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Martin Willis: I’m on the phone with Terry Kovel How are you Terry?
Terry Kovel: I’m fine, thanks. Good to hear from you.
Martin: Yes thank you, now, I am talking about Terry Kovel of Ralph and Terry Kovel’s price guides. I have seen these books around and, growing up in the business, God I want to say back in the 70s, I first picked up a Kovel’s. How many books have you published? When did you start?
Terry: Now I’m giving my age away. Our first book came out in 1953. It was Dictionary of Marks: Pottery and Porcelain, and it’s kind of funny, the first copy arrived the day our daughter was born so we kept saying we were to call her Mark if she was a boy but, I got a girl; she lucked out.
At any rate, then they said we were experts, you know, “You wrote a book. You’re an expert”. Price book came along a couple books later, but the one this year, the 2013 Kovel’s , is the 45th price book, and they’re all new every year so I can count it and, hold your breath, this is our hundred and first book.
Martin: Oh wow. You would do this every year; I can’t imagine what an undertaking that is. I remember going through your price guides not always agreeing, to being honest with you, when I was younger, with the prices, because I was following what things were selling for at auction growing up in the auction business and there was a stretch away from prices in the book. But it did give the lay person an idea of what some things were worth; I think it was a very valuable tool. Can you tell me, in the beginning, how you obtained the prices for these pieces?
Terry: Well originally we literally had people reporting to us from all over the country. I had a lot of friends who were “antiquers”, you know, so I told them “write down the prices”. But every price we record in any book was an actual asked-for price. Now we can’t guarantee that’s what you paid; we know everybody works with that a little bit, but also, there really weren’t any antique auctions that were doing much of anything when we did this in the early 50s. They were all local. They didn’t have catalogs. And you’ve got to remember that the East Coast always had an entirely different price structure than Cleveland, which is where I live, and certainly different than California. I remember talking to a dealer in Colorado who said they bought all their antiques in Ohio, retail, and took them out to Colorado and sold them. That’s really what was going on then.
Martin: Oh yeah that was going on right into the 70s and early 80s pretty heavy-duty. My father was actually involved in sending items from this area, mostly oak and Victorian pieces, right to the Denver-Boulder Colorado area.
Terry: Yes that’s it and what we did, they tell us – I’ve always been surprised at how much they think we changed things – we leveled the market. Things got much closer in price because people realized what the difference was, and of course the auctions were getting more and more important and today I think most auctions are, in some cases, retail.
Martin: I see that myself. A lot of times dealers will come up to me during an auction and say “where’s that person going to go with that piece”, you know, it kind of hits the top, but you know it’s variable; that’s for sure. And speaking of variable, you just mentioned regions of the country, and when I first looked at my father’s appraisals that he was doing, in the cover page he had a notation that said “prices may vary in different regions of the country”
Terry: Yes and we say that in the introduction to all our books, by the way.
Martin: Oh you do; and have you always?
Terry: Yes. And we’ve always explained if it’s wholesale or retail, and we used to only, and you’ll love this, we used to only list things up to $5000; now we wouldn’t have anything to say if we did that (laughing). So we’ve raised the price limit. But we occasionally have something like a major sale of mechanical banks or something and we will put in a price like $35,000 and we explain in the paragraph that introduces banks that this year we’ve included some unbelievable ones because we want you to know that the top of the market is really way up there.
Martin: Yes, I think that’s pretty much across the board. I’m sure you realize that since you have your thumb on what’s going on in today’s world. And do you currently get a lot of your prices through auction results?
Terry: Yes, but every word is edited in our book and actually every word is proofread three or four times and I read every word a couple of times; we look very carefully for the things that seem to be impossible. We don’t take prices from places like eBay, where we don’t think the people know what they’re selling.
Martin: That’s interesting. I have sitting here on my desk right now has we’re speaking, three Kovel’s books, let’s see, I have the 2008 price list, the 2001 price list, and I also have the Yellow Pages.
Terry: Oh my, that’s out of print long ago.
Martin: (laughing) and let’s see, that is a collectors directory of names, addresses, telephone and fax numbers, and Internet addresses, etc. of dealers and things across the country; is that right?
