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Author Topic:   The value of research.
ahwt

Posts: 2124
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 09-05-2004 06:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am not sure where a comment like this should go, but this section may be as good as any. I just started reading a wonderfully researched book "English and American Silver in the Collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts" and the contrast to what I see on the internet was too great not to make a comment.

Recently, a popular internet auction site had for sale a spoon described as "rare late Colonial spoon from 1797". It was also represented as "important Americana". Several things struck me odd about this description. First, no provenance was provided to link the spoon to the year 1797. Secondly, I always thought that our Colonial period ended in 1775 when troops were first mobilized and hostilities began. There would certainly be some latitude in fixing an exact date for the end of the Colonial period, perhaps the next year when the Declaration of Independence was signed or at the very latest (at least from the British point of view) when the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.

I suspect the British were making their "Success to the Fleet" boxes well past 1775 in hopes of the defeat of the colonies and the retention of this lucrative market. Nevertheless, even the British must have recognized long before 1797 that the Colonial period was over. Lastly, the increasingly popular phrase "important Americana" reference was never explained.

These vague attributions and references seem to me to be a poor substitute for actual research into the history of the object or its maker. This particular seller normally has interesting merchandise for sale, but it seems more and more common that sellers are not interested in doing the actual research that might lead to interesting results, but are satisfied with descriptions that bear little resemblance to the actual object. Thank goodness books are published of the quality shown in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts work.


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wev
Moderator

Posts: 4084
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 09-05-2004 08:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Too say nothing of the pool of knowledge to be found in these pages.

I long ago gave up on trying to correct the descriptions on retail and auction sites; in the end, it just raised too much bile.

[This message has been edited by wev (edited 09-05-2004).]

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Dale

Posts: 2132
Registered: Nov 2002

iconnumber posted 09-05-2004 11:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As someone who actually does sell at internet sites, my take on this is somewhat different. The rewards of doing research are rather skimpy. The disincentives are many. The endless conflicting advice from collectors is one. The endless demanding emails is another. I am expected to drop everything and sit down and measure each bead on a necklace, add them all up to arrive at an average size with variation ranges.

One of the worst abuses of the internet system is the activity of various anonymous experts who barge in towards the end of an auction. I have experienced these 'experts' contacting the winning bidder, knocking the description (which means ultimately knocking my knowlege), and persuading WB to refuse to pay. Or to demand all sorts of guarantees and special treatments which are incompatible with a low starting price. This would be expected when buying from a high end dealer or a major auction house. But not from someone who started the auction at under $10.

So, my feeling is for all those who don't like the research or the description or whatever: don't bid. Only contact the seller when the auction can be actually changed (IE not in the last 24 hours). And do so nicely. I have received more than enough moronic emails from 'experts' that order me to do things. Nice works. AND NOT AT THE LAST MINUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!

From my perspective, research really doesn't pay. It simply sets people off; it encourages cranks. There is no incentive to research much of anything beyond looking at successful auctions. Anything more simply results in endless work. And endless abuse. It does not damper the wailing chorus about how everything is going down hill rapidly. Research just encourages kvetching.

For anyone wanting to barge in and offer expertise, I have a word of advise. Use your own name and your own business name. I am sick and tired of being told I know nothing by the likes of 'heather2438@hotmail.com'. Nor does saying you are a 'prominent' or 'experienced' or 'knowlegeable' whatever help if you aren't willing to put a publically known name on the email.

That is my sharing, Dale Nelson.

See. I use my own name.

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