Children’s Books: Investing in Nostalgia

Do you remember the books you loved as a child? It’s a solid bet that at least a couple of your childhood favorites are also the favorites of collectors, and with good reason. We can all relate to the experience of having books read to us at bedtime, and later, taking pride in learning how to read those books ourselves.

Baum, L. Frank, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, first edition, first state of the text and first state of the plates, octavo, Geo. M. Hill Co., Chicago and New York, 1900. Green morocco slipcase. Auctioned Dec. 16, 2009 for $53,100. LiveAuctioneers / Profiles in History image

We spoke with two experts in the field of collectible books: Helen Younger, founder of Aleph-Bet Books, Inc., and Catherine Payling, MBE, director of Waverly Rare Books, a subsidiary of Quinn’s Auction Galleries, to get their take on the children’s book market. In speaking with them, we learned that juvenile literature is a solid niche within the greater realm of book collecting and has been so for quite some time.

As Payling observed, the market “has been relatively stable during and after recent economic upheavals and broader changes in patterns of collecting.”

Echoing those sentiments, Younger, who has been in the collectible book business since 1977, pointed to the availability and affordability of children’s books as reasons for the continued interest among collectors.

“In the world of collectible books, children’s books, in general, are not among the most expensive – they can be a little more attainable.”

In building a collection of children’s books, keep these points in mind: edition and rarity; condition, desirability, and the potential impact of changing trends.

Lot of three titles signed by Maurice Sendak, illustrated, and authored by Ruth Krauss, “Somebody Else’s Nut Tree And Other Tales From Children,” “A Hole Is to Dig: A First Book of Definitions,” and “Lullabies And Night Songs,” published in 1971, 1952, and 1965, respectively. Sold for $250 at auction June 1, 2017 through Waverly Books. Waverly Books image

For example, Payling said, “If there should be a dust jacket but one isn’t present, then a book without one is [considered] comprised. Is the book signed by the author or the illustrator? Is there interesting provenance?” All are important factors with respect to desirability.

Addressing condition, Younger outlined the standards many reputable dealers use in assessing books:

  • Good: Shows wear, tears, soiling, and perhaps the dust jacket is missing
  • Very Good: The book is in nice condition, although it may show age to some extent. It is clean and presents nicely.
  • Fine: Although it may not look as it did when brand new, it has no defects, it is clean, and nothing is missing.
  • Mint: The book is flawless.

Not only is understanding differences in condition helpful when considering the purchase of a book, it is often the key factor in determining price when selling a book.

For example, as Younger pointed out, Aleph-Bet might list a copy of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat with a high price tag, but that might be because it’s a first edition, first printing, in mint condition.

Wells, Carolyn, illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith, “Seven Ages of Childhood,” first edition, NY: Moffat Yard 1909, tan gilt cloth, round pictorial paste-on, 56 pages. Cloth slightly darkened on edges from inoffensive cover stain, occasional foxing, VG. $400 through Aleph-Bet Books. Aleph-Bet Books image

As with most collecting interests, experience and time are the best teachers, according to Payling and Younger. Learning how publishers denoted first editions is an important practice, Younger added.

“It truly takes time to learn the aspects of children’s books, and to complicate things further, publishers were not consistent with how they denoted first editions,” she explains. “Some may say ‘first edition,’ some may have a number code or a combination, and some may have the date of publication on the title page and the copyright page, while some may not.”

Payling, who recently purchased a copy of Miskoo the Lucky by Mary Fairclough – one of her favorite books from childhood – recommends the following measures to gain valuable knowledge about children’s books:

  • Acquire some good-quality reference books on your specific area of collecting interest, whether it is by country, century, author and so on, and use them to help make buying decisions.
  • Learn to identify variations in condition.
  • Learn about current market prices from online resources, especially recent auction results, whose price database is free of charge.
  • Check out auction houses and their auction catalogs.

Also, attending book fairs and visiting the shops and sites of businesses specializing in rare and collectible books are all methods for amassing knowledge that will prove helpful in efforts to acquire children’s books, Younger advised.

Beginners may find it advisable to define the focus of their collection.

“Blue-chip authors, such as L. Frank Baum, Dr. Seuss, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, J.M. Barrie, Maurice Sendak, and Roald Dahl are always sought after,” said Payling. “People are often motivated by childhood memories, so we see buyers looking for children’s titles popular when they were young.” Illustrated books are also highly desirable.

Younger points to children’s books published in the mid-20th century as being the current “sweet spot” in collecting. However, some lesser-known interests are gaining attention.

Milne, A.A., “Winnie the Pooh (And) The House at Pooh Corner,” Russian first edition, NY: Dutton 1967, cloth, 221 pages. Top edge rubbed, otherwise VG+ in frayed dust wrapper with a few mends on verso. $125 through Aleph-Bet Books. Aleph-Bet Books image

“Right now, we’re seeing the popularity of Russian children’s books growing,” she said. Early 20th-century Russian children’s books are distinguished by their consistently high quality of printing, illustration, and presentation. Plus, they reflect the characteristics of an evolving society.

Before the Russian Revolution of 1917, many of the books displayed lush treatment and robust illustration – a “frills and fantasy” presentation – said Younger, who formerly worked as a librarian and fosters a life-long appreciation for books. After the Revolution, children’s books, much like Russian society of that period, were stark, direct, and more focused on being utilitarian.

Another aspect of collecting to bear in mind is changing trends, Payling said. For example, values of Harry Potter books are not as high today as they were at the peak of Potter-mania.

Collecting children’s books can be rewarding, but like any type of book collecting, it requires a time investment. It pays to learn as much as possible, study market activity, and over and above all, to allow one’s own sense of nostalgia to serve as the primary guide to purchases.

About the experts:

Catherine Payling, MBE, M.A. Oxford University, was born and raised in the United Kingdom. She spent 10 years working in prestigious executive roles in London, and 15 years in Rome, Italy, where she served as curator/director of the Keats House Museum. Catherine has resided in the United States since 2011. She was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and is married to Duncan Wu, the Raymond Wagner Professor of Literary Studies at Georgetown. Catherine has a personal collection of books, and she and her husband are lifelong collectors of fine and decorative art.

Helen Younger co-owns Aleph-Bet Books in Pound Ridge, New York, together with her husband, Marc. Her love of books began when she was a child and continued to grow as she traveled through Europe following her high school graduation. She became a professional librarian and, in the mid-1970s, established a book-selling business upon the suggestion of her mother-in-law, who organized estate sales. Helen has been a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America since 1982.

Expert Tips for Buying Jewelry Online

Whether you’re seeking wearable accessories to enhance a wardrobe, looking to add new pieces to an established collection, or searching for beautiful treasures to give as gifts, you’ll find that antique and contemporary jewelry is plentiful online.

