How to Clean Antique Tin Toys

The cardinal rule when cleaning tin toys is to avoid paint loss at all costs. Why? Because a metal toy’s condition on the 1-to-10 scale is determined, first and foremost, by the amount of paint a toy has retained since its manufacture.

Carette Renault, c. 1906, lithographed sheet metal, original condition. Sold by Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH for €12,500. Image via LiveAuctioneers

Carette Renault, c. 1906, lithographed sheet metal, original condition. Sold by Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH for €12,500. Image via LiveAuctioneers

We all want our toys to be in tip-top condition, preferably boxed, but the more rare a toy is, the more leeway a collector might allow with respect to condition when contemplating a purchase. In other words, if you were to come across a toy that you believe to be one of few known examples, you wouldn’t necessarily pass on it because it’s not a 10, an 8, or even a 6. You might be willing to overlook its paint loss, buy it at a reduced price and hope that at some point in the future you’d be able to upgrade to a better example.

There is a point of no return, however. If a tin toy has lost so much paint that the only way to make it presentable is to repaint it, then you’d probably be throwing your money away if you bought it for anything other than replacement parts.

Now for the good news: if a toy is simply dirty, there’s an excellent chance that its condition can be raised by one or even two points simply by giving it a proper cleaning.

There are various schools of thought as to how tin toys should be cleaned. Every collector has his or her own tricks of the trade.

Lehmann Echo with Box, lithographed tin, Germany. Sold by Bertoia Auctions for $9,500. Image via LiveAuctioneers

Lehmann Echo with Box, lithographed tin, Germany. Sold by Bertoia Auctions for $9,500. Image via LiveAuctioneers

Key toy-cleaning kit includes these staples:

  • Automotive paste wax. Rain Dance, is a good choice, but you might decide to choose a different brand that works well for you. Just make sure it has a moist consistency
  • WD-40 spray in a can
  • Armor-All Original Protectant in a spray bottle
  • Soft rags. Cotton diapers are best, if you can find them
  • Cotton swabs, like Q-Tips
  • Rounded toothpicks with pointed ends

There are two basic types of tin toys: 18th/early-19th-century hand-painted types, and lithographed tin toys, which came later.

Whether cleaning an early hand-painted Gunthermann wind-up or a 1950s mass-produced Disney wind-up, you must never attempt to clean a toy without first testing your cleaning product on a small, inconspicuous spot. This is especially important with hand-painted toys, because you can never predict how old paint will react. Many early toys were painted without the use of a primer. In such cases, the paint could come off quite easily. To test a toy’s paint, take a Q-Tip, lightly apply a tiny bit of paste wax to a spot and see if any of the color comes off or the Q-Tip has picked up a faint color stain. If that happens, you will know that the toy cannot be cleaned with commercial products, and you should never do anything except dust it off with a soft cloth, using a very light touch.

If a tin toy passes the initial test, you can feel confident about cleaning it. Here are the important steps to follow:

  1. Lightly wipe off surface dust with a soft cloth.
  2. If the clockwork mechanism is tight or even frozen, set the toy down on some newspapers topped with layered paper towels and spray some WD-40 into the keyhole, using the slim, red straw that comes attached to the product’s container. Don’t worry about over-spraying. WD-40 is a lubricant that frees metal parts that have seized up. It can only benefit your toy’s mechanism. After spraying, let the WD-40 drain over the paper towels. You might want to set the toy on its side to drain. If you’ve had to spray it more than, say, twice, it may have to sit overnight in that position so all of the product can drain out.
  3. Dry the toy all over to thoroughly remove any liquid residue.
  4. Now you’re ready to apply the paste wax in a small, circular motion. Use a light touch to begin with; then you can become more aggressive as you determine the hardiness of the paint. On small or odd-shaped parts, you can use a small dab of wax on a Q-Tip. Try to avoid getting wax on or around the tabs that connect the toy’s parts, as the wax can get stuck in the crevices.
  5. After the wax has dried, get a fresh, soft cloth and wipe off the wax.
  6. Next, spray some Armor-All onto a clean, soft cloth and wipe the toy off. Do not spray the product directly onto the toy; only spray it onto the cloth. Follow this by buffing the toy. It will shine!
  7. You may notice there’s still some visible wax residue in the toy’s crevices or tabs. That’s where the toothpicks come in handy. Cover a toothpick with one layer of soft cloth and carefully work the point of the toothpick into the places where wax remains.

