5 Masters of the Whodunit

In today’s world of entertainment, where it seems “pushing the envelope” is an ingredient to success, innovative mysteries of the past penned by literary pioneers remain timeless in their appeal.

In the simplest terms, mystery fiction literature often involves a telling of the circumstances involving individuals, duos, or a team examining the who, what, and why, to solve a perplexing crime – often a murder. The word “mystery” comes from the Latin word mysterium defined as “a secret thing,” and stories within mystery literature are often described as “whodunits.”

Mystery fiction has captured the imaginations of generations of readers. Let’s review the biographies of five writers whose work transcends time.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was born in Boston to a pair of traveling actors, but orphaned by the age of three. He and his siblings were separated, with Poe going to live with an influential tobacco merchant and his wife. His time studying at the University of Virginia was challenging, and Poe reportedly took to gambling in an effort to pay his tuition and expenses. Ultimately, he dropped out of school. however, it didn’t dissuade Poe from following his dreams of becoming a writer, and at the age of 18, he published his first book Tamerlane. After winning a writing contest and establishing connections within the industry, he began work at the “Southern Literary Messenger” in an editorial capacity. He saw a bit of success with the Messenger, especially for his short stories and reviews, but he continued to struggle financially.

It was during this time in his late 20s that Poe married his 13-year-old cousin. It was one of several scandals that marked his four decades of life. It was also during this time that he crafted what would become the work considered by many to be the first example of the mystery and detective genre, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

“The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” was a short story published in 1841 in the pages of Graham’s Magazine. The primary character of this fictional work is C. Auguste Dupin, who was an amateur detective.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Tudor Publishing, 1939. Early reprint edition with the Clarke illustrations. Illustrated with eight tipped in color plates and twenty-four black & white plates $100-$150. Jasper52 image

In 1845, just four years before his death, Poe achieved national fame with the publication of The Raven. A year later, his wife died of tuberculosis, reportedly leaving Poe in no state to write for many months. While he ultimately returned to giving lectures, and sought to find support for a magazine he wanted to create, Poe lived just two years following the death of his wife and died at the age of 40. The cause of his death is unconfirmed and remains a mystery.

 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) was born Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle in Scotland to an artist father and a mother who reportedly excelled at storytelling. She was a consistent source of encouragement in Doyle’s early years. These sentiments are representative throughout Doyle’s autobiography. Among the author’s observations about his mother, he writes, “In my early childhood, as far as I can remember anything at all, the vivid stories she would tell me stand out so clearly that they obscure real facts of my life.”

With his father’s reported alcoholism regularly disrupting the family structure, other family members made it possible for Doyle to attend a boarding school in England. Following completion of his general studies, Doyle went on to study medicine, while also enjoying his other live: writing. For decades he pursued dual careers as both a physician and author.

Beeton’s Christmas Annual, London: Ward, Lock and Co., 1887, contains “A Study in Scarlet,” with other works, sold for $156,000 through Sotheby’s in 2007. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

In 1887, he introduced the character for which he would become best known: Sherlock Holmes. His novel A Study in Scarlet, featuring the first appearance of the legendary crime-solving duo of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. During his career, Doyle reportedly wrote hundreds of works, including short stories, novels, plays, and commentaries. Although his mystery writing attracted the greatest attention, he also wrote about war and military history, political mindsets and spiritualism (another of his interests). He was married twice, father to five children, volunteered for military service during the Boer War, and ran for a political post in Central Edinburgh, albeit unsuccessfully.

 

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in southwest England. Her upbringing mirrored that of Doyle’s in that Christie’s mother was also reportedly an excellent storyteller, and the two enjoyed a close relationship. Her father oversaw the academic instruction for Christie, teaching her at home. It is said that Christie taught herself to read at the age of five. At age 11, Christie suffered a great loss with the unexpected loss of her father.

Late in her teens, Christie began writing short stories. At age 22, she met Archie Christie, an aviator with the Royal Flying Corps, whom she would marry in 1914. During World War I, Agatha worked with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in a Red Cross hospital in her hometown of Torquay. Her work at the hospital would lend itself nicely to her cultivation of classic mysteries. In her debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, she called on knowledge she acquired while working in the hospital’s dispensary to describe the poison used by the murderer in the story. Her description of the poison and its use in her novel earned her accolades from the Pharmaceutical Journal – a unique honor for a writer.

First edition short story collection Poirot Investigates, 1924, with dust jacket featuring drawing of main character detective Hercule Poirot, sold for $48,430 during a 2012 auction presented by the U.K’s Dominic Winter auction house. Image courtesy Dominic Winter

Her debut novel also introduced one of the characters from which Christie’s success would bloom: Detective Hercule Poirot. It was during this period of mid-to-late 1920s that Christie gave birth to a daughter, saw the collapse of her marriage, and suffered mental health challenges, but she continued writing. This resulted in the creation of another of her famous fictional sleuths: Miss Jane Marple. In the 1930s, Christie traveled aboard the Orient Express, and while in the Middle East she met the man who would become her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan.

Christie is credited with writing 66 mystery novels, including The Mystery of the Blue TrainMurder on the Orient Express, and Appointment with Death, and 150 short stories and plays. Many of these works were adapted into films and television programs. She was affectionately and commonly referred to as the Queen of Crime.

 

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) was born Raymond Thornton Chandler in Chicago, Illinois. Like Doyle and Christie, Chandler’s early life involved a lot of time spent with his mother. Following his parent’s divorce, seven-year-old Raymond and his mother relocated to England, where he attended school. Later, he studied international law and business before diving into a career as a journalist. By the time he was 24, his short story The Rose-Leaf Romance and 27 poems had been published. In 1912, he returned to the United States.

Resettled in his home country, he worked several jobs including stringing tennis rackets and keeping the books for a creamery business. This changed in 1917 when Chandler took up arms on the front lines during World War I. Following the war, he wed a woman 18 years his senior, and for a time, life went well. With the onset of the Great Depression, his wife’s health began to suffer, and Chandler reportedly turned to alcohol. In 1932, after losing his job as a bookkeeper for an oil syndicate, he returned to writing, and a year later, his first short story appeared in the popular pulp magazine Black Mask.

First edition, presentation copy of “The Long Goodbye,” inscribed by author Raymond Chandler on the front free endpaper, dated June 22, 1954. It is one of nine lots of novels written by Chandler featured in Heritage Auctions’ Sept. 14 auction. Image courtesy Heritage Auctions

As the 1930s ended, his first novel The Big Sleep was published, quickly followed by Farewell, My Lovely and The High Window. These books gave rise to his prolific fictional character, detective Philip Marlowe.

Like his fellow iconic mystery writers Doyle and Christie, some of the seven novels he wrote became films. He took his connection with Hollywood one step further, using his writing chops to create screenplays. His script “Double Indemnity,” co-written with Billy Wilder, and his solo screenplay for “The Blue Dahlia” earned him Academy Award nominations.

 

Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) was born in Massachusetts and grew up in California, where he graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1909. He enrolled in law school in Indiana, but was suspended after one month, reportedly for organizing illegal boxing matches. However, he did continue to learn about the legal system while working as a typist at a law firm. With no formal college or law school education, he sat for and passed the bar exam in 1911 and began practicing law. To supplement his income, he turned to writing and created a following for himself in pulp magazines. Like his contemporary, Raymond Chandler, his work appeared in the pages of Black Mask.

First edition, first printing, signed and inscribed by Gardner, 1933, sold for $1,875 during a 2012 auction through Heritage Auctions. Image courtesy Heritage Auctions

After his successful run in the pulp magazine world, he introduced his best-known character, attorney Perry Mason. Gardner’s 1933 novel The Case of the Velvet Claws was the setting for the first appearance of the subtle but razor-sharp Mason. However, many readers who never read any of Gardner’s novels became aware of Perry Mason in the pages of the Saturday Evening Post. Beginning in the 1950s, many of Gardner’s novels appeared in the magazine before being published as bound books.