Once regarded as items that required in-person inspection prior to purchase, contemporary, vintage and antique jewelry items are all part of a growing segment within the e-commerce realm. Global jewelry sales are expected to achieve $250 billion by the end of the year, with online purchases accounting for 4-5%, according to Forbes. While that may not seem like an overly impressive statistic, just wait. Within the next three years, it’s anticipated that purchases of jewelry via online platforms will account for 15% of total sales.

A current fashion-jewelry trend, according to an article in the Robb Report, is chunky vintage jewelry. A few of the 65 lots featured in Jasper52’s July 16, 2017 Loose Stones, Sterling & Silver Jewelry Auction fit this bill. This circa-1970s Italian silver bracelet by UnoAErre measures 9/23 cm when locked and has an affordable estimate of $70-$90. Jasper52 image

A significant factor behind the anticipated spike is increased consumer confidence. “If you’re buying from a trusted seller, it should make no difference how the transaction is accomplished. Buying online is just a more convenient way to acquire the same merchandise that ordinarily would be purchased from a traditional venue,” said LiveAuctioneers Senior VP Product and Marketing Phil Michaelson.

As the jewelry market continues to evolve, the opportunity to obtain jewelry from sellers around the world, regardless of one’s locale, is greater than ever. With that being the case, to paraphrase a quote from Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man, “With great opportunity comes great responsibility.” Research and ask questions before you make any online jewelry purchase, not afterward.

Scully & Scully 18K white and yellow gold owl brooch with ruby eyes and criss-cross design of diamonds, handmade in England, with original box. Entered in Alex Cooper’s July 20, 2017 auction. Estimate $1,000-$2,000. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and Alex Cooper

Buying Tip: Look for diamonds that have been graded by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America). This world-renowned nonprofit institute issues laboratory reports with their opinion of a gemstone’s color and clarity.

Robert Kadet, a member of the jewelry industry for more than four decades and a graduate gemologist, says the credibility of the company offering jewelry should be a foremost consideration. “Find out how long the company selling the piece has been in business and make sure they have an upstanding reputation,” he advises.

Art Deco Burma sapphire, Colombian emerald and diamond brooch, estimated total diamond weight 1 carat. Offered in Fellows’ July 13, 2017 auction. Estimate £5,000-£7,000. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and Fellows

The Better Business Bureau and sites like Yelp are among the sources where consumers can obtain information on a business, but when it comes to online auctions, it is important to bid through a platform where quality jewelry sellers conduct their sales. Check how many auctions they have run in the past, what sort of merchandise they carry, how long they’ve been in business, and most certainly, what their Terms and Conditions are.

Buying Tip: Pay close attention to the auction-catalog details for any item of jewelry you’re considering to bid on. When buying a piece of jewelry, you want to know what karat gold it is, the carat weight or total weight of diamonds or colored stones, and whether it contains precious or semi-precious stones.

A cushion-shape diamond in a claw-set mount, 26.29 carats, with a clarity grade of VVS2 sold for $847,667 at auction on June 7, 2017. It had been purchased for only 10 British pounds sterling ($13) in the 1980s. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s image

Nothing does more to inspire buyers to add a new sparkler to their jewelry chest than a high-profile sale of a dazzling gemstone, especially if it has a good story behind it. There was quite a buzz in jewelry circles recently when Sotheby’s held its Fine Jewelry auction. Leading the lots in their sale was a recently discovered diamond ring referred to as the “Tenner” diamond. The ring features a cushion-shape diamond weighing 26.29 carats in a claw-set mount reportedly dating to the 19th century. It was originally purchased by the consignor in the 1980s for just 10 British pounds sterling (US $13), hence the name “Tenner” – British slang for a 10-pound note. The ring had been misidentified as costume jewelry and was sold at a car boot sale, a market where individuals gather to sell household and flea market goods from the “boot,” or trunk, of their cars.

Buying Tip: Pay attention to the presence of photos, or lack thereof, within online jewelry listings. Photos of jewelry should be clear and represent all angles. Take the time to inspect each photo. If you aren’t satisfied with the photographic representations provided in an auction listing, contact the seller or auctioneer and ask for additional images of a specific angle. — Gemological Institute of America

Jewelry listings with photos of multiple views provide the possibility to inspect a piece closely, which can reveal important elements, including makers’ marks, as shown in this photo. This sterling silver ring with an oval-shape cabochon green agate, created by Georg Jensen circa 1910-1925, is included in Jasper52’s July 16, 2017 American, European & Mexican Silver Auction. Estimate: $650-$750. Jasper52 image

Discovering a wonderful piece of jewelry online, bidding on it, and winning it, is an exciting way to add to a collection. When the package containing your purchase arrives at your door and you discover that the piece is even nicer than you had initially thought, you’ll be glad you took the time to do your research before buying.

Rodger Kadet grew up working many aspects of his family’s jewelry business, Rogers and Hollands Jewelers, which has been in operation for more than a century. In 2009, he began doing business as Roger Kadet Ltd., operating as a private jeweler specializing in custom-made jewelry, as well as watches and other types of jewelry. He is a buyer of gold, diamonds, silver and coins. He currently serves as the president of the Chicago Jewelers Association (CJA), which was founded in 1874. In addition to serving as a resource and a forum platform for retailers, wholesalers/manufacturers, and sales representatives serving the jewelry market, the organization provides educational seminars, and operates a scholarship fund for college-bound students.

Natural History Books: Exploring Nature From Your Armchair

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” – Vincent Van Gogh

One does not need to venture far to experience the wonders of nature. They’re as close as a single step outdoors, a glance out a window, or, the nearest bookshelf.

For centuries, natural history books have provided views and explanations of various elements of nature. These books combine remarkable illustrations with thorough details of complex scientific organisms within ornithology, horticulture, botany, and etymology, among other disciplines.

To gain an expert perspective about natural history books and the current collecting market we turned to Bruce MacMakin, Senior Vice President at PBA Galleries in San Francisco.

“A Picture Book of Beasts, British and Foreign: Or, An Introduction to Natural History,” William Darton, 1822, London. Sold for $4,300 in February 2015 through PBA Galleries. PBA Galleries image.

How is the market today for collecting natural history books? How does it compare with the market a few years ago?

The market for collectible natural history books is much the same as the market for books in general. That is to say, that while prices have basically recovered from the recession that began in the fall of 2008, the long-term effects of the Internet on the marketing and availability of books and the information contained in them has had a continued and profound influence on the values of old books. What was once scarce and hard to find in the thousands of bookstores scattered across the country and around the globe, is now available at the click of a mouse. This has depressed the value of more-common books.

