image001 image002Sold by Heritage Auctions, Jan. 7, 2016, at Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Convention in Tampa; famous coin makes only its fourth appearance at auction in history

DALLAS – An 1894-S Barber Dime, Branch Mint PR66 PCGS CAC, the finest known, realized $1,997,500 at auction on Jan. 7, 2016 as the centerpiece of Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night event at the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Convention in Tampa, FL.

It was sold to an experienced collector, who placed their bid online and wishes to remain anonymous. The winning bidder was one of 16 different collectors vying for the piece.

“This was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to own one of the most famous, mysterious and elusive coins in American numismatics,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions. “It’s a classic of American coinage often grouped with the 1804 dollar and the 1913 Liberty nickel as ‘The Big Three’ of U.S. coin rarities. It has been the stuff of collectors’ dreams since attention was first brought to it in 1900.”

Only 24 Barber dimes were struck at the San Francisco Mint in 1894, apparently in order to balance a bullion account. No more than nine – and possibly only eight – examples of the 1894-S are known to collectors today, with this coin being the finest survivor certified. 

“We know that there are likely at least a couple more of these 1894-S dimes still in circulation,” said Rohan. “Heritage Auctions is offering a reward to anyone who might have a previously unreported example of this coin. We’ll pay $10,000 simply to be the first to examine and verify it is an authentic, previously unknown 1894-S dime.”

Heritage Auctions is the largest auction house founded in the United States and the world’s third largest, with annual sales of approximately $900 million, and 950,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and receive access to a complete record of prices realized, with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit

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by Martin Willis

If you happen to be one of the 5,000 people to live in a beautiful country town to the west of Boston, Lincoln, Massachusetts then you had the chance recently of owning a local treasure of modernism. During a recent call from my friend Doug Stinson, I learned about a benefit auction he was donating his services at in his home town. He said there was some incredible modernistic silver he was auctioning off the next day, the work of which rivals designs by known silversmith, Georg Jensen.

10A Gift to the Town

On April 12th, 60 pieces fine silver and jewelry that Florence Hollingsworth designed and hand-wrought as well as 40 pieces she owned, but not made by her were sold to Lincoln residents and past students only, with 100% of proceeds benefitting the First Parish Church of Lincoln.

Who Was Florence Hollingsworth?

florenceFlorence Scott Hollingsworth was born in 1896 in Oregon. She attended Oregon State University, where she met her future husband Lowell. They both graduated in the midst of the Great Depression and they eventually attended Stanford to better their chances for employment. The couple moved east when Lowell was offered a job at MIT Lincoln Labs.


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by Martin Willis

Christies-PICASSO-FEMMES-DALGERComing up next month, Christies takes a daring leap and has the distinction of assigning the highest art at auction estimate ever. Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger, created in 1955 is going on the block May 11th at the Rockefella Center in New York City. The $140 Million dollar estimate is the lower end of expectations.

This painting in particular is iconic to say the least, but not considered the most valuable artwork in the world. If you could imagine the most viewed painting in the world, the Mona Lisa (6 million people per year) ever for some reason hit the auction block, not only could it somehow cause a war of some kind, but nations would probably bid for it and guessing the price would be very unlikely.

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4by Martin Willis

60 Years of Waiting Proves Worthwhile

A painting purchased in the 1950s by Finland’s Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation was never proven to be by the artist as it appeared to be unsigned. Thanks to modern technology, Claude Monet’s (1840-1926) signature was recently found under a layer of paint. The piece was painted near his home in Giverny and called “A Haystack in the Evening Sun” (1892).

I had the opportunity to view a Monet exhibition several years ago in Boston, and there is nothing like seeing the work in person. The pieces that struck me the most were, his lily pad paintings and his haystack paintings, both of which can sell for in excess of $10 million.

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by Martin Willis

Not often can so many magnificent pieces travel through time unattributed, but such was the case of many Nathaniel Gould’s masterpieces. It all started several years ago when furniture scholar, Kemble Widmer and Joyce King were contacted by fine antique dealers, C.L. Prickett who recently purchased an outstanding mahogany Chippendale bombe secretary/bookcase. Prickett contracted Widmer & King to try to track down the maker of his acquisition, knowing it was most likely a Boston, Massachusetts furniture maker.

