Gary Sullivan's Antique Clocks and Furniture Blog


Antique Clocks and Furniture

Royalties for artists: my viewpoint
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I recently came across this article by Daniel Grant on AFA News. It examines the controversial California resale royalties law. According to the law, contemporary art collectors, auctioneers, galleries and dealers are required to pay a 5% royalty to original artists upon resale of that artist’s work. Amazingly, they are required to pay royalties to the artist’s heirs if that artist has died within the last 70 years.

Several recent law suits have brought attention to the California law which is similar to one currently in effect in England and other parts of Europe. Even many contemporary artists feel that this law is unfair. Although it does not affect me personally, I feel very strongly that it is not fair. And now, two knuckle-head politicians have tried to introduce it on a federal level (read the article). Fortunately, It was not passed.

Lets think about this (California obviously didn’t). Although I am a rabid supporter of the arts and agree with helping struggling artists wherever possible, this tariff does not help them. In Europe, only six percent of this bogus “fine” goes to living artists. The rest goes to their heirs and the entity that collects the fines. Those artists who benefit from the law are generally the ones who are doing okay, because their art commands a high price in the market place. The starving artist is still starving. Legislation can’t help him, only patrons of the arts can.

Buyers who support the arts are doing just that. Supporting the arts. So we should penalize them if they profit on their investment? What about the patrons who feel so strongly about helping a particular artist that they continue to buy that artist’s works even when they don’t really need any more. It happens all the time. Lets fine them as well!

Buying and selling contemporary art has inherent risks. When you buy art, you risk that the market will go down. When you sell, you risk that the market will go up. If you are not willing to take the risk, don’t make the transaction. Artist included. How about if I buy a contemporary artwork from a living artist for $10,000 and when I sell it 5 years from now, it only brings $2,000? Will that artist share in my loss? Should I send him an invoice for a percentage of my losses? What about the piece that my Father bought 50 years ago from an artist who is no longer living? If we sell it a for less than Dad paid, should I send a bill to the children of the artist? If I sold it for more, I would have to pay them! Are you kidding me California? Lets not take responsibility for our choices, but rather, lets insist on getting something that we have not earned. Perfect. What right does the Grandchild of an artist who has been dead for nearly 70 years have to take a piece of the profit from a risk that I take?

I think we should take it a step further. I’ve lived in the same house for 23 years. It is worth quite a bit more today than what I paid for it. Much of the home’s value is the artistry and fine workmanship of the builder. I think when I sell, I’ll pop a check in the mail to the Grandson of the builder. He’ll like that.

Read the article and let me know what you think by leaving me a comment. Do you feel as strongly as I do?

Here it is:

Winterthur: Furniture Forum 2012
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I have just returned from the Winterthur 2012 Furniture Forum, where I lectured on the subject of northern clockmakers trading with the southern market during the 1st quarter of the 19th century. It was entitled “Clocks For Corn: Northern Clockmakers Trading With The South”. The Forum was called “Furniture In The South: Makers & Consumers”. It included two days of lectures and a fascinating field trip to Homewood Museum At Johns Hopkins University and Hampton National Historic Site. Both were well worth the trip. Add a tour of Winterthur’s Southern Furniture Exhibit on Saturday and it became a four day event. The forum was very well attended and the speakers were excellent. We recorded my lecture which you can now watch on my website. Click Here. Most of the attendees were from the South, so I was one of the few Yankees on hand. We had a lot of fun teasing each other about our accents. The crowd was largely made up of museum professionals and collectors, but there ware also a number of auctioneers, private dealers and restorers.

Folk Art Museum May Partner With Seaport Museum
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The American Folk Art Museum and the Seaport Museum, two New York museums that weathered difficult economic conditions this year, may partner for a series of exhibitions at the Seaport Museum in 2012.

DNA info reports that the news broke at a city council hearing last week, where interim Seaport head Susan Henshaw Jones announced the museums’ intentions:
“‘We are very much hoping that the Museum of American Folk Art will do exhibitions in four galleries [at the Seaport Museum] starting in June,’ Jones said at a City Council hearing last Friday.”

