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Author Topic:   I've Learned the Error of my Ways
IJP

Posts: 326
Registered: Oct 2004

iconnumber posted 06-22-2005 04:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for IJP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was recently browsing a popular online auction website, when I stumbled upon a set of nine identical spoons, in a somewhat Deco looking pattern. In reading the item description, I was able to gather two things: One, that the silver was Russian, from somewhere between 1896 and 1917; And two, that the seller had no idea what he had.

In describing the spoons, he couldn't say with absolute certainty that they were not silverplate, and his geographical and chronological estimates of origin were way, way off. But he did make mention of a number 84 next to the profile of a head... which is enough to make me curious.

So I contacted the seller and asked the very specific questions that would get me the answers I wanted. Does the profile face left or right, and is it incised or in relief? What letter or letters are behind the profile? What is the maker's name, approximated as best as one can in Latin/Roman letters?

His reply assured me that we were dealing with silver from 1908-1917. He had a little more difficulty with the maker's name. When I spoke of Latin/Roman letters, he misunderstood this, I guess, as Greek. This works out OK, though, since the Russian Cyrillic alphabet is based mostly on Greek anyway.

So his report to me is that while he can't make out most of the letters, he does see "kappa omega (the circle with the line through it)". Well, there is no analog for Omega in Cyrillic (Omega, of course, is the horseshoe shaped letter at the very end of the Greek alphabet). "The circle with the line through it" is Phi. Clearly, this guy was never a regular at frat parties.

At this point, those Russian silver enthusiasts out there know where this is going. The Greek "kappa phi" is Cyrillic "K F". None other than Karl Faberge, with the imperial eagle warrant mark to boot.

These spoons were definitely ahead of their time, but they were unquestionably authentic. I'd stumbled upon something very valuable, and the seller had no idea. I thought maybe I could expect to get these for far below their value, since the seller's description wasn't giving anybody any clues, and the items were woefully miscategorized as to date of manufacture and their origin.

I arranged to have my bid go in at the last second, so on the morning of the auction's end, I watched and saw that the bids were still pitifully low. The seconds ticked away and brought me closer to owning my first set of Faberge.

Sad to say, someone else also arranged for a last second bid, and apparently also knew just what was for sale, and I was outbid. In retrospect, I could surely have bid twice, three times, even four times what I did, and still come out ahead, since this set of matching spoons would be worth far more. But you live and you learn, and next time I won't be so cheap about a good thing.

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Scott Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 11321
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 06-22-2005 05:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A skillfully related parable.
Thanks.

I too have had similar experiences.

Unfortunately I can't seem to learn from my mistakes. I am hopeful that your well told tale will save me in the future.

Thanks again.
wink

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FredZ

Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 06-22-2005 06:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ditto on Scott's comments. I have no regrets. I just make up a story that the item was flawed and I could not see it....

Fred

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doc

Posts: 705
Registered: Jul 2003

iconnumber posted 06-23-2005 01:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for doc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I like your approach, FredZ! I think we all may have some last minute auction losses in our collecting past! As a collector, though, it's part of what keeps you going because for every tale of loss, there's also that hidden treasure find! My recent online find involved three rather dingy looking serving spoons identified as Victorian silver plate. The photos of the markings were not great, but were sufficient to determine that they were sterling, and they turned out to be really lovely early Georgian spoons (1760's)-a delightful find at a really delightful price!

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salmoned

Posts: 336
Registered: Jan 2005

iconnumber posted 06-23-2005 02:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for salmoned     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, those who live by the sword of last minute bidding, die by it as well... I'm sure that if you really 'needed' that lot, you'd have bid higher - and probably still have lost it, c'est la vie!

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Ulysses Dietz
Moderator

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 06-23-2005 02:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've been very lucky twice, because my own slow-wittedness was only surpassed by prejudice or the like on the part of my colleagues in the museum world. Once, having spotted a really pretty enameled and gilt aesthetic style bud vase by Gorham from 1877(on a shelf with some Faberge) I registered it with curiosity and then passed on. Six months later I gave myself a dope slap and rushed to a show in NYC, where I snapped it up for the museum (at a bargain price, I have to say) just minutes before a colleague from another museum arrived to snap it up. Dumb luck. It remains, twenty-years later, the only example of its kind known.