At the same time, the ease with which rare books can be searched for and acquired has broadened the collecting base, and made the geographic location of collectors no longer a barrier to participation. A collector or scholar in the middle of Iowa can acquire books as easily as one in New York City. This growth in the number of collectors, coupled with the lack of intrigue in acquiring the more-common works, has driven up the prices of the more rare and significant material, as buyers vie for the few gems at the top.

“A History of the Birds of New Zealand,” Sir Walter Lawry Buller, circa 1887, London. Limited issue, one of 1,000 sets. (Est. $5,000-$7,000 in a June 3, 2017 auction). Image by Arader Galleries.

Is there a genre of natural history book that is most sought after, or is the appeal equal among various topics (botany, ornithology, marine biology, travels of naturalists, etc.)?

Every collector has reasons for collecting what they do, and for every topic there are star items that bring premium prices. This can be based on the importance of a work, its scarcity, condition or beauty. Many natural history books have striking illustrations, including hand-colored engraved plates, color printed mezzotints that were seminal in the development of printing techniques, or simple line cuts that still presented important records of the subjects. But overall, botanical works seem to have held value and interest to a greater degree than others.


Are natural history books more available than in years past? What do you think may be contributing to this?

There are, in general, more books available for ready purchase than ever before, due to the global marketplace provided by the Internet, so this is true of natural history books, as well. But it still takes effort to locate the works of highest quality and importance, and in today’s transparent world, where a significant book is less likely to sneak onto a shelf in a bookstore with its true value unrevealed, one will likely have to pay a healthy price.

“Voyage to the South-Sea and Along the Coasts of Chili and Peru in the Years 1712, 1713, 1714, Particularly Describing the Genius and Constitution of the Inhabitants, as well as Indians and Spaniards: Their Customs and Manners, their Natural History, Mines, Commodities, Traffick with Europe &c.,” by Amedee Francois Frezier, Jonah Bowyer, 1717, London. Sold for $1,230 in April 2016 through PBA Galleries. PBA Galleries image.

In addition to condition, what factors weigh in to the value of natural history books?

One should start with the importance of a book in establishing our knowledge of how the natural world works. A prime example would be the works of Charles Darwin – in particular, On the Origin of Species, the appearance of which in 1859 sent shock waves through not only the scientific community, but through society in general. It is an example of a book whose value continues to grow, and premium copies regularly set price records.

Another reason for natural history books to have value is the illustrations. Beginning with simple woodcuts in the 15th century, illustrations kept pace with, and in many cases engendered, advances in printing, engraving and coloring. Not only are the subjects of the illustrations important, whether botanical, ornithological, or geologic, but the techniques used are very significant as well.

“The English Moths and Butterflies,” Benjamin Wilkes, Georg Dionysius, Ehret and Jacob van Huysum, 19th century, London. (Est. $12,000-$16,000 in a June 3, 2017 auction). Image by Arader Galleries.

What are two essential tips you would offer someone interested in collecting natural history books?

As with any collecting field, concentrate on what interests you. That will make it a pleasant task to acquire the knowledge necessary to form a meaningful collection. Do not collect for value, but for significance (value will follow). And when faced with the choice of purchasing a lesser copy at a bargain price, or a premium copy at a high price, choose the premium copy. Then when you look at the book on your shelf, you will be proud of the acquisition, whereas the lesser book would cause you to regret the money spent. And from a practical point of view, in today’s market, the premium book will become more valuable, while the cheap book will only become cheaper.

Bruce MacMakin is senior vice president of PBA Galleries in San Francisco. The son of a printer, MacMakin began his career in the book-auction trade at California Book Auction Galleries in 1978, fresh out of college. It was an unplanned diversion that has lasted 38 years and counting. In 1992, he became a founding member of Pacific Book Auction Galleries, now PBA Galleries. His areas of expertise range from early incunabula and rare manuscripts to hyper-modern fiction and The Wizard of Oz.

The Basics of Collecting Tribal Art

Tribal art appeals to many people, often for different reasons. Perhaps it is a historic or ancestral interest that fuels one’s fascination. Or perhaps it’s just the aesthetic appeal of tribal artworks that inspires a new collector to enter the field.

With interest in tribal art continuing to grow, and interesting pieces coming to auction regularly, opportunities to discover and acquire meaningful objects are definitely available. To help lay the framework for this fascinating subject, we turn to one of the foremost auction houses specializing in tribal art – Artemis Gallery in Boulder County, Colorado.

Bob Dodge and his wife, Teresa, co-founded and serve as joint executive directors of Artemis Gallery, one of the world’s most respected names in tribal and ethnographic art and antiquities. Bob graciously shared information about what constitutes tribal art and offered authoritative advice on how to start or expand on a collection.

Native American bird effigy bowl carved by the Mound Builder culture of North America from a single piece of stone, circa 500 to 1200 CE. Artemis Gallery image

What is your definition of tribal art?

To us, tribal art is the sum total of the visual arts of indigenous (sometimes referred to as ethnographic) peoples from around the globe.

How are tribal art and antiquities most often categorized? Is it by region or type of item? How can this knowledge aid potential collectors?

Tribal arts, like antiquities, are most commonly categorized according to region, however there are many other ways of categorizing them. Some more common ones can be material, purpose (mask, fetish, votive, offering, ceremonial, etc.), time period, or others. This can certainly aid a potential collector by putting items into meaningful and searchable groups.

Information is perhaps the single most important element of any collecting passion. So, having the ability to find information about legality, availability, value and authenticity can be critical.

What are some of the more common types of tribal art coming to auction, and what are  some of the rarest pieces you’ve handled?

By far the most common form of tribal art on the market would be African wooden masks and figures. By most estimates, I think you could find well over a million examples, with most of them having been created for the tourist trade. Some of the rarest – and at times the most macabre – items we have seen and handled include decorated human skulls created by tribal groups in the South Pacific, Maori jade Tiki figures, and early Australian aboriginal art and artifacts such as throwing sticks and boomerangs.

Circa mid-20th century carved wood figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kuba peoples. Artemis Gallery image

Are certain types of tribal art (bowls, figures, masks, etc.) more specific to a region of the world?

Yes, art by region can be pretty specific and pretty common. Masks from Africa, ancestor figures from Papua New Guinea, large bowls and vessels from the Amazonian tribes, decorated bowls from the American Southwest – all would be examples of regional art.

How has the tribal art market changed during recent years?

The Internet has been a major game-changer for the tribal art market, including the antiquities trade. Dealers in the past were pretty much able to set their own prices depending upon the wealth of their client base. The law of supply and demand was almost irrelevant, because nobody could track either side of the equation.

The Internet has allowed collectors to shop virtually worldwide and see what prices other dealers are asking, as well as easily look at prices realized by major and minor auction houses. The Internet has opened literally hundreds, if not thousands of sources for good material.