The Folk Art museum moved out of its building on 53rd Street next to the Museum of Modern Art this July, after selling the building to MoMA. The Seaport Museum suffered similar economic difficulties, though in September, it was announced that it would receive a $2 million Manhattan Development Corp. grant for the post-9/11 recovery of nonprofits.

By Dan Duray- [Read his article]

Accumulating fresh merchandise for “Antiques Week” in January
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We have just acquired a few special items that will appear at the opening night preview party for the 2012 Metro NYC Show in January. If you are planning your visit to New York for the festivities, you’ll notice one major change in the Antiques Week schedule. There will be no 2012 TAAS Show, at least not by that name. In 2012, TAAS, also known as “The American Antiques Show”, also known as “The Folk Art Show” will live on in slightly different form. The venue has been taken over by The Art Fair Company and now goes by the name of The Metro NYC Show. It will be held at the same Metropolitan Pavilion location on on the same dates, as the TAAS Shows were.

As in previous years, a preview party will take place on Wednesday evening, January 18th, with the show going from Thursday through Sunday, January 22nd. The core group of antiques dealers who previously did the TAAS Shows will return for this new show. A nice addition will be some exhibitors handling slightly more modern art, such as photography. We are excited to be a part of this event, as The Art Fair Company puts on a very upscale fair. They are well known for their enormously popular “SOFA” art Shows in Santa Fe, New York and San Francisco.

As in years past, the preview party will be to benefit The American Folk Art Museum. One new twist at this year’s gala event will be the fact that the first hour of the preview party will be by invitation only. No tickets will be sold for that time slot. Only invited guests and the best clients of the exhibitors will attend that first hour. Tickets for the remainder of the evening will be available for $75. If you haven’t made your way onto our preferred client list, you are running out of time!
In the months leading up to the show, we accumulate fresh merchandise and hold it for the show. Our clients know that some of the best pieces that we handle appear for the first time at the show. This year will be no different.

We are also planning a “booth talk” at the show (exact time and date to be determined), where I will disassemble some vintage grandfather clocks and discuss their inner workings and the remarkable art of creating them. I’ll also discuss what to look for when considering the purchase of a vintage clock. Hope to see you in New York.

Unearthing artifacts from a revolting repository
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As a 12 year old interested in all things historic, I devoted a great deal of time to searching for the objects of my passion, antique bottles. I would scour antiques and junk shops and occasionally buy the interesting ones that I could afford. Those being under about two dollars. Being on a limited budget as I was, I preferred the free ones. Free because I would dig them at dump sites. Not the nasty land-fill kind of dump sites we have today, but abandoned 19th and early 20th century trash piles. They were a lot easier to find in the late 1960s than they are today, but they’re still out there.

In times past, people often disposed of their trash on their own land. The rear corner of an old property, where two stone walls converge was an out of the way location that often became a dump site. Spending portions of my summers in Maine, I found several old dump sites by following stone walls through the woods in rural areas. The tell-tale shards of broken glass and rusting iron usually tip off the location. A metal detector can aid in the search and I logged a lot of hours on mine.

Although most of whatever would have been placed in a trash pile 100 years ago has now returned to the soil, the glass bottles have not, and those that survive unbroken can be fascinating. Just a few years ago, while hiking in the woods with my kids near my home, I spotted a corner where two stone walls come together behind a Victorian era estate. Curiosity getting the better of me, I starting kicking around in the dirt and quickly unearthed a couple of circa 1900 bottles. We left them there, but the kids were pretty impressed!

Before curb-service provided by diesel powered, hydraulic, trash compacting mega-trucks, popular repositories for trash were often abandoned wells and privies. Generally located fairly close to the house, the artifacts locked up in these abandoned columns of debris, particularly the bottles, can be pretty interesting. Emotionally, one does have to get past the fact that one is digging in what was once the outhouse, but a century later, it’s all just dirt and really isn’t so bad.

“Dug” bottles tend to have a different look than those that have not been exposed to the elements for generations. Their surfaces are often permanently etched from the exposure and require special techniques to clean them up. Due to their properties, some bottles that were once clear in color take on a highly desirable amethyst color after years of exposure to the sun.