Detectives at Work

ANTIQUES2-master315Now let’s shift gears and talk about three vellum covered account books sitting unregarded on the shelves at the Massachusetts Historical Society for 174 years. These books were assumed to be nothing more than account ledgers. During their investigation Kemble had a strong hunch that the piece they were researching was by Nathaniel Gould. One evening, it occurred to Joyce King that when all else fails in their research, Google it. Surprisingly in her Google search, Nathaniel Gould account books popped up under the Massachusetts Historical Society. Ironically, this information had only been on the internet for one or two weeks. Joyce immediately called Kem, (as he likes to be called) and told him what she found, and suggested that they might be important. The next day they made their initial trip to the historical society in Boston and after the pieces were brought out for them to inspect, to their surprise, they could tell right away that these written accounts were geared toward Gould’s furniture making. They discovered that the ledgers were a treasure trove of information including Gould’s prolific unknown work. It also became obvious that the fine wood he used was only possible because he controlled the mahogany coming to the shores of Salem.


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A Collector’s Perspective

by Martin Willis

d4e88957b0f3f8dccea0ded421879b73I have to look back in my memory to try and understand why I loved antiques at such an early age. I attribute this to walking around the border of our property in Eliot, Maine at the age of 7 or so and discovering shards of antique bottles from a 19th century dump. I loved the way the glass had turned purple with time, and the embossing on them told stories. I eventually got a garden hoe and started to dig, and found treasure after treasure of these intact examples of history.

triloids1I caught the bug and was hooked right there and then. I eventually got some friends together to search other properties, burrowing deep into the woods, poison ivy and all. I would bring the finds home, clean them as good as I could in a washtub, and display them on shelves in our barn. I had bottles, insulators and inkwells of all kinds, colors and sizes. The shelves became overloaded and eventually went into boxes. I still bear the scar of a bad cut I got at a site and remember it exactly. I was so enthralled in the dig, I tore some cloth of my T-shirt wrapped my finger and kept up the hunt. My prize possession that day was a cobalt blue poison bottle. In the 19th century, there was low lighting, so bottles containing poison had rough ribbed or faceted surfaces. When you grasped one in the dark, you knew not to ingest the contents. In general, the bottles I found were mostly common, and had little value, but for some reason the stories they told were more important than money to me.

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17 Nov 2014, by

What People Collect

imagesIf it exists, it is collected by someone. In my long career in the antiques and auction business, I have seen the vast variety of items that people collect.

The reason people usually start collecting is, a connection. Not with the objects per say, but with memories. Sometimes people just plain collect because they realize something appeals to them, this has happened to me with fine art.

People don’t always collect just items, sometimes they collect themes. Here are just a few theme examples: PhotographyCivil War & militaria, fine art paintings & sculpture, furniture, duck decoyshistorical ephemera, antique toys, coins, beer cans, books. Animal themes collected include: cats, dogs, elephants, tigers, lions, hippopotamuses, squirrels, turtles, loons, ducks and owls. I have been in houses where there are 1,000s of these themed collectibles. The person, couple or family cherished the aspect of collecting, and buying examples, at auction, on vacation, or other various means. Their stories of their collecting experience was often very interesting and meant something to them.

Read the rest of the story here.

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by Martin Willis

Listen to the associated podcast here.


When visiting Prout’s Neck, right away you know you are somewhere special, a peninsula surrounded by water, a harbor on one side and the rocky ocean coast on the other. It is a place where you can become secluded if you choose and take in Maine’s nature at it’s best. It is a place you can paint.

I had the opportunity to visit the studio of a preeminent figure in American art, Winslow Homer, who was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1836 and later settled to this beautiful surrounding. You can almost picture the artist with easel perched on the shore, creating one of his astounding images. I was disappointed to find out that this never happened. Winslow Homer was a studio painter. To be a studio painter of his magnitude, you could only be a gifted observer, a lover of the visual.

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by Martin Willis

The More You Pay the More You Like It

Values of rarities are only perceived ones and are subjective to the beholder. Only two people have to have this perception, the winning bidder and the under-bidder. Proven history shows that auction is a great method to sell rare items, people fight with their money to claim their prize.

