What do you collect????


We are always being asked that question. I always remember the first picture I bought when I was 8 years old, having saved up my weekly allowance, I spotted a little Bartlett Print in an antiques shop a good 15 minute bus ride away in Wallasey, England (across the river from Liverpool) without telling my mother. O my, she was angry when I proudly showed her my purchase – “how could I waste my money on such a purchase?” and it still hangs today in my office having travelled across the ocean, then by transport truck across the country to Vernon, British Columbia and I still quietly chuckle today – the story, same frame, same glass.

Now that is quite the story for a little kid from a big city. And to this day I still enjoy art. I was privileged to grow up in Liverpool/Wallasey with a Dad who also liked art, more than just liked art for he took me through all the Galleries and Cathedrals as I grew up in England. I saw, smelled, almost touched paintings by the great Masters of this world. An unbelievable education. Yes, we went to all the galleries in England, Scotland and Wales. I saw my first Van Gogh show at age 10. In those days, who would have known that my future would revolve around fine art and the spectacular heritage of antiques from around the world.

Now my wife Marian grew up in Montreal and always remembers enjoying the window of Morgans and Bowrings that sold a lot of wood carvings, lamps of all sizes by artists from the little Quebec town St. Jean-Port-Joli, and of course, they were very expensive. And as time moved along, she saw these being given as gifts to her father and others. Still not to her. As years moved along, she inherited some of these Quebec sculptures, and through the antiques business we came across these sculptures at very affordable prices – and the collecting began. And today we have a very nice collection of these little sculptures, each one individually carved.

Life as changed a little bit in St. Jean-Port-Joli today. Many of the original sculptors have passed. The long time tradition of this little town is still in production of wonderful creation but it is different. A museum is now in place showing off the works of the original artists.   This is a worthwhile town for your bucket list to visit. It is on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River on the way to the Maritimes.

Over the years we have collected many things from art by Leroy Jensen who lived in Vernon for a few years, art in general, Maxfield Parrish prints, Seacombe Pottery, Vernon’s Axel Ebring’s pottery, brown Staffordshire transferware plates and platters, Patriotic pottery, oil lamps, Titanic collectibles, furniture of course, weaving shuttles and looms, even bill spikes – no rhyme or reason just things we fancied at that moment, and many others long sold and gone.

Today there are so many resources to help in your search for different items, artists you particularly like, just about anything. It is amazing who we have met over the years doing our roadshows around Western Canada, road shows where people brought to us items they had inherited, had picked up at garage sales (what the heck is this but I have to have it!). Unusual circumstances when they are suddenly in ownership of this thing/whatever and even with the internet, if you don’t know what it is – it is very difficult to use the internet to find more knowledge – the needle in the haystack. We have spent our lives digging through flea markets, antiques shops and shows, auctions, our hundreds of reference books and magazines, looking and learning about the oddest of ‘stuff’.

So today when we do come across something we have never seen before – that’s a ‘wow’ – something for pictures to be taken of for reference down the line. If there is one – there are most probably two and more, next question – Where? What is it? How much is it worth? And for us – that is always the question at the end of the day – How Much Is It Really Worth??!! And then the earnest research begins.

Remember – over three of the same thing becomes a collection!!

Internet Buying – Buyer Beware


Today, with all the antiques stores and on-line, thrift shops, garage sales, internet shopping (Kijiji, Castanet, ebay, etsy, Ruby Lane to name a tiny few) it is so hard not to start collecting a series of something.   It has become a truly amazing world. But you must know your prices! Too easy to get carried away.

We never do appraisals over the internet – why? – very simple – there are a lot of sellers out there who don’t quite tell the complete truth. What is in perfect condition can actually be in quite shocking condition in the real world. A little chip, hair line crack, worn paint, a missing ceramic finger – often these are ignored by the seller, some done purposely, others done unknowingly.