Face maskette made of dark greenstone with light green and russet striated inclusions, Pre-Columbian, Mexico, Guerro, Mezcala, circa 500 to 200 BCE. Artemis Gallery image

What would you say to a collector who is interested in acquiring tribal art but wonders about affordability?

A new collector of tribal art has so many options available to them that price should not be a deterrent. I am a collector of ancient art, first and foremost, and a dealer secondarily. I have been able to find wonderful buys at prices even below $100. If someone has a passion for the arts, money should not slow them down in the slightest.

How about potential collectors who may be concerned about legal disputes over rightful ownership of tribal items – what advice might you be able to share?

The laws of cultural patrimony are complicated and confusing. The basics are that if a cultural item has been in the U.S. for more than 20 years, the buyer and seller are safe. Any collector, new or old, should ask for specific information about when an item was acquired, and when it left its country of origin. Then, make sure that information is conveyed in writing on any sales transaction.

Pre-Columbian gilded gold mask, Sican-Chimu culture of North Coast Peru, circa 800-1000 CE. Artemis Gallery image

Can you please describe the TL testing process, and the important role the Artemis testing lab serves?

TL testing (thermoluminescence) is one of many tools available to determine the authenticity of an item that is ceramic or made of terracotta pottery. It takes tiny bits of the pottery, done by drilling very small holes into unobtrusive areas, and subjects the samples to an analysis that ascertains how much stored light radiation is in that object. We can then graph the amount of this stored energy to determine when the pottery item was last subjected to high heat, and therefore created. By developing a commercial lab here in the United States, we are able to help collectors and dealers alike in selling authentic objects with scientific analysis as the proof.

What are three items of advice you have for anyone who wishes to start a collection of tribal art?

  1. Be passionate about your collection. Buy what you love, not what you think makes a good investment.
  2. Be skeptical. Go into every transaction assuming the pieces may not be authentic and requires proof to the contrary. Believe the piece, not the story behind it. Stories can be faked, and often are, but the piece itself will usually lead you to the truth.
  3. Be diligent when amassing your collection. Record every aspect about each piece – especially its history, provenance and details of your purchase. That way you will have a solid record should you ever wish to sell, or should your family pick up the collecting bug.

How would you complete this sentence: Tribal art represents…

A way of connecting to peoples who are or were in many respects just like us, and yet, are or were simultaneously so very different. Tribal art expands our ability to appreciate others as well as ourselves.

About Artemis Gallery:

Since 1993, Bob and Teresa Dodge have headquartered their thriving global business at Artemis Gallery in Boulder, Colorado. They are known for their online auctions of highest-quality antiquities, ancient and ethnographic art, offering a 100% guarantee of authenticity and legality on each and every piece they sell. The company specializes in pottery, stone, metal, wood, glass and textile objects from South America, Central America and Mexico, as well as artifacts from Greece, Italy, Rome, Egypt, the Middle East, China, India, Japan and the South Pacific.

Fraktur: Americana with a German Accent

Fraktur (pronounced frahk-toor), in the simplest terms, is a distinctive letter style with origins in 16th-century Europe.

However, upon viewing examples of fraktur created by Pennsylvania Germans in the 18th and 19th centuries, “simple” is hardly fitting.

To better understand fraktur, which is seen by many as both a resplendent form of folk art and a remarkable record of many German-American colonial families, we turned to Patricia Earnest, owner of Earnest Archives and Library – a private library devoted to researching Pennsylvania German genealogy recorded in the form of fraktur.

What role does fraktur serve in history?

Fraktur is an Americanized “catch-all” term referring to the 18th and 19th-century decorated manuscripts of the Pennsylvania Germans. Taufschein (singular) or Taufscheine (plural) are the birth and baptismal records of the predominately Lutheran and German Reformed denominations. In terms of those that exist, Taufscheine dominate the fraktur field. Bookplates, religious texts, writing exercises, birth and baptismal certificates, confirmation certificates, bible records, and even pictures without writing, all fall under our broad definition of “fraktur.”

In Europe, the term fraktur refers to an archaic style of writing. Birth and baptisms were documented in the local church book so the reigning lord could track his subjects for taxation and conscription. In colonial America, many families purchased their Taufschein, which was usually drawn by a schoolmaster. It was a personal record, not an official document. After Taufscheine started to to be mass-produced on the printing press (after 1780), they became less expensive, which made them available to almost all German-speaking families. The artwork enhanced their appeal, prompting fraktur to be valued for many generations, even after the family could no longer read German. My mother used to say that the earlier fraktur represented the freedom and liberties that had not been available to them in Europe.

Birth fraktur by Jacob Crop(th), circa 1809, Daniel Wiessler, Rockingham Co., watercolor and ink on paper, with imagery featuring two parrots perched on a floral vine with tulips above the inscribed, 7 ¾” x 12 ¼”, commanded $26,950 at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates, June 18, 2016 auction.


Tip: The date shown on fraktur may not necessarily represent when it was made. Many Taufscheine were drawn, or data filled in on printed sheets, years after the child was born.


For someone interested in beginning a collection, what themes or similarities among fraktur could someone base a collection?

One of the most important reasons to collect might be the desire to document the history of a particular family. Others collect specific artists, motifs, geographical locations, or scriveners who created fraktur. One collector is known to pursue only fraktur that feature red as the predominant color. The possibilities for collecting extend as far as one’s imagination.


What type of clues can people look for to ascertain that a fraktur is authentic?

This advice could apply to anything being collected: Ask yourself, “is it too good to be true?” If so, stay away.

In the case of paper, know your paper. Check the paper type to see if it is consistent with the age of the piece. As an example, if an item is dated prior to 1785 or so, it should be on laid paper (ladders running through). Look at the paper coloring and condition. Sometimes, a faker might draw a picture on a piece of older paper, such as a ledger page. In that case, the paper is old but the artwork is not, so proceed carefully.

Many forgers may not know how to duplicate or read German fraktur lettering or script, so their handwriting looks forced or cramped. For that reason, many fakers recreate pictures, as opposed to forging an illustration with writing.


Tip: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (Wilmington, Delaware) recently held an exhibition that presented real and fake fraktur side by side. Collectors should take advantage of exhibits such as this one, and any other events where genuine fraktur are shown, to become familiar with the paper, ink, and all aspects of fraktur.


What do you appreciate most about fraktur and its presence in German-American history?

Ask three different people and you will get three different answers. I like looking at history through the eyes of our ancestors.

Can you imagine making that journey, saying goodbye to everyone you knew and loved, to set foot onto colonial shores, then experiencing a freedom never before known by Europeans from German-speaking areas? They sometimes faced awful conditions and poverty here, as they often arrived with nothing, but were so proud they bought these certificates as testaments of their family. In my mom’s case, she loved the genealogy on fraktur. Unlike our English counterparts, the mother’s maiden name was usually recorded. In that way, their histories can be followed.