This was no exception at Bonham’s groundbreaking History of Science Auction held in New York on October 22nd. Offered were 288 lots including items ranging from 18th century pocket globes to the ilk of 20th century tech.

26112-apple-1_articleThe star of the show was a motherboard retaining a label reading, “Apple Computer 1 / Palo Alto, Ca. Copyright 1976”. Let’s face it, not a pretty object, but historically very significant in the digital world. The bottom line is, when the bidding ended and the dust settled, Apple 1 sold for an astonishing $905,000.

bear5Click Here to read more and to find our why this bear has anything to do with old computers.

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bic - pic8Q.  You call this the Saddle Ridge Hoard; is that where you found these coins?

Mary:  Yes – we found the coins buried on a little area of our property that we call the Saddle Ridge

Q: Have you lived on this property a long time and possibly passed by the treasure without spying it before?

John: I saw an old can sticking out of the ground on a trail that we had walked almost every day for many, many years.

Mary: I was looking down in the right spot and saw the side of the can.  I bent over to scrape some moss off and noticed that it had both ends on it!

Q. Had you ever noticed anything peculiar in the area before?


bic - pic10John: Years ago, on our first hike, we noticed an old tree growing into the hill.  It had an empty rusty can hanging from it that the tree had grown around – that was right at the site where we found the coins…  At the time we thought the can might be a place for someone to put flowers in for a gravesite – something which would have been typical at the time.


There was also an unusual angular rock up the hill from where the coins were buried – we’d wondered what in the heck it was.


Mary: It wasn’t until we made the find that we realized it might have been a marker: starting at the rock, if you walk 10 paces towards the North Star, you wind up smack in the middle of the coins!

90sobverseRUSTQ:   Did one of you stay there while the other went for tools?  

Mary:  John used a stick to dig up the first can.  We took it back to the house, it was very heavy.

John:  Heavy enough that we needed to take a little breather before getting back to the house.  It was getting towards evening and the light was fading.  I said to Mary, “Wow, this thing is heavy.  It must be full of lead paint.”  I couldn’t figure out what in the world would weigh that much.

Q. How long did it take you to realize you had something special?

John: Right after making the comment about it possibly being paint, the lid cracked off and exposed a rib of a single gold coin.  I knew what I was looking at immediately.  I looked around over my shoulder to see if someone was looking at me – I had the idea of someone on horseback in my head.  It’s impossible to describe really, the strange reality of that moment…  I clamped the lid back on – I found a can of gold coins and I thought there was a zero percent chance of Mary believing me!  When I told her, the look of bewilderment – her mouth was so wide open flies could have flown in and out several times.

Q: Were the cans side by side?  

Mary: Yes. We went back to the site and a foot to the left of the first can we broke into another can.  In the process we used a small hand shovel and a few coins scattered; it was so decomposed only half of that can was left.  It was like looking at a pocket of coins.

Q.  What was your first reaction when you saw these cans were full of gold? Did you feel like you had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

bic - pic11John:  Of course, it was a very surreal moment.  It was very hard to believe at first.  I thought any second an old miner with a mule was going to appear.

Mary: It was like finding a wonderful hot potato.

 Q. After the initial discovery how did you locate and excavate the entire hoard?

John: There were five more small cans – which brought the total up considerably, and we found the last one with a metal detector.  It was a big day when we found that can.  We’ve poked around more and now have a sense that we found everything that’s in the area.

Q. Why do you think you were the lucky ones to find this treasure? Do you believe it was divine intervention or karma?

Mary: I never would have thought we would have found something like this; however, in a weird way I feel like I have been preparing my whole life for it.

Q: How?


Dimminick-may-have-buried-the-Saddle-Ridge-Horde-gold-coins-in-1901-650x487Mary: John just knew what to do – it was a little bit karmic…  Perhaps in some way we were the ones that could honor the coins.

Q. You have an interest in astrology; have you checked how the planets were aligned or what your chart said at the time of discovery?

Mary: Actually, I did look back at it.  It’s very funny, my chart did talk about treasure, but it was more about the treasure of spirit….

