At the Auction: Alert- May 26

Lighting, Lamps, Decorative Items & Curious Objects

“Live” Online Auction – Thursday, May 26, 2022 – 5PM

There is going to be a great opportunity to buy unique objects from a single collector. A ten year collection by Fred Parks, picker to and for some of the best antique dealers and decorators in the US. This is a once in a lifetime sale. The auction will occur at Richard Opfer Auctioneering in Baltimore- Live Online. Unlike most auctions however, Mr Parks is making himself available to discuss items in the sale and to allow you to view them both in person and on line. Facetime previews will be available – text 443-928-9910

We took a tour of the auction as it is being set up for a Preview and saw some great pieces including several sets of antique iron outdoor dining chairs and a fabulous American cast iron bench. The bench is so good….I’m not showing it to you…you wanna bid against me…you look it up!

Mr Parks is famous for his Lighting collection but there is so much more!

We have bought several items from Mr Parks that always turned out to be great finds for us. And I am a particular fan of his eye for Mid Century Modern pottery.

Online bidding takes place via LIVEAUCTIONEERS and on May 26 at 5 pm sharp.

But there will be a PREVIEW at 10921 York Road, Cockeysville, Maryland  21030 on the 25th all day and it will be a great time to really see the size and patina of all the pieces and to ask Mr Parks and Mr Opfer any questions. Come in the late afternoon or early evening and join fellow antique lovers for a libation.

For home owners, restauranteurs, architects and dealers- I highly recommend checking out this unique one of a kind sale. so we’ll see you….at the auction.

Classic Blue Willow China 

Learn more about the classic design found in kitchens, diners and castles around the world

One of my first introductions into the the antique world was a fascination with my Aunt Jill’s blue willow. She told me the story of the star crossed lovers and told me that most blue willow had three men on a bridge but if you find a piece with only two men, it was very valuable. NOPE!

But the more you know, the more you appreciate. So here is the really interesting and true story of Blue Willow. It begins in the late 13th Century during the reign of Kubla Khan known as the Yuan Dynasty. A trader from Persia, now Iran brings pottery with deep cobalt blue into China and it is admired but they are unable to copy it because they do not possess the cobalt ore necessary. And so one of the first global chain import routes is formed. China will go on to import Cobalt from other regions as well because in the mountains near Jingdezhen and the unique clay found there coupled with the dragon kilns that snake up the mountain, the Chinese have learned to fire white almost iridescent pottery. The blue-and-white porcelains of the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, made in Jingdezhen, China, represent the highest level of the ancient porcelain making handicraft in terms of both quality and volume and represent one of the most influential aspects of human cultural heritage known. 

In Europe, people are eating off of pewter or wood plates. If they have crockery at all it is made with a lead glaze which gives it a dark grey brown finish. Small windows let in little light and dining experience even in daylight was a dark. This changed in 1602 when the Dutch East India Company, the world’s first formally listed public company was formed to bring spices to market from the East. When the traders saw this light yet sturdy pottery they took a chance on making their fortunes in the auction houses of Amsterdam, where goods from the unloading ships would be put up for sale immediately upon their arrival. From 1602 to 1682, at least 16 million pieces of Chinese export porcelain were transported around the world by Dutch merchant ships. Eventually word of the mad crushes at the auction houses made it to England and traders were dispatched to Amsterdam to see what it was all about. Meanwhile the ceramicists of Holland were busy trying to copy the imported goods. They at first copied the Chinese designs and then created their own. This pottery is known as Delft- but this is a story for a different day..

The English tried and failed to produce the white china but succeeded in the 18th C. By then the British fever for white china and moreover blue and white was at a fever pitch. People waited a year for an imported punch bowl or tureen. Prices were through the roof and families actually bankrupted themselves buying the latest status symbol. The English potteries were losing out to importers. And so in 1780 Thomas Turner designed what he imagined a Chinese scene to look like complete with fret work fences, pagodas, boats, bridges, pavilions, willow trees and swallows. It would be engraved onto a copper plate and finally not produced in his factory but at the factory of Josiah Spode. Even Thomas Minton got in on the fever first managing Spode then striking out on his own.

The Blue Willow design by Thomas Turner was eventually produced in over 800 factories throughout England. The process is not a simple one. First the white pottery must be almost flawless. Then the design is engraved onto a copper plate which is heated and the ink applied and scraped off repeatedly while hot to fill the fine lines of the this complicated design. Then paper was applied to create the “transfer”. It was cooled and put through a press and delicately removed and cut until the design could be fitted on anything from a plate to a cup. The transfer is then placed on the pottery- with precision and lined up then hand ground with soft soap and pestle to create the design. This required thousands of artisans across England and it was the care and precision that created the differences in price and quantity even in this subset. Fine intricate patterns were desired by some while other makers preferred the flow blue look- using more cobalt which tended to spread during firing because to them it was more reminiscent of the original Chinese examples.

At some point, in order to stand out in “catalogues” and department stores which were now where you went to buy your wares- the story of Chang, the humble accountant and Koong-se the daughter of the wealthy merchant who plans to marry her off to a wealthy colleague comes to play. The story is apocryphal, it does not exist in any Chinese literature and was purely Victorian hype. It has stayed the test of time as you can still find you-tube videos of antique collectors eagerly telling the tale of the pottery.

The pottery also was changed by human events. Potteries shut down during war as men were needed to fight and some skilled workers did not return. Cobalt was restricted as it was needed for the war effort. Manufacturing became expensive and was eventually exported to Japan where the designs were changed whether there was permission to do so or not. The Americans made it as well. In fact my personal favorite besides the Ridgway version, is that of Buffalo Pottery who made it as a give away to accompany their soap products.

So in our search for the origins of Blue Willow we have seen the first global import market between Persia and China, the development of the largest public company in the world in the Dutch East India Company, and the creation of the knock-off and its changes over time. It tells the story of the times, the dark living in Europe- transformed by light and delicacy. The mad crush of trade and importation on Europe. I think seeing the Blue Willow collections in this light makes them even more attractive and I personally love the differences when collecting. You can see the imperfections from the transfer process, even some funky design decisions made with left over transfer paper. You can tell the pieces that were meant to make large complicated collections and those that were given away with soap. And you can see the cultural differences between those who relished their ability to produce a clean design and those who preferred the blurry line in a tribute to its origins.

