2016-07-06 / Top News

Trash or treasure?

BY SCOTT SIMMONS

One could argue that antiques are the great equalizer. Think about it: Just about everyone has some trinket large or small that was passed down by a friend or relative.

And much of the value we assign to that item may be because of the person with whom we associate the piece. So it has to be worth something, right? Not necessarily.

“Your small-end collectible market has all but dried up and shriveled. It’s only things that had a value prior that have a value now,” said Rick Gannon of Gannon’s Antiques & Art in south Fort Myers.

“People will say, ‘Oh, my God. My grandmother collected that.’ I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now,” said Judy Haar of Judy’s Antiques in Fort Myers.

The Lladro and Hummel figurines you lovingly collected for your grandkids?

“The generation that bought it is giving it to a generation that doesn’t care,” Mr. Gannon said.


Dean Gannon stands near a dining set that’s topped with Wedgwood china at Gannon’s Antiques & Art in Fort Myers. Behind him is a 19thcentury, six-drawer chest with a Dutch marquetry design of inlaid hardwoods. 
VANDY MAJOR / FLORIDA WEEKLY Dean Gannon stands near a dining set that’s topped with Wedgwood china at Gannon’s Antiques & Art in Fort Myers. Behind him is a 19thcentury, six-drawer chest with a Dutch marquetry design of inlaid hardwoods. VANDY MAJOR / FLORIDA WEEKLY The same goes for Grandma’s set of Noritake, Haviland, Lenox or other fine china.

“The new generation is a generation of disposable party ware,” Mr. Gannon said.

He literally cannot give away sets of fine china that once sold for several hundred dollars.

“I have a clearance area set up outside where I’m selling sets of china for $49. I’ve got Haviland-Limoges and Noritake out there. These are sets that were selling 10 years ago for $300 or more,” he said.

But oddly enough, some pieces still have cachet.

“Early, early English china — Minton. People are still collecting that. Those people are doing the fine formal dining,” Mr. Gannon said.


Rick Gannon holds very rare Favrile glass pieces crafted by Louis Comfort Tiffany at Gannon’s. Rick Gannon holds very rare Favrile glass pieces crafted by Louis Comfort Tiffany at Gannon’s. Other objects always have a market.

“We still sell teacups. People like to do tea parties,” said Ms. Haar.

That also happens on Florida’s east coast.

“A lot of people have tea parties at their homes and they look for teapots and cups and saucers,” agreed Doralea Asher, owner of All Good Things, an antiques mall in Lake Worth, just south of West Palm Beach.

It may be a holdover from the shabby chic craze of a decade or so ago, with painted furniture, chintzes and old-fashioned floral prints.

People mixed and matched china patterns and teacups.

“Florals, those are the ones that are in the demand. Floral dinner sets that are from France or are English — anything that is from Limoges — but nothing plain. It has to be very French looking and very floral,” Ms. Asher said.


HAAR HAAR It also needs to be high end.

“If it was high quality and expensive when you first purchased it, it’s still worth a lot of money now,” Mr. Gannon said.

That’s generally speaking, but jewelry and silver by Georg Jensen, Tiffany, Cartier and others tend to appeal to folks who always could afford the finer things. Even if they lose value, they still tend to retain a higher percentage of their purchase price than lesser items.

“Cartier? It’s no problem to sell. Some of the really good designers of jewelry in the ’50s ’60s and ’70s are pretty hot, but they have to be good, interesting pieces,” said Kathleen Pica, owner and auctioneer at Auctions Neapolitan, a division of Dovetails LLC, in Naples.


ASHER ASHER Mr. Gannon noted a similar trend.

“Men’s watches, not ladies’ watches, are always in good demand. Watches that are worth more than $1,000 are easier to sell than watches priced under $200,” he said.

But that points to a trend following the recent economic crisis in which demand all but disappeared on lower to mid-level collectibles.

Starting in the 1970s, 20th century American pottery was popular with collectors, as pieces of Rookwood, Roseville, Weller and McCoy began to increase in value, with most pieces selling for anywhere from $50 or so to the low hundreds.

Popularity spawns copycats, and pieces of Roseville were reproduced in China during the 1990s, causing confusion among collectors.

“Rookwood still sells, but for the mundane stuff, there’s not a whole lot of interest,” Ms. Haar said. Prices across the market have dropped, with most ordinary pieces of 20th century American pottery selling for $50 or less.