Q. Would you say that your “dreams” have come true?


John: Like a lot of people lately, we’ve had some financial trials. I feel extreme gratitude that we can keep our beloved property.

Q. Estimates put the value of this find at over $10 million; better than some lotteries. What will you do with all this money?

Mary:  We love our lives as they are – I hope we can help our family members and our community and give back some.

Q. Were you ever coin collectors; did you know such coins even existed?

John: Yes I still have my coin collection from when I was a kid. 

ap_backyard_gold_kb_140225_16x9_992Mary: It took us awhile to get the guts to Google what coins we had.

John: In terms of the condition and value of the coins, we as amateurs thought that the 1866-S No Motto $20 might be worth $5,000 or more – we didn’t realize it was considerably better than the coin sitting in the Smithsonian!


Q.  Where did you put them and what did you do with them?

John:  I dug a hole under the wood pile and got a slab of green board to cover it, put the coins in plastic bags, then put them in a box inside an old ice chest and buried them. 

Q: You dug them up and reburied them?

John: Yeah – the old-timers had it right – it’s safer than in a bank!

Mary: We knew almost immediately that we would sell them, but we couldn’t just go to anyone – we had to walk that path really carefully…

John: We knew better than to go to any local pawn broker with the coins to put them on the market, we knew better than that. 

Mary: What we really appreciated was that from the outset, David [McCarthy of Kagin’s Inc.] very much wanted us to know everything we could about our coins.  He didn’t ever try to say, “These really aren’t anything.”  He let us know right away that they were special and told us various stories about the different dates.  One thing that he said that stuck with us was the idea of honoring the whole group, instead of selling a little bit at a time over time, even though it is more risky for us personally.  The history of the coins as a hoard is important.

Q: Is there one coin that stood out in the group that you are particularly fond of?

John: The Dahlonega Half Eagle. 

Mary: Yes – they all have a certain energy about them.  Each is so unique – each has its own character and essence.

Q. Do you intend on keeping any of the coins as mementos from the find?

Don Headshot 2011 cropped emailable

Donald Kagin, Numismatic Authority

Q.  Are you going to quit your jobs?

John: No – we’re self-employed – the beautiful thing about self-employment is that you can go to your grave self employed.

Q. You have chosen to remain anonymous out of concern for your family’s safety and potentially from being overwhelmed by the media.  But how do you think this find will change your lives?


Mary: We’re the same people we were before, just with more freedom of choice.  Our finances won’t have to dictate so many of our day to day decisions.


Q. Some lottery winners have later said that such sudden wealth ended up being more of a curse than a blessing. Have the two of you discussed how you will navigate the path ahead and the potential pitfalls that might come with instant great wealth?

Mary:  We try not to dwell on the negative.

John: It will be a broader path than the one we have been on.

Mary: Money can change other people’s perception of us more than our own perception of ourselves.  Have you heard the song by Cindy Lauper, Money Changes Everything? We don’t want that; we don’t plan to tell our extended family or friends until more time goes by.

djm BW flipped

David McCarthy Senior Numismatic


John: Since the find, we have become a little more aware of them.

Q. Had you ever looked for treasure before?

John: Not seriously. We made several camping trips and bought some gold panning equipment.  We ended up with a vial of gold, so the idea of panning really caught my interest.  The idea of panning for gold has a lot of appeal.

Q. Are there any causes you feel passionately about that you have considered donating to?


Mary: We’d like to help other people with some of this money.  There are people in our community who are hungry and don’t have enough to eat.  We’ll also donate to the arts and other overlooked causes.  In a way it has been good to have time between finding the coins and being able to sell them in order to prepare and adjust.  It’s given us an opportunity to think about how to give back.


Q. Do you see a day in the future when you might be willing to deal with the media and the publicity surrounding this historic discovery?

Saddle-Ridge-1886-S-Gold-Eagle-PCGS-MS66Mary: Maybe when we turn 80 years old – 40 yrs away! [laughs]

Q. This hoard will be in the annals of numismatic stories for quite some time; perhaps forever. How do you feel about that?

Mary: It would have been quite a pity not to share the magnitude of our find.  –We want to keep the story of these coins intact for posterity.

Q. Do you have anything else to share about finding what may be the greatest buried treasure ever found in North America? 