Today, the Blue Willow is iconic in both England and the US. Aunt Bee used Blue Willow on The Andy Griffith Show. Even the Munsters sat down to dinner on Blue Willow. William Randolph Hearst had a special version made for his castle in San Simeon, CA with a gold rim. In the 1930’s, a grill plate or divided plate was made with three sections. It was sold to diners and restaurants and was the inspiration known as the Blue Plate Special, a well balanced yet affordable meal.

So to some the value is in the history. To some it is in the wide array of sizes, hues and objects that can be collected. For many, it is the chinoiserie design. There are even those of us that are comforted by its familiarity. Nothing is better in my house than a Blue Willow platter heaped high with fried chicken.

There is a lot of Blue Willow changing hands. It is very easy to compile a set of any size if you can mix and match. But if you are looking to match and not mix- the value goes up. 12 Ridgway plates or Allerton all made the same year and same size might be had for 300-350.00. Coffee pots, creamers, sugars, platters and covered dishes are harder to find and therefor more valuable and can go for over 600.00. Some collectors buy hundreds of pieces at 5.00 each and hope to make a score. Some people buy what they need to make up what they don’t have in another transfer pattern because one of the great benefits to Blue Willow is that is blends with other blue and white but is also a great stand alone. Price guides are available but I like to check out either Ruby Lane or the even better, Chairish where today there were 366 Blue Willow items including a meat strainer and a pate bowl. Covet!

this description is slightly off but since its not true….do we need to correct it? good enough!

At the Auction: An Old Friend Comes Home

At another time in my life, I had the opportunity to see in person the opening of Thomas Pheasant’s very first showing for Baker Furniture in High Point. I did not have anything else to do and the hustle and bustle of High Point was over whelming for a small decor store owner. So as I took a walk through the town away from selling and ordering: I passed a small store front and in the window were two small slipper chairs I had sol to the decorator Charlotte Moss from my Georgetown store. The little storefront was for an upholsterer and furniture maker outside of town and this was his idea of an advertisement.

I got the address and off I went until I found a factory- no AC and no heat and all the employees were busy stuffing, sewing, tacking – all with cigarettes hanging from their lips. I found the owner and that day I started my own line of furniture. Man, I am naïve!

I did not do a lot but I had about a dozen pieces and some weren’t terrible. My favorite was the Gore Dean sofa and chairs. I loved the sleek style of the back and somehow I got lucky and the pitch of the chair made it easy to raise yourself without pushing out of the chair even with a down wrapped cushion. I sold a good number and kept one set from which I could take orders.

One day, designers Glenn Pushelberg and George Yabu happened into our Georgetown store and ordered enough to finish the room below for the St Regis in Mexico City. Our Delano chairs in the forefront and our coordinating sofas done in celery green velvet for the area right before the bar.

We had some orders and the lounge chair was particularly popular in a nubby white thick, loose weave bright white fabric that you can see in our Baltimore store below. Eventually I was going to take my samples home…and I would have that chapter of my life forever. That was until the flood came in 2008 during a hurricane.

My store was carted off by FEMA to the trash pile, Bernie Madoff hit and designers stopped ordering and High Point factories closed including mine- along with my patterns…I thought I may never see my chairs again…..

But you know what happened !!! Yes, last week at the all too wonderful and always terrific weekly sale at Weschler’s in Rockville, Md….I saw what had to be my chair.. Albeit, in a different pattern- maybe a bit overstuffed now- but one look at the feet below the now skirted bottom and I knew. Baby had come home!

leave it? or rebuild to the original? A softer cushion, straighter back and skirtless….

Which is why I always look through every auction…just look sometimes…because you will never know what memories you might unlock or what you’ll find…….at the auction.

Collecting Copper Pots and Pans

When decor, collecting and use mix happily…

There are many options for cookware. Personally, I could not make it without my cast iron but there are so many options all with their plusses – enameled, cast iron, stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum, nonstick, and copper – and they all have vastly different uses and price points.

The cost of copper cookware can be intimidating but lets face it – its fabulous on display. And when you consider the decor value plus its use value- its the hands down winner. Here are some things you need to know and consider. I sell several Brands of copper that are contemporary. But we also have a good sized collection of antique and vintage copper.

Because its easy to control its temperature, copper pots are perfect for melting chocolate and candy makingBecause its easy to control its temperature, copper pots are perfect for melting chocolate — Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Because of its heat conducting properties, copper heats up quickly and evenly. So you don’t have to worry about hot spots. Copper cookware is great for when you need to control and maintain consistent temperatures. This means you don’t have to use as much heat to get it cooking. If a recipe calls for medium-high heat with your regular cookware, use medium-low for your copper.

Copper is not great for high heat. It is best for delicate proteins such as fish and sauces which is why it has traditionally been preferred by professional chefs.

Julia Child infamously stocked her kitchens in Cambridge and Provence with the wares of Dehillerin in Paris.

Copper is a reactive metal. In most cases, that means it will have a chemical reaction to what you’re cooking so most copper pots and pans are lined with a non-reactive metal like tin or stainless steel.

Buying new ? You will be getting the heavy duty stainless steel which can stand up to a lot of abuse from utensils. If you’re purchasing older, used copper pieces, you will almost certainly be dealing with tin. Tin gives your copper a great, non-stick surface to work with, but the melting point is around 450 °F’ so cook low.

Tin is also easily scratched and chipped with metal utensils and harsh scrub brushes. It’s best to use wooden spoons and softer utensils when working with tin-lined copper cookware. On the other hand, older pieces have a fabulous luster so finding a great item that needs to be re-tinned is just fine. You can go to and calculate the cost of re-tinning and polishing a pot. As long as it doesn’t have any holes in it, it’s relatively easy to return your copper cookware to its former glory- if it is tin lined. Stainless Steel that is damaged must sadly remain a No Buy. When antiquing remember tin will discolor unevenly sort of in patches and be discolored. Stainless will have concentric marks where applied. Some people eye the rim, if you see silver on the rim, it can be assumed to be tin or nickel.

