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tline3open  Tongs controversy or a boo for Boos

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Author Topic:   Tongs controversy or a boo for Boos
labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 04-08-2003 03:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Here is a pair of fiddle and shell tongs by C. A. Burnett as pictured in Silver Magazine, Jan/Feb 1996. At that time a John Norie wrote an article about tongs. He made a number of very debatable comments, including that the tongs had "appliqué shells stamped on both arms" and, about the "R. R. W" engraving, "I do not think it should be difficult to trace the original owner." I ask everyone to take my word for it that this wasn't the stupidest thing written by Mr. Norie. His opinion on a bent ladle bon bon dish was a classic. I tried to point out his errors in the next issue, since I was writing in anyway to identify a "Wachsschnurhalter" for someone.

I eventually decided that in my opinion the Magazine wasn't really being edited well and let the matter go. I purchased an almost identical pair of tongs, and found to my amazement that many very knowledgeable people thought the decoration was appliqué or soldered on. I will leave it to FredZ to explain why these shells are swaged on, because that is not why, Ladies and Gentleman. we are gathered here today.
I really wanted a way of leading into the questions:

    1) Did anyone see Mr. Frank Boos (the man with the wilted bow tie) on the Antique Road Show?

    2) Has anyone ever seen him identify and appraise anything correctly?

This time he was impressed with a 20th century Dutch windmill spoon, and a pair of S. Kirk tongs. He said the tongs were sterling and made from 1825-1830 and worth $1,000 to $1,200. The 10.15 mark was clearly visible, so I guess he got as close as he ever has been to being right, since the date (I guess) could have been 1830. Of course he ignored the fact that 10.15 means 89.6% or coin silver and that there was a Baltimore assay before 1830.

The fact is he either doesn't know what coin, sterling, and French first standard mean or doesn't care since he uses them interchangeably, sometime in the same sentence. Couldn't someone from this forum volunteer to replace this man? My doctor says he either has to go, I have to stop watching the show, or I have to increase my blood pressure medication.
Maurice


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Scott Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 11377
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 04-08-2003 03:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It doesn't surprise me when someone who is not a TV/Film professional and finds themsleves speaking in front of a TV camera without a script happens to say something incorrect. What is very surprising is that the producers and the "professional" don't select something else to air or in the editing process do something to correct the egregious error. This is why I stopped watching these shows a long time ago.

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Kimo

Posts: 1597
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 04-08-2003 04:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's not just silver they get wrong, it can be anything. They also flip around all the time by giving "auction value if there were the two most insane specialized collectors in the world who had a few too many drinks value", "insurance appraisal value", "if I had it in my overpriced shop in Soho value" etc. The one that I actually get anything out of is the strange British show where the Dudley Moore look-a-like guy gives each team 200 pounds and they run around an antique show buying things which are then sold in an ordinary auction. Those are values that seem pretty real to me since they are real auction values. It's like Ebay, love it or hate it, if you leave out the phoney auctions with shill bidders or other funny business it is a place where real values are established every day.

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FredZ

Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 04-08-2003 09:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is a great forum.... I watched the road show last night and caught Mr. Boos' error as well. I have other issues about those who have seen much silver and are still unaware of what they see.

Concerning the shell ornament.... Soldering on the shell would anneal the metal and would require excessive planishing to bring back the spring required for properly functioning tongs.

Tongs are made as if you were making two spoons back to back. It is a trick to leave a thickened portion on the handles where the shell will be formed. The final steps require planishing to both smooth the surface and to work harden the portions that you wish to be tough or springy.

Many believe the bowls are also attached to the handles. The drops are also swaged on most handwrought spoons.

Fred

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FredZ

Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 04-08-2003 10:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I did want to mention that most of the claw grips seen on many tongs were cast and then soldered on. I have a pair of repoussed S.Kirk & Son tongs with "applied" claws. The solder joint is easily identified by the discoloration. They are also marked
10 15.

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Brent

Posts: 1502
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 04-08-2003 11:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ah, Mr. Boos,

I think the main problem is that no actual silver experts seem to want to be on the Roadshow for long. They had Christopher Hartop for a bit, as well as some other trustworthy folks, but it seems like they all left. Boos was there, and they decided to give him the silver gig. How hard could it be for an experienced general property auctioneer? Pretty hard, apparently. They were nice tongs, but a ridiculous valuation.

My personal favorite flub is one I wrote about a few years ago. It was on "At The Auction", Leslie Hindman's show on HGTV. Some inexperienced youngster was appraising a nice coin silver snuff box, engraved with a person's name, a New York Wall Street Address, and an 1850's date, and bearing the very clear (Eagle)<AC>(Head) trademarks of Albert Coles. She said, "Well, the eagle means it is German or Austrian silver". I can't remember much of the rest, being quite outraged, but I do know that some lady got a very, very wrong appraisal.

BTW, I have actually seen some Norwegian spoons with applied shells. No American pieces, but who knows? There are probably exceptions to every rule.

Brent

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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 04-09-2003 12:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Brent is right there are a few pieces with applied shells, etc. Occasionally a crest or coat of arms, usually on European silver. I have one spoon that may be American, but they are by far the exception.

I don't really have so much sympathy for Boos, he shouldn't be appraising what he doesn't know. I don't agree with his prices, but that is just an opinion. My real objection is the mistakes he makes before he gives a value. He really doesn't know anything about silver, all qualities, are about egual to him.

.750=.800=.810=.900=.925=.925=.950=.958 and repousse=cast. My lawyer always warns me to say "in my opinion".

Maurice

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dragonflywink

Posts: 975
Registered: Dec 2002

iconnumber posted 04-09-2003 12:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Maurice, have to ask, what is a "Wachsschnurhalter"? Some sort of candle holder?

And I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for all the antique shows. Always something new to learn! Have noticed errors on all of them, including an appraiser confidently stating that gold jewelry is always marked, so the appraisee's piece was costume (apparently no testing kit was available). Owning several nice unmarked pieces of Victorian gold, I had my doubts. Next show - correction to a value of $2500.00 (nice diamonds in it, too!). The values often seem way too high, but I've also seen items valued for much less than what they commonly sell for in my area. I don't get a chance to watch very often, maybe that's why I enjoy them.

Have to agree with Kimo, Bargain Hunt is very strange (host reminds me of Anthony Newley), but entertaining. I also prefer the original British Roadshow, it's faster paced and much less sensationalized (plus I get to see some things rarely seen in this country).

Cheryl ;o)

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vathek

Posts: 962
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 04-09-2003 07:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for vathek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What no one has mentioned is the effect that overly high and wrong evaluations have on the market, when even dealers see these things and think "hey, I'm really underpricing some of my stuff", not to mention members of the general public who don't know anything anyway.

Mr. Boos also appraised a Georgian late 18th c. sauce ladle a while back at being worth around $35.

I actually took an unmarked coin silver waste bowl with repousse strawberries to Mr. Boos at his auction house once. It was a presentation piece given to one of the first supreme court of MI justices from the bar of MI in (I think 1856). He appraised it at around $125.

As for Ms. Hindman, I once for kicks sent in for their e-appraisals an early 18thc brass taper stick. As most of you probably know early candlesticks have a small hole in the cup to aid in removing the old candle stub, which mine has. The appraisal came back saying the item was damaged because it had a hole in the canlde cup! Makes one shake ones head.

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FredZ

Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 04-09-2003 09:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
These stories remind me of an early incident in my collecting history. I had been given a gadrooned sugar bowl in exchange for another item. I took the bowl to an appraiser and she casually glanced at it and said to return the next day and she would give me the information.

The next day I was told it was a covered bon-bon bowl made in Birmingham, England in the 1830's.

Unsatisfied with this answer, I did research in the local library and thumbed through the first edition of Rainwater's book on American Silver Manufacturers. That is where I discovered it was a Gorham sugar bowl made in 1892. That incident gave me a realization that it is impossible to be an expert in all fields. There is so much misinformation spread by those who claim to know.

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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 04-09-2003 10:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
FredZ told me by email that once a silversmith has the swage, to swage on a shell takes just a few hammer blows, so why would anyone go to trouble of casting and soldering on shells?

This is a "wachsschnurhalter", basically a German bougie box.
Again my objection is not his curious pricing but his erroneous identifications. His prices go both ways, I would like to buy the ladle and Tiffany silver from him, and I would sell him those tongs, and any pitchers and "libation" cups I get.

Fred's story reminded me of a time when I appraised a Tiffany tea and coffee set, and had to go to court to testify.

The opposing "expert" had written that the "filigre" teaset had scratch marks on it showing it had been "replated" by a jeweler. I testified and left. The lawyer told me not only did the other "expert" not testify, but after I did he literally took to his heels and ran.

Maurice

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Richard Kurtzman
Moderator

Posts: 759
Registered: Aug 2000

iconnumber posted 04-09-2003 08:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You are leaving out two other culprits: Sotheby's and Christie's. For example, without mentioning names, several years ago I brought a Continental Silver snuff box to Christie's where it was appraised as late 18th century German with an auction value of $600 to $800. I was told "Thank you very much, be we have no interest." With a bit of attitude I might add. I proceeded to walk over to Sotheby's where I was told that the box was early 18th century German, made in Ulm by Martin Roth, and that it should bring between $2500 and $3500. That sounded good to me so I put it in their next Continental Silver auction and it reached $3250. These are the "real" experts, right?

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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 04-09-2003 11:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No doubt about it, the auction houses are a joke. I have had at least 5 items they grossly underestimated. A not particularly unusual example is a watch they said would bring about $2,000 that I sold privately to a dealer for $10,000 knowing full well he had it sold for a profit even before the purchase. Another they rejected as not worth more than $1,000, after some instruction they accepted it. They then seriously underestimated misread the date mark (even though I supplied them with the date and reference) , for which they apologized. Finally it brought $8,000, in my opinion it should have brought $12,000.

The difference is they only make their mistakes in front of people who buy their catalogs, or attend their auctions maybe a few thousand people, mostly knowledgeable. The roadshow makes their mistakes in front of many times that number, mostly naive people who really believe the "experts".

As far as more private mistakes, who can compete with professional appraisers who have letters behind their names, and are oh so proud that they neither buy nor sell. A particularly virulent group that spreads its idiocy in my neighborhood charges about $175 an hour for opinions that are truly laughable. In one appraisal they did, they got only one thing right in a group of 11 items averaging $3-4,000 in value. I am not talking about an opinion of value; I am talking about not recognizing the right date or country of origin. One favorite example was over 100 years off and the wrong continent altogether. Another is a “pair” of chamber sticks one being 2 inches shorter than the other (they WERE technically a pair but they didn’t notice or note the damage). Then there was the case where an appraiser called 46 place settings of Reed and Barton plate “sterling”. The owner paid for insurance for 15 years on $30,000 of sterling that didn’t exist.

I may seem overly harsh, but I don’t charge people for appraisals. I avoid them like the plague, but when I do them I ask for a donation to a charity of my choice in return. We all make mistakes, we don’t all charge for them. That is what I like so much about this forum, everyone can give an opinion, then the peer review tests the theory, and we all learn.

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