The other tale is of a great three-piece art deco coffee set with Bakelite handles by Towle, which languished for six months at a high-end NYC dealer's, probably because it was by Towle and not Tiffany. Again with the dope-slap, and I managed to get the set for our collection (now known to be "Ritz" patented by Harold Nock for Towle in 1929). I think there are two other examples known, one in the Dallas Museum collection.

When I get back from vacation, if anyone cares, I'll post pictures.

The fact is, curators are not too quick on the uptake, because we're afraid of making mistakes. Moral: don't let your head overtake your heart when you see something great.

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Scott Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 11321
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 06-23-2005 02:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would love to see photos. Have a great vacation.

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swarter
Moderator

Posts: 2920
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 06-23-2005 05:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
. . . later I gave myself a dope slap . . . .

An apt description. For an even more egregious example, see One that almost did get away. How lucky can a person get?

Unforunately, not being so lucky happens much more frequently, in which case a good, swift kick in the behind (figuratively speaking, of course)is much more appropriate! Curators are not the only ones afraid of making mistakes.

[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 06-23-2005).]

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Dale

Posts: 2132
Registered: Nov 2002

iconnumber posted 06-24-2005 12:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
After many years, I find there are many things I regret not having bought and almost nothing I regret buying. Some sort of reflective lesson here.

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doc

Posts: 705
Registered: Jul 2003

iconnumber posted 06-24-2005 03:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for doc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I found that I had pictures of the spoons from my story above on my work computer, so I thought I'd share.

Deirdre

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dragonflywink

Posts: 971
Registered: Dec 2002

iconnumber posted 06-24-2005 03:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Makes me think of when my computer crashed last year (one of several times). Happened upon a set of supposedly silverplate spoons listed in a weird category, quick research of the marks indicated that they were southern coin (can't recall the maker, possible mental block!). Went to snipe a bid, whole system went down (must have built up some bad karma that week), sold for 99 cents. Keep telling myself that the other bidder knew the value and I probably wouldn't have gotten them anyway - almost makes me feel better!

Cheryl ;o)

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sazikov2000

Posts: 254
Registered: Jan 2005

iconnumber posted 06-25-2005 07:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for sazikov2000     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am always astouned when I read stories like that and my unpolite answer is:

You see blurry fotos on a wellknown auction site, the seller pretends to be an idiot inspite he has made numerous deals, the description is super dull, full of nonsense and when you ask some questions you get blurry faxes of the hallmarks on the wrong places on the wrong spoons.
The motto of this dealers is: Every morning some fool is awakening, you only must get him.

Congratulations that some fool was quicker!!

Sazikov 2000

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IJP

Posts: 326
Registered: Oct 2004

iconnumber posted 06-25-2005 01:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for IJP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you all for your replies. Sazikov's assurance that these were fakes, is certainly a bit of a consolation (Much in the same way as FredZ's "flawed and I could not see it")

... The web is not the safest place to trade, and there likely are a disproportionate amount of fakes in many market categories. Nonetheless, I can't help but concede that perhaps for every thousand, ten thousand, fifty thousand frauds, there may be just one genuinely naive individual with a real treasure in his possession--Quite frankly, I want to be the guy to snatch it up, wouldn't you? The key is knowing the real from the fake, and as Sazikov tells me, I have a long way to go to get that kind of acumen.

[This message has been edited by IJP (edited 06-25-2005).]

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dragonflywink

Posts: 971
Registered: Dec 2002

iconnumber posted 06-25-2005 01:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sounds like someone's been taken advantage of by online sellers!

Personally, I'm no fool (in this regard anyway!). Sellers, both online and brick & mortar, that don't do their research have provided me with some lovely bargain-priced pieces for my collections and some other pieces sold for huge profit. I'm quite sure of my knowledge in certain narrow fields and buy accordingly. Quite truthfully, I've never been "taken" by anyone online, though there are, without doubt, some unscrupulous dealers. By the way, some of my best buys have been from the more prolific sellers, often when they deal in large volume, research is apparently too time-consuming.

Cheryl ;o)

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