So where someone else may pass up a pot in need of tinning- you can find a treasure that will last you a lifetime.

Martha Stewart’s Collection- mixing antique, vintage and new

Keep that Shine…

A bit of lemon juice or vinegar can revive your copper’s shine or some salt and half a lemon (but do not scour! gently polish and let the acidity do the work) or some Bar Keepers Friend and a soft cloth. I am a salt and lemon girl but Spider (the chief polisher) swears by Wright’s Copper Paste. But before you polish, you must clean. So soap and water, a good soak sometimes makes the work easier.

Antique Mauviel on display and you can visit the factory outlet on your way to Mont St Michel

If you want an eco friendly version you can try

DIY Copper and Brass Cleaner

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • Enough white vinegar to form a loose paste

If you suspect that the piece is lacquered, test a part of the bottom with a bit of nail polish remover to see if there is a thin layer on there. It needs to be removed before you cook in it. It was common in the 1960’s to lacquer the items for display use so that polishing was unnecessary.

and lastly, you may wish to forgo polishing all together. “In the case of copper, a patinated surface is becoming harder and more thermally efficient,” says Mac Kohler of Brooklyn Copper Cookware. “Professional chefs cultivate a good, dark patina as one does bloom on wine grapes; it improves what the thing is supposed to do.”

See our copper collection on Chairish

New Copper can be found on DGD Home Catalog

New from Mainly Baskets: the Vineyard Collection

“Let us offer you the quality and design of all that is natural from Mainly Baskets

to bring warmth and texture into your world that will last for decades to come.”

Shop Mainly Baskets

Cleaning, restoring and preserving iron garden ornaments

There are many methods…this is how we do it at Parterre Garden Shop

Whether you like your garden ornaments, hitching posts or urns to be Rusty Crusty or Pristine, there are still some valuable hints to be them around and in service longer.

The first step is to identify the age, purpose and value of the items you want to restore. A new but rusty urn can take a good deal more abuse from cleaners and abrasives than you would subject a 17th C Italian urn to. 10,000 dollar garden sculptures should probably not be blasted. You get where I am going…

Brand new iron garden ornaments have an overly rusted appearance which can be fixed with a good clean and museum wax

Because in the end it all comes down to abrasives and chemicals when you want to clean. It also is important to know the function of the item. Urns that are on your porch, should not be allowed to rust through sending scarring stains down brick and cement that you cannot get out. Do you empty your urns each year or use urn caps ? If not you will want to clean, and treat those urns every two years so they can withstand the wet soil that will eventually erode them. A statue should be cleaned once a year and professionally restored. etc. My rule of thumb is easy- if its good- treat it well. If its temporary, do your best.

The faded paint on these urns should be preserved and protected. It makes them entirely unique

At Parterre Gardens Shop, we use any common detergent. If we are outside in the garden or driveway, we use Dawn as it is environmentally neutral. (You can also use vinegar and water). We scrub a new urn or hitching post with a rag and water with a good amount of detergent. We then rinse it and towel dry sitting it in the sun to dry completely. If the urn is made of parts-then we dry each separately to ensure we have no standing water in any crevices.

Note: This also applies to painted iron- urns, jockeys, even fences and trellises. You have to wash them because what is in the air and earth can be very chemically active.

Once you have removed pollutants, you can scrub with a wire brush for furniture and more meaty iron and a nylon brush for painted pieces, ornate urns and statuary. There should be no flaking paint or powdery rust when you finish. For furniture that is being repainted, you should now sand it down.

Repairs are now made at this point, handles soldered back on, chips repaired, holes puttied up etc.

Once you are clean, dry and non rusty–you can proceed to the Rust Inhibitor. There are many on the market. For furniture- you must prime coat with a rust inhibitor like Rustoleum. For intricate expensive ornamental items, we use a museum wax or Briwax (our choice).

Now dont think for a minute that I dont like that rusty look of old iron. I just dont want active deterioration. So cutting off oxygen to the item is essential. That means air and water. So at Parterre, we are a huge fan of Krylon matte finish- every two years on everything from garden gates to flower urns to soap dishes. Painted surfaces especially will last with the Krylon matte which you apply as soon as you are happy with your restoration.

Note: If you are looking to add that turquoise blue to a pair of urns or want to give a red hue to your hitching post, Briwax can be mixed with everyday paints (water based!). This will create a thin coat of color. The more you apply the heavier the color and it can be rubbed down for a subtle look and removed altogether with more clear Briwax.

Eat Your History: George Washington

The man, the history and the Hoecakes…

Get me those hoecakes!

Lets test our knowledge…

(1.) Where was George Washington born?

(2.) In what armies did he serve?

(3.) Name two myths about George…..

An extraordinary figure in American history and unusually tall at 6′ 3, Washington was also an ordinary man. He loved cricket and fox-hunting, moved gracefully around a ballroom, was a Freemason and possibly a Deist. His favorite foods were pineapples, Brazil nuts (hence the missing teeth from cracking the shells) and Saturday dinners of salt cod. He possessed a wry sense of humor and, like his wife Martha, tried to resist the vanities of public life. Washington could also explode into a rage when vexed in war or political battles. Loyal almost to a fault, he could also be unforgiving and cold when crossed. When Republican Thomas Jefferson admitted to slandering the president in an anonymous newspaper article for his support of Federalist Alexander Hamilton’s policies, Washington cut Jefferson out of his life. On at least one occasion, Washington’s stubbornness inspired John Adams to refer to him as Old Muttonhead.

(1.) On February 22, 1732, George Washington is born in Westmoreland County, Virginia , the first of six children of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. Washington rose to eminence on his own merit. His first job at age 17 was as a surveyor in the Shenandoah Valley. (2.) In 1752, he joined the British army and served as a lieutenant in the French and Indian War. When the war ended, Washington left the army and returned home to Virginia to manage Mount Vernon, the plantation he had recently inherited upon the death of his older brother. 