I appraised over the internet for two years with a company called eppraisals.com 2000-2002 that used ebay. $26 million dollars were put into the operation what with the latest in computers, programmes, gadgets, appraisers all across North America were hired, paid well, but you know, after two years – it was all closed down!   We were in shock. It was definitely quite the process.   But when all the dust had settled at the end of the day, internet appraisals being taken to court for whatever purpose – the judges started to ask – “When did the appraiser actually see the item in his/her hands?” And of course, the appraiser had not – and the cases were thrown out of the court.   Law suits!!

So a little warning when buying over the internet – Buyer beware!!


Cruise Ships and Tourist Traps – Watch out!!


What do I mean by this heading – Watch out!! And double Watch Out! Cruise ships are in the business of entertaining – Right? – alcohol flowing well – you have just had a great day on the ship or perhaps a day’s outing exploring an exotic island/town something – a good dinner – excellent dessert – a good choice of wine – you saw the live night club act the night before – now it is time to see the art and collectibles that has been wildly advertised throughout the days – it’s Auction Night – Can I get a good deal? – Nice colourful items up for sale – let’s sit back and enjoy. And the quiet pressure begins. You are totally relaxed, enjoying the jokes from the auctioneer. Be careful!

This is where you must be careful. The auctioneer’s business is to get the highest price possible. Many of these art pieces come with “Letters of Authenticity”. Have you ever wondered why a painting needed a letter of authenticity to prove something? Extra promotion? Why? Sometimes these are not even original paintings – just – prints/limited edition prints/giclées/ lithographs/serigraphs/silk screens. And these ‘Letters’ often not even signed. You are meant to ‘take it for granted’.

Prints? What are Prints? A Picture with a multitude of copies of the same thing. Something to double double check when checking out the art work at these auctions. Make sure you have done just that before the auction begins.  That it truly is an original art work!

Giclées – a new variety in the field of prints – and scary – are very difficult to determine sometimes as they are printed on all mediums available today in the marketplace – including canvases. And they are normally very bright and cheerful – perfect for decorating.

And there are no dots visible under a magnifying glass. The glass used to be a fantastic tool checking for printing dots – not visible. (At a garage sale/flea market/Value Village – always carry a magnifying glass to check for dots. (I always have a 10x power magnifying glass in my pocket or Marian’s purse.)  Buy originals!!!

What is a Giclée? It is a print – a French word for ‘sprayed ink’ – very sophisticated printmaking process today typically produced on an IRIS ink-jet printer capable of producing millions of colours using continuous-tone technology. Often made from photographic images of famous paintings to produce high quality, permanent reproductions with extra-fine image resolutions rendering deeply saturated colours that have a broad range of tonal values.

And they can be beautiful. But be careful how much you wish to spend on these compared to an original oil painting. There are so many wonderful such paintings in the marketplace.   Think of a car when you drive it away from the garage – it is now used and suddenly at used resale prices. That is the resale of Giglées or any print!!

Future down the line resale? Always keep that in mind.

The old expression “A fool and his money are easily parted.”  Keep in mind that may be an inebriated you after a few drinks!!

Tourist traps such as Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, Scottsdale, Arizona, Miami Beach, Paris, France are all places where reproduced furniture, art glass and paintings can all be found so watch out for the Charlatans at work!!

Indoor Sprinklers – Insurance – Investment – Part 1


They certainly have become the modern trend.

Perfect for keeping your house from burning down! Right? AND Wrong!!! Perhaps if you are living in a condo where residents like to barbeque on the decks – sprinklers on the decks are perfect. But we are not thinking about that scenario. Sprinklers inside your home – on all floors.

Insurance is always at the top of my mind – An Ontario couple’s home insurance claim is being denied after the pipes of their emergency fire sprinkler system froze and burst causing major damage last winter. Reported June 17th, 2015 CBC news. They went to Florida – did every year, faithfully turned off all the house water – just as told by the insurance company. However, the Waterloo, Ontario fire department told these owners that their fire sprinkler system must be kept operational at all times. The couple did everything right according to their insurance lawyer.

“He told me flat out in writing that you are covered, that no insurance company is asking anyone to turn off their fire system in the winter,” Uniac said (the insurance company).