You are now ready to admire your toy and the value your sweat equity has added to it. Discover and bid on antique toys in weekly Jasper52 toy auctions.

Got any toy cleaning tips of your own? Share them with us on Twitter.

How to Keep Your Collectible Books in Top Condition

To book collectors, it’s a common dilemma: to repair or not to repair. Conventional wisdom tells us that if a book has a tidy, attractive appearance, it’s likely to retain more of its value – but if you attempt to repair a book yourself and the job is botched? That could end up costing you, as your only course of action would be to pay an expert to reverse the damage you compounded – and that’s if it can be remedied at all.

In general, says Monika Schiavo, Director of Waverly Rare Books in Falls Church, Virginia, the rule is “do a little, but don’t do a lot … You wouldn’t do your own appendectomy, so know what your limitations are. And don’t use Gorilla Glue.”

Many types of damage to books can be prevented simply by using the right maintenance methods. Schiavo advises these 6 tips for book maintenance repair:

  1. Always clean books with a soft brush or duster.
  2. Only use rubber bands to fasten together a book that’s in pieces. Scotch tape is a no-no.
  3. If you spot a bookworm or silverfish in one of your books, immediately remove it from your home as it could contaminate your other books.
    Take the affected book to an expert and make sure you warn them ahead of time that you’re coming. To book collectors, insect infestation is a huge issue, because if one book is affected, others may be, too. In such cases, Schiavo recommends calling in a pest control company.
  4. For your valuable books, invest in custom clamshell cases of the type used by libraries.
    A bookbinder or repairer may be able to make one for you, or you can order them from library supply firms like Brodart. Even an acid-free box that you can buy at Michael’s or similar chain hobby stores will protect your prized books.
  5. Water damage requires expert intervention.
    The best way to deal with water damage is to prevent it from happening in the first place by storing your books in a safely contained environment. A Maryland library’s premier collection of rare Jane Austen editions was spared from the damage that might have been done by a roof leak because they were kept in custom-made clamshells. The clamshells got wet, but the books didn’t.
  6. Remember that leather is skin, and it does age.
    A tip Schiavo said she learned from rare book expert Dale Sorenson is to apply leather polish to book bindings, then buff them. There are types of leather polish made especially to restore and protect leather bindings. But whatever you do, don’t use harsh chemicals or household products of any type. If you wouldn’t use it to clean your own skin, you shouldn’t put it on leather bindings.

Let’s say you have a valuable book that has been damaged, and you know the repair is way beyond your own capability. How do you find the right professional to do the job for you? Schiavo recommends contacting a rare book auction house, book dealer or book society. They know who the experts are and will gladly share those contacts with you.


Monika_Schiavo_ImageMonika Schiavo, Director of Waverly Rare Books, a division of Quinn’s Auction Galleries, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., a Certificate in Appraisal Studies from New York University, and a Master of Arts degree from the Smithsonian’s History of Decorative Arts program. Schiavo provides free onsite evaluations and auction estimates for both buyers and consignors.

What Makes a Book Rare?

As a commodity books are abundant. They’ve been written on countless subjects, in every field of endeavor. Even as bookshops disappear, the Internet seems to make virtually any title readily available, and most can be had for a few dollars. In this day and age one might reasonably wonder, what makes a book rare?

The historian and bibliophile Paul Angle, quoted in John Carter’s indispensable reference ABC for Book Collectors, cites three sensible criteria for rarity: “important, desirable and hard to get.” Like Angle, I tend to think of rarity as a compound phenomenon, a series of discrete but related attributes that, when all present in one book, bestows a special quality, greater than the sum of its parts.

RELEVANCE

The first question one might ask about a book pertains to its relevance. Is it recognized? Has it stood out in some way, in its own field if not the wider culture?