During his lifetime, Gardner penned more than 110 short stories, more than 100 novels, and about 15 collections. Several films and radio programs, and a couple comic books are attributed to him.

 

A glimpse into the lives of these early visionaries of the mystery genre reveals some humbling similarities. Yet, the unique approach taken by each of the authors undoubtedly helped blaze the trail for a genre of literature that continues to captivate readers and book collectors alike.

5 Midwestern Companies That Changed the Art Pottery Game

American art pottery’s “golden era” started in the late 1880s and ran through the late 1920s. Today, decorative pottery from that period is highly sought after by collectors.

The movement began in Ohio and quickly spread across the country, spurred by a burgeoning middle class. In a matter of two decades, what had started as a “handmade” industry grew into a mechanized one and ultimately a big industry of national importance.

Ohio boasts the “big three” of american art potteries, which we profile below along with two additional Midwest potteries of importance. Remarkably, two of these potteries are still in operation, more than century after they were founded.

The best of what was produced during the golden era is now priced beyond reach of casual collectors, but production of less-expensive lines was substantial, so there’s plenty of choice for the budget-minded collector, too.

Let’s take a look at five Midwestern pottery companies whose wares are collector favorites.

Rookwood Pottery

Native Americans were often depicted on Rookwood Standard glaze vases. This 13-inch vase dated 1900 was decorated by Grace Young, who also taught portraiture at the Cincinnati Art Academy. This rare vase sold for $29,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2013. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Humler & Nolan

Rookwood Pottery Co., is considered by many to be the Cadillac of American art pottery. Maria Longworth Nichols Storer, a daughter of a prominent Cincinnati family, founded the company in 1879. She hired skilled ceramic workers and top decorators who developed many lines of superior art pottery.

Standard, one of Rookwood’s early lines, was often imitated by competitors. It was a brown ware decorated with underglaze slip-painted nature studies, animals and portraits.

Rookwood also produced pottery in the Japonism trend, after Storer invited Japanese artist Kitaro Shirayamadani to come to Cincinnati in 1887 to work for the company.

In 1894, Rookwood introduced three glazes, Iris, a clear colorless glaze; Sea Green, clear with a green tint; and Aerial Blue, clear with a blue tint. The latter glaze was produced for just one year, but Vellum and Sea Green glazes were used for more than a decade.

Vellum, introduced in 1904, presented a matte surface but through which could be seen the slightly frosted-appearing decoration beneath. It was widely used on scenic plaques, which were framed.

Many of the early artware lines were signed by the artist.

Soon after the turn of the 20th century, Rookwood began manufacturing production pieces that relied mainly on molded designs and forms rather than freehand decoration.

In 1902, Rookwood expanded into architectural pottery. Under the direction of William Watts Taylor, this division rapidly gained national and international acclaim. Rookwood tiles were used to create fireplace surrounds in many homes, and on a grander scale, were used in mansions, hotels and public places.

Following a prosperous decade in the 1920s, the company was hit hard by the Great Depression. Art pottery became a low priority for consumers, and architects could no longer afford Rookwood tiles. Rookwood filed for bankruptcy in 1941 and struggled through ownership changes. Herschede Clock Co., purchased Rookwood n 1959 and moved production to Starkville, Mississippi. Production ceased there in 1967.

A physician and Rookwood collector in Michigan owned the company’s assets for many years. In 2006, new ownership revived the company in Cincinnati. Since then it has been producing ceramic pieces, including architectural tile, using Rookwood’s original designs. Some of the pieces are identical, using molds and formulas from the company’s archives; others are new works. Like old Rookwood pottery, all pieces are marked and dated.

 

Weller Pottery

Frenchman Jacques Sicard developed a metallic glaze at Weller Pottery, which led to the short-lived Sicard line. This 32-inch-tall sand jar, possibly from the Weller Theater in Zanesville, Ohio, sold for $14,000 plus buyer’s premium in October 2011. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Rago Arts and Auction Center.

Weller Pottery had a humble beginning, starting out in 1872 in a small cabin with a single beehive kiln in Fultonham, Ohio. In 1882, founder Samuel Augustus Weller (1851-1925) moved the operation to Zanesville, where he recruited many of the foremost names in the business.

Having seen William Long’s Lonhuda ware at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Weller hired Lonhuda to produce faience-glazed pottery. When Long left after less than a year, Weller renamed the tin-glazed pottery line Louwelsa after his young daughter Louisa. It was made in at least 500 different shapes until 1924.

Weller expanded the company’s art pottery offerings around the turn of the century. From 1895-1904, Charles Babcock Upjohn was Weller’s head designer. He developed many fine artware lines, including Dickens Ware, Eocean and Aurelian.

One of the most famous lines was Dickens Ware II, introduced in 1900. The pieces were sgraffito-decorated with animals, golfers, monks, Indians and scenes from Charles Dickens novels on backgrounds that had characteristically caramel shading to turquoise matte.

In 1903 and 1904, Frederick H. Rhead worked at Weller pottery, developing a Japanese-influenced line whose pieces were decorated with Geisha girls, landscapes and birds. Rhead employed a unique look by applying heavy “slip” through the tiny nozzle of a squeeze bag.

From 1902-1907, Jacques Sicard joined Weller pottery and developed a metallic glaze. Teh Sicardo line went into production in the fall of 1903, but the process was difficult, and only about 30% of the finished pots were marketable. The pottery had a metallic luster in tones of rose, blue, green, or purple, with flowing Art Nouveau patterns developed within the glaze.

A desirable later line was named Hudson, first made in the early 1920s. A semi-matte-glaze ware line, it was beautifully decorated on shaded backgrounds with florals, animals, birds and scenics. Hudson pieces are often signed by the decorators.

Weller discontinued costly artware lines in the 1920s in favor of mass-produced commercial wares. The Great Depression brought a steady decline in sales and by 1948 the pottery was closed.

 

Roseville Pottery

Roseville Della Robbia vase, circa 1905, with Rozane Ware seal and artist’s initials ‘AB,’ 8 1/4 in. x 7 1/4 in. There is no typical Della Robbia pattern, only variations on Frederick H. Rhead’s basic concept. This vase sold for $16,000 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2014. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Rago Arts and Auction Center.

The Roseville Pottery Co. was incorporated in Roseville, Ohio in 1892 with George F. Young as general manager. Buoyed by the success of early utilitarian wares, the company expanded to a new plant in nearby Zanesville. By 1900, Young had controlling interest in the company and had his sights set on entering the highly competitive art pottery market. He hired an artistic designer, Ross C Purdy, who created Rozane, the company’s first art pottery line. It featured dark blended backgrounds with slip-painted underglaze artwork, similar to Rookwood’s Standard glaze.

Roseville’s Rozane Mongol, a high-gloss oxblood red line, won first prize at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

Frederick H. Rhead left Weller Pottery to become art director of Roseville Pottery from 1904 to 1909. He created Roseville’s Della Robbia and Olympic lines and designed or oversaw the Juvenile, Mostique and Pauleo lines. His brother, Harry Rhead, took over as artistic director in 1908 and, in 1915, introduced the popular Donatello line.

Handcrafting had virtually ceased at Roseville by 1908, replaced by mass-production methods.

Frank Ferrell, who was a leading decorator at Weller in the early 1900s, was Roseville’s artistic director from 1917 until 1954. He created many of the company’s most popular lines including Pine Cone, Futura, Falline and Sunflower.

Company sales declined in the postwar era as inexpensive Japanese imports flooded the American market. Also, consumer tastes had changed, and Roseville’s mainstay floral designs started to look old-fashioned as a more modern aesthetic emerged. The company went out of business in 1954, selling the facilities to the Mosaic Tile Co.