This whole incident is in the courts right now. The owners are considering suing. But these are extra costs on top of everything else. Damage estimate over $250,000. What does one do? Even having the house checked every day by a friend/neighbor – the damage will occur. They did ‘go public’ and are now receiving a little bit of financial help, but far from what is required.



Indoor Sprinklers – Insurance – Investment – Part 2


I just discussed Indoor Sprinklers and the Fire Department Part 1 – and leaving them on when one travels away in winter.

Part 2 – this is probably what I personally worry the most about Indoor Sprinklers any time of the year – in a condo, in a house/duplex/apartment – anywhere – if you collect art, antiques, books and water destroyable items.

Art and just about all varieties of art – suffers terribly with water. Yes – your house might not burn down – but the water was cascading down, through, penetrating all your valuables, metal could rust.

Your old furniture that has not been refinished/urethaned will probably be affected. Furniture with an old finish, any oil finish – will need to be sent to the furniture restorers. If you have any pre 1830’s wood items – American in particular – the value is in the original finish – not freshly refinished with the modern sprays.

Your art – all neatly framed – some with the latest conservation mats – are probably not waterproofed! None of my art is, yet, nor did the thought ever strike me to have it waterproofed. Even if it is an ‘oil on canvas’ painting, in the drying out process, if not done correctly, the canvas just might stretch, and that is a problem. I always tell clients if they are considering having a painting cleaned – never try it yourself without using the proper technique of removing the painting totally from the canvas frame. Nothing lowers the value of a painting faster than having ‘stretch marks’ around the edge.

And of course, if the piece of art is on paper – and the frame is not waterproofed – you can imagine the outcome – no matter who the famous artist is who had painted your watercolour. And that is another reason why oil/acrylic paintings almost always get a better price at auction than do oil paintings on paper and watercolour – easier to destroy and for watercolours – fading.

A good example of that was the recent Vancouver Heffel’s Art Auction in May 2015 where an Emily Carr oil on canvas sold for about $1,500,000.00 where as her oils on paper sold for much less at about $200,00-$300,000 and about a similar size.

It is all in the canvas and paper.

Outdoor Sprinklers – Insurance – Part 3


Outdoor Sprinklers? – What have they got to do with insurance? Well, you would be surprised!

This winter I did an appraisal for a client whose art works were stored in a cubby hole in his basement – a good spot one would think. A sealed door – no chance for mice getting in! Yes, that was correct, except he had forgotten to turn off his outdoor sprinkler correctly and there was a freezing incident and his pipe burst – in the basement, unbeknownst to him, and yes, the damage done was severe. But this could also happen if there was a sudden rain storm, the drain backs up, and you have a flood.

Always try to keep your precious materials away from the floor – just in case. One never knows.

In the case of the mice, we had a client who had wildlife prints under his bed. He had bought multiples of images that he liked for investment. As we all know, Limited Edition anything, lithographs, even plates, have proven to be a poor investment. In this instant, my client storing under the bed found that mice had got in and nibbled away at the edges and to add insult to injury, mice tend to urinate, etc. which had ruined the collection. A plastic box would have saved the day!!

Some thoughts!!

I have just added to my blog some of the articles that I wrote for a super little free newspaper a few years ago called Treasures – Antiques, Collectibles, Hobbies, Crafts, published in Calgary, and delivered through southern Alberta and into the Okanagan, down to Vancouver, all by one person who was totally dedicated to getting it out into the marketplace, a little newspaper delving into the whole subject of antiques, collectibles, hobbies, upcoming antiques shows, auctions, interesting shops, even gossip?? and little articles, published by Treasures Publishing Ltd., now totally gone – not even a Google mention.

How sad. However, there are similar style papers like Treasures still floating around through the antiques shops etc, but more in the U.S. than in Canada. But we still have one little colourful booklet that gives a sampling of what is happening in Western Canada called Discovering Antiques – Antiquing in Western Canada, comes out every other month and found at large antiques shows, shops, published in Calgary. Full of articles, lots of advertising, Calendar of Upcoming Events – very well planned, and in my opinion – is a must to keep in the car for easy reference when traveling after you have first read it. Do read it!   Who knows what new ideas will suddenly grab at you in your life! Look out for this little magazine.