George Washington’s legacy has endured a long process of untangling myth from fact. (3.) The famous cherry tree incident never occurred, nor did Washington have wooden teeth, though he did have only one tooth by the time he became president and wore a series of dentures.

In addition to advocating civilian control over the military, Washington possessed that intangible quality of a born leader and had earned a reputation for coolness under fire. During the French and Indian campaign, he dodged bullets, had horses shot out from under him and was even taken prisoner by the French. Part of his success in the Revolutionary War was due to his shrewd use of what was then considered the ungentlemanly, but effective, tactic of guerrilla warfare, in which stealthy hit-and-run attacks foiled British armies. In 1775, the Continental Congress unanimously chose Washington to command the new Continental Army. In 1789, in part because of the leadership skills he displayed during the war, the Continental Congress elected Washington as the first American president.

Bad Teeth and Lots of Virginia Corn: Washington’s HoeCakes

Made with Corn Meal and served with Collard Greens

Southern Hoe Cakes (HoeCakes) are little cornmeal pancakes that are wonderfully crispy around the edges.


  • ▢1 cup self-rising flour
  • ▢1 cup self-rising cornmeal mix
  • ▢1 tablespoon sugar
  • ▢1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ▢3/4 cup buttermilk
  • ▢2 large eggs
  • ▢1/2 cup water
  • ▢1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • ▢1/4 cup bacon drippings
  • ▢butter


  1. Combine flour, cornmeal mix, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Measure buttermilk in a glass measuring cup. Add eggs to measuring cup and whisk egg and buttermilk together. Pour into bowl with flour mixture.
  3. Pour water and vegetable oil into bowl and mix everything together.
  4. Heat a cast iron pan or nonstick skillet or griddle. Add bacon grease.
  5. Pour batter into pan to form hoe cakes, using about 2 tablespoons of batter for each one. I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill it about half way.
  6. Cook until bubbles form on top, flip over and cook until bottom is golden and crispy on the edges.
  7. Serve with butter.

Although HoeCakes are now present on breakfast menus in the South in elite establishments- traditionally they were served as a main meal with collard greens. Collard Greens can be switched out now with blanched spinach or even an a la King. In our home, they are a traditional accompaniment to fried chicken.

This is a great way to introduce children to history and a fun way to celebrate the Holiday. If you are still in the mood for history…a good movie.

A scene from the Musical 1776….describes the situation that Washington found himself in…

Carrot cake for Dessert

Collecting a Troubling Past: Black Americana

Syl Turner is the owner of the Broad Street Antique Mall in Chamblee, Ga., and has thousands of African American artifacts on display. Turner also operates the where one can view a collection that encompasses the full spectrum of African American life. Several years ago he penned what I have thought to be the best article on collecting Black Anericana that I have read. I keep it in my desk and I share it here with you in celebration of Black History Month. And we recommend a trip to Chamblee if you are ever down Georgia way.

Rare candid photograph of Booker T. Washington by
African American photographer Arthur P. Bedou, $4,950.

“As an antique dealer, I buy and sell a wide variety of collectibles. Over time, however, I have come to specialize in Black Americana. My focus on this type of collecting stems from my interest in history, and because of the fact that for years, it has been neglected in the field of American collectibles.

However, interest in Black Americana has grown dramatically in recent years. You can trace the rise in demand for anything of an African American nature to Alex Haley’s book Roots and to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Whoopi Goldberg and Spike Lee who have been amassing huge collections. Average Americans who appreciate the historical and cultural significance of this type of memorabilia are also acquiring quality pieces. This increased awareness has led to an escalation of prices of just about anything relating to African American history.

Miniature wool rug made by
Dr. George Washington Carver, ca.1915, $9,500.

Black Americana collecting encompasses a wide variety of items. Many collectors focus on ephemera, which often features stereotypical caricatures and other offensive illustrations. These depictions can be found on old postcards, sheet music, calendars, food labels, posters, puzzles and other early lithographs, all of which have become highly sought after. It seems that the more despicable the representation, the greater its value. For example, there are some very offensive postcards that originally sold for a penny and now sell for $200. A real photo postcard of an horrific image, such as a lynching, can sell for $500 or more. Currier & Ives lithographs depicting African Americans are examples of racial imaging that has become very collectible. An original 1887 Currier & Ives print such as “Darktown Banjo Class” will sell up to $300, depending on condition.

Black Americans were often pictured in early advertising, and many of these representations can be just as offensive. Such images can be found on tobacco tins, foodstuffs, soaps, sewing items, toys and just about any marketable product.
African Americans were also depicted in home décor items such as ash trays, wall plaques, ceramic novelties, cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers, cast iron banks, etc. Most people agree that African Americans have been the most exploited ethnic group in the history of this country.

A 1936 autographed photograph of
Bill “Mr. Bojangles” Robinson performing
his famous hat dance valued at $1,295.

Without a doubt, most of these items are offensive, and some might question if they should be collected at all. They are collectible, in as much as they represent a record of our past. Simply ignoring the past would be disrespectful to those who lived through those difficult times. Although these reminders can be very painful, they can also be an inspiring testimony to the strength of the African American spirit in the face of discrimination and inequality.

There is another entirely different type of Black Americana collecting. It is the collection that focuses on the struggle to overcome slavery and on the positive achievements of African Americans. This field of collecting is often overlooked by antique dealers and collectors. This includes slave documents, broadsides, letters, newspapers, books, autographs, prints and photographs. Items relating to abolitionists like Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass are extremely desirable.

A Slave’s Petition for Freedom, 1790, Frederick County, Md., $1,695.

With a little searching, important artifacts pertaining to great Black leaders such as Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Carter G. Woodson, W.E.B Dubois, Adam Clayton Powell, Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King, Jr. can be found. The realm of historical artifacts encompasses items from the time of slavery through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It also includes military heroes such as those who served in all Black regiments during the Civil War, the Buffalo Soldiers fighting on the western frontier, the Harlem Hell Fighters of WWI, and the Tuskegee airmen of WWII.