Terry: That’s right, yes, and clubs and anything that might useful to a collector. (Information now online at http://www.kovels.com/Directory/
Martin: I see Warman’s has been around just about as long as Kovel’s what’s the situation with that?
Terry: Warman’s started before we did. He was a printer in Philadelphia, a smart printer in Philadelphia, and he evidently was printing some price lists for several auction houses or galleries; I think most of them actually were shops, and he took a bunch of those and put them together. I remember one of them was a list of prints, one was a list of furniture, he put them together and he put in mail order ads in magazines and he sold them. But the trouble was, he put the ads in before he had the book, and then it took a long time to fill the mail order ads, and then every bookstore in America was getting heck from their customers because they couldn’t buy a Warman’s and here were all these ads. So our publisher, we had already done a couple of books for them, suggested that we write a price book. And we did it with a computer, or the equivalent of computers from those days, which meant we could get it out in print in six months which was about a year earlier than doing it the old way.
Martin: You and your husband Ralph must have had a real passion for antiques in order to take on something of this magnitude. Can you explain how you got started?
Terry: You know it’s kind of funny. Ralph came from a family that thought antiques were old things, you know. People that had money to buy new things didn’t buy old things; which by the way, was 99% of the American public at that time. I had a mother who collected antique silver and a few things, but that’s about the extent of it. But when we were on our honeymoon, we rode our bicycles past an antique shop in Bermuda. We stopped, and Ralph fell in love with a bunch of stuff, and we spent all our honeymoon money on antiques. And I still have most of them by the way; they were very good buys! And it just went from there. When we got back, we moved into an apartment and, you’ll like this, we had to have accessories – everybody had to have accessories – like ashtrays and lamps and things, and it was okay to go to a house sale for that; but Heaven forbid that you should buy a piece of furniture or clothes or anything else. It just wasn’t done, and that, once again, was true of America in those days. So we started there, and that’s how Ralph decided we needed to do our first book; which was the Dictionary of Marks – Pottery and Porcelain and that book remained in print until about a year or so ago and is now available online on our site Kovels’ New Dictionary of Marks – Pottery & Porcelain: 1850 to the Present.
Martin: Wow. I do want to talk to you a lot about what’s available online and what’s changed and all that, but first we’ll talk about a few other things. I had a book at one time, I kept this book because it was fun to look at, and the title of the book was How to Turn Your Ugly Antiques into Modern Furniture.
Terry: Oh I know we have a couple of those, one from the 30s, one from the 50s. Peter Hunt did all this stuff at some point, I think in the 60s or 70s, and now of course you buy Peter Hunt for a premium. They’ve been massacred for years; I love the ones where they cut the legs off, and they paint them, and they say “Now you have a wonderful antique table”.
Martin: Yes, changing a rope bed into a settee; people actually do that today, and you know actually for the prices that a 225-year-old rope bed is selling, you might as well turn it into a settee (laughing).
Terry: You’re right. But we keep track of the newer things; the younger look at antiques, (especially) since my daughter is my partner now. And yesterday, somebody came up to me in the office and showed me a picture from one of the magazines; someone had taken vintage suitcases; not good ones, just old suitcases, cut them in half lengthwise, and used them as shelves. I hadn’t seen that one before, so we’re still slaughtering anything we can change into something else (laughing).
Martin: Yes. You talked earlier about back in the 50s when you are on your honeymoon and nobody wanted the old stuff. That’s almost a trend that’s happening with young people today, as I’m sure you understand, for the most part.
Terry: Well I can understand part of it, first of all silver has to be cleaned! And interestingly silver, of course, has a meltdown value so at least you know you’ve got that, but you can still sell very good English 18th-century, even Sheffield, in silver because there’s still a group of people out there. But I don’t think they’re in his or her 30s, or even who lives in this country in a small town because this is strictly for people who give banquets, you know. There still are some of them around. Everything’s international now, so if it’s really good it will go somewhere.