 

Pewabic Pottery

Pewabic Pottery molten-glaze vase, 15 in. x 9 in., with impressed Pewabic Detrioit mark. The congregation of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in inner-city Detroit was surprised when their unpretentious piece sold for $15,000 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2016. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and DuMouchelles

Pewabic Pottery may be one of the best-kept secrets in the pottery industry – and the studio is still in operation in Detroit. Mary Chase Perry Stratton (1867-1961) and her neighbor and business parter Horace James Caulkins (1850-1932) formally opened the pottery in a Tudor revival-style building on East Jefferson Avenue in 1907.

Perry named the pottery “Poewabic,” said to be derivative of the Ojibwa, or Chippewa, word wabic, which means metal, or bewabic, which means iron or steel. It specifically refers to the Pewabic copper mine in her hometown of Hancock in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Some of the early artware was glazed a simple matte green. Occasionally other colors were added, sometimes in combination to render a drip effect. Later, Perry developed a lustrous crystalline glaze. The body of the ware was highly fired and extremely hard. Shapes were basic, and decorative modeling was in low relief.

While never a big operation, Pewabic Pottery became a major name in the Arts and Crafts movement. Under Mary Stratton’s artistic leadership, Pewabic Pottery employees created lamps, vessels and architectural tiles.

The Griswold Hotel in Detroit ordered one of the first tile commissions, and orders from around the country followed. Pewabic tiles grace notable buildings such as the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

After years of experimenting, in 1909 Stratton discovered an iridescent glaze that established Pewabic as one of the most innovative potteries of its time.

Mary Stratton remained active at Pewabic until her death at age 94. The company continued to operate for five years after her death under the direction of Caulkins’ widow, a former assistant and silent partner.

The private, nonprofit Pewabic Society Inc. was established in 1979. The building and its contents were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991. Today, Pewabic is Michigan’s only historic pottery.

 

Teco

Matte-green glaze, the color of money, is a favorite shade among Arts and Crafts collectors. Couple it with the organically modeled design by Harold Hals and this 13 1/4-inch Teco brand vase becomes a classic. It sold at auction for $25,000 plus buyer’s premium in February 2013. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Clars Auction Gallery

The American Terra Cotta Tile and Ceramic Co., is famous for Teco artware, another favorite among Arts and Crafts Moment devotees. Founded by William Day Gates in 1881 as Spring Valley Tile Works, it became the country’s first manufacturer of architectural terra cotta. Production at the plant in McHenry County plant outside Chicago consisted of drain tile, brick, chimney tops, finials, urns and other fireproof building materials.

Gates used the facilities to experiment with clays and glazes in an effort to design a line of art pottery which led to the introduction of Teco Pottery (TErra COtta) in 1899.

The smooth, micro-crystalline, matte “Teco green” glaze of Teco Art Pottery was developed independently and was not an attempt to copy the famous Grueby green of the Grueby Pottery Co., in Boston.

Teco pottery emphasized line and color rather than elaborate decoration. While most of the 500 shapes created by 1911 were the product of Gates’ efforts, many of the remaining Teco designs were the work of several Chicago architects who were involved in the Prairie School style as expressed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Teco pottery became closely linked with this style, which emphasized simplicity of design and discipline in the use of ornament.

A victim of the Great Depression, Teco production ceased a short time after the stock market crash of 1929.

 

 

Many Avenues to Travel Via Vintage Posters

Posters are all about visual appeal. Just ask any American male who, as a teenager, hung a Farrah Fawcett poster in his room in the 1970s. But collectible posters go far beyond the popular pinups of the day. Travel, movies, patriotism, even everyday products are among the themes that end up in best-selling posters.

Advances in printing, namely color lithography, lifted the plain placard to the visually striking color poster that quickly became an art form in the late 19th century. Posters were an effective and economical means of mass communication, especially before World War II.

The great revolution in posters came about as the result of the development of printing techniques that allowed for cheap mass production. Chromolithography made possible the printing of large editions of posters illustrated in vibrant colors.

Europeans pioneered posters with high artistic content. While artists Jules Chéret and Alphonse Mucha applied their talents to French posters that advertised cabarets, theatrical performances and consumer products, American illustrators created colorful posters for alcoholic beverages, tobacco, firearms, farm machinery and traveling shows. Posters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries represent the best in American lithography.

Posters were purely ephemeral and were not meant to be saved. They were usually discarded once they had served their purpose. Those posted outdoors were usually destroyed by the elements.

Despite competition from newer modes of promotion, the popularity of poster art continued well into the 20th century.

“The good thing about posters is that they are affordable and you do not have to outlay a particularly large sum to put together an interesting collection,” notes Patrick Bogue of Onslow Auctions. “Whilst some of the more sought-after designs sell for over £5,000 ($6,500), you can buy worthwhile examples for around £1,000 ($1,300) or much less in some cases.

Collectors of this art form soon find a need to tighten the focus of their efforts, for example by style, artist or theme. Where to start? It’s the summer travel season. Why not begin with a favorite destination with vintage travel posters, or sample any of the following five recommendations:

Travel

‘Summer at Miho Peninsula’ was issued by Japan’s Nagoya Rail Agency during the 1930s. These posters were created for domestic use only to promote travel within Japan. It measures 23 1/2 x 34 1/2 inches. Price realized: $4,182. Heritage Auctions image

Railroads and passenger ship lines relied heavily on travel posters. Such posters typically depict their particular mode of transportation, from sleek ocean liners cutting across calm seas to locomotives steaming through picturesque landscapes. Later posters depicted passenger airplanes soaring over mountains, however, early airline posters from the 1930s are probably the most difficult to find of all travel posters, according to Bogue. Travel posters can also picture exotic and exciting destinations, intended to beckon would-be vacationers to get away on a memorable holiday.

 

Movie

The only known surviving Italian-issue movie poster for the film ‘Casablanca’ sold July 29, 2017 for a record $478,000 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. Measuring a massive 55 1/2 by 78 1/4 inches, the 1946 poster matched the then-existing world record for the most valuable movie poster ever sold at public auction. Heritage Auctions image

Movie posters are Heritage Auctions’ most popular specialty within the overall category of collectible posters, says Grey Smith, director of Vintage Poster Auctions at the Dallas-based company. “The price levels for the more rare classic material are rising, as it has become harder to find and the demand for those titles has not decreased,” he said. Posters from classic horror movies are especially desirable.

An option for the younger, novice collector is buying posters of more recent movies. “The top-selling posters from the last 40 years are without a doubt Star Wars. Though the posters aren’t necessarily rare in many instances, the demand is great,” said Smith. “But bear in mind that the more recent posters – from the last 50 years – will, relatively speaking, be more common, as that’s when the hobby of collecting posters began. Since that advent, more posters are printed and more kept.”

 

World Wars

At the peak of his career, James Montgomery Flagg was the highest-paid magazine illustrator in America, and this iconic WWI recruitment poster for the U.S. Army was perhaps his crowning achievement. Printed by the Leslie-Judge Co. in 1917, the poster measures 30 x 40 1/2 inches. Heritage Auctions sold one for $10,157. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

American illustrator James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) created his famous poster of Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer with the caption “I Want YOU for U.S. Army” in 1917 as the United States entered World War I. It was inspired by a 1914 British recruitment poster showing Lord Herbert Kitchner in a similar pose. In 2014, Onslows sold the 1914 “Britons (Lord Kitchener) Wants You” poster for £27,000 ($34,715), a record for a WWII poster.

Numerous recruiting posters followed. Also, various appeals were made through posters during the war years, from solicitations to buy war bonds to warnings issued against careless, unguarded talk, e.g., “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” Over four million copies of Flagg’s Uncle Sam poster were printed during World War I. It was revived for World War II. In 2014, Onslows sold a poster with the now-ubiquitous slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On” for £18,240 ($23,450), a record for a WWII poster.