Ink and watercolor on laid paper fraktur birth certificate by Johann Congrad Gilbert, for Eliesabeth Kunkel, dated 1815, Albany Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania. The central script flanked by two trumpeting male angels, 8” x 13 ¼”, sold for $56,182 at Pook & Pook, Inc., Nov. 11, 2011 auction.

Is there an example of fraktur that simply took your breath away when you saw it?

Too many have taken our breath away to be counted, but my particular favorite is one by Christian Mertel (1739-1802). I adore his lions.


The work your family has done over the decades to index various examples of fraktur has resulted in an impressive cache. It is from this index that you draw on the information that appear in the many references you and your parents have authored over the years, as well as the newsletter you regularly deploy, correct?

The archive contains over 40,000 fraktur. As each fraktur has approximately four or more surnames (child, parents, witnesses and preacher), the name index would be over 200,000. Additionally, we are trying to catalog examples of Pennsylvania German broadside printing. Yes, we use this archive for book and article ideas.

Shenandoah Valley of Virginia Taufschein fraktur attributed to Jacob Strikler, watercolor and ink on paper, circa 1806, Susanna Rothgeb Rockbridge, Co. Two Federal eagles with heart-shaped breast medallions, tulips, and a characteristic polychrome diamond border frame the central inscribed reserve, 7 5/8” x 12 ¼”. The document realized $31,200 at Jeffrey s. Evans & Associates, June 20, 2015 auction.

What does it mean to continue the valued work your parents began?

Everything. Mom and Dad embraced every aspect of the Pennsylvania German fraktur culture. I am more focused on printing by Pennsylvania Germans, which has largely been ignored by historians; although the German-language printers were an important part of America’s printing history.

I like being able to share these connections with other groups. For example, I just wrote about William Young, a Philadelphia printer and Delaware papermaker, who advertised the loss of a runaway family. The Janney family  had been indentured to work in Young’s Delaware Paper Mill. The Delaware Bibliophiles just published the article in their periodical, Endpapers. I like these connections between American subcultures, which are often made visible via the certificates and papers they left behind.

Patricia Earnest received her undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico. In 2005 she joined Russell D. Earnest Associates and the Earnest Archives and Library as an archivist, researcher, and writer. She is the lead author of The Hanging of Susanna Cox: The True Story of Pennsylvania’s Most Notorious Infanticide and the Legend That’s Kept It Alive (2010). She also authored Kids and Kin: The Family History Vacation That Involves Kids (1997). Patricia currently serves on the Board of the Children’s Theater in Dover, Delaware.


Russell and the late Corinne Earnest spent more than four decades recording and indexing Pennsylvania German genealogical data recorded on fraktur, and the elements that reside within this umbrella. The couple founded the Earnest Archives and Library, and later established the publishing firm Russell D. Earnest Associates. The firm publishes books and articles pertaining to fraktur, Taufscheine, Pennsylvania German broadsides, family registers, Bible records, family histories, and other documents. View the latest book by this firm, The Jungmann Woodblock Fraktur Artist and a Peek At Other Woodblock Artists, published in 2016, as well as many other related references here.

How to Care for Your Fine Watches and Timepieces

As Mick Jagger emoted in a 1964 Rolling Stones tune, “Time is on my side, yes it is.” Anyone with even a passing interest in fine watches can attest not only to the importance of time, but also the instruments that keep track of the minutes and hours with unfailing precision.

As with most things that are functional, especially scientific or technological items, careful use and proper maintenance are often at the center of longevity and quality of service.

The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWCI) offers these basic guidelines to follow in caring for timepieces, which Jordan shared with us:

  • Wind completely once a day, making sure the winding action does not result in the crown reaching the point of being taut.
  • Wear the watch regularly, not only because it gives you the opportunity to enjoy a timepiece in which you have invested, but also because a constant temperature is conducive to accurate timekeeping.

Consistency of temperature leads to one of the first things the AWCI warns watch owners about:

  • Avoid exposing watches to extreme temperatures. This kind of shift in temperatures can compromise the timekeeping device.
  • Make sure watches are not placed within close proximity to perfumes, powders, or chemicals.
  • Don’t let more than five years pass before taking watches to a certified watchmaker (many of whom can be found through the AWCI directory) for maintenance. Just like with an automobile, maintenance is a mainstay in preventing costly negative impact.

Men’s stainless steel, quick set, diamond dial with a diamond and sapphire bezel. Entered in Jasper 52 auction Feb. 12, 2017. Estimate: $9,000-$11,000. Jasper52 image

To learn more about the care of wristwatches, we reached out to Jordan Ficklin, who serves as executive director of the AWCI.

Jasper52: The AWCI recommends tune-ups for timepieces. What is involved in a tune-up of a watch and what is the cost someone could expect to pay for a tune-up?

Jordan Ficklin: Fine timepieces are machines. They have components that can wear out. They require a clean, dry environment with proper lubrication. In order to ensure proper functioning, they need periodic maintenance. For modern mechanical wristwatches, the recommended service interval varies by manufacturer; but typically ranges between three and seven years. During a routine service, the watch is completely disassembled. The case is refurbished, and the gaskets are replaced to ensure continued protection of the movement. The movement (works) of the watch is also disassembled. Each component is checked for damage, cleaned, and reinstalled with fresh lubrication. It is a very delicate and time-consuming process. Prices can vary greatly based on many factors. For a Rolex, you could expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 for a service.

What advice would you offer regarding replacement of batteries?

Replacing batteries is not difficult, but even inexpensive quartz watches are quite fragile. Simply touching the wrong part of the watch can cause permanent damage. It is best to have a trained professional replace the battery in your watch. At the same time they change the battery they should also check and/or replace gaskets and test the water resistance of the watch.

Vermeil ivory dial tank watch, Cartier, circa 1980s. Entered in Jasper52 auction Feb. 12, 2017. Estimate: $1,500-$2,000. Jasper52 image

Since there isn’t a regulatory body for watchmakers, what are some of the considerations when selecting a professional to service a fine timepiece?

You can ask your watchmaker where he learned the art. Thirty years ago there were many watchmaking schools, but today there are fewer than a dozen operating in the United States. Being self-taught or not having apprenticed under a master doesn’t disqualify a potential watchmaker, but you will certainly want to learn more about their skill set.

More important than training or certification is the attitude of your watchmaker toward the profession. If you are able, you should take the time to meet the watchmaker. Don’t take up too much of his/her time, because they are busy – if they aren’t, they’re probably not the best in town. Find out how the watchmaker feels about the job, their attitude toward spare parts, tools, and continuing education. If you want a good watchmaker, you need one who loves what they do.

Insider Tip: Specific brands of watches require special tools to adjust timing, test for water resistance, and open the case back.

Can any watch problem be fixed, such as not keeping time accurately?

