The end of the year is a great time for lists. In 2017 and 2018 I posted my “best of” long after the year was over, in large part because I wanted to share all my best finds in regular posts before putting them in the “best of.” This year I’d prefer to get the post done on time, but keep in mind there’s some worthy candidates I haven’t had time to post about yet!
2019 was a very good year by most standards. I continued to benefit from having more storage space (ie: my garage) and having the auction house available as a regular outlet for my junk. Both of these relatively new circumstances have radically changed how I do business, and 2019 was my most profitable year to date (though I haven’t done the math yet to see exactly how profitable it was). I did meet a record number of unpleasant people, but maybe that’s just a mark of success.
Without further ado, here’s my selection of my top ten finds of 2019!
9 – Diamond earrings in 18k gold. I still have to figure out the precise value of these, but the big stones are diamonds and look to be about .25 carats each. I’ve lost track of the solo middle earring, but I’m sure it’s kicking around somewhere. If I were to guess, I’d say that altogether they’re worth between 300-450$.
8 – Isamu Noguchi Akari washi paper lamp. This mid century Japanese designer lamp was in remarkably good condition, probably because it was stored in its original box. Maybe it was never even used. Either way, it sold pretty quickly for 325$.
7 – Paul Kepenyes ying/yang necklace. This came from the same spot as the Noguchi lamp. Works by Kepenyes, a Hungarian-Mexican artist, are fairly sought after. This necklace ended up selling for 375$.
6 – Portrait miniatures. Particularly the two on the left, which apparently date to the early 1800s and are likely painted on ivory. It’s not every day I find something over 200 years old! I think they’re worth around 200$ each.
5 – Gord Smith sculpture. Smith “is considered one of Canada’s greatest post-war sculptors,” at least according to Montreal’s museum of contemporary art. I’d say this bronzed steel piece is worth around 500$ based on the auction results I’ve seen. If anything that estimate might be a little conservative. FYI, the wingspan (if that’s the right word) is about 50cm.
4. Inuit soapstone carving. This large, 8.33 pound sculpture made it to the curb unscathed, thanks in large part to the fact that the previous owners wrapped it in sheets before throwing it out. You have to wonder why someone would toss something with such care; my guess is that they just didn’t want this heavy thing ripping through the trash bag once lifted. Anyways, the piece was carved by a guy named Joe Emiqutailaq of the Belcher Islands, and it’s going to be my first item to sell at a high-end auction (Waddington’s in this case). The auction is in February, and the sculpture has a pre-auction estimate of 4-500$.
3 –14k gold Masonic pocket watch fob. That enamel eye really brings the piece together. It’s worth about 330$ for the gold, but I expect it to sell for between 500-650$.
2 – 18k gold brooch. I tried to figure out who might have designed this to no avail. The price of gold is pretty high right now, and I decided I was best off selling this for weight. At about 18 grams, this brooch earned me a little over 700$.
1 – 18k bloodstone ring. This is one the most beautiful rings I’ve ever found. Marked 750 (18k gold), it was likely made somewhere in Europe. It’s a large (size 11) men’s ring, and at 14.2 grams it’s worth several hundred just for scrap. It’s much nicer than that, though, and I expect it to sell for around 1000$.
Bonus: potentially valuable mystery items.
I’ve learned a lot over the years, but there’s still a lot I don’t know. I don’t want to undersell anything, so these mystery items often languish on shelves until the day an expert comes along, or I realize that I finally feel qualified to make a judgment myself.
Notable 2019 candidates include: the ancient-looking coins I found (I don’t have confidence in my ability to tell a real from a fake); …
… this old folk art box (European folk art is not my specialty);
… this Kiddush cup (I still have to figure out if it’s solid silver or just plated);
… and this dog figurine. I think it’s porcelain, and it looks a little different from all the other figurines I’ve seen over the years. I can’t really put into words why that is the case, though it does appear to have a higher level of detail than most (particularly the face, and the bottoms of the paws are modeled as well). I forgot to post this on the blog, but I did post it to Instagram where someone noted that it looked like a very old Meissen piece. There’s no visible signature so it’s hard to confirm that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended up being somewhat valuable, even though the tail is a bit busted up. FYI, the piece measures about 8.5″ wide and 8″ tall.
There’s definitely more intriguing mystery items in that huge haul I have yet to sort through, but that’ll just have to wait!
Well that’s all for 2019, for now at least. Hopefully 2020 is a good one, for me and all you readers! And a shout out to the rest of the world of course, as it could certainly use some help these days.
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5. Email: email@example.com – note that it might take me some time to reply, and that I am unlikely to be able to fulfill requests for items