There exist many books on arcane or abstruse subjects. Some of them may exist only in small numbers, but because they never rise to a level of general interest they are not sought after. Though scarce, they are not given the opportunity to be considered “rare.” More importantly, one should ask, is this book specifically of interest to me? It seems obvious, but collectors have been known to spend time and money in pursuit of books they think they ought to have rather than those they want to have.

IMPORTANCE & DESIRABILITY

This speaks to Angle’s first two conditions: importance and desirability. Next, one should consider a book’s bibliographic profile. Is it a first edition, i.e., from the earliest batch of copies to come off the printing press? And is it a first printing of the first edition?

Book collecting rests pretty solidly on the notion that the earlier the edition, the closer we come to the writer’s own world — to the standards of material production of the time, and the way in which first readers experienced the work. Failing a book’s being a first edition, one might ask if it’s an otherwise significant edition. Changes made within a text can be historically interesting in their own right. Charles Darwin kept making modifications to On the Origin of Species (1859), with each of the six editions published in his lifetime bearing his changes. A completist would want all six.

Book collecting rests pretty solidly on the notion that the earlier the edition, the closer we come to the writer’s own world

CONDITION

Another consideration is condition. Is the book complete, and without significant flaws? If it’s an older book, is it in the original binding? If not, is the replacement binding early and/or skillfully done?

Contemporary taste gives preference to authenticity, to a book being as close to its original state as possible. Interestingly, this wasn’t always so. In the 18th and 19th centuries many earlier books were rebound in sumptuous but period-inappropriate styles. This can make original or very early bindings harder to find. With regards to a modern book, is the original dust jacket present, and what is its condition? Dust jackets are crucial in the collecting of modern first editions, because they are the most fragile and ephemeral part of a book’s production. As such they can account for upwards of ninety percent of a book’s value.

Contemporary taste gives preference to authenticity, to a book being as close to its original state as possible.

SCARCITY

Scarcity is the final factor, what we think of as rarity in the most limited sense. How many copies of a given book were printed in the first place, and how many of those have survived? Further, how many are likely to be available at any given time?

Over the years universities and libraries have acquired many of the most desirable books. The folio and quarto editions of Shakespeare (that is, the earliest examples of the Bard’s works to have been printed), or Edgar Allan Poe’s notoriously rare first collection of poems Tamerlane (1827), or the first book printed in colonial America, the Bay Psalm Book (1640), of which only 11 known copies survive — such books seldom come to market.

Of course, scarcity is also a function of the first three factors: the most important and desirable books, in their earliest editions and in the best possible condition, are naturally sought after by the greatest number of collectors, and so they become ever harder to find. This may be discouraging to some, but I find that it presents beginning or adventurous collectors an opportunity.

The most important and desirable books, in their earliest editions and in the best possible condition, are naturally sought after by the greatest number of collectors, and so they become ever harder to find.

With so much generally available, there’s plenty of room outside of collecting orthodoxy for a fresh take. Collectors ultimately get to decide what’s of interest to them and, adhering to some sensible guidelines, which will be the rare books of the future.


Erik Duron copyErik DuRon has nearly 20 years of experience buying and selling rare books in all fields, first at Bauman Rare Books in New York City, and then independently. He has built collections for diverse clients, and collaborates with and consults for collectors, booksellers and auction houses. He lives in Brooklyn and can be reached at erikduron@msn.com.

Vintage Watches: How to make a statement

Wristwatches have become a staple in a man’s wardrobe, and the practice of collecting these unique items has exploded. While many vintage wristwatches hold sentimental to the owner and are passed down from generation to generation, the practice of collecting and trading vintage watches is quickly growing. Reyne Gauge shares everything you need to know about collecting vintage watches. Read on below.

IWC Stainless Steel White Dial Chronograph Watch and Chanel Stainless Steel Ceramic Automatic Wristwatch featured in Jasper52 Auction on Sept. 18, 2016

IWC Stainless Steel White Dial Chronograph Watch and Chanel Stainless Steel Ceramic Automatic Wristwatch featured in Jasper52 Auction on Sept. 18, 2016

Wristwatches date back to the late 1800s, a time when they were thought of as jewelry for women only. Originally, they were worn by a clasp on a woman’s lapel. Later, a silk cloth was wrapped around a pocket watch for ladies to wear on their wrists.