Hummel figurines have lost value. Hummel figurines have lost value. So why does Rookwood still sell?

Well, it was much higher end to begin with than Roseville, Weller and McCoy.

But even the better objects cycle in and out of favor.

Remember Hummel figurines?

The market has all but collapsed for the whimsical German porcelain figures.

“Hummels. My feeling is that a lot of this stuff was very collectible during a certain period of time,” said Ms. Haar. “Royal Doulton, too. It was a trendy thing to collect, and as collectors got older and moved into assisted living, they all unloaded it at the same time. There’s just too much of it on the market.”

She remembers when Hummels fetched big bucks.

“At one time, Germans came to my shop and bought them. Evidently they could buy them here cheaper, but not any more. Even Lladro has gone down.”


SCOTT SIMMONS/FLORIDA WEEKLY SCOTT SIMMONS/FLORIDA WEEKLY The lower end Lladro figurines now fetch $30-$50 apiece, according to Mr. Gannon.

“It’s just like Hummels. The Hummel market 10 years ago was good. Now they just sit. You just can’t give them away. I had a blowout sale where I was selling them for $10 apiece.”

Well-designed furnishings and accessories from the middle of the 20th century are popular with collectors today.

“The biggest trend right now is mid-century modern, as far as desirability. It’s been in the market but we’re seeing an ever increasing demand for it and it’s getting harder and harder to find,” Mr. Gannon said.

People often want something that evokes their childhood.

“I think it’s nostalgia with the mid-century pieces,” said Ms. Asher, the Lake Worth antiques dealer.


Fans of shabby chic still buy floral pieces of china, especially French and English pieces. Fans of shabby chic still buy floral pieces of china, especially French and English pieces. Hobe Sound appraiser and auctioneer Tim Luke agreed.

“There’s some sort of reminiscence from their youth,” he said of collectors.

“Somebody had this stuff when they were growing up or they are rebelling against antiques. I think the ’50s and ’60s was a rebellion against that antique look.”

That’s a trend that goes beyond the baby boom.

“But the really young people in their 20s and 30s gravitate to the midcentury, and they gravitate to the old linens and Pyrex and the colorful glasses,” Ms. Asher said, remembering Swanky Swigs and other novelty glassware of the 1950s and ’60s.

Objects that are useful or decorative also sell.


People still buy tea cups for parties. People still buy tea cups for parties. “Coins sell, knives sell, vaseline glass sells,” said T.C. Dorler of Galleria Mall Antiques & Collectibles in Punta Gorda. “Any type of yard ornaments or nautical stuff also sells.”

Ms. Pica, the Naples auctioneer, predicts china and other objects will regain their lost luster.

“I think you’re going to see a resurgence, with softer lines and softer details coming back,” she said.

She can spot a trend.

“After 40 years, you start seeing these things over and over again. You understand that they’re worth money and that people want them and they’re desirable, but it’s the unusual that makes you go, ‘Whoa!’” Ms. Pica said.

That’s why she sells art and antiques.

“I’ve always been intrigued by what makes people buy what they buy. I think the business is fascinating.”


Glamalite tumblers offer midcentury style. Glamalite tumblers offer midcentury style. What’s hot

¦ Midcentury — Think quality designs from the post-World War II period by such luminaries as Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, Norman Cherner or Eero Saarinen. “We love to bring mid-century to auction,” said Tim Luke, a Hobe Soundbased auctioneer and appraiser who has appeared on “Antiques Roadshow,” HGTV’s “Cash in the Attic” and Fox Business Network’s “Strange Inheritance.”

¦ Repurposed pieces — “When I go to Junk Bonanza (an annual event in Minnesota), I’m seeing lots of 20th-century furniture that they’re painting up,” Mr. Luke said. “Now, it’s decorative and functional.”

¦ Silver — “People have been collecting silver, not only in bullion or coins, but Georg Jensen and Tiffany,” said Rick Gannon of Gannon’s Antiques & Art in Fort Myers. But the silver needs to carry high-end hallmarks like he mentioned. Tiffany silver needs carry an early mark, according to Mr. Luke. “We try to make that distinction,” he said.