William Henry Bartlett – 1809 – 1854


Bartlett was a British artist with a strong love of North America. He made four trips across the Atlantic and his work is usually available wherever antiques are sold. He came to Canada in 1838 and painted from the Maritimes and up the St. Lawrence to Quebec City and around the Great Lakes to Toronto and to Niagara Falls. The artist made countless drawings and also published pictures from Switzerland, Continental Europe, Britain and Middle East.

Bartlett just kept travelling and worked himself to the bone. Before his death at the age of 45, he had illustrated thirty books and posthumously a three volume work “The History of the United States of North America”. It is fitting for one who travelled so much that he died on one of his voyages to the Middle East and was buried at sea. He left his family in dire straits financially. A biography of his life was created which gave some money and a pension which was somehow provided for his widow.

The signed print of Bartlett was found for $60.00 at “Inside Avenue Antiques Inc” in Calgary. Bartlett prints are available in the marketplace for $95.00 and upwards depending on the subject matter.

This has already appeared in a great little newspaper call Treasures published in Alberta and distributed in B.C. and Alberta – now out of print.Treasures April 2012 013 Treasures April 2012 015

Check out Czech Porcelains!


In the 1790’s, rich deposits of kaolin were found in and around Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) and by 1905 the porcelain business had grown to nearly thirty factories in that area of Bohemia.

One factory that has caught the imagination and desires of collectors is Royal Dux that was made in Duchcov (Dux) since 1850’s. In 1900 they started using a applied pink (rose) triangle mark with the inscription ‘Royal Dux Bohemia’ around an acorn.

The figurines have proved to be very popular over the years and collectors seem to believe that “Larger is Better”.

Romantic subjects, huntsmen and beautiful Art Nouveau ladies all play a big role in the style of Royal Dux.

This company achieved most remarkable successes thanks to its model-designer Alois Hampel. Some of his designs are still in production today.

The factory chose to market their image through World Fairs and won the Grand Prix prize at St. Louis in 1904, silver medal in Milan in 1906, and a gold medal at Liberec in the Czech Republic.

The Second World War turned the company upside down as many of the staff were of German nationality and were uprooted. They were replaced by settlers from the interior of the country. There was a collection on view at Expo ’58 in Brussels which again fueled interest in the porcelains.

The manufactory still exists today and the same distinctive triangle is still being used on their figurines.

The two pictures

“The Lovers’ – 22 inches high, $1,500.Royal Dux 014 Treasures 4 003Treasures 3 008

The Hunstman – 26 inches high, $2,500.


Is this the first Christmas Plate?

Treasures October 2011 003

Is this the first Christmas Plate?

By Peter S. Blundell

The maker of this plate was Copeland identified with an impressed underglaze backstamp in a rainbow shape “Copeland”. An underglaze stamp of U81 is the code for a manufactory date of June 1881.

‘Copeland’ of Stoke–on-Trent was a branch of the famous Spode Company. The main subjects are the three Wisemen, one riding a camel following the nativity star. The design is in a scroll with Aesthetic Movement middle Eastern designs surrounding the scroll. An impressive rim of Persian type flowers.

The whole plate is done is a transferware sepia brown. The body is of a light earthenware type. There are three little birds and sprigs of prunus blossoms which make up the balance of the Oriental look.

Martha Stewart is probably the most visible of brown transferware collectors and has been squirreling plates away in a startingly good collection for years. This fact alone has probably contributed to a rise in the values of these plates as Martha writes about them from time to time in her magazine.

These plates were probably made to be hung on the wall as such a specific date sensitive design would not make a suitable dinner plate. They also would make good and appropriate Christmas gifts. Today’s value is $145.00.

This leads me back to the original question – Is this the First Christmas Plate?


Treasures October 2011 005The tie – Hardly anyone wears ties these days let alone giving one for a Christmas present so under the laws of supply and demand, they are becoming scarce. This “ice breaker’ tie encourages the viewer to read the joke. Thrift stores and Value Village are the places where these can be found for under $15.00. This tie has a label “Jingle Bells” Made in China. OK – now who is collecting?