Mary: Whatever answers you seek, they might be right at home!  The answer to our difficulties was right there under our feet for years. Don’t be above bending over to check on a rusty can!!!!



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by Martin Willis  (read on

A look at how antiques connect us to forgotten lives of the past


The Historic 1790 House, Woburn, MA

I was walking my dog this morning on the property of the 1790 House, which is a fine colonial structure in Woburn, Massachusetts that houses the auction company’s office.  The property is right next to Rt. 128, which is always very noisy with a constant stream of traffic flowing north and south.

The historic house borders the Middlesex Canal, which was a concept that became a reality in the late 18th century. The canal connected Boston Harbor to the Merrimack River and had 20 locks with the average depth of 3 feet. Barges pulled by oxen transported many goods all the way to Concord, NH and back. The main function of the canal was to transport timber for shipbuilding from the virgin forest of New Hampshire to Medford, Mass. When the canal was built, it was a very substantial feat of engineering for that time.

baldwin_estateAs my dog and I walked near the canal, we came to some brush that my dog  decided to walk into. I forced my way through the thicket to find my dog, and came upon a magnificent chiseled granite post protruding out of the ground. It had a hand hammered and rusted iron eyelet near the top for rope lashing. I wondered when the last time was that someone saw this post lost in time. I realized that objects like these, along with antiques are connections to the forgotten lives of the past.

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20 Apr 2013, by

The Next Generation

by Lee Kalfon

chandelierOne of the most pressing issues in our industry today, and one near to my heart, is how to engage the next generation of auction goers and antique collectors. I have read a good many articles on how the younger generations; the millennials in particular don’t care about antiques. All too many times I’ve heard “kids these days would rather have a cell phone than a bedroom suite”. Frankly I am starting to take offense. I am a millennial. I am 25, and yes, I own an IPhone, but I also work for an auction house. I care about antiques, vintage, and preserving our material culture for the next generation. Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I don’t think so.

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A historic auction, media frenzy and a night owl’s delight

by Martin Willis

Check out our interview with Dan Meader prior to this auction here.

JFK Bomber Jacket sells for, $665,550!

When you have so many objects of a great fallen president in one auction, anything can happen. The collection was from the estate of David F. Powers, special assistant to Kennedy and the first curator of the JFK Library.  I made an appearance at the auction, braving four hours of dangerous travel in a typical New England snowstorm. I went as I said in the podcast, just to see the people and watch the event.

I want to start by saying, no one in the business could have done a better job, and that is not easy to say, considering that I am a competitor of my good friend John McInnis as well as a friend of Dan Meader who held the auction in Amesbury, Massachusetts. The one thing I certainly bet John wishes he had done differently is, make it a two-day auction. As fate would have it, the auction ended up being a two-day event after all (18 hours long), but not by choice.

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10 Nov 2012, by

Tossed But Not Lost

‘One Man’s Trash’ you have heard the expression enough; here is another example how that it rings true.

Back in 1982, my father, (Morgan Willis) and I were at a storage place meeting a woman from a prominent family in York, Maine. She was there for an hour before with family members getting things ready for us, as her main goal was to clear everything out of the storage unit. She ultimately wanted to stop paying rent on it as the family had been doing for at least ten years.

In the storage were items that were inherited from someone in their family, and there were nice period American pieces, boxes of early Canton porcelain and many fine collectibles. My dad and I were both very exited with the items we were listing, but of course, we kept our cool. It is never a good idea to get too excited as it tends to make consignors get excited enough not to sell sometimes.

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by Martin Willis

Auction disasters and major challenges are rather rare, but when they happen they certainly leave an impression and they can be very interesting (as an afterthought). I have been a little apprehensive about posting this blog and in no way am I trying to scare people away from the auction method.  I believe in auctions as the best possible means of selling almost anything on the secondary market. Some of these stories have a good outcome, but not all of them. Keep in mind, this is a small sampling and I am sure if every auctioneer was polled, there would be some great additional stories.