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman by Sarah Bradford, 1869 First Edition, $3,000.

It must be noted, however, that photographs and documents need not be of famous people to have value. For example, an 1850’s 1\6 plate ambrotype of an unidentified black woman, (probably a valued servant) in a thermoplastic case in excellent condition is priced at $600, while an 1844 Alabama Plantation Slave appraisal complete with descriptions and values of 28 slaves is priced at $1,295.

Memorabilia associated to sports heroes such as Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, or Jessie Owens, the first American in the history of track and field to win four gold medals in a single Olympic Games, or Jackie Robinson who integrated major league baseball, all command high prices. In addition to these well-known champions, there are numerous individuals whose names may not be commonly recognized, but lead the way for others to follow. Athletes like Isaac Murphy, arguably the greatest jockey of all time, who won 628 of his 1,412 starts including three Kentucky Derbies. Or Howard Drew, the first in a long line of world class African American sprinters to hold the title of “The World’s Fastest Human”. Other sports pioneers include John Shippen, the first Black professional golfer, and Wendell Scott, the first African American to win a major NASCAR race.

Negro League baseball memorabilia is also in great demand. Items relating to great teams such as the Kansas City Monarchs, the Birmingham Blacks or the Homestead Giants, and their star players command high prices. Players like Buck O’Neil and Josh Gibson who hit more than 900 home runs in his 15-year career; and Satchel Paige, perhaps the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball; and the Cool Papa Bell who could do it all ­ hit, field and run the bases. Demand for Negro League photographs, tickets, broadsides, autographs, uniforms, bats, balls, programs, pennants, etc. is very strong.

A vast array of African American Entertainment memorabilia is on the market.
Sheet music, records, photographs, autographs, playbills and programs of famous performers such as Louis Armstrong, W.C. Handy, Duke Ellington, Billy Holiday, Josephine Baker, Bessie Smith, Marian Anderson, Hattie McDaniel, Bill Robinson, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald to name a few, are very collectible.
There are, of course, many lesser known performers who were true pioneers in the entertainment field. For example, in 1892 “Black Patti” Sissieretta Jones was the first Black singer to perform at the White House. Legendary vaudeville comedian Bert Williams is considered the Jackie Robinson of Broadway ­ he broke the color barrier in 1910 starring in Ziegfeld’s Follies. Caterina Jarboro was the first Black to perform with an American opera company and was also the first Black Prima Donna, singing at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1934. In 1929, Clarence Muse became the first African-American to “star” in a film, and he appeared in more than 140 movies during his 50-year career. Maestro Everett Lee was the first Black to conduct a major symphony orchestra. Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake wrote the Broadway Musical Shuffle Along in 1921, and it was the first Broadway musical ever to be written and directed by African Americans.

Indeed, a listing of 19th and early 20th century accomplished African Americans would be very long. This list would also include scholars, entrepreneurs, writers, artists, politicians and spiritual leaders. All had to overcome racial barriers, Jim Crow laws and the indignity of segregation. Even seemingly commonplace items associated with these accomplished African Americans will often tell the story of their struggle and the obstacles they overcame, better than any history book.

Program for “The Installation of Martin Luther King Jr. as Pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church”, October 31st, 1954, $3,000.

Any discussion on Black Americana collecting would not be complete without mentioning reproductions and fantasy items. Regrettably, the increase in demand for Black Americana collectibles has led to a proliferation of bogus items. Fortunately, most reproductions are easily recognizable, although some dishonest resellers attempt to age an object to make it appear old. Some fakes, however, can be more difficult to detect. For instance, some people will take an old alarm clock, and with the use of a computer graphics program, design a new dial face using an old racial image. The clock is old, the dial face looks old, and so buyers are easily fooled and will pay hundreds of dollars for a worthless forgery.

I stated earlier that I can defend collecting genuine Black Americana, even blatantly racial items, because of their historical significance. I cannot make that same argument about the demeaning items that are being produced today, even if they are identified as reproductions. Because these items are not genuine, I find them to be repulsive. In my view, it is only acceptable to collect the genuine articles that were produced during a time in our history, when as appalling as it may be, many in our country recognized and accepted such stereotypical images.”

Paris Porcelain Partial Serving Set then- Perfect for Two now

Use and History come together in Old Paris Porcelain

Old Paris Porcelain is very broadly defined as porcelain made by about 30 artisans in and around Paris from the late 18th century to the 1870’s. It is also called Vieux Paris. It was first beloved by Marie Antoinette (particularly the “cornflower” painted patterns) and utilized by only the wealthiest of French aristocrats. But the French Revolution forced makers of luxury items to regain financial stability by producing lower-priced goods made available to a wider public.
At the same time, the French were also celebrating anything Democratic and had taken a shine to the American Ambassador, Thomas Jefferson. In this light, these serving items featuring Corn, Squash and Figs as decoration take on the history as well as the taste of the times.
Jefferson’s purchases of porcelain tableware in France were numerous, but little is known about the design or manufacture of the lost and presumably destroyed works. We do know that he made it home with several of the cornflower painted items normally reserved for the King….he WAS clever!
In the collection of William Dupont who was a prominent collector of Delaware Valley antiques it serves as a nod to those times which did include imports and would have been thought quite unique with the finials supporting local harvests. Though these items are made in France, they would have been much sought after in the 1800’s.
Interestingly, these three serving dishes would have been part of a much larger service but today are the perfect size for a complete service for 2 – in America.
Covered Vegetable: 9 x 8 x 7
Butter Cooler: 6 x 6 x 5
Sauce Tureen: 6 x 3.5 x 4

FAQ’s : What is the difference between a Salesman’s Sample, a miniature and a toy?

It can be easy to confuse a true salesman sample from toys or children’s items especially if you are looking at Ebay where every small item is a salesman’s sample. But the proof is in the detail. If you look for great detail and specific aspects of the product you may well find the coveted sample. Salesman samples in metal usually have prominent company logos. Most salesman samples were made to 1/6 scale or 1/8 scale when compared to the actual product. (1/6 scale 1 inch is equivalent to 6 inches in full size and 240 inches long would be 30 inches in 1/8 scale.)