Smith from Heritage Auctions observes, however, that “material from WWII on has become more common as more comes onto the market, and the demand has diminished.”

 

Products

A ‘Guinness for Strength (Felling Tree)’ original poster by John Gilroy (1898-1995) and printed by John Waddington circa 1955, 30.4 x 20.4 inches, sold for $475 in July 2016. Onslows Auctioneers image

Long-established global brands such as Guinness, Evian and Heinz are favored titles among vintage poster collectors, especially when the posters are early, stylized designs. Popular early 20th-century posters for French chocolates, liqueurs, even bicycles, included images of lovely young women, while posters of the Art Deco period increasingly depicted the subject against a plain, uncluttered background.

 

Events

‘Monaco Grand Prix, April 17, 1932’ by Robert Falcucci (1900-1989), 29 7/8 x 46 inches sold for more than $20,000 in May 2011. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Poster Auctions International

Arguably the broadest poster category is that which advertises an event. Titles range from Wild West shows in America to Grand Prix races in Europe. World’s Fairs and Olympic Games are other subcategories that appeal to collectors, as are psychedelic rock concert posters of the 1960s.

No matter the category, Grey Smith of Heritage Auctions offers this advice: “Start by buying items you like and that seem to have a good demand, as those will usually retain their value. Buy widely by studying the track record of poster auctions. You do not need to spend a lot of money in your initial purchases to make good buys as there is a lot of material in the market now and good prices can be had.”

Seiko Watches: Always One Step Ahead

There are many “firsts” in the history of the Seiko Watch Corp. As impressive as that may sound, what is even more remarkable is that those firsts contribute to the current innovation of a company now in its 136th year of operation.

An example of an early Laurel model wristwatch from Seiko, the first of its kind in Japan. One reason for its popularity was its design, suitable for wear by men and women. The Seiko Museum image

One can’t help but wonder what founder Kintaro Hattori might think about the company and creations manufactured by the business he started as a simple clock repair shop in 1881 in Tokyo. Given that a Hattori (Shinji Hattori – a great grandson) remains at the helm of the global company, it’s a good possibility Kintaro would be pleased with how his little watch business has evolved. As of April 2017, Shinji Hattori became chairman of Seiko Watch Corp., while also retaining his role as CEO. Shuji Takahashi moved into the role of president of Seiko, while also serving as president, chief operating officer and chief marketing officer.

Seiko Fact: The company built its first pocket watch in 1895, and in 1913 Seiko brought forth the first Japanese wristwatch, named The Laurel.

Seiko is a business that produces timepieces found on the wrists of explorers journeying to staggering heights atop moutain peaks, to the depths of the world’s oceans, and to both poles. Modern-day adventurers such as Mitsuro Ohba, who is known for his solo treks on foot crossing the Arctic Circle and Antarctica, have worn Seiko watches. Explorers of land and sea aren’t the only ones who have opted to go with a Seiko.

Vintage quartz Seiko pocket watch, a three-register chronograph, 14K gold chain, sold for $1,037 during a July 2017 auction. Hampton Estates Auction image

Seiko watches have made their way into outer space as well. One of the most talked about space adventures involving a Seiko watch was Richard Garriott’s 2008 trip to the International Space Station. It wasn’t just any seiko watch that accompanied Garriott, it was the Seiko Spring Drive Spacewatch, made especially for the mission. It also wasn’t the first time a Garriott wore a Seiko watch in space. Richard Garriott says his decision to venture into space was also about following in his father’s footsteps. In 1973, Owen Garriott traveled aboard Skylab as a NASA astronaut, and again in 1983. During these flights, he too wore Seiko watches.

Stainless steel automatic men’s Seiko wristwatch, circa 1970s, mineral glass on the face, with generic steel bracelet, sold for $605 during an auction in March of 2017. Jasper52 image

Adventurers are not the only history-makers to turn to Seiko watches for timekeeping. The late U.S. Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf was also a Seiko wearer. In his New York Times death announcement, the military leader is pictured wearing a Seiko watch on one wrist and a Rolex on the other.

The general explained his practice of wearing two watches in a December 1998 letter to Antiquorum auction house, which accompanied the Seiko Quartz Divers 150 Watch he donated for a charity auction. His note read: “To Whom It May Concern: This letter certifies that the Seiko Quartz Divers 150 Watch, Serial #469576, was owned and worn by me while I was the Commander in Chief of Allied Forces during the Persian Gulf War. I always wore two watches during the war. The one on my left arm was set on Saudi Arabian time and the Seiko on my right arm was set on Eastern Standard Time. That way I could quickly glance at my watches and instantly know the time in both Saudi Arabia and Washington, D.C. Sincerely, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, General, U.S. Army, Retired.” The watch sold for $11,000 at auction in 1999.

Seiko’s ‘First’ First: In 1969 Seiko unveiled the Seiko Astron (Seiko Quartz-Astron 353SQ), which was the world’s first quartz watch. This was a game-changing innovation. It offered an alternative to the mechanical movement used to keep time for nearly a thousand years.

In addition to having a commanding presence in explorations and military movements, the Seiko watch brand has long been associated with sporting events including several past Olympics and World Cup soccer competitions. Seiko watches also make their appearance on the red carpet from time to time, having been on the wrist of actresses including Kristen Stewart and technological icons such as the late Steve Jobs.

Seiko Quartz wristwatch with a white face, black metal bezel, Arabic numeral dials, black leather band, circa 1980s, consigned by Steve Jobs’ longtime house manager, sold for $42,500 at Heritage Auctions in February 2016. Heritage Auctions image

That was a Seiko timepiece on Jobs’ wrist as he held the original Macintosh computer in his lap, in the photo that graced the cover of the October 17, 2011 issue of Time magazine following his death. The photo was take in 1984, and Jobs wore that same watch for decades to come as he and his team at Apple helped define technology in the 21st century.

Global Firsts from Seiko: Having generated great success with its quart watch, Seiko unveiled the first LCD quartz watch with a digital display in 1973, followed by the first multifunctional digital watch in 1975. The 1980s saw more innovation in Seiko’s TV watch, the first analog quartz watch with chronograph, and the first watch to feature computer functions.

For a company whose name is said to mean “success, exquisite, force and truth” in Japanese, it seems Seiko Watch Corp. lives up to its name. However, remaining a relevant and innovative company has meant paving paths into the unseen while staying committed to providing durable and accessible watches and remaining a step ahead in quality and invention.

 

From the Heartland: Buddy L Toys

As any number of parents can attest, children have good memories, and keeping promises made to them is usually a good rule of thumb. Little did Fred Lundahl know that by fulfilling a commitment made to his son nicknamed Buddy, he would become part of the industrious and innovative spirit of early 20th-century America – and that the result of his ingenuity would become toy vehicles that are popular with collectors nearly a century later.

Buddy L tanker truck with original paint, decals and features, circa 1928, measuring 26 in. long x 9 1/2 in. wide x 12 in. high. Estimate: $1,800-$2,000. Jasper52 image

Although Lundahl’s original business had nothing to do with toys, it did provide valuable inspiration. In 1920, a decade after founding the Moline Pressed Steel Co., in East Moline, Illinois, which manufactured parts for farm implements as well as fenders for cars and trucks, Lundahl used his skill and some scrap metal from his business to fashion a toy vehicle for his son. According to a variety of sources, the decision to create a miniature version of a dump truck came after seeing the lackluster craftsmanship of his son’s store-bought toys. Lundahl’s promise to his son, Arthur, aka Buddy, resulted in the toy becoming a neighborhood sensation, and ultimately the development of the Buddy L toy line.

Although Buddy L was not the first brand of toy vehicles to come to market, it may have been the most prolific, according to Michael Yolles, founder of the virtual Pressed Steel Metal Toys Museum, and a longtime member of the Antique Toy Collectors of America, Inc.