I figured I would start out with the biggest disaster I ever heard of, but I have to be sketchy on the details to protect my source. Let’s just say that a friend of mine possibly worked at a major auction house in New York City. Her story goes that there was a major piece of Russian Czar porcelain, a monumental piece in size and it was on the cover of the upcoming auction catalog. Just a few days before the auction preview, it was to be moved in place. The handler had it on a cart and was pushing it from where it was stored in the warehouse to the auction house floor, his cell phone rang and he answered it, meanwhile this piece worth several million dollars tumbled to the floor and smashed into 1000 pieces. There were already many multiple bids in the millions for this piece and dozens of phone bids set in place. The only other information I could get from my friend was, that the piece was paid out in the upper range of estimate to the consignor. She does not recall the person that was pushing the cart was working there afterward or not. Okay, so my first story doesn’t have much of a good outcome, but you have to admit you just cringed a little didn’t you? I always do when rare pieces are gone forever.

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Purchased for $6 and later sold for $32,500

by Martin Willis

Back in the 1990s I went on a house call to see a past clerk of my father’s auctions. Louis Sochia was a pleasant man with a great sense of humor. He, his partners Charlie & Tom were selling their B & B (The Inn at Christian Shore) in Portsmouth, NH, and had some nice things to put in my next auction.

After viewing everything, we were at the top of the stairs, and I pointed and said, “How about that painting?” Louis and his partners laughed and Louis said, “You can buy that right now for $300.”  I thanked him and told him I would not do that, but instead would take it and do some research. It was a painting of a clown putting make-up on in a mirror. It stuck me as being masterful, but it was unsigned. There was something about it that made me think it was very good. Tom had bought a book on American artist, Walt Kuhn 1877-1949 and there were a lot of similarities. The next day, I brought it up to Bruce Collins in Kennebunk, Maine who I thought had a good eye and asked for his opinion.  He instantly agreed that it was by the artist and got out some books and showed me why he thought so.

I asked Bruce who would be the right person to look at it to make certain, and he told me to try Rob Ellowitch at Baridoff Galleries in Portland, Maine since he had represented the estate of the artist in the 1980s. I was also given the name of Terry Phillips of Cape Neddick, Maine as someone to contact. I called Rob and was on my way to Portland, Maine and found myself stopped for a disastrous pileup on I-95. I was stuck for hours in traffic and never made it to Barridoff’s. I stopped and called Terry Phillips who had inherited the estate of the artist’s daughter, Brenda Kuhn and drove to Cape Neddick to show him. He looked at it, pondered for awhile and finally said that he did not want to say one way or the other if the painting was by Kuhn or not. He was very willing to help and gave me a name and information of Bennard Perlman who could authenticate it for sure. After speaking to Bennard on the phone, I snapped some images and FedEx-ed them off to him the next day.

A few days later, I received a call from Bennard who spoke with an excited tone, “Not only is it by Walt Kuhn, but it is a self portrait of the artist!”  During the rest of the conversation, Bennard mentioned to me that it was important to know where the painting originated from.

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8 Jun 2012, by

The iPhone Period

Appeal of Simplicity

I was recently inspired to write this because of podcast number 107. with guest Leigh Keno. Leigh made a remark that the younger crowd is influenced by the simple

functionality of the iPhone and similar Apple products. This got me thinking and I pondered if Apple decided to come out with a furniture line, then we (in the antique world), would have to eventually adapt to handling iChairs, iSofas, iLoungers and iDining sets… Ay yi, yi.

Shaker Revolving Chair

I too like simplicity and functionality, but when I think on those lines, my mind drifts immediately to Shaker furniture. It is most likely because I am self-brainwashed into loving just antiques. When I really open my eyes and mind, I can see the attraction and a parallel of appeal. CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING


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photos by Kate Manko

The year is 2012, the Large Hadron Collider is trying to separate the tiniest of particles, the Kepler Mission is finding all kinds of planets in other solar systems, and the antique market is colliding with social media.

In my attempt to be an antique geek, I am now sitting in the VIP tent at the Brimfield Tweet up. It  is nicely decorated and I dare say the fanciest tent on the grounds. I am looking around and realize I am the only male in the tent of around a dozen or so 20-30-something year old females. Most of which look like they are in the throws of writing something. It actually warms my heart to see young people typing away here at Brimfield. I mean who would have thunk? Even if they are not really interested in antiques, they are writing to what I would assume would be a young audience who may find out about this fun event.