Elegant Depression-era glass, like this Fostoria American pattern punch bowl, have lost value. Elegant Depression-era glass, like this Fostoria American pattern punch bowl, have lost value. ¦ Jewelry — All kinds. “Victorian and Deco jewelry, nice, old Mexican jewelry, Southwestern jewelry,” sell well, said Judy Haar of Judy’s Antiques in Fort Myers. “Any of the old estate jewelry, say, from the ’20s back, sells well.”

¦ High-end objects — “Blue-chip items, like Tiffany and Lalique sell well,” said Kathleen Pica, owner and auctioneer at Auctions Neapolitan, a division of Dovetails LLC, in Naples. Ms. Haar agreed. “Good art glass will sell. Some of the ’50s stuff will sell — Murano, if it’s signed. That’s still pretty good. Of course, Steuben and Baccarat, that’s always good. Even Waterford. The pieces folks are looking for are the older pieces.”

What’s not

¦ Hummels and other collectible figurines — “You just can’t give them away,” said Mr. Gannon. Even Lladro figurines are problematic. “You have two levels, the traditional store-bought Lladro or those you had to go to an actual factory or Lladro store to buy. The bigger pieces, the ones you had to pay $800 or $1,000, still have a high demand and a high value.”

¦ Limited edition plates, dolls, figures and other items — “Mom always said they would appreciate in value,” said Mr. Luke. But these objects were made in the tens of thousands, rendering them common and worthless. Remember Beanie Babies? “I have garbage bags of Beanie Babies that will never sell,” Mr. Gannon said. “I have them as gifts for children and let them hold on to them if they’re good in the store.”

¦ Most furniture — “Furniture of all types is a hard sell unless it’s a rarity or distinctive or a really good designer,” said Ms. Pica. The market for most Victorian furniture is very soft, and just about every family has had a mahogany Duncan Phyfe table of some sort that carries a story of how some grandmother acquired it. But 99.99 percent of those were mass-produced sometime between 1920 and 1950, and were not very good quality to begin with. “We look at those and go crazy,” said Mr. Luke.

¦ Sets of china — Royal Copenhagen’s Flora Danica pattern has remained a top seller, according to Ms. Pica. But the rest? “Your Limoges, Noritake, your Haviland, your china sets where they are worth $200 or under, people don’t want them,” said Mr. Gannon. The same goes for Lenox, Wedgwood and other seemingly high-end dinnerware. “Sets of china? Can’t sell it, and it takes up more room than it’s worth. Gosh, there was a time when (Replacements Ltd.) would come down from North Carolina and buy big sets of dishes. Those days are gone, my friend,” said Ms. Haar.

¦ Lower to middle level collectibles — Remember Fenton, Fostoria and other Depression-era glass? Well, the market for that has dropped in most areas. The same is true for other items priced under $100 or so that once were the mainstay of any antiques shop or show, said Mr. Gannon. Of course, markets may vary. T.C. Dorler of Galleria Mall Antiques & Collectibles in Punta Gorda says she still has collectors of Fenton glass and Wade figurines during the season. ¦

What to do

So you have inherited Mom’s collection of Bradford Exchange or Franklin Mint plates. She paid $35 apiece but they’re only bringing $5 on eBay, so what do you do?

“Hold a garage sale, but don’t have high expectations,” said appraiser and auctioneer Tim Luke, co-owner of Treasure Quest Appraisal Group of Hobe Sound.

Or donate it to a charity.

Mr. Luke suggests people consider repurposing furniture with paint and other trimmings.

A good part of the business at Dovetails LLC in Naples is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

“I think you’re going to see a resurgence of softer lines and softer details coming back,” said Kathleen Pica, owner and auctioneer at Dovetails and its subsidiary, Auctions Neapolitan. “I think that’s part of why I think that look is coming back. The lighter grays are very good.”

“It has to be light furniture, said T.C. Dorler of Galleria Mall Antiques & Collectibles in Punta Gorda. “Shabby chic is huge — anything shabby chic is huge,” she said citing the rustic, pastel-painted furniture and floral accessories that have been popular over the past decade.

Even if they’re not on a piece of shabby chic furniture, light colors are hip and are oh, so Florida.

“Obviously, we’re in a coastal area, so we’re going to do more coastal than the rest of the country,” Ms. Pica said.

Repurposing an item is an inexpensive way to achieve a look for which folks are willing to spend thousands and to honor Mom’s legacy.

— Scott Simmons

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