Watchmakers aren’t miracle workers. Your grandmother’s Bulova watch that was unadjusted when it left the factory will not keep perfect time unless your watchmaker adjusts it. This requires a lot of work and the watch probably isn’t worth it. But if your watch is a chronometer, you should expect it to keep time within its set specifications. Ask your watchmaker what their expectations are for the timekeeping of your watch and make sure they match your expectations. If your expectations are in line with the factory specifications, there should be no problem. If your expectations are higher than the factory specifications, a good watchmaker might charge you more for the necessary time to make the watch meet your expectations. Or, they may tell you that your expectations are out of line.

Ladies 18K white gold watch, Elgin, 1921. Entered in Jasper52 auction Feb. 12, 2017. Estimate: $550-$800

Watch repair can get expensive. Why is that?

Watchmaking is very labor-intensive and detailed work. You should expect to pay a good price for it. Remember, a watchmaker probably can’t do more than two complete watch services in a day. In terms of a warranty, the major brand service centers are now offering a two-year warranty on their repair work. Your watchmaker should match that warranty. For other watches you should expect six months to a year.

If you were to explain what it is about horology that you find so appealing, what would you say?

From the time I first was exposed to mechanical timepieces I was in love with the artistry and engineering. Starting with the ticking of the timepiece and then the regular motion of the gears, they are beautiful to watch. Trying to figure out how they work and troubleshooting problems adds to my enjoyment. I have found watchmaking to be an extremely rewarding career. I can start my day with a cherished but broken timepiece on my bench, and by the end of the day I have restored it to its former glory. When I return it to the customer, they are overjoyed to have it back in their life.

Jordan Ficklin is the executive director of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. He began his watchmaking journey in 2001, working at an independently owned jewelry store in Tucson, Arizona. He attended the Lititz Watch Technicum from 2004-2006 where he graduated with a WOSTEP Diploma and AWCI CW21. From 2006-2013 he worked as a watchmaker in a retail jewelry store in Albuquerque, N.M., and served on various committees at the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. In 2013, he was hired as the executive director of AWCI, where he now works full time promoting the professions of watchmaking and clockmaking.

How to Care for Japanese Woodblock Prints

The beauty of Japanese woodblock prints seems to transcend time and space. However, without conscientious care, time and the locations where the prints are displayed can be unkind to these exquisite depictions of Japanese culture.

To gain experienced insight about care, display and storage of Japanese woodblock prints, we turned to Roni Neuer, co-founder of Ronin Art Gallery, New York, NY.

Safe and Savvy Approach to Limiting Light Exposure

“Dainan Gate in Mukden,” Hiroshima Yoshida, circa 1937, est. $900-$1,400. Jasper52 image

As with any work of art on paper, prolonged exposure to sunlight can be damaging to Japanese woodblock prints, Neuer explained. In fact, exposure to any type of light over extended periods of time can do more harm than good. The light causes fading, especially with pre-20th-century prints (Edo period) that often were made with vegetable dyes.

Before giving serious consideration to removing prints and opting for mass storage, Neuer is quick to point out the purpose of art, and therefore the importance of conscientious care.

“To me, the function of art is to bring a little enjoyment to life. Because of the nature of art, and our role as its stewards, we must be mindful of how we care for it, how we hang it, and where we place it.”

With that in mind, Neuer recommends the following measures:

  1. Research potential framers and ask questions.
  2. Ensure framing of Japanese woodblock prints includes glass with a UV filter (conservation glass).
  3. Confirm the use of acid-free or archival materials in matting.
  4. If hinges or tape are used, ensure that they are acid-free and used sparingly.

“Emperor Cranes,” Ohara Koson, circa 1930s, est. $750-$1,000. Jasper52 image

Another essential recommendation Neuer shares with clients is to add the date the print was framed, and every five years replace the frame glass.

“The technology and science of archiving changes, with new processes and better materials,” Neuer explained. “You may have had it framed properly 20 years ago, but in that time it’s lost a lot of protective properties.”

An example of the significant impact of extensive exposure to sunlight is shown below. Two examples of the same Hiroshige woodblock print are shown side by side, with the example on the right obviously faded, due to extensive exposure to sunlight.

Side-by-side views of Hiroshige’s “Plum Garden at Kameido,” showing a perfect example of the print and another that has faded due to exposure to sunlight. Courtesy of Ronin Art Gallery

“Fading and the browning process happens gradually,” said Neuer, who often uses the example of a print with green mountains, which due to extensive exposure to light, was suddenly a print with mountains that had turned blue. “You don’t see it happening, until it’s happened.”

Savvy Storage Practices

Just as in displaying and framing prints, acid-free is a term that must be kept in mind when storing Japanese woodblock prints. Archival (acid-free) papers and folders, and archival boxes help create a protective haven for prints. Cotton rag Japanese-style paper is also used. These types of materials are available through reputable frame shops, art supply stores, and online.

Conscientious care is an integral part of an investment in, and long-term enjoyment of, Japanese woodblock prints. When preservation isn’t kept in mind from the very beginning of one’s ownership of a print, a treasured artwork can be irreversibly ruined – and that’s never an option.

Roni Neuer is one of America’s foremost experts on the subject of 17th- through 21st-century Japanese prints. She co-founded the Ronin Gallery in 1975, with Herbert Libertson. She is the author of more than 40 exhibition catalogs and Ukiyo-e: 250 Years of Japanese Art, a 500-page history of Japanese prints.

Click here to view this week’s auction of Japanese woodblock prints.

How To Care For, Store, and Display Oriental Rugs Like a Pro

Do you believe in the magic of Oriental rugs? The idea that magical properties exist within these ornate rugs may seem absurd. However, consider how a rug on a wood floor can transform a simple room in a house into a haven. Or, how a proudly displayed Oriental rug has the ability to generate discussion, inspire dreams, and prompt reflection of the past.

With proper and consistent care and preservation, Oriental wool rugs can and will provide years of enjoyment, and that in itself is a bit of magic. The question then becomes how should rugs be cared for to ensure their longevity and beauty? For expert insight we turned to A.E. “Tad” Runge Jr., owner of A.E. Runge Oriental Rugs, located in Yarmouth, Maine. Runge has more than four decades of experience buying and selling, studying and assessing Oriental rugs, and lecturing about their history and care.

Tad Runge cutting pad for a rug Photo courtesy A.E. Runge Oriental Rugs

Tad Runge cutting pad for a rug. Photo courtesy A.E. Runge Oriental Rugs

The Oriental rug market has undergone changes in the 30 years since Runge began working in the business full time. However, some things remain unchanged, including the practical and proper measures that preserve Oriental rugs, Runge said.

“I’ve loved textile arts for years, and I’ve been blessed to have wonderful customers who also love textile art,” he said.