Then it’s also true that, for while there, I was giving what… I was always giving antiques as a wedding present; I always warned the bride, and then I’d get something that’s noncontroversial. But for a while there, everybody was getting pottery instead of porcelain dishes, and they were getting pewter instead of silver, and you know now they’re going back, interestingly enough, into the dishes because you can buy a full set, 12 place settings of great dishes for two or $300 now, I mean they’re giving them away!
Martin: Even less sometimes. I’ve seen this trend. I was in California for nine years and I saw (I’m back on the East Coast now) I saw, say, sets of Limoges, you know the Rose…
Terry: Oh yeah well that of course was very big for so long, and then it just died.
Martin: I’ve seen 12 place settings go for $100-150. It was baffling to see the change. This same auction house I worked at had weekly appraisal clinics, and the theme I heard over and over again was “my grandchildren don’t want anything to do with this” or “no one has dinner parties anymore so we need to sell the flatware”.
Terry: But I was at an antique show here in this area in Hudson, Ohio; it’s a well-known one that basically is “country”, shall we say. There was one dealer there with what I would call piles of service plates. They weren’t the real big ones, but they were really dinner plates, with elaborate designs and gold borders and I think “can you really sell those?” He said “I sold four sets this morning” so somewhere there are people who are using service plates, which I was stunned by because the rest of this particular show, everything was made out of wood.
Martin: I usually think of a service plate as around 11 inches.
Terry: Yes, but these were 10 inch plates. They were very elaborate but I don’t think they were eating food off of them; maybe they were putting them in a cabinet but who has a cabinet like that anymore?
Martin: (laughing) That’s true. Unless it’s a Built-In.
Terry: But he said it’s a big seller everywhere.
Martin: That’s interesting.
Terry: But not Limoges! (laughing)
Martin: This is a question that people are often asking me, and I want to see your take on it. You just finished your 2013 book; what would you consider the heavy-duty trends of today?
Terry: All right well that’s easy. First of all, Chinese, but I suspect it’s getting near the end – and I would like you to later ask me about that because I have some stores about that. Secondly, the 50s. 50s, 50s, 50s. I just got a Nordstrom department store catalog in the mail today, and they have one section that they’re calling “Vintage Vibes”, and in it they’ve got jewelry that looks like its old, and clothes that look they’re old; I mean they really do; they’re almost exact replicas. So that’s coming back too. You can see in the clothing that the 60s and 70s are back. And the jewelry that goes with it is back. And the lifestyle is back to some extent; that’s when peoples first started doing buffets and having informal parties, and didn’t want to work too hard cleaning their houses, so they simplify their lives. There’s a whole long history of this; we’ve gone through all of this, but essentially, after World War II everything changed. All the modern things came in; the Scandinavian, the Eames look and whatnot came in, and that’s what everybody wants because it’s easier to take care of and it’s modern.
Martin: I work with an auction company and the owner is James Julia up in Maine
Terry: Oh I know them
Martin: Yes very bright man and he was saying the other day, I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting him, he believes the bloom is off the rose slightly on the Chinese items, and I want to hear your take on that because you said you have something to tell me about that.
Terry: Oh I’m absolutely sure and actually I’m in a way quoting the last James Julia sale. There was a big to-do on Antiques Roadshow on rhinoceros horns. Somebody had rhinoceros horn libation cups and they said his collection was worth something like 1.5 million dollars; he had a bunch of them. He put up a couple for sale and they did all right. The auction companies were pricing them at $50-60,000 and they were selling for $150,000-$250,000 – and everybody was kind of looking at them (askance). Well I know of one where they bid $150K from a very well known Chicago auction house, and he didn’t pay for it! He came in and he said “Well that’s too much money. I don’t want to pay”. They said “Well you bought it”. He said “No, I’m not paying it; I’ll give you $80,000”. Well the owner of the piece said “I’ll eat it before I’ll let someone do that at an auction house”
Then I started looking into it and this was not happening just once, this was happening all over the place. Some of these major, major, prices you were seeing never got bought, never got paid for, and you can’t sue someone in China to collect.
Martin: Have you read the Huffington Post article about this?
Terry: Probably, I’ve been keeping very close tabs on this because I know the person that got stuck on the $150,000. By the way they’ve since sold it for $40,000 and gotten paid.