My feet are tired and my brain hurts as I just walked what I would guess would be half the show. It is an upbeat event and I saw camera crews everywhere as they are filming PBS Market Wars. My search has been unsuccessful so far to find something that I can’t live without, but I will remain optimistic.

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by Bram Hepburn

Many advanced collectors of early American glass bottles will tell you the category they first started collecting was ink bottles. Their diminutive size and alluring colors and shapes catch the eye of anyone with an appreciation for detail and a fascination with the early glass-blowing trade as it developed on this continent.

For a beginning collector, or an interior decorator in search of vintage accents for old cupboards and desks, a 120-year-old ink bottle will often fit the bill and is very affordable. For a few dollars, you have an authentic glass container that was used every day by someone with a quill pen, sitting at a desk, filling out bills or invoices, or carefully writing a letter by hand in cursive (which is becoming a lost art).

I have been a bottle “digger” in New England for 30-plus years, digging in the forest, in foundations, in old outhouse pits and even under water with the help of SCUBA equipment. If I didn’t have other responsibilities, this is probably all I would do; it is simply that much fun. Compulsive bottle hunting doesn’t lend well to raising a family and paying bills, however, as the following story attests:

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An appraiser’s perspective of an icon’s written words

by Martin Willis

I was recently involved in a very large appraisal and worked with a team of appraisers having varied specialties. It was my job to appraise the entertainment collection which included a vast amount of Marilyn Monroe artifacts, images and correspondence. To protect the client who owns the collection, I cannot get into too much detail in this blog, but I would like to express the experience of it all. I do not consider myself an expert on Marilyn Monroe, but I certainly know a lot more than I did before I took on this project.

When I think of Marilyn, I see those bedroom eyes, her signature mole above her lip and her platinum colored hair. She had a refreshing beauty that was timeless. This coming June 1, she would’ve been 86 years old and on August 5th, it will be the 50th Memorial Anniversary of her demise. Because of this Memorial and growing intrigue, her letters, signed photos and artifacts such as her belongings & apparel are becoming increasingly in demand. A good example of this phenomenon was the famous Subway Dress at the Debbie Reynolds Auction last year which sold for $4.6 million.

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23 Feb 2012, by

Sweet Chariot (blog)

I recently had the pleasure of vetting The Original Miami Beach Antique Show, and saw an amazing bronze by Emile Louis Picault (France, b. 1833-1913). There was a constant buzz at the show about this masterpiece in bronze. It sold for over $300,000 when the show first began and there was a man waiting in line to pay $75,000 more than asking. I was asked by Worthpoint to write and article about this amazing piece, so please click here to read my story and get the inside scoop from my interview with Robin Greenwald at  Greenwald’s Antiques. (photo by Greg Watkins)









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I always seem to talk about fakes and reproductions in every podcast that I do. And lately I have been apologizing for doing so. Fakes have always been around and it probably always will be around. As a collector, auctioneer, and dealer I realize that there is nothing that I can do about this. The only thing I attempt to do about this is talk about it my podcast and try to get the information from each specialists in their field, specifically on how the novice and stay away from purchasing a fake by accident.

I’ve heard since a very young age, that the Chinese have been faking ceramics for thousands of years. This phrase does sound rather humorous but I’m sure it’s true. I am not picking on the Chinese specifically, it’s just that this is a good example to explain that takes a been around forever. That being said,  I’d love to find 1000-year-old Chinese fake porcelain of an earlier time.

From what I can figure out in the 40 years or so that it in doing this is that if something has value, then you’ll see fakes. Sometimes the things that you see are faked are only worth a few dollars, and it is puzzling to me on why it would be worth all the effort.

A number of times someone has asked me what is the difference between a fake and a reproduction. My answer is, he reproduction is a copy of something, and a fake is a deliberate copy to deceive someone. My own opinion is I really don’t like reproductions, but I can live with them. I despise fakes because I think it hurts the markets in many ways.

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Seaboard Auction Gallery's First sale: Jake Brown, Martin Willis & JR Larue, 1979











I guess you could say that our family got in the antiques auction business because of drunkenness. Most people would be embarrassed to admit something like that, but not I.