Celebrate your love of textile art with vigilance

When asked the best approach to caring for Oriental rugs, Runge’s response is clear: “Be vigilant. Give them a little attention.” Without it, a sneaky and damaging group of critters will be more than happy to cozy up to those rugs, notably the dreaded wool moth.

Wool moths are the most likely invaders of rugs, Runge explained. The wool moth, not be confused with the meal moth, is about the size of the fingernail of a pinkie finger and buckwheat in color. “They avoid light at all costs, unlike most moths that are drawn to light,” Runge said. “You can’t catch them by shining a light, they hide. The most likely place an infestation will occur is an underutilized space, like the edges of a rug or the back.”

A rug damaged by wool moths. Photo courtesy A.E. Runge Oriental Rugs

A rug damaged by wool moths. Photo courtesy A.E. Runge Oriental Rugs

Tip #1: Make sure to regularly “disturb” areas that wool moths are most likely to occupy. This means vacuuming the front, or face, of a rug at least monthly, and more often depending on traffic. In addition, taking the vacuum to the back of a rug a couple times a year is highly recommended.

In the event wool moths have taken up residency in a rug, telltale signs include spaces of wool missing on the rug, small holes, and the appearance of small white larvae. At this point, in order to dispose of the intruders, remove the rug from the home or business. Do an in-depth inspection of other rugs and woolen items in the area. Then take the rug and any other affected textiles to someone who washes rugs professionally.

Tip #2: Shampooing an Oriental rug is not the same as washing one. The process of shampooing leaves a soapy residue that not only dulls the rug, but compromises the wool fibers. The proper process for washing an Oriental rug should include significant use of water, Runge said.

Tabriz rug, 1980, wool, 6 feet 8 inches x 9 feet 7 inches. Sold for $460. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers/Jasper52

Tabriz rug, 1980, wool, 6 feet 8 inches x 9 feet 7 inches. Sold for $460. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers/Jasper52

Beat rugs today for a better tomorrow

When it comes to preserving Oriental rugs, incorporating a regular schedule of “beatings” ranks near the top, according to Runge.

“Oriental rugs are particularly good at trapping dirt,” said Runge, whose great-grandfather was also in the business of buying and selling rugs in the late 19th century. “That trapped dirt is what wears the rug out. The dirt cuts the wool fibers when there is traffic on the rug.”

The act of “beating”an Oriental rug is as simple as 1-2-3, and doesn’t exactly mirror the rug-beating technique of the past. First, take the rug outdoors and lay it on a clean, dry surface, Runge said. Flip it so the back of the rug is facing up, and vacuum multiple times. Then turn the rug over and vacuum the front and, again, repeat the process. This is the modern approach to beating a rug.

Tip #3: When beating the front of a rug, stick to the standard process of vacuuming. While the array of attachments that are standard with many models may be helpful in cleaning wall-to-wall carpeting, they can do more harm than good when used on Oriental rugs.

Vintage Shiraz tribal geometric Oriental rug, 5. 7 x 8.6 feet. Sold for $240

Vintage Shiraz tribal geometric Oriental rug, 5. 7 x 8.6 feet. Sold for $240. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers/Jasper52

Protect with padding and casters

Adding padding beneath rugs can serve double duty. In addition to preventing slippage, padding helps create a more structured base for a rug that bears the weight of furniture and regular foot traffic. Placing casters on the bottom of furniture legs and periodically moving furniture helps limit wear, Runge said.

When it comes to selecting the right pad, density and natural fiber are two qualities to keep in mind. “There is a broad range of pads, and in many cases the cheaper the pad, the poorer the pad,” Runge said. “A poor pad often will turn to powder. Good pads should last 10 to 15 years.”


Treating Oriental rugs as a respected item of textile art — truly functional art — will help ensure a light-on-dirt and moth-free existence for the rug and years of appreciation for you.

Find exceptional antique rugs in this week’s Jasper52 rug auction.

tad-rungeTad Runge is owner of A.E. Runge Oriental Rugs in Yarmouth, Maine. He’s been buying and selling Oriental rugs since the 1970s, when dealing helped to pay for his college tuition. He lectures on the subject of Oriental rugs and authored the book “One Woman, One Weft.” Tad said if he could speak with his late great-grandfather and fellow rug merchant, Edward Runge, his wish would be to hear all about his rug-buying travels and the people he bought from.


5 Artists Every Japanese Woodblock Print Collector Should Know

What influences and inspires greatness? Depending on the modality, it can be genetic, environmental, scientific, and perhaps social. When speaking of the five Japanese woodblock artists capturing significant interest from today’s collectors, many appear to share a few key commonalities. These artists are Haruyo Morita, Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa (Ando) Hiroshige, Kitagawa Utamaro, and Ohara Koson.

In comparing them, their artistic abilities were identified at a young age, and in most cases, encouraged. They studied with master artists of varying practices early in life. Several of them changed their names during their lifetime, as a means of showing respect for their teachers or indicating their evolution as an artist. Several of the ukiyo-e artists who created prints in the 19th and early 20th centuries also designed illustrations reflective of two conflicts (the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars).

Although the influence from conflict of war is a departure from the origins of the ukiyo-e style of art, which largely depicted scenes of kabuki performances, actors, natural vistas, and women, it is representative of ukiyo-e artistry as a reflection of life and culture of Japan’s Edo period (1615-1868).

Let’s take a closer look at these five popular artists.

Geisha with Warrior Holding Samurai Sword, Serigraph. Sold for $275. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

Geisha with Warrior Holding Samurai Sword, Serigraph, by artist Haruyo Morita. Sold for $275. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

Haruyo Morita is the “youngster” of the group. Born in 1945 she is said to bring a “contemporary approach to traditional ukiyo-e woodblock art.” A student of Master Husuki, she received her first award for artwork at the age of 17. Her professional experience included working as a kimino painter and designer, in addition to being a creator of woodblock prints. Currently residing in Korora, Australia, her work is available in various forms including prints, jigsaw puzzles and calendars.


The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, 1820s. Sold for $800. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, by artist Katsushika Hokusai. Recut Showa era edition published by Watanabe. Sold for $800. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) is said to have began his artistic endeavors at the age of six. By the time he turned 12, his father sent him to work in a bookshop and serve as an apprentice to a wood carver. This piqued an interest that evolved into many artistic forms during his lifetime. By the age of 18, he was studying under master ukiyo-e artist Katsukawa Shunshō, and by the time he was 19, his first prints were published. His earliest work was a series of prints featuring kabuki actors. He published these works under the name Shunshō. This was the first of an estimated 30 names he used during his professional career. Having knowledge of the various names he used, and the time periods, can be very helpful when authenticating and acquiring prints by Hokusai.