“Buddy L not only produced a large selection of pressed steel toys, but also they were very well-made,” explains Yolles, whose collecting efforts focus on various models of toys, including Buddy L toy vehicles manufactured prior to 1932. “One of the things you’ll find with Buddy L toys is the paint job lasted. They dipped their toys in paint, instead of using other methods.

“If you put Buddy L’s up against other toys manufactured in the same era I believe you’ll see their color and condition held up the best.”

Buddy L Wrigley’s Spearmint delivery truck, circa 1940s-50s, with minor wear, measuring 7 1/2 in. high x 14 1/2 in. long, sold for $300 in November 2015. Rich Penn Auctions image

The quality paint job on Buddy L toys, while impressive, isn’t the only thing that sets these toy vehicles apart, as Rich Penn of Rich Penn Auctions explains.

“First, they were bigger than almost any other toys in the market. Second, they were built better and were more durable. A child could actually ride many of them. Third, most kids never had a Buddy L. They cost more than most of the other pressed steel toys.

“So, they were only available to the upper middle-class kids. When the rest of us grew up and had a little money … we bought those toys we never had when we were kids.”

Buddy L Fact: In the 1920s when Buddy L toy vehicles were first made available to the pubic, many cost between $2.50 and $4.50. That is the equivalent to a cost range of $34 to $61 in today’s economy.

The attraction of these nearly larger-than-life toy vehicles, then and now, is also based on Buddy L’s measuring up to their design. With many of the vehicles able to sustain a rider weighing upward of 200 pounds, not only could a child enjoy a ride, but adults could as well. This coupled with movable parts and many accessories, such as doors that opened and closed, and functioning operations, Buddy L vehicles were as much experience as toy.

“Most of the construction vehicles were able to do what they were built to do, which was really exciting,” said Yolles.

Whether these toy vehicles inspired youngsters to go on and become adults who earned a living operating the full-size vehicles replicated in Buddy L miniatures, it’s hard to say. However, as Penn explains, the line of toy vehicles likely brought more than a few youthful dreams to life.

“As a kid, you would certainly be able to better imagine yourself as a truck driver, engineer or fireman, if you were driving a Buddy L.”

Buddy L fire pumper, circa 1920s, with original paint and accessories, measuring 23 1/2 inches long, sold for $3,900 in June 2017. Bertoia Auctions image

Alas, the pioneer of the Buddy L line, which ultimately expanded to include multiple variations of trucks, cars, tugboats, trains and construction vehicles, only experienced the early years of the company named after his only child. Fred Lundahl died in 1930 due to complications following surgery, according to the Quad City Times. The company persevered, changing hands more than a few times; and like many similar manufacturers in the U.S., faced the steel shortage of World War II. At that time, the company turned to manufacturing toy vehicles made of wood, but the successes of Buddy L’s early pressed-steel toys would not be repeated.

Buddy L Fact: Durability is the name of the game when it comes to this classic line of pressed-steel toys. Touted as vehicles that could hold a rider of up to 200 pounds, the toys themselves often weigh between 8 to 20 pounds.

Yet, if the number of inquiries about variations, parts and condition of vehicles fielded by Yolles, and the response to Buddy L vehicles at auction is any indication, these large-scale pressed-steel toys remain an appealing presence in the secondary market. In early June of 2017, Bertoia Auctions presented a 1920s Buddy L pressed-steel fire pumper. The vehicle, with original paint and parts, nearly doubled its low estimate of $2,000, finishing at $3,900.

A review of upcoming on LiveAuctioneers reveals more than 30 lots featuring Buddy L vehicles coming up for bid through the end of August.

It’s clear, the legacy of a man skilled in metalwork, who simply set out to fulfill a promise to his young son and ultimately elevated the performance of pressed-steel toys, lives on in the appeal of this heartland favorite.

Keeping Time with Cartier

A lot can happen in 170 years. In fact, quite a lot has since jeweler Louis-Francois Cartier took over at the Paris shop where he was an apprentice, following the death of master jeweler Adolphe Picard. While brands have come and gone as the global marketplace has evolved, the popularity of Cartier jewelry and watches has remained strong. Talk about staying power.

A significant reason for the company’s relevance, especially in its first century operation, was due to the visionaries within multiple generations of the Cartier family. This is most evident in the company’s masterful watchmaking.

This Cartier watch exemplified the influence of Cartier’s roots in fine-jewelry design. The platinum Art Deco ladies watch, circa 1915, features a “panther” design diamond and onyx on the setting and band, as well as graduated pearls on the band. The timepiece is a creation of Cartier and European Watch & Clock Co. It sold in a 2016 Heritage auction for $42,500. Heritage Auctions image.

Cartier’s History: By the time Henry Ford had introduced the Model T automobile, created in an assembly line and available at a price more Americans could afford, Cartier’s watchmaking operation was already in its 20th year. When men were starting to get behind the wheel of a Model T, in 1908, their driving attire might have included Cartier’s Tonneau wristwatch. And if they were particularly well connected, they might be able to acquire the Santos, which was not readily available to the public until 1911.

Cartier quickly became well known in European high society and abroad for creating lavish and unique items of jewelry. Applying the same approach the firm used in designing jewelry, Alfred Cartier (Louis- Francois’ son) expanded the company’s line to include timepieces. As explained in an introductory video on the Cartier website, the company’s foray into watches began with fob and chatelaine watches for women, followed in 1888 by the first ladies Cartier wristwatch. Alfred wasn’t alone in this timekeeping venture; by the turn of the 20th century, all three of his sons (Louis, Pierre and Jacques-Theodule) had joined the family business.

However, working side-by-side in the company’s Paris headquarters wasn’t the Cartier family’s vision for the future. By 1910, the three sons were overseeing Cartier’s overseas branches in London and New York. Cartier remained a family-run operation until 1964, following the passing of Pierre. Louis and Jacques both had predeceased their brother in 1942.

Classic Cartier: In the 21st century, Cartier is owned by Richemont, a conglomerate that owns other luxury brands including Van Cleef & Arpels, Jaeger, Vacheron Constantin and Piaget. More than nine decades ago Cartier was partnering with each of those companies, producing “white-label” watches to be sold under their own brand names, according to Collectors Weekly. One of the earliest and most innovative partnerships in Cartier’s history was with Jaeger, the company behind the movements in Cartier watches.

There’s no mistaking the influence and appeal of Cartier watches. Let’s look at four of the company’s notable styles:

A square-shape 18K gold Cartier Tank, circa 1962, gifted to Jacqueline Kennedy in 1963 and worn regularly, was part of an affinity lot that sold for $379,500 at an auction presented by Christie’s in June 2017. Christie’s image.

1. Tank: This year marks the 100th anniversary of this iconic Cartier model. Various historical accounts attribute the name and styling of the watch to the military armament by the same name first used during World War I. The first examples of this watch were given by Cartier to members of the American Expeditionary Force, according to A Blog to Watch.

As is the case with many sought-after collectible items, the stories and provenance related to the antique and vintage watches undoubtedly add to their appeal at auction. This was evident recently, when a Cartier Tank wristwatch owned and regularly worn by Jacqueline Kennedy more than doubled its estimate at a summer 2017 auction at Christie’s.

According to Christie’s auction preview, Mrs. Kennedy’s watch was a gift from her brother-in-law Prince Stanislaw “Stas” Radziwill, husband of her sister, Lee Radziwill. The watch’s engraving adds to its historic relevance. It bears the engraved inscription, Stas to Jackie, 23 Feb. 1963 2.05am to 9.35pm. The words correspond to the date and duration Radziwill and friends spent completing a 50-mile hike at Palm Beach, Florida. The hike was tied to President Kennedy’s aims to make America a fit nation by making health and wellness a priority. The first lady and her sister were driven to a section of the hike to meet up with the walkers, and at various points during the hike, President Kennedy was also said to have joined the endeavor.