Martin: There’s an issue right now that you cannot currently import rhinoceros horn into China so they cannot get their pieces, so that whole market for American collectors is going to drop drastically. This is a recent development.
Terry: Yes they’ve done this on other things too. There’s a story from a couple of years ago about a young couple who inherited some vases that sold for millions and millions of dollars and they’re still trying to collect; they’ve never been paid. And I just wonder what happened with their estate because they had no money; this was something they inherited, and what does the government think they owe in taxes? I don’t know what you do with that; it’s a mess. But they’ve been doing this on a lot of things and I, in a way, think that – do you remember the days when there was a ring at every auction?
Martin: Yes, you mean a pool?
Terry: Yes a pool, right. I have a feeling there’s a little of that going on because the Chinese had buyers who came over for four or five people in China, and I think they just got smart about it. They were paying ridiculous prices from my point of view; yes for a museum piece, but the average blue and white something or other wasn’t worth nearly what they were paying. It’s an interesting problem because we went through it with the Russian bidders a few years ago.
Martin: Yes that’s absolutely 100% right. I have a friend that has really good insight sometimes, and he quoted this to me that you may find interesting, and that is, the top 20% of a Chinese auction is doing extremely well, very very good, and everything else is selling for just about what it always has. What do you think of that?
Terry: Well I don’t think it’s quite down that far, but I think it’s getting there. For a while there, everything was selling way over. But it’s kind of hard to figure these things out because, what we’ve collected, we have a country store in the basement; by the way, we don’t sell anything, we’ve never been dealers; Ralph was in the food business so it was inevitable right? Every time he called on a customer and they heard it, they would say “oh we have a lot of old labels here, do you want them?” You know, it was a great deal for a while. But those things were throwaway, literally; it was trash. It’s gotten to be that some of the prices they’re paying for that are astounding to me; they’re paying thousands and thousands of dollars for a tin sign that was made in multiples. You could buy a good oil painting for that. So the interest level on certain things is causing the prices and when the 20 people who are bidding the highest of the prices stop collecting for one reason or another everything is going to drop. This always seems to go in cycles. That’s what happened to the bottle market; people still collect, but… We love to do comparisons. Anytime we find something that was originally sold at the Gardner’s Sale because he was the greatest bottle collector around, we have that price; we have all the old catalogs, we go back and look them up and we show you that price, and then we show you what happened recently. I know we reported one in the last few weeks where the bottle went from, like, I don’t know, 30 some thousand dollars down to 20 some thousand dollars now. But nonetheless they’ve dropped.
Martin: Well I know a historical flask, not that long ago, went very high, and bitters bottles are breaking records so it’s, again, it’s the very top crust, it seems, that is holding on or up.
Terry: Yes the bottles people, by the way, are very active. I’m a member of all the bottle clubs; we’ve always collected them. You go to one of the meets, or one of the conventions, or one of the shows, it’s mobbed. They have big crowds. But they aren’t exactly what you would expect. It’s kind of this one little group that moves from place to place. And they’re, like everybody else, looking for younger collectors.
Martin: Yes. Let’s talk a little bit about younger collectors. What do you see as a solution to getting more people involved? Have you ever given that any thought?
Terry: Well I hear enough about it. I think in some ways we get what we deserve in this industry. The younger dealers that I see at the shows are salespeople; they merchandise. They do a good layout. They show you how to use things. They have a show that has lecturers with some kind of information that shows you why you should own it, or how you can do it. Each of these little groups seems to be able to find somebody. Like the political button people must be going crazy right now; there are a lot of younger people who are looking at political buttons. They start with what they remember from their parents; they don’t go way back. And I don’t think there’s a solution to that.
Martin: So there is a disconnect. I spoke with Harry Rinker about this a while back. His theory is that if there’s not an emotional connection i.e. having tea with your grandmother with a Limoges coffee set, and if a ($) value is placed on it instead, and it is tucked away and no one can use it, that kind of breaks the emotional contact that you would have.