So id we find an item- we have but do the math.

I always say that everything before Andy Warhol was utilitarian. By this I mean that before we turned tomato soup into art, we made things for a reason. If you put yourself in the place of the consumer or maker- you can usually intuit why it was made. A small chair made for a child is going to be able to withstand a beating no matter how fancy- so weight so it does not tip over, lower seat height, arms usually low to hold them in and sturdy materials. For a doll, the maker would not use arms or if he did, they would be high to support the dolls arms and hold it up, it can be light weight and more in proportion to a real chair. In other words- good for display- not use. A miniature is going to be exactly to scale. And what would you need if you were a Salesman on the road in the late 19th C.

First you would want your customers to take you seriously and for you not to appear to be selling toys -so your samples would be lovely and beautifully finished. They would be perfectly to scale using the blueprints of the manufacturer and in scale, too would be the fabric. It would be an object that would not lend itself to play.

So when we go to sites that sell salesman samples of primitive or rustic furniture; it flies in the face of the purpose of a sample from a manufacturer. Not to say that furniture makers might not make a small version for sale as a decoration or toy- they might but they would be just that and you can see it in the details.

The example above of the Hoosier Cabinet shows working components in the exact materials as the original. A woman could see the flour sifter and the roll tops working. The examples below show the sturdy, weighty and low chair designed for a toddler, rustic toys to be played with and the perfect miniatures of furniture that would be available for order. We can also see the doll chairs that while lovely, would not be appropriate for a child and if blown up to 6 times the scale would not be in proportion.

Just In…

in 16 or 19 inch diameters

Our round rattan serving and ottoman trays with glass inserts will instantly add a gorgeous touch to any room of your home. Adding this tray to your décor brings both decorative and functional style with a 5 mm glass insert to protect the tray in heavy use environments.

Perfect to organize your coasters and remotes, set a table, serve drinks, or just add a new elegant touch. Products are handmade and each piece is unique therefore slight variations and imperfections exist.

  • 5mm Glass Insert Included
  • Hand Woven by Local Artisans from Burmese Rattan
  • Natural and Sustainable Product
  • Wipe Clean with Damp Cloth
  • Made in Myanmar

I use this on my Study table to keep my topiaries organized and from staining my table. In summer it becomes a drinks tray and bar on the porch. Great for ottomans as well.

$125 for the 19 inch

$107 for the 16 inch


at the Auction: a quick story

In an otherwise dull sale this week (usually full of great decorative things) Weschlers had for sale a “Chinese Export Type Porcelain And Carved Wood Standish”. It sold for 400.00 plus the 20% buyers premium.

Out of place in a weekly sale in my opinion this lovely French chinoiserie coromandel standish was very special. The auction house made special note of a signature in the right corner…

Had someone scratched their name into the inkwell as they sat at the desk? More than likely the reason for the auction house to bring it to your attention. But look closely at the period behind the the J and you can see that it matches the brush strokes of the decoration. Indeed J O Wilson was a painter of china and objets and became famous enough that his signature became valuable.

a Limoges cup painted and signed by J O Wilson in 1920

Properly restored the standish should be as nice as this one offered on 1st bibs $2250.00 now marked down to $950.00 also signed by J O Wilson, described by the seller as French 1860.

I dont know too many artisans in France in 1860 named Wilson and there was a J O Wilson in Boston Mass at this time who was known for electroplating or gilding metal. But a signed limoges cup from 1920 tells us that a J O Wilson was in France brush in hand. HMMM. In any case, The inkwell from Weschlers will be fabulous and the one on 1st Dibs in my opinion is well to under priced. A good clue to age is the chinese porcelain inkwells. I myself think these are both later, maybe 1890-1920 copies of the ormolu versions made popular in France in the 1860’s. Still just as fabulous and more easily used than the grandiose 1860 versions.

We were left paddle in our lap… the Auction.

at the Auction…Baltimore young collector opportunity

Alex Copper Auctioneers has put together a  Art Collector Discovery Sale: Featuring Indigenous Art and where I do not normally encourage people to check out an auction where I will be a bidder, I am going to break tradition and encourage anyone interested in being or adding to a collection to check out this diverse auction. They claim it has something for every level of collector and for certain it has some great things for those of us who like to be a little different.

FULANI BOY IN TRADITIONAL DRESS, PHOTOGRAPH Printed by, sight size: 24 x 36 in., framed.

This piece is a decorator’s dream. Though there is no attribution to the photographer and the fact that it is done by a photo enlarging service which makes it’s value purely decorative- it is a killer piece and a great size for a young couple or an apartment dweller. The estimate is 200-400 in my opinion exceeds its resale value but is under its decorative value so that is what someone should fairly expect to pay. Alex Cooper does charge a 23% buyers premium which needs to be taken into consideration.

NAVAJO TWO GREY HILLS RUG 2nd quarter, 20th century; 5’2″ X 3’8″.

Several rugs are highly desirable and would be excellent in contemporary settings. Their estimates are perhaps low and I would expect them to top those by two but still worth the price for a terrific look.

For me, it is the baskets that steal the show. Although small and not as decoratively useful as I would like, together they are a terrific collection.

The Mid Century and more traditional art has some sleepers as well. I will forgo discussion of the item I plan to get a bid in on and focus on this beauty by PAUL REBEYROLLE probably from his 1970 publication.

Color lithograph, ed. 11/75, signed lr, sight size: 18 x 25 in., framed.

Estimated from 100-200, the winner of this item should be very happy if successful. And for those who might be more daring are two works by the well known ceramicist LORI EHRLICH KATZ which are mounted as wall hangings are are decidedly undervalued in the estimate. They are well worth the trip to Alex Cooper on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 10:00am – 4:00pm to have a look in person.

because you never know what you might find if you are a collector….at the Auction.

check them out here but do see the items in person if possible.

at the Auction: The Tale of Two Sales

The Americana Collection of William K Dupont was successful at Sothebys and hit it out of the ballpark in Manheim, Pa too! A testament to a great collector.