The wristwatch as we know it today was first designed by Patek Phillipe in 1868. It wasn’t until World War I that wristwatches became a timepiece for men. Pilots found it too difficult to reach into their  pocket to retrieve their pocket watches, therefore, wearing a timepiece on their wrist made more sense.

It wasn’t until World War I that wristwatches became a timepiece for men.

Ironically, what was once thought to be “women’s wear” is now predominately collected by men. Men often collect wristwatches because they offer more than just a way to tell time.

For the traveler, there are watches offering numerous time zones. For the athlete, chronographs are the preferred option. Divers must have watches that are waterproof.

Not only are there different mechanical options, but you can also collect by maker or time period; or, you can collect different types of movements, such as manual wind, automatic, or electric.

Girard Perregaux Stainless Steel Chronograph featured in Jasper52 Auction on Sept. 18 2016

Girard Perregaux Stainless Steel Chronograph featured in Jasper52 Auction on Sept. 18 2016

Watches are small, meaning you can accumulate many without requiring a lot of space to house them, and they also come in a variety of price ranges. Early manual-wind watches can be purchased for as little as $40-50. Asymmetrical Hamilton Electrics can be bought for a few hundred dollars.

It’s not just the lower-end brands that are affordable. If you’ve been eyeing the latest Rolex watch, chances are you can buy one for a lot less if it’s “pre-owned” or vintage. The current “DATEJUST” model in gold and stainless retails for about $4,500. However, a pre-owned model can be had for as little as $2,800.

Regardless of how much you invest in a watch, it’s an opportunity to make a statement about your unique sense of style while investing in a collectible that boasts both form and function.

Click to view the full catalog of this week’s Jasper52 auction of vintage and luxury watches.


Adapted from original piece by Reyne Gauge on Auction Central News.

5 Tips for the Beginner Book Collector

So many books, so little time. Getting into book collecting can be a very deep dive if you don’t establish a few basic guidelines, says Monika Schiavo, Director of Waverly Rare Books in Falls Church, Virginia.

“The beginning collector can become overwhelmed and frustrated if they cast too wide a net,” Schiavo said. “It’s best to have a focus in mind before you start building a collection.”

Schiavo offers these tips to the beginning bibliophile:

Waverly-Rare-Books

14 Easton Press Titles, Gilt decorated full leather. Est $100-$150. Image courtesy of Waverly Rare Books/Quinn’s Auctions

1. Pick a specific area that interests you, then try to learn all about it.

Maybe your interest lies in English romantic literature, mysteries, author-signed children’s books, or just illustrated versions of books. Whatever it is, establish a thematic narrative before you start collecting.

2. Think outside the box.

Quirky is good – maybe try to collect what others haven’t embraced yet. You probably can’t afford a beautiful first edition of one of the best American books, but what about collecting the first Star Wars novels, autographed books, misprints, or books by women authors who use pseudonyms? By the same token, don’t be so esoteric in your collecting that you’re the only person who understands it.

Bonus Tip: A collecting category that is still in its infancy is LGBT literature.

3. Buy the best edition you can, then trade up.

It’s difficult to winnow as you go along. Release the less-desirable ones back into the book river and hold on to or acquire the more valuable, rare and unusual books.

4. Work with experts.

Consult with reputable dealers, librarians and auction houses. Join rare book societies and visit book exhibitions. Don’t pass up the vast storehouse of knowledge available to you in archived online-auction catalogs.

5. Keep your books safe and clean.

Books are prone to many types of damage, from moisture to insects to do-it-yourself repairs that do more damage than they do good. Try to keep your books stored in a cool, dry, climate-controlled room without direct exposure to sunlight. Be vigilant about how you open them, and never place newspaper clippings or pressed flowers inside them. When in doubt about how to store and protect your books, ask a professional. Most will gladly share their knowledge.


Monika_Schiavo_ImageMonika Schiavo, Director of Waverly Rare Books, a division of Quinn’s Auction Galleries, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., a Certificate in Appraisal Studies from New York University, and a Master of Arts degree from the Smithsonian’s History of Decorative Arts program. Schiavo provides free onsite evaluations and auction estimates for both buyers and consignors.