Terry: Harry and I both agree that there’s about a 25 year cycle. You start out like we did when you’re newly married and you buy something and you get intrigued; we started the store stuff earlier on. And then you get a little richer, we hope, a little better off, and then you buy a little more, and then you know more about it, and then you know what to buy, and pretty soon you’re the guy at the top of the heap. And then, you have to move to a smaller house, or somebody dies; such things happen, and you’re gone, and there’s no top guy anymore so the prices drop down to the beginners again, and that’s really what happens; it takes about 25 years.
Martin: A lot of times I think in general the market has dropped for the most part but..
Terry: oh it has; the economy is showing. People don’t have the extra money they used to have.
Martin: This is another situation am going to throw at you and see what you have to say about it. What you think the effect of the baby boomers getting out of the collecting market is going to change?
Terry: Well, I think, as I said, I think we’re going to have shows that aren’t just antique shows. They have crafts there, and modern jewelry makers; good ones though, not the ones who string beads; the ones who are actually making something. And we have a number of shows in this area where we have modern potters; we have some that are specifically for things that are made after 1950. And I think that’s what’s going to happen. Specialized things are going to be more out there. We just have to adjust. And of course you have to know how to use social media and you have to do all those other things to stay in business.
Martin: That’s right, that’s right. Now I want to talk to you about what has changed in what you do since the Internet has come alive.
Terry: Everything. Ralph died in 2008 and my daughter became my partner, thank heavens because she really knows the Internet. We have had a website for long time; we were smart enough to do that, but we have a subscription newsletter that we have done for 30 years, and we now have online http://www.kovels.com/Online/select-subscription.html as well as the printed ones http://www.kovels.com/Print/print-subscription.html. We’re getting a lot more online than we ever did. We have some of our books up, as I said, the Marks Book is up . We give a lot of free information away because we want you to come to our website. It’s a weird economy; you make your money on the ads; you don’t make your money on your product anymore. But you have to know how to do it. I personally can’t buy anything online; I have to see it, and hold it, and look at it; now that I say that I have bought one or two things, but they are things I know really well, but I know people who just love going out there saying “I think I want to buy a red chair today” and will look for one until they find one. You never could do that before, and the dealers have to live with that. And they have to show glass candlesticks upside down or whatever it takes to get people to stop in the booth and figure out “Gee,I like that. It looks good”
Martin: People used to enjoy the hunt in driving around to antique shops, yard sales, things like that and now they enjoy the hunt by sitting in their living room and getting on their laptop and looking that way.
Terry: I know, and it’s embarrassing because, as you say, “Gee, I want to collect sock stretchers” and they go out there, and up comes something that shows you there’s 22 of them being sold at auctions next month, you know, that’s no fun (laughing).
Martin: I don’t know about you, if you even do this, but I still like to go to estate sales and I like to go to small auctions; when it’s a large auction online it’s pretty easy to see everything there but, it’s still the hunt, in my case,…
Terry: Oh I go to everything.
Martin: Oh you do.
Terry: I just love it, yes. I figure this is my inexpensive entertainment, you know, I go in the shops. I go into yard sales if I see them; I don’t go to house sales anymore because I find that the house sale people around here have already invited the dealers the day before. And I won’t go to anything like that, but some of the yard sales you find things, particularly for our country store because people think old boxes aren’t worth anything.
Martin: I have to say that there was a difference in San Francisco, I do have a lot of listeners in California and I hope no one is offended by me saying this, but I have gone to many estate sales in California where the dealers were already there for two or three days and overlooked a lot of real gems, so, I’m giving this message to people out in California – don’t stop going to yard sales or estate sales because you think the dealers have already been there because you never know what you’re going to find.
Terry: Oh you are absolutely right and one of the things you find, by the way we have a free e-zine I guess they call them, it’s Kovel’s Komments you sign up on our website, as long as you register I will send you this note every week and I like to write about things nobody else is writing about like some lady just found a Renoir painting at a flea market.
Martin: Oh yes I saw that, still life.