Radziwill’s gift was not the only gift commemorating the event. The first lady created a painting depicting Radziwill and one of his friends on the hike and inscribed it similarly to what is seen on the watch: February 23, 1963 2.05am to 9.35pm /Jackie to Stas with love and admiration. The painting, paired with the watch, formed the lot that sold for $379,500 at Christie’s June 21, 2017 auction.

Limited edition 18K white gold Santos Triple 100 wristwatch, one of 20 made, features a full diamond-set case and three rotatable dials, circa 2008, sold in 2011 for $218,382 at Sotheby’s. Sotheby’s image

2. Santos: As Cartier history reveals, this famed watch model (the company’s first style for men) came about as a solution to a friend’s problem. The friend was noted aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont. The issue he relayed to Louis-Francois Cartier was the frustrating challenge of accessing his pocket watch while at the controls of a plane. Cartier went to work and in 1904 approached Santos-Dumont with a watch that had an easily visible face, sat flat on the wrist and was held in place by a strap and buckle. In no time, the watch – which Cartier named the Santos – also became known as a pilot’s watch, according to Monochrome. The watch was made available to the public in 1911.

3. Tonneau: One of the earliest readily available wristwatches created by Cartier, the Tonneau appeared on the market in 1906. Named for the shape of the case (tonneau is French for barrel), it was an incomparably sophisticated design for the time. This model of Cartier watch was introduced during the Belle Époque period, an age during which Cartier’s watchmaking business flourished.

Collecting Tip: Two sets of numbers are stamped on the backs of Cartier watches made from about the mid-20th century onward. The 4-digit number is the model number, while the 8-digit number is the serial number.

4. Crash: Steeped in urban lore, this model of Cartier timepiece was inspired by the result of an accident, or heat exposure, or possibly Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory. According to an article by George Cramer for Revolution.watch, it was 1967 and Jean-Jacques Cartier, the head of Cartier’s London office at the time, designed the Crash style of watch after seeing a warped Cartier timepiece. Regardless of the source of inspiration, the radically uncommon watch captured the world’s attention. Three times in the years since its debut (1991, 1997 and 2013), Cartier has released limited-edition versions of the Crash watch. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Cartier Crash and chatter on horological sites is rife with speculation (perhaps hopefulness) about a re-release of the Crash in 2017.

This 18K pink gold Ballon Bleu Flying Tourbillon watch, featuring blued steel sword-shaped hands and a brown alligator skin strap, was auctioned for $36,830 on June 12, 2017 at Morphy’s. Morphy Auctions image
This 18K pink gold Ballon Bleu Flying Tourbillon watch, featuring blued steel sword-shaped hands and a brown alligator skin strap, was auctioned for $36,830 on June 12, 2017 at Morphy’s. Morphy Auctions image

5. Ballon Bleu de Cartier: This Cartier model appeals to both men and women, making it modern choice. The shape of the case is circular, with both the top and bottom featuring a rounded design. Another uncommon design element of the Ballon Bleu is the inclusion of a guard over the traditional Cartier sapphire cabochon crown.As historical records demonstrate, the connection between Cartier and royalty dates to the company’s earliest years, when King Edward VII of England famously referred to the company as “the jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers.” Today, that connection continues, as England’s Duchess Kate Middleton is often photographed wearing a Ballon Bleu Cartier watch.

6 Fascinating Facts About Cats in Japanese Art

It’s hard to dispute the global popularity of cats, whether you fancy them or not. From museums to memes, they are represented in ancient Japanese art and contemporary communications. That’s quite a narration for the four-legged creatures who reportedly first took up residence in Japan around 500 A.D. The cats were brought on as crew members of ships departing China for Japan, charged with the task of protecting religious documents against destruction by mice. Obviously, their missions as mousers runs deep.

Upon arriving in Japan, it didn’t take long for felines to establish a revered presence within ancient Japanese culture. However, even as celebrated as they were, according to Japanese folklore, cats were also viewed by some as devious and perhaps possessing of darker traits. Nevertheless, one thing is certain, the presence of felines in Japanese art is extensive, and dates back centuries. With that, here are 6 intriguing facts about cats in Japanese art.

  1. One of the masters of ukiyo-e woodblock art of the 17th century, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), was reportedly a serious fan of felines, often sharing his living space with multiple cats at any given time. In fact, it is said that he kept a record of the cats that died, and treated the passing of each with a great symbolic reverence.

    Ukiyo-e woodblock art, “Cats of the Tokaido Road Triptych” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Sold for $1,100. Jasper52 image

  2. Another centuries-old applauded feline of Japanese art and culture is the Maneki Neko. Immediately recognizable for its raised and welcoming paw, the Maneki Neko (commonly referred to as Fortune Cat or Lucky Cat) is said to bear multiple telling symbols. For example, if the Maneki Neko bears calico colors, which is a traditional shading, it is said to hold the most potential for luck. You might also notice, the raised paw of a Maneki Neko figurine could be either the left or the right paw. Either way, the symbolism is positive, and is said to be a gesture of beckoning wealth and luck.
  3. In 1979, Japan issued a commemorative postage stamp featuring the painting “Black Cat,” circa 1910, created by Meiji-period painter Hishida Shunso (formal name was Hishida Miyoji) during a period of only five days. Interestingly, Shunso’s portrait also appeared on a postage stamp, as part of Japan’s Famous Japanese Personalities series in 1951.

    An image of the painting done by Shunso in 1910, and the postage stamp featuring the image, issued in 1979. ArtHistoryProject.com images

  4. One of the most heralded modern exhibitions featuring cats in Japanese artwork was the “Life of Cats: Selections From the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection.” The exhibition was presented in 2015 by the Japan Society Gallery in New York. Nearly 90 examples of Japanese art, in various mediums, was included in the exhibition.
  5. The presence of cats in Japanese art isn’t limited to sweet and small. Big cats also appear in artwork dating back centuries. One of the largest and most diverse collections of Japanese art in the world can be found at The Cleveland Museum of Art. The collection boasts 1,950 pieces, including the impressive six-panel ink on paper work titled “Dragon and Tiger” by 16th century Japanese and Zen monk Sesson Shukei.

    “Dragon and Tiger” six-panel folding screen ink on paper, 16th century, by Sesson Shukei. The Cleveland Museum of Art image

     

  6. Cats are also beloved characters within the storylines and art of modern-day manga – comics created in Japan. For instance, the character Minako Aino, in the wildly popular “Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon” manga of the late 20th century, is accompanied by her talking guardian and advisor, a white cat named Artemis. The manga is the vision of Japanese artist and writer Nako Takeuchi (1967). The illustrations and largely female-led cast of characters went on to influence the development of Magical Girl manga and anime.

Be it centuries-old ukiyo-e woodblock art or modern-day manga and anime art, the reverence for felines is a common thread within the art culture of Japan. Whether it’s because of their supposed mystical properties, elegant and mysterious characteristics, or something else altogether, the fascination with felines in Japanese art and society is alive and well.

 

A Coin Glossary for Aspiring Numismatists

Numismatics, or coin collecting, has its own lexicon, which can be bewildering to anyone new to the hobby. Popular nicknames of U.S. coins, such as wheat penny, buffalo nickel (it’s actually a bison) or Mercury dime (which neither depicts the Roman god nor has any mercury content), are also confusing. Use the following glossary to learn the basic lingo used by collectors of U.S. coins and soon you, too, will sound like an expert.

Bag marks: Surface abrasions found on coins as a result of coins striking the surfaces of other coins during bagging and shipping.

Buffalo nickel: Nickname given to the Indian head 5-cent coin issued from 1913 to 1938. The nickname is incorrectly used, however, because U.S. coins are usually named after their obverse (front-side) design. The animal depicted on the reverse side of the coin is a bison, not a buffalo.