Long before my father ever stood behind the podium with gavel in hand, he was relentlessly dragging me …….

Click here to read the rest of the story.

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It has been way too long since I posted my last blog. I love to write and hope to do more soon.

On my way to the Randolph Street Market in Chicago, I had left California with a day or two to spare. In taking my time, I thought I would stop at antique stores in little towns along the way. In a number of stops, people were not to crazy about the state of antique sales. However, in one store in Iowa, a man said it was his best year in the last ten. He was selling refinished oak furniture, go figure? I had to look at a calendar at a local store to make sure I had not passed through a time warp, back to 1985. …

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2 May 2011, by

Emotions & Estimates

by Martin Willis

For a more recent blog after reading Marilyn’s unknown personal letters, click here.

I recently had a talk with Joe Maddalena on podcast number 80 and he made a very logical statement. Prices are set by the …

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8 Apr 2011, by

Auction Diaries

by Martin Willis

One of the genesis of starting the podcast is I thought there were so many stories to tell in the business. There are so many things that happen behind the scenes that no one could imagine.

Some of the stories are not so much on the entertaining level as they are on the scandalous level. So I thought I would tell a little of both.

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By Martin Willis

There has always been controversy on when someone should refinish on old piece of furniture and when they should leave it be.

I did antique restoration and the refinishing of mostly oak back in the “golden oak“ …

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by Martin Willis

Back around 1983, I was working with my father at his auction gallery in Eliot, Maine. It was a small, regional auction house called Seaboard Auction Gallery. We had auctions every few weeks on Thursday evenings. There was always a huge crowd of buyers and it was a nice social event. We were one of the few auction galleries operating in the area at that time, and our consignments came from local estates and homes. The phone always rang and we had our hands full. Now, the seacoast area is inundated with auctioneers and the pie is sliced rather thin these days.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

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Click Image for Information on John S. Blunt

A story about a Portsmouth, New Hampshire artist,  John S. Blunt (1798-1835)

by Martin Willis

I came from a town right outside of a small New Hampshire historical harbor city, Portsmouth. It was first settled in 1630 and has wonderful early brick architecture and early wooden homes and structures. It is a treasure trove of regional antiques of all sorts. There are many renowned pieces originating from Portsmouth, including exceptional furniture in the Colonial & Federal era. My father was lucky enough to buy a historical waterfront home that was built in 1672. When he bought the property, it was loaded full of period antiques, which he sold at auction for the owners for a whopping $40,000 in the early 1970s. That was a very big auction then. To compare the scale of it, my father bought the real estate for $30,000……….

Click HERE for the full article.

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by Martin Willis

I will be the first to admit that I am not well versed in this era of furniture but have been trying to educate myself a little on it. Some pieces I do not find appealing, but …

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by Martin Willis

This week’s podcast is an interview with Harold Holzer, one of the leading scholars on Abraham Lincoln. I am very thrilled to write this article about Abraham Lincoln’s writings and some of my thoughts on the great …

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14 Jan 2011, by

Incredible Finds!

by Martin Willis

All of us in the business like to hear about best finds that someone scoops at an estate sale, flea market, auction or by other means.

I decided not to go into my own personal best finds …

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By Martin Willis

For a related podcast, click here.

For several years I assisted Chuck DeLuca from Maine with his maritime auctions. He would have such interesting pieces pass through his sales. From what I could see, there were a …

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This is Part II of a blog by Reyne Haines

So, last week I left you hanging when I asked Martin the question:

What strategies to buy at auction would you give to the novice?

Here is Part II of …

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The following is from a blog: Picking With Reyne.

Part II will be up next week.

Who says you can only pick door to door? There are plenty of picking opportunities that arise at auction. I know I’ve bought …

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8 Dec 2010, by

Antique Trader

Since we started our podcast, we have been looking for ways to spread the word about what we are doing. Our first priority has always been to make our podcasts fun and informational. We hope to spark more interest in …

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26 Nov 2010, by

On Thomas Jefferson

In Episode 53. Professor Burstein talks about the timeless way of writing that Jefferson had as one of his many gifts. After all, he did write the Declaration of Independence.

While Jefferson was serving as the US Minister to France, …

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