Hokusai’s work is also cited as an influence for artists including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassatt, and Claude Monet, among others. It is said that Monet was introduced to Hokusai’s work during the Exposition Universelle in 1867. Ukiyo-e prints, including examples by Hokusai were part of the display in the Japan Pavilion.
Quickly becoming a fan of Japanese prints, Monet reportedly had at least 20 prints by Hokusai in his personal collection.


Kinryuzan Temple, Asakusa (Lantern at Thunder Gate), 19th century. Sold for $190. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

Kinryuzan Temple, Asakusa (Lantern at Thunder Gate), by Utagawa Hiroshige. Recut Showa era edition published by Watanabe. Sold for $190. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

Utagawa (Ando) Hiroshige was born Andō Tokutarō in 1797 in Edo (now Tokyo), Japan. After becoming an orphan at the age of 13, he began studying with revered artist Utagawa Toyohiro, and at the age of 15, he changed his name to Utagawa Hiroshige. He is best known for his impressive series of landscape woodblock prints. Among his most notable works: “Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji,” circa 1831; “The 55 Stations of the Tokaido,” circa 1833-34; “Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kiso Road,” circa 1835; and “One Hundred Views of Edo”, circa 1856. He finished “Views of Edo” just two years prior to his death from cholera. Similar to Hokusai, Hiroshige’s artwork appealed to fellow revered artists, including Van Gogh.


Women Sewing, Triptych, by Kitagawa Utamaro, late 18th century. Sold for $280. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

Women Sewing, Triptych, by Kitagawa Utamaro. Recut Showa era edition published by Tanseisha. Sold for $280. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

Kitagawa Utamaro (1750-circa 1806) is a bit of a mystery, as fewer facts about his life are known. He, too, began studying under a master painter, Toriyama Seiken, at a young age. It’s believed Utamaro’s first professional work, the cover of a kabuki playbook, was published when he was in his early 20s. He is recognized as one of the first ukiyo-e artists to create woodblock prints featuring sensual figures of women, rather than groups, which was the norm. Another note of achievement was his development of a technique that produced more realistic flesh tones on subjects in prints.


Cat Watching a Goldfish, 10½ by 15½ inches. Sold for $440. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

Cat Watching a Goldfish, 10½ by 15½ inches. Posthumous Showa era edition published by Watanabe. Sold for $440. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

Ohara Koson was born Ohara Matao in 1877 in Kanazawa, the capital of what is now Japan’s Honshu Island. He too studied under a noted master artist, Suzuki Koson, whose name he adopted as his professional moniker. He also used the names Shoson and Hoson. Professionally he was most recognized for his printmaking work in the kacho-e style. This refers to prints featuring birds and flowers. He also spent many years teaching at the Tokyo School of Fine Art, before his death in 1945. As was the case with many similar Japanese artists, much of Koson’s woodblock prints were exported to the United States and Europe.

The invention and expanded use of photography largely replaced woodblock prints as a means of illustration. However, Japanese woodblock prints and the artist printmakers who introduced the world to some of the characters and experiences of Japanese culture through their art, continue to resonate with collectors and historians on a global level.

Sources: The Metropolitan Museum of Art;
Minneapolis Institute of Arts;;;;;;

View this week’s Japanese Woodblock Print auction and register to bid here.

A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Fabergé Pendant Eggs

Fabergé’s miniature pendant eggs are an exceedingly enjoyable area to collect. In what other area can you purchase a Fabergé egg that you can also wear everyday?

Perhaps no country is better known for its Easter eggs than Russia. From the jeweled creations of Fabergé to humble woodcarvings, the holiday could not be celebrated without the decoration and exchange of numerous eggs. With the tradition dating back to the 15th century, by the 1890s wealthy families presented each other with precious miniature eggs each year. Eggs could be decorated with symbols of the season, family professions, or love tokens. Strung on gold necklaces, a lady might have multiple necklaces by her later years.

Jeweled pendant eggs can range from affordable to quite expensive, so where should a novice collector begin? Read on for 5 key tips to beginning your Fabergé pendant egg collection.

1. It’s important to begin with an established and trustworthy seller who is willing to guarantee authenticity.

Fabergé gold-mounted carved purpurine miniature pendant egg, St Petersburg, circa 1908-1917. Lot 109. Estimate: $8,500-12,000

Fabergé gold-mounted carved purpurine miniature pendant egg, St Petersburg, circa 1908-1917

2. Consider the materials you prefer: the translucent guilloché enamels for which Fabergé is famed or a more unusual material like the matte purpurine, a rare and unusual glass that is so opaque it resembles a carved hardstone. Do you want an egg with an elephant or clover, symbols of good luck, or perhaps your birthstone? Eggs are available in every style and color, and designs can be surprisingly modern.

A Fabergé amethyst and gilded silver miniature pendant Easter egg, St. Petersburg, circa 1898-1908. Lot 98. Estimate: $4,000-6,000

A Fabergé amethyst and gilded silver miniature pendant Easter egg, St. Petersburg, circa 1898-1908

3. Examine the egg or photos of the egg carefully. It should show some signs of wear. When strung together on a necklace, the eggs often bumped into one another and tiny chips or bumps can appear on enamel surfaces. Large areas of loss and repair negatively impact price while an important provenance will increase it. The Red Cross egg (featured below) has a small area of discoloration that is fairly common with enameled eggs, and the estimate reflects the tiny bit of wear as well as the desirability of the subject matter.

A Fabergé gold and guilloché enamel miniature pendant Easter egg, workmaster Andrei Adler, St Petersburg, circa 1900. Lot 105. Estimate: $2,500-4,500

A Fabergé gold and guilloché enamel miniature pendant Easter egg, workmaster Andrei Adler, St Petersburg, circa 1900

4. Spend a little time familiarizing yourself with Russian hallmarks. Pendant eggs are mostly constructed on a frame of gold and are marked on the bale, the small suspension ring from which they can be attached to a necklace or bracelet. The bale is a small space for the relatively large maker’s marks and hallmarks, especially if we compare them to the diminutive marks used in France! Russian jewelers stamped items with the numbers 56 (equivalent to 14K) or 72 (equivalent to 18K).

Detail of the 56 mark (equivalent to 14K). Lot 109.

Detail of the 56 mark (equivalent to 14K)

5. If your budget doesn’t extend to a Fabergé pendant Easter egg, consider buying a Russian pendant Easter egg. Prices are significantly cheaper and the pendants can be just as lovely, if a bit less complex.

A Russian gem-set gold pendant egg, circa 1900. Lot 107. Estimate: $1,500-2,500

A Russian gem-set gold pendant egg, circa 1900

This week’s Fine & Decorative Arts Auction features beautiful Fabergé style pendant eggs. Take a look here!

Written by Karen Kettering, Vice President at John Atzbach Antiques in Redmond, Washington.