Terry: Yes so that’s the kind of story I love and it’s no question that sometimes it does happen. I went this antiques show and I bought a mourning picture; not everybody wants those, but we collected them for years, and this one was fabulous, and it was very inexpensive, and she said “nobody has even looked at them at this sale” I said “I’m not surprised. Nobody looks at them anywhere” (laughing)
Martin: Just for the listener that doesn’t know, in the 19th century generally, during that era, a mourning picture would be of someone passed away, a lot of times its needlework, sometimes it’s not, and often times there’s a memorial of the person centered in the picture.
Terry: Yes this has a memorial, and it’s made of hair, and needlework, and some kind of drippy grain – I can’t even figure out what it is, and paint. It’s very elaborate and very small, and I think it’s German; that’s what the dealer and I decided, not American.
Martin: Wow interesting. Now since we’re on the subject, why don’t you talk about what you would consider your best find?
Terry: Oh that’s easy. It was very long ago. We went to a house sale, it happened that we knew the woman who was running the house sale, and she had called us up and said “I’ve got this house; it’s got all this glass and stuff from the cupboards. It looks good to me, could you come over and give us some advice”. So we went over and we told her “yes you’re right its 18th-century and”… it’s a long story – at any rate we went to the sale, and we had not seen it ahead of time and we bought for $10 a silver sugar caster. We knew it was solid silver, and we knew it was American; we had just finished a book on silver. But we didn’t know until we got home that it was made by Paul Revere Sr. and it was all marked; it’s now in a museum.
Martin: That is just amazing.
Terry: Yes, you don’t get many of those. But the other thing that we did, which was an amazing one, was we actually wrote the first article about George Ohr pottery. Do you know George Ohr?
Martin: Oh yes.
Terry: Well he was a real nutcase, but he did great pottery. And we did an art pottery book and when we were at the Smithsonian doing research, the person who was taking me around said “you’ve got a see one of these things we’ve got here; a crazy man gave us this” and they had seven pieces of George Ohr pottery, given by George to the Smithsonian; because he was “the greatest potter in the world”, he said they had to have it. We thought this guy was great, we did a lot of research and we wrote an article for a magazine called The Western Collector, which was phenomenal but didn’t last long – in fact that was the last issue of the magazine when that article came out – that’s embarrassing (laughing).
But the man who discovered that George Ohr had put all his pottery in an attic in the early 1900s and had said “I’m not going to do this anymore”, had gone down and was buying old cars from their sons, and he bought about 4000 pieces of Ohr that was in the attic. He called us and said “I got this stuff, we saw your article, you’re the only one that has said anything about him, I’d like to show it to you” And he stopped here on the way to a show, and he had the pieces marked five dollars and $10, and I think the most expensive was $25. And he brought in 40 pieces, and my husband fell in love with them and bought all of them.
Martin: Oh my goodness, that was good timing.
Terry: Yes, now those pieces today, I have one that must be worth at least $10,000. It’s just phenomenal, but as I said, you don’t get that lucky very often.
We know a dealer who bought at some point – Ohr was floating around at the shows for about three or four years before anybody started paying anything for it, and this dealer bought all the puzzle mugs – Ohr did things for fairs as well as doing the big fancy stuff, and these were mugs where you had to figure out how to get the liquid out because it had holes in the side: they were “puzzle mugs”. He carried those around for two years; he could sell them for 25 bucks apiece and he finally just sold that whole collection to somebody else. So somebody somewhere made money on these things, but it took a long time. I own one of those because I thought it was interesting.
Martin: I was interviewed by a newspaper reporter a few years ago, sitting in a café, and she said to me after we talked, “you don’t deal in real value do you, you deal in perceived values”. That is pretty apparent in the things that we do and especially to someone like you.
Terry: Well but what isn’t perceived value? The art market, if you owned a French realist painting 10 or 20 years ago, you were getting a fortune. Today nobody’s buying them; they’re worth about a fourth of what they used to be, and these are major artists. Everything is perceived value; who would pay $80,000 for a car when they can buy one for 30,000? I know it’s a better car but, you have to think it’s a better car too.
Martin: Yes. I guess, you’re absolutely right about that. We pay a lot for diamonds because we think diamonds are valuable. And, were getting a little philosophical in this (laughing) that’s my fault, but I just think it’s kind of a fascinating thing when you have to create records year after year of what is going on, I’m sure you look back and say “wow, I can really see the trends”
Terry: Yes you really can, particularly like, doorstops; nobody looked at the doorstops when I first started collecting, and then they went way through the ceiling, and now they’re coming back down again a little. And why should a door stop be worth anything? I mean really when you get down to it, one of the best sellers today, and I find this amazing, is anything made of iron; Griswold pans, doorstops, door knockers, mechanical banks, toys, they’re all selling for high prices and I have no idea why.
Martin: That’s interesting. We’re almost out of time here, and I want to touch briefly on fakes. In your opinion how much you think that affects collecting and the market
Terry: Well if you really keep up with the market then you know there’s fakes everywhere and we actually do a booklet every year on fakes and the booklet is based on things we wrote about 20 years ago and the fakes are still out there. Don’t be upset, because, museums have been fooled. The Metropolitan, the Victoria and Albert, the Ford Museum; they’ve all had fakes. And a good faker can fool anybody. They’ve just arrested some guy who was selling paintings in about 15 different painter styles, and Christie’s and Sotheby’s were selling them as these new-found masterpieces.
Martin: Was this the person that would not sign his paintings?
Terry: Yes I think so. Most the time, if you’re specializing in bottles, or iron, or whatever, you get to know what it should look like, and you get this sixth sense which tells you something’s not right. I know of a painting, for instance, that was in the Cleveland Museum that everybody walked by every day, and one day one of the restorers walked by and said to the curator “I don’t know why, but there’s something wrong with that picture”. It had great provenance. He said “there’s just something about it that annoys me every time I walk by it”, and it turned out he was right. It was a modern copy. What was wrong was they had used white paint that was a different color than it should be. Who knows the color of white, you know (laughing)? But if you know your field well enough, you get a feeling for it, and I guess you have to figure its part of your education to buy a fake now and then.
Martin: Yes that’s right. I also think that, in my situation, my first, initial feeling instantly is the one I always have to go back to, because there’s been many times where right off the Bat I go “no, that’s not right”
Terry: That’s right. You have to trust your instincts if you’ve been a collector because in the back of your head somewhere it’s like you know if it’s a great piece if you see it in a pile of junk, you just know somehow and you can’t explain to somebody that the texture is wrong.
Martin: I know people often times when I’m at an appraisal clinic and someone brings a good reproduction or fake and they ask me, why do I think it’s a fake, and I say “I can’t really tell you, I just know it is”(laughing). I’ve said that before.
Terry: Well I know that when the Ohr pottery first came out I went to a show, and all of a sudden, there I am staring at a blood red Ohr pottery vase. I went to the dealer, who was selling Royal Doulton primarily, and I said “I know this is an unfamiliar thing to most of us but I’m telling you that can’t be right. That had to have been re-glazed; he never did a decent glaze in his life; he always had imperfections in it”. And it disappeared; she took it off the market. I was right, (we found) since then he did pink, but he never did red.
Martin: Well this has been wonderful. I’m going to ask you if you would be up for coming on the show again.
Terry: Sure I’d be glad to. I’ve got to give my plugs!
Martin: Oh yes. Here you go. The floor is yours.
Terry: Everybody go to the bookstore, go online, you can go on our website, for Kovel’s Price Guide 2013. It just came out; 40,000 prices, all put in there in the last year, by the way. It has 2,500 color pictures, which is something we do now but we could never do before because of all the digital stuff. It’s really useful. Our price list online, which is free, has all the prices dated, which means if you’re trying to figure out taxes, estate taxes or whatever, they are dated so you have a base price you can use because this is valid as far as the government is concerned. So it’s worth looking; as I said, there are 800,000 prices online that are free. Our website is Kovels.com. Look around and see what’s there, and sign up for the e-zine because http://www.kovels.com/Table/Kovels-Komments/ I love stupid stories and if you know any let me know about them.
Martin: Well this has been fantastic. I really enjoyed having you on as a guest.
Terry: Well thank you, it’s been fun.
Martin: Thanks so much. This is Martin Willis with Terry Kovel, and we’re signing off.