Coin: A piece of metal, marked with a device and issued by a government for use as money.

The Winged Liberty Head dime is nicknamed the Mercury dime because of its resemblance to the Roman god. It was designed by Adolph Weinman and engraved by Charles Barber. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and The Chivalrous Collector Ltd.

Clad: Coin that has a core of base metal, such as copper, and surface layers of a more valuable metal, like copper-nickel. U.S. dimes, quarters and half dollars minted since 1965 are a clad coinage.

Denomination: The face value of a coin; the amount of money it is worth as legal tender.

Die: A metal punch, the face of which carries an intaglio or incuse mirror image to be impressed on one side of a planchet.

Double Eagle: A $20 gold coin of the United States.

Eagle: A U.S. $10 gold coin.

Grading: Since the mid-20th century, the American Numismatic Association has used a 1-70 numbering scale, where 70 represents a perfect specimen and 1 represents a barely identifiable coin. Descriptions and numeric grades for coins (from highest to lowest) are as follows:

  • Mint State (MS) 60-70
  • Uncirculated (UNC)
  • About/Almost Uncirculated (AU) 50, 53, 55, 58
  • Extremely Fine (XF or EF) 40, 45
  • Very Fine (VF) 20, 25, 30, 35
  • Fine (F) 12, 15
  • Very Good (VG) 8, 10
  • Good (G) 4, 6
  • About Good (AG) 3
  • Fair (F) 2
  • Poor (P) 1

Half Eagle: A U.S. $5 gold coin.

The Indian Head 5-cent coin is nicknamed the buffalo nickel. It was designed by James Earle Fraser and engraved by Charles Barber. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Rago Arts and Auction Center

Indian Head cent: U.S. cent designed and engraved by James A. Longacre and issued 1859 to 1909. Also called Wreath, or Wreath and Shield, for the designs on the reverse.

Large cent: Refers to the U.S. cents of 1793-1857, with diameters between 26-29 millimeters, depending on the year it was struck.

Legal tender: Currency (coins or paper money) explicitly determined by a government to be acceptable in the discharge of debts.

Mint mark: A letter or other symbol indicating the mint of origin. U.S. coinage began at the Philadelphia Mint in 1793.

Obverse of the Morgan silver dollar, which depicts a profile portrait of Liberty. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Capo Auction

Morgan dollar: A U.S. silver dollar minted from 1878 to 1904, and again in 1921. The coin was named after its designer, George T. Morgan, U.S. Mint Assistant Engraver. The obverse depicts a profile portrait representing Liberty, while the reverse depicts an eagle with wings outstretched.

NickelThe common – but factually incorrect – name for the U.S. 5-cent piece. In the 19th century copper-nickel cents and 3-cent coins were also nicknamed “nickel.”

Obverse: The side of a coin that bears the principal design, often as described by the issuing authority. In a coin toss, the obverse is known as “heads.”

1935 was the last year the U.S. Mint issued the Peace dollar, which was composed of 90 percent silver. The coin was the result of a competition to find designs emblematic of peace. The reverse depicts an American bald eagle at rest clutching an olive branch, with the legend ‘Peace.’ Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Lyn Knight Auctions

Peace dollar: A U.S. dollar coin minted from 1921 to 1928, and again in 1934 and 1935. Designed by Anthony de Francisci, the coin was the result of a competition to find designs emblematic of peace. Its obverse represents the head and neck of the Goddess of Liberty in profile, and the reverse depicts a bald eagle at rest clutching an olive branch, with the legend “Peace.” It was the last United States dollar coin to be struck for circulation in silver.

Planchet: A plain, round metal disk which, when placed between the dies and struck, becomes a coin; also called a flan or blank.

Proof coinage: Special early samples of a coin issue, historically made for checking the dies and for archival purposes, but nowadays often struck in greater numbers specially for coin collectors. Preparation of a proof striking usually involved polishing of the dies. They can usually be distinguished from normal circulation coins by their sharper rims and design, as well as much smoother “fields” – the blank areas are not part of the coin’s design.

Mercury dime: Nickname for the Winged Liberty Head dime issued from 1916 to 1945. Composed of 90 percent silver, 10 percent copper.

Mint mark: On U.S. coinage, a letter or letters indicating the mint where the coin was produced. Mint marks in the United States coinage include P for the Philadelphia Mint, D for the Denver Mint, S for the San Francisco Mint, and W for the West Point Mint. In the past, CC for the Carson City Mint, C for the Charlotte Mint, D for the Dahlonega Mint, and O for the New Orleans Mint were used.

Reverse: The side opposite the obverse, usually the side with the denomination. In a coin toss, the reverse is known as “tails.”

Standing Liberty quarter: A U.S. 25-cent coin issued from 1916 to 1930. It features the goddess Liberty on one side and an eagle in flight on the reverse. The coin was designed by sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil.

Steel war penny: 1943 U.S. cents were struck in steel due to wartime shortages of copper. The Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints each produced these 1943 Lincoln cents. The unique composition of the coin (low-grade steel coated with zinc, instead of the usual bronze composition) has led to various nicknames, such as wartime cent and steelie. The 1943 steel cent features the same Victor David Brenner design for the Lincoln cent, which had been in use since 1909.

U.S. Mint: Produces circulating coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce; also controls the movement of bullion. There are four active coin-producing mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point.

Walking Liberty: A U.S. half dollar that was introduced in 1916, which depicts a Walking Liberty figure, while the reverse depicts an eagle.

Wheat penny: U.S. Lincoln cent issued from 1909 (the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth) to 1958. Designed by Victor D. Brenner and engraved by Charles Barber, the coin takes its nickname for the “wheat ears” design on its reverse.

How to Care for Luxury Estate Jewelry

Whether it’s an heirloom passed down through generations of your own family or an eye-catching treasure purchased at auction, luxury estate jewelry deserves special attention to keep it at its sparkling best. But one might ask, how is that best achieved, and more importantly, how can a jewelry owner be sure that the cleaning product they’re using is safe for both the gemstones and the precious-metal setting?

We have the answers. But before we get to that, let’s stress what any estate jeweler would tell you: It’s important to maintain fine jewelry. The longer you wait between cleanings, the greater the potential for loss of shine. But don’t let the process of cleaning your luxury estate jewelry intimidate you. It’s definitely something you can do yourself, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.

Aletto Bros. Colombian emerald and diamond earrings. LiveAuctioneers/Fortuna Auction image

Tip: Before you begin, take the time to bring your estate jewelry to a trusted jeweler for an inspection.

This is something you should do periodically. It shouldn’t cost much, and in some cases jewelers won’t charge you at all.

One of the most common processes to restore the sparkle to estate jewelry that has dulled is available in every household: soap and water.

Estate Art Deco sapphire and diamond ring, brilliant cut. Jasper52 image

According to the Gemological Institute of America, the same organization that first brought to light the ‘4 Cs – carat weight, color, clarity, and cut),’ most colored gems can be cleaned with warm water, mild dish soap and a soft brush. Keep in mind, the soap should not be automatic dishwasher soap or hand soap. Also, although obvious, the GIA advises rinsing jewelry in a glass of water, and not directly in the sink.

With a business built on the belief that jewelry should be worn and adored, the multinational Hueb jewelry company, now led by third generation Hueb family members offers several recommendations.

Tip: To brighten gold jewelry and mounted stones, use a minute amount of mild dish soap combined with club soda. After cleaning with the bubbly mixture, carefully rinse the piece with fresh, cold water and dry with a soft cloth.

Cartier platinum, sapphire and aquamarine brooch. LiveAuctioneers/Brunk Auctions image

“Studies show that the bubbles in club soda are very effective for removing debris in hard-to-reach corners,” Hueb site states.