The reason for all this reminiscing is that I just found this article about some interesting finds that came out of an abandoned privy in Pennsylvania. Before I get to that, I am burying a message in this post for my friend Mark. He claims to read every one of my blog posts and even tells me that he read the entire blog on hoarders, which is no small accomplishment. Lets see if I hear from him! Here is the story from Antique Trader

I just don’t get some types of art!
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I realize that there are many different types of art and that the people to whom that art appeals are as wide ranging as the art itself. I have to say though, that I struggle to understand some types of modern and abstract art. Take the digital photo that was just sold at Christies in New York for example. I get the fact that it was produced by a highly regarded photographer. I also get the fact that it is thought provoking and interesting. What I don’t get is 4.3 million dollars! For one digital image! If you were by chance the buyer, or even the under-bidder, next time please bring your four point three million dollars to Sharon, Massachusetts and I will build you one of the finest collections of Early American decorative arts that you can imagine.

Below is the story from Artfix Daily.

First new American art museum in half a century
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Here is a story from Antiques and the Arts Weekly.  I find it to be encouraging.

First Major Museum For American Art Established In Almost A Half Century Opens
By Stephen May

If you are a fan of adventurous museum buildings and great American art, you are going to love the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and its world-class collection. Marking a significant development on the US cultural scene, the institution, the brainchild of Alice B. Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, opened to the public on November 11. It is the first major museum devoted to American art established in almost a half century.

Housed in an innovative building designed by architect Moshe Safdie, the museum is located in a 120-acre forest that used to form the backyard of the Walton family home. Crystal Bridges draws its name from a nearby natural spring, which flows beneath the graceful pavilions.

In keeping with his commitment to attune his buildings to their internal purposes and natural surroundings, Safdie nestled the 200,000-square-foot museum within a ravine, flanked by two wooded hillsides, surrounding two spring-fed ponds. "We aimed to design a museum in which art and nature are experienced simultaneously and harmoniously," says Safdie.

After entering from the crest of a hill that offers dramatic overviews of the entire campus, visitors circulate through 12 galleries in four separate buildings, crossing the ponds with open vistas of the forested landscape. Liberal use of glass throughout the museum encourages warm light suffusing the galleries and enhances views of mature oaks, dogwoods and pines. In keeping with the architect's aim "to create a building in the spirit of the Ozarks," regional materials — such as Arkansas white pine, fieldstone and limestone aggregate — help the structure "resonate with the surrounding hillsides," says Safdie. Walking trails and sculpture link the museum to downtown Bentonville. The beautifully sited museum and its trove of masterpieces are the culmination of a ten-year dream of Alice Walton, who breeds and trains cutting horses on a ranch in Texas, but whose heart remains in northwest Arkansas.

Interested in art from childhood but with no art history training, Walton began collecting regional art and then in the mid-1990s started acquiring national American art. By the end of the 1990s, she envisioned an art museum — lacking in this part of the country. Her plans evolved from "what I perceived of as a gift to the community to what I now think of as a gift to the nation."

And what a gift it is. Aided by such trusted advisors as distinguished art historian John Wilmerding and Christopher B. Crosman, the museum's founding curator of collections, Walton has acquired top-flight paintings, works on paper and sculpture by America's greatest artists. They respond both to Walton's interest in the relation of art "to our history as a nation" and the interrelationship of art and nature. In so doing, they carry out the museum's mission to "explore the unfolding story of America by actively collecting, exhibiting, interpreting and preserving outstanding works that illuminate our heritage and artistic possibilities."

The inaugural exhibition, "Celebrating the American Spirit," showcases 400 works by American masters, arranged chronologically to take visitors on a journey through the evolution of American art and history. The works on view are stunning from the outset, beginning with a series of six portraits of the prestigious and prosperous Jewish colonial Levy-Frank family of New York. Likely painted by Gerardus Duyckinck around 1735, they depict fashionably dressed family members in a traditional English portraiture style. According to catalog essayist Carrie Rebora Barratt of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this is "the only large set of early colonial family portraits to survive intact."

Even more elegant is John Singleton Copley's rendering of "Mrs Theodore Atkinson Jr (Frances Deering Wentworth)," 1765. The leading portraitist of elite Bostonians, his portrait captures his sitter's beauty, grace and elevated social standing. Not far away, Benjamin West's romantic "Cupid and Psyche," 1808, is complemented by Hiram Powers' neoclassical marble bust "Proserpine," circa 1840, from the museum's growing sculpture collection.

Not to be missed are iconic portraits of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale and Gilbert Stuart and a powerful oil study of a resolute "Marquis de Lafayette," 1825, by Samuel F.B. Morse. In Richard Caton Woodville's "War News from Mexico," 1848, white folks avidly read newspaper reports from the Mexican-American War, while a black man and girl listen, seated subserviently at their feet.

The showstopper in this gallery, Asher B. Durand's "Kindred Spirits," 1849, depicts Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School, and its literary champion, William Cullen Bryant, standing on a ledge in a wooded Catskills ravine. After noting the dismay among some when Crystal Bridges purchased the canvas from the New York Public Library, Crosman points out that it is "an icon of the American landscape tradition — not just that of New York." Nearby, landscapes by Cole and Hudson River colleagues Frederic Church, Jasper Cropsey and John F. Kensett celebrate nature's bounties in the new nation.

Other notable works by Thomas Moran immortalize the splendors of the American West, while Eastman Johnson spins narratives of New England, and George Inness's paean to the serenity of pastoral upstate New York reflects the artist's spiritual underpinnings. A figurative oil and two watercolors by Winslow Homer demonstrate his skills in these mediums.

Landscapes by such titans as Alfred Pinkham Ryder and later Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent, Dennis Miller Bunker, John H. Twachtman, Theodore Robinson, Maurice Prendergast, William Merritt Chase and James McNeil Whistler reflect the influence of European Impressionism and Post-Impressionism on late Nineteenth Century American artists. Portraits by their contemporaries are particularly outstanding, including Sargent's enigmatic depiction of "Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife;" Bunker's "Anne Page," adjacent to Augustus Saint-Gaudens' bust of the same Boston beauty; Gari Melchers' affectionate likeness of his colleague George Hitchcock's first wife and William Merritt Chase's magnificent evocation of an aging, white-bearded "Worthington Whittredge," seated before an easel, palette and paint brush in hand.

Best of all is Thomas Eakins' "Professor Benjamin Howard Rand," 1874, which the museum acquired after Philadelphians raised money to keep Eakins' "The Gross Clinic" in the City of Brotherly Love. "Rand" is a dark and sensitive view of the distinguished faculty member in his study at Jefferson Medical College.

Two galleries feature paintings ranging from gritty Ashcan School paintings at the dawn of the Twentieth Century to pre-World War II Modernists. Among the standout early urban realist images are an Everett Shinn theater image, John Sloan's "Bleecker Street, Saturday Night" and George Bellows' "Excavation at Night" that recalls the huge crater created to build Pennsylvania Station.
Among the early Modernists a highlight is Georgia O'Keeffe's riveting watercolor "Evening Star No. 2," 1917, in which the embryonic superstar captured, with a few broad brushstrokes, the brilliant radiance of a sunset over the arid Texas landscape, the pure saturated colors standing out against white paper.

aThere are fine examples of work by such celebrated members of the avant-garde as John Marin, Oscar Bluemner, Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove and Yasuo Kuniyoshi, but the best paintings are those of Marsden Hartley. They range from a tapestrylike evocation of mountains in western Maine to a still life of energetically brushed red flowers set against a glimpse of a blue seascape to a heartfelt homage to the chiseled body and expressive gaze of a young boxer from northern Maine.

Of more recent vintage are characteristic works by Edward Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton, Arshile Gorky and Romare Bearden. Jackson Pollock's "Reclining Woman," circa 1938-41, painted while under the influence of his teacher, Benton, as well as the radical innovations of Pablo Picasso, offers a fragmented, distorted view of his subject, hinting at the drip paintings that made Pollock the leader of the Abstract Expressionists.

Norman Rockwell's beloved "Rosie the Riveter," a 1943 oil that became a famous Saturday Evening Post cover, is a reminder of the vital role women played in winning World War II and of the artist's accomplishments as storyteller and painter. A remarkable group of paintings dating to 1948 by Milton Avery, Will Barnet and Jacob Lawrence is highlighted by Charles Sheeler's cool, poetic and precise approximation of an abandoned textile plant in Manchester, N.H.

Colorful canvases by Hans Hofmann, Grace Hartigan and Joan Mitchell usher in the era of Abstract Expressionism that dominated postwar world art, but, alas, there is not yet a Willem de Kooning in the collection. Running counter to the prevailing style, a circle painting by Kenneth Noland and a classic "Homage to the Square" canvas by Josef Albers reflect other aesthetic impulses of the 1950s and 1960s.

Other contrasts from the late Twentieth Century include works by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, who created challenging new forms of aesthetic composition, while Fairfield Porter offered warm, Impressionistic views of family and landscapes, and Wayne Thiebaud turned out appealing depictions of food and, in the Crystal Bridges collection, "Supine Woman."

Pop Art, another notable postwar style, is represented by Tom Wesselmann's enormous, sensual "Smoker #9" and Andy Warhol's idolizing, silvery "Dolly Parton." The continuing popularity of Realism is reflected in a snowy landscape by Neil Welliver, two oils by photorealist Richard Estes and a robust lobsterman by Bo Bartlett. Andrew Wyeth's "Airborne," 1996, painted when he was 79, demonstrates the delicacy and foreboding tone of his late work, while son Jamie Wyeth's "Orca Bates," 1990, shows a vulnerable, naked island lad who is about to leave his way of life for school on the mainland, seated in front of a massive whale jawbone.

African American painter Kerry James Marshall explores issues of race, class and community in the large format (100 by 142 inches) acrylic "Our Town," 1995. More recently, in "A Warm Summer Evening in 1863," 2008, artist Kara Walker juxtaposes the silhouette of a lynched woman against a Harper's engraving of New York City's draft riots during the Civil War.

By acquiring work ranging from the Duyckinck portraits of 1735 to the Walker vignette of 2008, Alice Walton and her team have already gone a long way toward assembling the top quality, comprehensive collection she envisioned to tell the story of America through its art. Continued acquisitions will undoubtedly fill gaps in the trove and deepen the roster of American masterworks.

With an eye-popping museum in place and a large and growing collection of masterpieces, the future looks bright for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

The 352-page catalog edited by Crosman with essays by experts on the museum's holdings is published by the museum in association with Hudson Hills Press. It sells for $60, hardcover.

The museum is at 600 Museum Way. For information, or 479-418-5700.


Steampunk? What the heck is “steampunk”?
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If you have not yet heard of the art-form called steampunk, please permit me to enlighten you. I’m a big fan of steampunk sculpture and I’m in fact a steampunk artist. By way of a definition, steampunk art asks the following question: What would objects look like if modern technology had existed in the Victorian, stem-powered era? Jules Vern’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, and the contraptions featured in the movie Wild, Wild West (1999, with Will Smith) are perfect examples of the science fiction genre that we call steampunk.

Today, the popular steampunk look often includes modern pieces of technology, such as computers, IPods or keyboards that have been modified to look like pseudo-Victorian steam powered machines. The look often includes clock works and industrial steam apparatus. This creative modification of objects in order to create thought provoking and aesthetically pleasing art has been growing in popularity for several years.

There are different aspects of the steampunk movement, often with different followers. Post apocalyptic illustration-art, pseudo-Victorian costumes and science fiction fantasy worlds appeal to some, but it is the sculptural aspect of the genre that appeals to me. It’s a creative outlet that is just plain fun! Since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed making things from found materials. My interest in tinkering, model railroading and clocks all mesh perfectly with the art of building steampunk gadgets. Here is a photo of a modern digital picture frame that I have “steampunked”.

It has been mounted with lots of vintage brass junk to give the illusion of a steam powered contrivance. I built it to use at antique fairs. We set it up to have images of my inventory scrolling through it at the show. Steampunk artists often give their fabrications whimsical names and concoct far-fetched claims of what their “contraptifications” can do. In this instance, I call it a “transforaminal image perambulator”. Steampunk sculptures incorporate recycled bits of vintage hardware, clock and lamp parts and plenty of imagination.

There is currently an exhibit of steampunk objects on view at The Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation (CRMI) in Waltham, MA. (until January 15, 2012). CRMI has become somewhat of a world headquarters for the steampunk movement. Here is their website: I think that steampunk art is an important bridge between it’s relatively young enthusiasts and the somewhat older collectors of main stream antiques and collectables. Any time we can interest young people in the fantastic world of history, material culture and art, only good things can happen. Some of my clients who are traditional collectors of antiques may think I’ve gone a little bonkers. Perhaps so, but I’m having fun. Here is a video of my “steam powered brain wave enhancer” This was completed just in time for Halloween and is currently on view at CRMI.

Matt attends design seminar by David Easton
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Matt here again.

Earlier this week, I had the good fortune of attending yet another great seminar at the Boston Design Center. The speaker was the celebrated designer and architect David Easton. He presented an illustrated discussion of his works that was somewhat of a retrospective of his accomplishments. It is a stunning body of work. I was humbled by both the scale of the projects and his mastery of style and taste. For some time I have admired his work from afar, but an opportunity to be walked through his collections in person will be a life long memory.

As an architect, David has a comprehensive understanding of architectural style from the Classical through the contemporary. This coupled with his talented sense of design, enable him to first create a physical space in which he can then successfully translate the tastes of his client. David has championed the elegance of the Neoclassical, creating a number of fine homes and collections from the ground up. He showed several slides of these familiar forms that were opulently decorated with rich fabrics and fine antiques.

While I was pleased to see these honored styles still in fashion, I was impressed by the modern designs that David also presented. These spaces he created embody the contemporary mode of open living spaces and efficient layout, but at the same time retained a human scale and a sense of intimacy. David explained how these designs are in keeping with the configuration on our daily lives. Large open spaces that flow from kitchen to dining area to common spaces are more in step with how we live and entertain. Yet at the same time each space retains a partition of sorts, whether it be physical or a visual cue, that enable a more traditional treatment of these spaces. I know that the dinner parties at my home are spent primarily in the kitchen, cramped as it may be. How nice it would be have a more accommodating space.

What was most profound to me in these modern spaces, was David’s ability to retain the Classical ideal in these new settings. I have always felt that antique forms have a place in contemporary design, but until now had not seen it realized.

Imagine the clean lines of say a Clismos chair or a banjo clock set in counterpoint to a present day designs. When the items are chosen carefully, they lend a contrast that strengthens the impact of each style. The sculptural form of tall clock lends a familiar, welcome presence in these sleek spaces. Does this mean I am selling my Federal period home? No! But it does breathe a life into my world, bringing together what had seemed to be two disparate modes of style. I now envision for myself open, efficient spaces decorated with prized antiques; the uncluttered contemporary highlighting the skill and grace of early craftsmen.

Thank you David…

“Pilgrim Century” furniture discovery
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The keno Brothers revealed a remarkable discovery on Anderson Cooper’s show today. They unearthed a fantastically early chest, made in 1685, which makes it one of the oldest surviving chests made in America. It descended in the family of the woman who currently owns it. She had some inkling that it was valuable because of it’s age, but was blown away when they gave it a value of a half million dollars on National television!

So called “pilgrim century” furniture such as this was made in the first 100 years after the Pilgrims formed Plymouth Colony in 1620. Think about this fun fact.....In 1685 when this chest was made, the entire population of the American Colonies was less than what would now fit into two large college football stadiums. Consequently, the surviving examples of their furnishings nearly 400 years later are very few. The collectors of Pilgrim Century furniture are a small but rabid group and finer examples can command very high prices in the marketplace.  Here is a link to the video on Anderson Coopers site.