Intro to Collecting Japanese Woodblock Prints

An overview of beginning your Japanese Woodblock print collection and a preview of the upcoming Jasper52 auction on Saturday, September 10 at 4:00pm ET. Written by Dieuwke Eijer.

The word ‘collecting’ is often associated with ‘lots of money.’ As that may be correct in specific categories of collectables, some of the traditional collecting fields are offering us surprising opportunities. Luckily, within the Japanese woodblock prints we can find an amazing variety of high quality prints in good condition that do not break the bank, along with the blockbuster prints, such as the “Great Wave” by Hokusai.

Japanese woodblock prints can be divided into four broad categories:

  • Ukiyoe – traditional woodblock prints until roughly 1900
  • Shin-hanga – created from the late Meiji era until World War II, showing a mixture of traditional Japanese and modern western elements
  • Sosaku-hanga – avant-garde movement of the 1950s-1970s
  • Works by contemporary artists

Each category produced remarkable artists and subjects, to satisfy each possible angle of collecting prints. You can collect broadly, picking one print by each artist or school, from the beginning of ukiyoe until today. But there are also print collections narrowly focused on certain elements, such as on clocks, or firemen and their equipment, collections of works by Kawase Hasui and his peers (example below), or of complete series by a single ukiyoe artist – such as the B.W. Robinson collection of Kuniyoshi prints.

Kawase Hasui, Yakushi Temple, Nara, 1951. Est. $150-$200. Image from Jasper52

Kawase Hasui, Yakushi Temple, Nara, 1951. Est. $150-$200. Image from Jasper52

The group of prints offered in the September 10th Jasper52 auction, represents a broad array of artists from the ukiyoe school to the sosaku-hanga movement. Among the ukiyoe school prints, you will find works by Hiroshige from a variety of his series. Each of them is a very good impression and in remarkable color condition, giving us insight in some aspects of life in the city of Edo or along the road. The inside of an inn in Ishibe, a samurai train crossing the Oi River near Shimada, or people enjoying tea, a pipe and something to nosh at a tea stall near the Sanno Shrine.

Hiroshige Print - Jasper52

Utagawa Hiroshige, The Reservoir and the Sanno Shrine, 1854. Est $150-$200

In the late 19th century, Westerners started to travel to Japan, and the prints from that period reflect modern art concepts that led to the shin-hanga movement in the 20th century. Simultaneously, some Japanese artists chose to stick to traditional Japanese themes and turned their focus to nature. Examples of both can be found in this catalog. Eight works by the great observer of birds Ohara Koson are complemented by bird prints by some of his contemporaries, representing the artist group that turned to nature. On the other hand, great atmospheric evening views along the Sumida River in Tokyo by Kobayashi Kiyochika show us western influences. A canal with houses lined up in perspective; the silhouette of a man in western suit and hat among people dressed in kimono.

Kobayahshi Kiyochika Jasper52

Kobayashi Kiyochika, Night Scene at Sumida River, 1910’s. Est $200-$300

Shin-hanga artist Yoshida Hiroshi continued the landscape tradition of his great predecessors Hokusai and Hiroshige. At the occasion of the publication of his catalogue raisonné in 1987, a few of his masterworks were re-printed from the original blocks. Printed with the same care that Yoshida himself would have exercised, would he have lived, these posthumous works in amazing condition are affordable.

Hiroshi Yoshida, Spring in a Hot Spring. Originally published in 1927, this is a print from 1986. Est $200-$250

Hiroshi Yoshida, Spring in a Hot Spring. Originally published in 1927, this is a print from 1986. Est $200-$250

The prints are closed off by a few representatives of the sosaku-hanga movement and contemporary artists. Their names may be lesser known among the western collectors, but the quality of materials and degree of perfection are continued and can make the starting point of a wonderful collection.  

 


Dieuwke EijerDieuwke Eijer has over 20 years experience in Japanese traditional art. Before relocating to NYC, she led the Asian Art department at one of Europe’s oldest auction houses. She currently works with international buyers, auction houses, and gallerists to develop their collections, and is a member of the Japanese Society of Arts (Netherlands), the Japanese Art Society of America, and the International Netsuke Society.