will be posting some of the images later this month); and the big sellers: exquisite John Stuart, France & Sons, and Peter Wessel Mid-Century furniture.   The owners/clients got good money for these items, and the buyers got great deals.  Everyone appears very happy with the outcome of the sales.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We're putting the finishing touches on the estate sale.  It starts tomorrow Thursday, August 22, at 8am.  The address is ***************, Glendora, CA  91741.  Lots of goodies for everyone. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Big Estate Sale Find on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW

Boy, I could scream.... 

When we tackle estate sale jobs, we are ALWAYS attentive to the possibility of treasures contained in the home.  We research many of the items, either on the internet or in our library of specialized antiques and collectibles reference books.  It may take us a bit longer to get set up, but we nearly always maximize the amount of money collected for the client.  That is why I banged my head against the coffee table when I watched tonight's episode of "Antiques Roadshow" from Washington, D.C.

The guest on the show brought in a signed oil on board painting by Jessie Wilcox Smith.  He found it at an estate sale where the painting was separated from the frame, and were sold individually for $90 (painting) and $10 (frame).  Obviously the person organizing the estate sale thought that he/she could maximize sales by separating the two.  However, if this person had just taken some initiative and done some quick research, he/she would have discovered that this artist is highly desirable.  

The estate lost BIG TIME and the buyer was the BIG WINNER.  The painting was appraised at $75,000 in as-found condition, and if cleaned and restored, it could easily sell for over $100,000 at auction.  

For people hiring estate liquidators, PLEASE know the persons who you're hiring and make sure they're competent and know what they're doing. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What Is It???

Whenever we conduct an estate sale, we always come across something - that one unique item - that makes us scratch our head with dumbfounded curiosity.   Yes, we are appraisers.  Yes, we deal in antiques and collectibles on a regular bases and consider ourselves generally knowledgeable.  But there are times when we are genuinely stumped and have to hit the books to determine what we have.  

This time, we came across a wooden stick with sterling tips on either end (stamped Reed & Barton on one end, and the words "Run For Your Life" on the other).  This stick measures approximately 15.4" long.   

There were many guesses in our camp at what it could be....a riding crop...a baton for conducting...an officer's crop....etc.  Many guesses, but that's what they were, just guesses.  

After a bit of research, we found out that this is a Victorian jogging stick.  These were only manufactured for a couple of years, and were used to fend off stray dogs that would nip at runners (in the Victorian era, leash laws were not enforced and dogs - domestic and otherwise - would run wild).  If a runner encountered an overly curious dog on his outing, he would bop the dog on the nose with the stick.

This is a great job....You learn something new every day!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Estate sale coming up next week in Glendora, August 22-24.  There will be a whole array of fun items, antique, vintage an otherwise.  To get a more complete description of what's coming up, along with dozens of pics, please click here

More information will be added as we get closer to the sale.  Hope to see you all there. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Took a wee break from setting up next week's sale.   We were invited to Galeria Sparta on the Sunset Strip for the opening of an art showing by Richard Grieco.   A wonderful event.   For the second time in my life, I  had the opportunity to meet and chat with Mickey Rooney  (the first time was over 20 years ago when Mr. Rooney accidentally walked into my PR office on Sunset.  He was offered some coffee and stayed for over an hour relating some stories of Patton, Bugsy Siegel, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, etc). This guy's a true legend whose life spans film's history.

On the business side, the gallery owner was infinitely pleasant and there may be a strong opportunity to effect more fine arts appraisals in the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills region. I will keep you posted on what transpires

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Despite what you think, the nation's still not out of its economic woes.  As a result, more "professional" estate liquidators have cropped up in recent years (almost tripled in the L.A. region in the last year).  Many of the newer liquidators are legitimate people trying to start up a new business, but some seem to have less than honest motives.  

Yesterday, we met with a couple from out of state.  They were in L.A., looking to liquidate the personal property of a relative who recently passed away.  The contents of the property was minimal, but there were some nice sell-able items, including a large doll collection, Disney memorabilia, Wizard of Oz collectibles, etc.   

Prior to our meeting, the couple had met with a number of other local liquidators to evaluate the property.  One particular liquidator strongly suggested that the couple take a write-off by donating all the home's contents to charity.  Because the couple was from out of town, the liquidator, of course, would coordinate the charity pick-up on their behalf, and empty the home's entire contents.  

The couple was quick to realize that there was something wrong with this offer.  In essence, they felt that this liquidator was asking permission to STEAL anything of worth, and then donate the discards to charity (charities don't itemize all items, so there's no way for the client to determine quantity of goods donated).  

For any reader of this blog, please do not go with a liquidator who cannot provide stellar recommendations (the above liquidator has been in business for only a year and was unable to provide the client with more than 2 recommendations).   If possible, attend an estate sale conducted by those who you're considering.  Most legitimate liquidators will be excessively busy and should have a sale scheduled every few weeks.  

Despite being a business, estate liquidations also has a personal component.  The liquidator should have some empathy and respect for the client, as well as the property that must be liquidated.  In all cases, go with the liquidator that makes you feel most comfortable and who provides you with the knowledge that they are working with you, and not for you.  

Finally, do not hire a liquidator who is not willing to detail what they can sell, how they can sell it, and who - after the sale is complete - is unable to provide even a cursory itemization of what has sold.  Household property does not belong to the liquidator.  They are merely agents tasked to sell the goods at the highest dollar amount.   

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hey Kids, 

Welcome me to the 21st century.  I finally got the blog up and running.  Took me forever since web techno geeks have a very bad habit of providing overly complicated instructions in a language they specifically created to baffle and confound the layman (somewhat like trying to understand Trekie who's speaking to you in Klingon). 

Anyway, you're invited to be a part of our estate liquidation family.  We have 2 to 3 estate liquidations a month, and will keep you posted on what's available -- antique, vintage or otherwise.  We'll also discuss a wide range of topics relating to the antiques and liquidations field on this blog.  Hopefully the reader and poster alike will learn much more as we progress.  And please be patient as we work out any bugs we expect to encounter in the blog world.

Stay with us, and you'll have fun.  And if you're in the L.A. area, sign onto our website and ask to be put on our email list for upcoming sales.  We're located at www.cbrunoantiques.com

- David