A well rounded and judicious collector is a joy and a Godsend. They rarely take into account the cost of an item but covet an item for what it brings to the collection as a whole. And good thing, because intact a collection is more than the sum of its parts.

A wonderful example of this was the collection of William K Dupont at his home Rocky Hill. He specialized in the area around his home and was an expert on all things Delaware Valley – from ironwork to documents. He lived and breathed his collecting and was admired by the auctioneers and dealers that helped him amass this extraordinary grouping of everyday Pennsylvania living -two generations of Philip Bradleys, Joe Kindig, Skip Chalfant, Jim Kilvington, Vernon Gunnion, and a few others who were able to buy directly from local families or were victorious at local sales.

A short film done by Sotheby’s to promote their auction gives us a rare look inside.

Over the course of decades, William K. du Pont carefully amassed one of the greatest private collections of Americana ever assembled. The definition of a true connoisseur, Mr. du Pont was a devoted scholar who sought to preserve artifacts from early American history, from candlesticks and keyholes to elaborate cabinets and bookcases. In this video, Mr. du Pont’s friends, relatives and colleagues explore what made him and his collection so exemplary.

To see the importance that Sothebys places on the collection is praise enough but our story only gets better from here. As auction houses often do- they stagger a collection. Sotheby’s came in and took what they considered the “best” lots. The line-and-berry furniture and the Sulphur inlay all went to the New York showrooms. But Mr Dupont had collected everything that an 18thC house would use. And the more utilitarian and less glamorous objects were now available for a third, local auction. John Hess in Manheim got the nod and I suspect it was the ride of a lifetime for him. Nestled in the Pennsylvania countryside across the street from Roots Market and Amish small animal auctions- Mr Hess weekly runs through a plethora of country estate sales. Gates, baskets, dishes and the occasional buggy. So much that from time to time, a gem comes up and I imagine that Rocky Hill might well have had a few of these.

So after Sothebys has its sale on Jan 22. Mr Hess offered up the items deemed less likely to achieve success in New York City.

Looking over the auction I warned my husband and partner that the prices would be high because at one hour before the start, a pair of 18th C andirons that I wanted had not advanced past $15.00. I knew that noone was going to bid before the auction actually opened. And then it was as though we were all standing in the starting gate and bell sounded.

As items are lined up on your screen 5 to a row and they begin to close every few seconds- you begin to see the numbers. You quickly scan down the list to see the items that you have marked to “watch”. $20 dollars and hour ago is now 800- 825-840-900..The numbers were moving so fast you were mesmerized- which also means that you just missed items closing quickly at the top of the page.

In New York, things had been dignified and at a pace you could absorb the importance of the collection. This Delft plate estimated to sell for 1500 dollars- sold for 27,720 dollars plus the fee.

Back in Manheim, this group of household iron- a horse bit and some snow catchers- was at $1350 plus the fee when I had to go back to what we were actually bidding on.

Interestingly, many of the items featured in the Sotheby’s video did not go to New York and were sold locally here where they had been made and collected. But why the prices?

Because a great collection is just that. Mr Dupont who was knowledgeable and experienced had already put his stamp on the items.

Harold Sack, who began to deal with du Pont in the 1960s, told a story about du Pont in his 1986 memoir American Treasure Hunt. Sack noted du Pont’s “instinctive flair for antiques…strengthened…with a continuous and serious study of objects, photos and textbooks as well as conferences with leading dealers.” Bill du Pont proved the thoroughness of his self-education. After Sack sold him a New England high chest with fan-carved drawers in its upper and lower sections, du Pont called and told him he had determined that the upper fan-carved drawer was not original. Harold dispatched his brothers Albert and Robert to Delaware to confirm du Pont’s suspicions, and they said du Pont was right. As luck would have it, Robert Sack knew the cabinetmaker that did work for the New York dealer Sack had bought the chest from, confronted the craftsman, and threatened court action until he produced the original uncarved drawer, which Sack sent down to Delaware. (Cited from:

In Manheim, the people who had restored the items, or had once owned them- had a chance to collect part of the collection. So Sale 3 of the collection had as much anticipation and excitement and energy as Sale 1.

For me, I had stopped bidding at other auctions in order to have the resources to buy as much as I could at this one. I was hoping that it would be a normal Amish country auction. In the end I had to let go of any hope of owning the 18th C Delft tile dog or the petit point picture fragment of a squirrel as there would have been nothing left. Instead I planted my feet and refused to lose on a carved wood walnut plaque of a dog named Tug.

We got lucky on a few items, had to fight for a few more that will need some restoration but will someday be proud additions to our home and store.

You will note that while there are some some extremely fine and rare antiques that we may not always see in the marketplace, the majority of items in these sales are things that with the proper gloves and wellies we might find on our own. The best way to learn outside of being an apprentice, is to study auction catalogs both for their accuracy and faults. Estimated prices vs realized prices. and so then: the hunt is on… the auction.

To see the collection at Sotheby’s and the results:

To see the last sale at John Hess and results:–du-pont/

at the Auction: Bidding and Buying with the pros.

People ask me all the time, ” where do you get your things”? “Where did you find this?” 80% of the time the answer would be “at the auction”. Although we get calls every day from wonderful people who want to sell something…it is my least favorite way to collect. When I know another person, I cannot help but root for them to get their best price- so I cant be both the appraiser of value and the buyer because as the buyer, I have to buy at the correct price or forfeit profit. As a matter of fact, the need to be a cunning buyer has never been so important or as difficult. So I can buy at auction, having never met the seller and try to get the best price possible. And more importantly, I must remind myself to walk away when the sale is not going my way.

The area in which I live is rich with every kind of auction establishment from the finest to the basement clean out; from the super honest to the shady. There is a rich assortment to choose from…in the fine auction houses, you look for the very best or the overlooked and in the others, you peer around looking for the unusual, the piece of a collection and again the overlooked.

I have Two auction rules that have never failed me.

  1. Research everything before you go. . Know what its worth and what it is worth to you.
  2. Bid for yourself and never against someone else. ( although its totally tempting)

Be secure knowing the point at which you will be happy with your purchase and don’t assume that because someone else is still bidding that you know why. You never know why someone else sees value that you dont.

I attended an auction once in a warehouse with my good friend David Bell with whom I have most of my great auction stories. He had identified the rattan furniture in the back of the auction gallery as having come from Mar a Lago. OMG in a warehouse sale! Then he found a piece of art that was in a box lot and worth thousands of dollars. We had not previewed the auction and now we are in a panic. We had no idea what was in any of the boxes being sold quickly. And we decide that we have to bid on everything.

No one was bidding against us on anything. And we were running boxes to the car as fast as we could. Then we finally got to a good size box, full of pottery with an exceptionally ugly purple covered urn. ” It has to be somebody famous”, says David who does have one of the best instincts in the design world. I think it looks like a cookie jar, he thinks we have found something- because for the first time all day- people are bidding against us. I become ruthless, bid bid bid! And I win.

I could not wait to get home and find out who the artist behind this pottery lot was. I clutched the box and stood in line to pay. The young man behind me in line, who was terribly reserved- said quietly, “congratulations! I really wanted to win that”. I immediately saw him as an art gallery owner from New York. Then he says, ” You must have loved her too”. He immediately morphs back to just nice guy from Bethesda. “What? Who?” Well it was his high school art teacher. She had passed away and he had come to her estate sale. I just handed him the box- paid the bill and David and I sat in silence all the way home. Still I owned that rattan furniture from Mar a Lago, pre Trump in its iconic green fern fabric for many years.

An antique dealer bidding for themselves might be willing to spend a $100 on an item, to finish a collection: they might go to $150- bidding to sell, no more than $50 and buying for someone else- it could be anything. So its best to keep your own counsel- educate yourself and be willing to walk away.

A. Great things can be found anywhere ! Never judge an auction house by its location. The 1000’s of variables that put an item into that room on that day for sale- are at work in every auction scenario. You may get a glass of champagne at one auction and bad coffee at another- it does not change the item. Look everywhere and explore all the auctions in your area on line. Use your gut to tell you who you feel comfortable buying from. Or find a dealer you like to advise you. Most of us are happy to help.

B. Always Look, Feel and Measure. Dont buy anything important that you have not touched. 50% of auction houses cannot take a decent photo and the other 50% give Lord Snowdon a run for his money. I always pray that the photo is bad and the item is good. I am NEVER right. My rule: if you are spending good, hard earned money- treat it that way. Do the work.

C. Caveat Emptor Its not Laziness that makes descriptions faulty. Auction Houses have to make a living too. Each House does it a little differently. One might think that a lengthy description and multiple photos is the best way to inform buyers while another attempts to lure you in to a preview with a single photo and barely any info. And while it would seem better to do the first, that requires a skilled staff and hundreds of hours of pre auction work. Whatever their reasons- you are responsible for what you buy.

Part ll: Lets go to the Auction!

We have previewed the lots, taken our own photos, figured out why we LOVE the item, done the research and now its time to secure that item….

We can bid LIVE and in many places these days, we can bid ON LINE.

Familiarize yourself with the fees to bid. Some auctions have a 10% fee for bidding on top of your bid and some can go as high as 30%. Some auction houses have their own auction bidding services and some use third party sites like, and some use both and often the fee structure is different. You may pay 30% on Liveauctioneer and 25% on the Auction’s own site. As if it wasn’t complicated enough! I frequent auctions whose fees do not exceed 20%. I think that is where I am comfortable. That does not say I wont pony up for the right things.

Placing a bid in the auction room. You will register. Get a number and hold it up when you wish to bid. The auctioneer will find you. Keep in mind that you do not need to be in the middle of more than 2 people bidding. Be patient you need only to be the last bid.

Placing a bid by phone You will register, and request that they call you when your lot is up for bid. The House may not be able to accommodate you but if they can, be sure to be a serious bidder because this is a staff intensive allowance.

Placing a bid online or live in the House. By becoming a regular part of auctions in your area, you can request to be notified when items that you collect are coming up

Placing an Absentee Bid. I honestly do not recommend this. Each auctioneer treats them differently. To one it is a safety net and he spends the bidding time trying to top you and another might use it as the starting off point. In any case, you are not helping yourself. Some auctions are not set up on line and you may either stand through an entire sale to get what you want or leave a bid and hope you are treated well. And under no circumstance are you to say, “just buy it for me”. I left a warehouse auction to get a sandwich and left those 5 words on a note to the auctioneer for a duck decoy I thought would make a wonderful doorstop. When I came back with my $4.00 sandwich, I had a $5500 duck.

No more needs to be said.

Buy what you love, be confident in your taste and and you’ll always have a great time…. at the auction.

Painting From Bethesda Home Sold at Auction for $687,125

An 18th-century Grand Canal painting, which was found in a local home, fetched $687,125. (Photo By Brian Searby — Sloans & Kenyon)

An 18th-century unsigned oil painting of the Grand Canal in Venice, estimated at a modest $6,000 to $8,000, sold for $687,125 Sunday afternoon at Sloans & Kenyon auction house in Chevy Chase. It is believed to be the most expensive painting ever sold at a Washington area auction.

Thirteen phone bidders competed against live bidders in the gallery for this work from the “school of” the 18th-century artist Giovanni Antonio Canaletto.

The auction company had received the piece from a Bethesda woman who has requested anonymity. The painting had been in the family since 1881, when her grandmother brought it back from Europe. The grandmother had embarked on what was known in the day as a “Grand Tour,” an excursion designed to expose the traveler to enlightenment, adventure, art and culture.

Grand tourists, as the travelers were known, would typically return with artwork they acquired on the journey, which was considered an essential ritual for entry into British high society. “They didn’t send postcards or bring back T-shirts,” said Ellen Garrity, communications director at Sloans & Kenyon. “They brought back paintings. The Washington Post