A new record was just set for the highest appraisal ever recorded on an Antiques Roadshow episode. It happened at the Tulsa, Oklahoma event on July 23rd, when Appraiser Lark Mason appraised a collection of five carved and decorated late 17th or early 18th century Chinese libation cups. These are not ordinary cups though. They were fashioned from rhinoceros horn that were intricately carved and shaped into drinking vessels. Apparently, the Chinese favored rhinoceros horn as a material to form into cups for drinking rice wine. The natural horn is hollow at the base, which makes it conducive to forming into the shape of a cup. The Gentleman who brought the cups in to the show, is an art collector who had no idea of their extreme value. He had purchased them in the 1970s for a few thousand dollars, long before the market for important Chinese artifacts went crazy.
Lark appraised the set at $1 million to 1.5 million. That's in U.S. Dollars my friends! The episode will air sometime after January 1st. I'm still waiting for that seven figure object to show up at my table.
Back in 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had the vision and sense of culture to begin forming a collection of American decorative arts at the white house. What she started 40 years ago has grown into an extraordinary repository for some of the finest examples of Early American furniture and decorative objects. It's a show place, where foreign dignitaries as well as Americans can get a sense of the craftsmanship that defined early America. A number of the pieces from that collection will be on view at the Smithsonian Museum starting this fall. I don't know about you, but I haven't gotten any phone calls from the president lately, inviting me to stop by and check out all the cool old stuff in his house. This could be our opportunity. Click to read more of the story at ARTFIXdailey.
The only authenticated photograph of legendary outlaw William H. Bonney, more commonly known as Billy The Kid, was recently sold for $2.3 million, but that's not the most interesting part of this story! The tiny 2" x 3" tintype image set a new record for an original photograph when it was sold to a collector at a Denver auction.
Decades ago, based on this image, Billy The Kid became known as the left handed gun. A movie by that name was produced in 1958, starring Paul Newman as Billy. Only problem was, he wasn't left handed! But wait, he can clearly be seen here holding an 1873 model Winchester rifle in his right hand and wearing a revolver on his left hip. Confused? Apparently those who assigned him the left handed gun moniker were not students of early photography. It seems that the process of creating a so called tintype photograph generally produced a reverse image, so it appears as a mirror of the actual subject. Close examination of this image, with the help of National Firearms Museum Curator, Phil Schreier, holds the key to Billy's actual right handedness. The images shows the rifle's loading gate on the left side of the rifle, when it is actually on the right. Reverse the image so the rifle is correctly oriented, and Billy transforms into a righty.
Legend has it that the young outlaw, who's true name was William H. McCarty, killed 21 people, one for every year of his short life. The actual number was likely much lower. Regarded by those who knew him as charismatic and fun loving, Bonney met his demise at the hands of the equally legendary lawman Pat Garret. After being sentenced to hang for murder, Bonney escaped from prison by killing his two guards. In July of 1881, Sheriff Garrett, following a tip, entered the house where Bonney was hiding out and shot him once in the chest.
We recently bought an interesting Federal chest on chest from the Salem, MA school of cabinetmakers and wood carvers. We have just begun doing a little research on it. Matt was pretty excited to find that the carved rosettes are a nearly identical match to some attributed to the McIntire workshop by Dean Lahikainan in his book entitled, Samuel McIntire, Carving an American Style. It’s nice when the research supports our initial impressions. The carvings still show remnants of original gilding on the berries. It must have looked amazing when the surface was bright gold leaf.
I made a visit to Nantucket last weekend. Walking on Main Street there is like stepping back into the 18th century. It’s always a pleasure to walk around, taking in the architecture. Stopped into the Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) and checked out the new Exhibit of objects from their collection. Wish I had time to see the new Rick Burns film on the history of Nantucket. It just opened at the NHA on July 1st. Have to go back soon to see it.
We’ve had great response to posting the prices of some of our inventory on the website. I think this system is here to stay. We are still tweaking the website and will be making changes and adding content in the coming months. There are a number of instructional videos that we plan to produce and post on the site, but finding the time is difficult.
Brimfield is next week. I’ll probably go one day. The July show is always very hot. I hope the tornado didn’t put any of the venues out of business. I don’t think it did.