When it comes to more porous stones, including pearls and turquoise pieces, Hueb’s specific advice is: Never soak them as a method of cleaning.

Purchasing a polishing cloth made specifically for jewelry is an inexpensive, but worthwhile investment. If you opt to use your own cloth, make sure you don’t use it for anything other than polishing jewelry.

Some say the device used to clean a piece of estate jewelry is as important as the cleaning concoction. The Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company says to use a “new, baby-size soft toothbrush.”

Antique Georgian rose-cut diamond, gold and silver lady’s chocker necklace. LiveAuctioneers/Kodner Galleries image

In addition, if you remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you’ll be familiar with another bit of advice Jewelers Mutual offers: Make sure the water you use isn’t too hot or too cold, but just right. Gemstones don’t react well to extreme changes in temperature.

A little loving care can go a long way toward keeping the sparkle and shine in your favorite luxury estate gems and jewels. They’ve lasted this long, and if you give them the attention they deserve, they’ll retain their beauty for many years to come.

 

The Fine Print: Contemporary Art at Down-to-Earth Prices

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time,” wrote Thomas Merton, early 20th-century theologian, author and Trappist monk.

That’s a powerful and appealing statement, isn’t it? If you’ve been watching the prices that fine artworks have been commanding, you may have resigned yourself to the fact that you’ll have to find another (more affordable) way to “find and lose” yourself. Take heart and take note: prints provide the opportunity to own high-quality works by modern art visionaries, including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring, at a fraction of the cost of originals.

That sounds like a fulfilling way to experience the duality of art appreciation described by Merton, so to gain some perspective about collecting contemporary prints we turned to an expert: Wade Terwiliger, co-owner of Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

“Contemporary art is hot, hot, hot, and increasing prices reflect that interest,” Terwiliger said. “As prices for original works of art by noteworthy artists have skyrocketed, prints have gained recognition as a more affordable way for collectors to obtain images by these artists. We’re seeing a broad range of prices for prints, with collectors worldwide getting in on the action online.”

Collecting Tip: Always, always, always ask questions. It’s important to find out the dimensions, the condition, and if artwork has been examined out of its frame.

Solid provenance and/or documentation are a focus for many collectors. So are good names and signed editions, Terwiliger said. And it goes without saying, condition is also an important factor. However, as Terwiliger explained, there’s no single specific factor that outweighs all others. “What we’ve seen is that buyers will determine their own priorities from among this list of criteria,” he said.

During their years of serving consignors and collectors, Palm Beach Modern Auctions has done well with icons of different art movements, according to Terwiliger. They include a number of market- and time-tested artists, including these five luminaries of the contemporary art realm:

Keith Haring, “Apocalypse I” silkscreen, signed edition, circa 1988. Sold for $4,880, Feb. 4, 2017. Palm Beach Modern Auctions image

Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990) – Haring tapped into his ability to draw at an early age, observing and learning from his father, who drew cartoons for entertainment. This early influence is evident in much of his work, which often has cartoon-like imagery. However, the themes and topics addressed in his work were not always light-hearted subjects about life and love, but also serious matters such as apartheid, AIDS, and drug addiction.

Haring’s work appeals to all age groups, Terwiliger said. Collectors can obtain at auction pieces from Haring’s Pop Shops operation, such as tote bags, for less than $1,000. Limited edition prints can be had for $3,000-$5,000 at auction. At the upper end of the spectrum, a print of “Three Lithographs: One Plate” signed, circa 1985, sold for $40,000 during a February 2017 auction at Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

“While his original works sell in the millions, it’s incredibly exciting that a print from the same artist can be accessible and affordable,” Terwiliger said.

 

Ellsworth Kelly, “Colored Paper Image XVII” from the “Colored Paper” series, hand-made paper with colored pulp, signed limited edition. Sold for $12,000 + buyer’s premium, Nov. 22, 2017. Palm Beach Modern Auctions image

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) – At one time, Ellsworth Kelly was considered an artist beyond definition, in that he produced works in a variety of disciplines. He was a painter, sculptor and printmaker, and left his mark on the development of Minimalism, Hard-edge painting, and Pop Art.

During World War II, Kelly served as a member of the “Ghost Army,” a unit tasked with using inflatable tanks to misdirect enemies. His works have appeared in exhibitions around the world, and in permanent commissions such as a mural in Paris, and a memorial for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“If you have a bigger budget or are advancing your collection, Ellsworth Kelly prints are worth considering, but they are in high demand,” Terwiliger said. “His works are very appealing to collectors, as they are colorful, pure, and though seemingly simple, always absorb the viewer into an unexpected experience.”

 

Collecting Tip: “It is essential not just for a beginning collector, but for all collectors, to deal with someone – a gallery, auction house or dealer – that you feel comfortable with. Whether you are buying online or in person, you are making an investment, and that should involve, to some degree, having a relationship of trust in place with the seller.”

 

Bridget Riley, “Untitled (Fragment 7),” silkscreen on plexiglass, circa 1965, signed limited edition. Sold for $25,000, May 6, 2017. Palm Beach Modern Auctions image

Bridget Riley (British/American, b. 1931) – Like the other artists discussed here, Riley identified a love of and ability to create art at an early age. Deeply involved in the Op-Art movement, Riley reportedly had a childhood fascination with observing cloud formations and the interplay of color and light.

“Specifically, Riley’s graphic black and white geometric-form artworks are most appealing to collectors and are solid market performers,” said Terwiliger, citing the recent sale of “Untitled (Fragment 7)” from an edition of 75 for $25,000 at a May 6, 2017 Palm Beach Modern Auctions event.

 

Takashi Murakami, “Flower Ball (3D) – TURN RED!,” offset lithograph in colors with cold-stamping on high varnish paper, circa 2013, part of the Flowerball series. Sold for $800, May 6, 2017. Palm Beach Modern Auctions image

Takashi Murakami (Japanese/American, b. 1962) – “Murakami is current, and his works are full of life…a younger generation’s Warhol or Haring,” Terwiliger noted. “We have a young staff who just love him. The recurring characters in his work draw you into a narrative.”

Described by Interview magazine as operating a “multi-tentacled enterprise,” Murakami – in addition to creating paintings and sculptures that fuse Japanese traditions with pop culture images – founded a company that manages and promotes artists, hosts art festivals, produces art-related merchandise, runs a gallery for young Japanese artists, and has collaborated with musicians and designers.

 

Roy Lichtenstein, “Mermaid” lithograph, signed edition, circa 1978. Sold for $8,500, Feb. 4, 2017. Palm Beach Modern Auctions image

Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923-1997) – Lichtenstein is an artist with universal appeal. It is reported that, as a child, he was a fan of science-fiction radio programs, and thought his life observed and extensively studied nature. He also served in the army, and later as an art instructor at the university level.

Although he is credited with creating various pieces that incorporated elements of Surrealism and Cubism, it is Lichtenstein’s eye-filling, pixelated pop art that is most recognizable. The breadth of Lichtenstein’s work also provides opportunities for a collection to evolve along with the interest and investment of collectors, Terwilliger explains.

“What I like about Lichtenstein is that he spans a number of collecting ranges, from $500 to $800 to prints that sell for $40,000. A collector could start with a poster in the low to mid hundreds and work their way up to $2,000 to $3,000, such as the “Crying Girl” mailer and from there to the $5,000 to $8,000 range, such as “Pyramids” or “Mermaid.”

 

Collecting Tip: “For works over several thousand dollars, I’d recommend buying prints that have provenance and, if possible, accompanying documentation. Your standards may require a line of provenance that dates back to the artist’s studio, or to a reputable gallery, but be sure to gather such information and keep it on file for all the prints in your collection.”

“Contemporary art challenges us…it broadens our horizons. It asks us to think beyond the limits of conventional wisdom.” – Eli Broad, American entrepreneur, philanthropist and co-founder of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation