Visitors to Helsinki can attend a flea market every day, May through September. Photo Credit: Marko Kareinen.

Reyne Gauge: Antique flea markets abroad

Visitors to Helsinki can attend a flea market every day, May through September. Photo Credit: Marko Kareinen.

Visitors to Helsinki can attend a flea market every day, May through September. Photo Credit: Marko Kareinen.

If you are an antiques enthusiast like I am, you search for shops and markets to visit when traveling to other cities. What about when traveling abroad? I have acquired some of my best finds overseas. The merchandise tends to be completely different than what we typically see at American markets. Treasures that are hundreds of years old sold out of the trunks of cars, spread on blankets in fields, and in stalls that span city blocks.

Over the years many exciting things have turned up in flea markets overseas. For example, several years ago in a flea market in France a painting was purchased for approximately $2,500 that turned out to be an original Vincent van Gogh valued at around $3.5 million.

The following are a few of my favorites, and tips on what you can expect to find at each:

Tokyo, Japan

Togo Antique Market – This is the biggest of all the antique markets in Tokyo. Open every first, fourth and fifth Sunday.

Vintage kimonos, woodblocks, Imari and even American products such as antique toys, Barbie dolls, radios and movie posters.

 

Helsinki, Finland

The Hietalahti Flea Market – Also known as Hietsu. Open from May to September, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m.- 4 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

A lot of Mid-Century Modern Finnish design, some Scandiavian and Russian products. Dealers are prohibited from selling new products. Lots of tourists frequent this market.

 

Vienna, Austria

Naschmarkt – Vienna’s most popular market. It has existed since the 16th century and is open every Saturday 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. There are over 200 dealers selling every type of antique imaginable. Furniture, collectibles, books, sculpture, art and more.

 

Tongeren, Belgium

Veemarkt Square – The largest flea market in the Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg region. It opens at 7 a.m. and closes at noon, so you want to arrive early.

Just about anything can be found here from furniture to glass, chandeliers to vintage hardware.

 

London, England

Portobello Road – England’s largest flea market. Open every Saturday beginning as early as 5:30 a.m. Most stall dealers are there by 8 a.m. Over 1,000 dealers offering some of the finest trash to treasure each week.

Arts and Crafts Period, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern are the mainstays of this market, though you can find Old Masters paintings, early architecture and books.

 

Berlin, Germany

Strasse des 17. Juni – Named for a major thoroughfare, this is the most popular and classy flea market in Berlin. Open Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

There’s less junk at this flea market. This is a more upscale antiques market where you are less likely to find a bargain, but certain to find fine quality goods.

 

Photo by Jim Lefever.

Reyne Gauge: How to have a successful garage sale

Photo by Jim Lefever.

Photo by Jim Lefever.

The weather is finally warming up across the nation and you’re ready to get spring-cleaning started. That can mean only one thing – garage sale time.

Many of us look forward to having a yard sale this time of year to rid the clutter we accumulated over the past year and to get our homes organized.

It’s not like you haven’t had a sale before. Sometimes they have had great turnouts, and other times you’ve called a donation service to come haul it all away.

What is the formula for a great garage sale? I took my ideas and posed the question on my Facebook wall to see what my friends would suggest. I must say their ideas are helpful.

Let’s talk about advertising. You place an ad in the Friday classified section. You want people to know you have good stuff. Don’t be too wordy but sprinkle some spicy keywords that will grab attention and make customers want to stop. Antiques, collectibles, modernism, jewelry and couture always work.

You need proper signage for people to find your sale. Big black letters, arrows – even colorful balloons to get the attention of drivers who are unaware you are having a sale. Put signs out in the wee hours of the morning or the night before.

Call your friends. The bigger the sale, the better. Have them bring over things to sell that day. It also helps having extra bodies there to take payments, answer questions and help set up.

Cash is king. Make sure you have lots of coins and singles for making change. Speaking of cash, consider taking alternative methods of payment. If you are selling items that are more than $10, people might want to pay with a credit card or a check. PayPal offers phone-in credit card services now.

Price items in advance. Many people who won’t ask the price, especially if you are talking with another customer. If they are in a hurry to get to the next sale, you might lose a customer. Also, ask for more than you were hoping to get and be willing to accept a lower offer. Realize that haggling is the nature of the garage sale business.

Consider using the dot system in pricing. Have a poster board illustrating a red dot = $1, a blue dot = 50 cents, etc. Colored dots having adhesive backs are available in stores. Using this method might reduce the time spent pricing – especially smaller items. If you do price items individually, use a fine point Sharpie brand pen on the price stickers. Make sure the numerals are large enough to be read easily.

If you are selling electronics, make sure batteries are fresh and have a power cord available so people can test items to see if they work properly.

Don’t place merchandise on the lawn. Scattered on the ground, they are not visible to drivers, and it gives the impression they have no value. Use tables and shelving, and hang ropes from trees – whatever you can to showcase merchandise.

Group similar things together to make them more appealing. If you have jewelry, put it all in one place. If you have porcelain, display it like you would if it was on the dinner table.

Get the family involved. Kids love making money too. They can sell their old stuffed animals, clothes and toys they no longer want, which helps keep closets unclutterd and gives them extra spending money. If they have nothing to part with, let them set up a lemonade stand.

Music puts people in a shopping mood. Find something upbeat, and have it lightly playing in the background.

Food! Who says you can only sell clothing and knickknacks? Make finger foods – cookies and other snacks that are light but keep the shopper energized. Chances are they were up early that morning and have been on their feet or in the car since their first stop. They will be happy to see an affordable snack on the table.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE

Photo by Jim Lefever.

Photo by Jim Lefever.

Photo by Jim Lefever.

Photo by Jim Lefever.

Image courtesy Allen Michaan, Private Collection

Reyne Gauge: The art of Tiffany windows

Image courtesy Allen Michaan, Private Collection

Image courtesy Allen Michaan, Private Collection

By the time Louis Comfort Tiffany began designing windows, the art of window making had been alive almost 500 years.

The earliest windows were a mix of colored glass, all handmade, and filled with imperfections which added to its unique character. The glass pieces were small, and put together like a puzzle with broken lead.

Stained glass windows would be the next phase artisans would create in window design. Larger pieces of glass were used and they would be stained with a color or enamel to create detail. Many of the stained glass windows found in churches in the United States in the 1800s were produced in England. Most stained glass artists in the United States found it necessary to import glass.

In the late 1800s, two American’s began to lead in window design: John LaFarge and Louis C. Tiffany. Both began experimenting with different types of glass, and different ways to create the scene of the window without painted detail (except in figures, faces and hands).

In the 1870s there was a large demand for windows in America. Not just in churches, but in schools, political buildings and mausoleums. Tiffany and LaFarge were no longer the only players in this field. In the New York area there was Heuser & Hausleiter, Lamb Studios, Francis Lathrop, and H.W. Young. There were other Midwest firms producing as well.

In the early years, Tiffany did not manufacture his own glass for his windows. He purchased it from several East Coast glasshouses, and also from a new manufacturer called Opalescent Glass Works in Kokomo, Ind. When Tiffany finally began experimenting with glass production he had the misfortune of his first two glasshouses being destroyed by fire. In 1893 he opened a new glasshouse in the Corona neighborhood of Queens.

In his constant striving to be the best, Tiffany traveled abroad to find the best glassblowers and chemists to bring back to the Corona factory. There would be no color of glass he could not create.

Tiffany windows were not designed strictly for commercial buildings, but for private residences of the rich – from the Vanderbilts to the Havemeyers and even Mark Twain.

Tiffany’s windows were expensive. He would lose the option for many commissioned works simply because of the price. The cost of a mid-size window was $700, the equivalent of $15,000 today.

As times and tastes changed, so did the love for all things Tiffany. As the Art Deco movement began to take hold, more people began to remove their Tiffany windows and either pack them away or discard them. Geometric lines and crystal colors defined the Art Deco movement. Tiffany’s brightly colored lamps and windows were thought to be garish and out of style.

Today Tiffany windows can still be readily found gracing residences, churches and public buildings across America. A few of the better-known in the Los Angeles area are the windows at First Presbyterian Church, First Methodist Church and at the Ginter Mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery.

 

 



ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE

Image courtesy Allen Michaan, Private Collection

Image courtesy Allen Michaan, Private Collection

Image courtesy Allen Michaan, Private Collection

Image courtesy Allen Michaan, Private Collection

Image courtesy Allen Michaan, Private Collection

Image courtesy Allen Michaan, Private Collection

Image courtesy Allen Michaan, Private Collection

Image courtesy Allen Michaan, Private Collection

Auction Central News columnist Reyne Haines in Houston with the visiting American Pickers Mike Wolfe (left) and Frank Fritz (right). Image courtesy of Reyne Haines.

Reyne Gauge: Collecting and rock stars

Auction Central News columnist Reyne Haines in Houston with the visiting American Pickers Mike Wolfe (left) and Frank Fritz (right). Image courtesy of Reyne Haines.

Auction Central News columnist Reyne Haines in Houston with the visiting American Pickers Mike Wolfe (left) and Frank Fritz (right). Image courtesy of Reyne Haines.

Recently I got a call from my friends Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, stars of the History Channel’s American Pickers. They were finally coming to Texas to tape a few episodes of the show and wanted to know if I could hang out and show them around Houston.

Happy to oblige, I headed over to their hotel and off we went shopping. Mind you, it hadn’t rained in Houston for months, until the day the boys arrived. We had a freak torrential thunderstorm that day which produced severe lightning, earsplitting thunder and buckets of rain. Hey! Everything is big in Texas so why not the storms too?

We visited numerous stores in town, but found nothing to write home about. These guys are used to “rusty gold,” not cleaned up with a retail price tag type of gold. Yet much like me, they like to see what kinds of things are available in different towns. We did hit one shop that had a restored bumper car from a carnival or amusement park that was interesting, a few coin-op games, and a mannequin – without the clothes, of course.

One of my favorite things as a dealer is seeing what catches the eye of others. Mike explained that he really likes finding items that are obscure and have a great “look.” Many of his clients are interior designers that are not always looking for things with historical importance, but yet make a statement in the room in which they are placed.

We talked about a book I’m working on that showcases designers that incorporate antiques and collectibles into their clients’ homes/offices and how the next big thing in TV will probably be just that – shows that follow decorators working their magic.

Sadly, we came back empty-handed, but had a great time looking at stuff including vintage clothing. Mike loves great leather jackets. We also enjoyed talking about the different things we collect. I got to see Mike in action going after a vintage Harley Knucklehead motorcycle. Unfortunately for him, the would-be seller decided to hang onto the bike a while longer. If any of you reading have one, Mike’s in the market!

I also learned that Mike is opening a store in Nashville this summer. I can’t give away details, but from what I heard, it’s going to be mind-blowing. Don’t fret: The Iowa store will stay open. Stay tuned to Mike’s Facebook wall or his e-mail newsletter for updates.

Back to my day: If you think that was enough excitement, hang on to your hats. Not only do the guys and I have collecting in common, but we also love good music.

They had backstage passes to see Kid Rock that night at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and invited me to come along. I’ve met Kid Rock before. He and I had a mutual friend, and we’ve been at the same parties in the past. He’s always friendly, and this time was no different.

Not only is Kid Rock a great performer, but he’ also a collector. He has a passion for vintage cars – seemingly all American – and also motorcycles. Try telling Mike Wolfe about your passion for motorcycles and expect him to sit still. No chance! Wouldn’t that be a gas to see Kid Rock on American Pickers?

If anyone ever tries to convince you being in the antiques business isn’t cool, they’re crazy. How often in the insurance and stock brokerage world did I go shopping for out-of-sight stuff during the day and hang out with rock stars at night? Never.

 

 


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE

Auction Central News columnist Reyne Haines in Houston with the visiting American Pickers Mike Wolfe (left) and Frank Fritz (right). Image courtesy of Reyne Haines.

Auction Central News columnist Reyne Haines in Houston with the visiting American Pickers Mike Wolfe (left) and Frank Fritz (right). Image courtesy of Reyne Haines.

Kid Rock and Auction Central News columnist Reyne Haines. Image courtesy of Reyne Haines.

Kid Rock and Auction Central News columnist Reyne Haines. Image courtesy of Reyne Haines.

Kid Rock performing at the Houston Rodeo. Image courtesy of Reyne Haines.

Kid Rock performing at the Houston Rodeo. Image courtesy of Reyne Haines.

Rolex Stainless Steel Submariner watch, $3,500. Auctioned by Clars on Dec. 5, 2010. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Clars.

Reyne Gauge: Making a statement with wristwatches

Rolex Stainless Steel Submariner watch, $3,500. Auctioned by Clars on Dec. 5, 2010. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Clars.

Rolex Stainless Steel Submariner watch, $3,500. Auctioned by Clars on Dec. 5, 2010. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Clars.

It is not uncommon for the success of a man to be judged by the quality of his suit, the kind of car he drives and the neighborhood he lives in… but the watch on his wrist is often another indicator.

Wristwatches date back to the late 1800s, a time when they were thought of as jewelry for women only. Originally, they were worn by a clasp on a woman’s lapel. Later, a silk cloth was wrapped around a pocket watch for ladies to wear on their wrists.

The wristwatch as we know it today was first designed by Patek Phillipe in 1868. It wasn’t until World War I that wristwatches became a timepiece for men. Pilots found it too difficult to reach into their  pocket to retrieve their pocket watches, therefore, wearing a timepiece on their wrist made more sense.

Ironically, what was once thought to be “women’s wear” is now predominately collected by men. Men often collect wristwatches because they offer more than just a way to tell time.

For the traveler, there are watches offering numerous time zones. For the athlete, chronographs are the preferred option. Divers must have watches that are waterproof.

Not only are there different mechanical options, but you can also collect by maker or time period; or, you can collect different types of movements, such as manual wind, automatic, or electric.

Perhaps you’d like to follow in the footsteps of your favorite celebrity. Breitling watches are worn by John Travolta, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Matt Damon and Dane Cook have been seen wearing Tag Heuer, and Paul Newman was known to wear his Rolex Daytona.

Not only are watches small, meaning you can accumulate many without requiring a lot of space to house them, but they also come in a variety of price ranges. Early manual-wind watches can be purchased for as little as $40-50. Asymmetrical Hamilton Electrics can be bought for a few hundred dollars.

It’s not just the lower-end brands that are affordable. If you’ve been eyeing the latest Rolex watch, chances are you can buy one for a lot less if it’s “pre-owned” or vintage. The current “DATEJUST” model in gold and stainless retails for about $4,500. However, a pre-owned model can be had for as little as $2,800.

Regardless of how much you invest in a watch, though, it’s an opportunity to make a statement about your unique sense of style while investing in a collectible that boasts both form and function.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE

LeCoultre Mystery Dial watch. Auctioned for $750 on Nov. 21, 2010. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and William J. Jenack Auctioneers.

LeCoultre Mystery Dial watch. Auctioned for $750 on Nov. 21, 2010. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and William J. Jenack Auctioneers.

Gentleman's 14K yellow gold Bulova watch. Auctioned for  $300 on Dec. 15, 2010. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Skinner Inc.

Gentleman’s 14K yellow gold Bulova watch. Auctioned for $300 on Dec. 15, 2010. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Skinner Inc.

A.B. Levy Antiques. Image courtesy of the Original Miami Beach Antique Show.

Reyne Gauge: The Original Miami Beach Antique Show

A.B. Levy Antiques. Image courtesy of the Original Miami Beach Antique Show.

A.B. Levy Antiques. Image courtesy of the Original Miami Beach Antique Show.

Last week I was an exhibitor at The Original Miami Beach Antique Show. This was their 50th year putting together one of the biggest antique shows in this country.There are 800 exhibitors from around the globe and thousands of buyers walking through the doors daily.

I’ve had the pleasure of exhibiting at the show for about 13 years, and each year the quality of merchandise on exhibit seems to keep getting better.

This is the kind of show you can find just about anything your heart desires. If you are looking for 18th-century furniture, you’ll find it. Should you dream of having a 5-carat canary diamond – or even one in pink – they have it. Perhaps a Tiffany window, no problem! The show offers row after row of drool-worthy antiques.

Often dealers claim the climate of the show sets the pace for how well the business will be for the rest of the year. If that theory holds true, we’ll see strong numbers at auctions, and many sales at shops as the energy this year was very high, and the shoppers were there to spend their money.

Every year the show does something for charity, and they enlist the help of the dealers to donate items for the cause they choose. This year it was for the Make a Wish Foundation Southern Florida. The Miami Beach Show and Make a Wish will help send a special 7-year-old girl and her family to Disney World.

In past years the show took up three exhibition halls. This year we were down to two, and I think it enhanced dealer’s sales greatly. While there is nothing wrong with a big show, it can become daunting to try to see it all in a few days, and I also think it makes it a bit challenging for some buyers to decide on what item(s) to take buy.

We had seen an increase over the last few years of jewelry exhibitors. And while jewelry is a strong seller during the show, I think it was smart of management to cut back on the number of jewelry dealers in the show.

Overall, the feedback I received from other dealers/friends on the floor was very positive. Sales were strong, many of their longtime customers came, and they were pleased. I will say early dealer buying seemed weak. Many of the dealers complained there wasn’t much to be found, and past shows, many dealers will tell you, the dealer-to-dealer sales are usually very strong.

If there isn’t enough to see and buy at the show, there is always the outdoor flea market that runs a good portion of Lincoln Road that is open on the first Sunday of every month. Many of the dealers head over there before making their way to the show. There are always reports of great finds at the market, that get put on display in dealers’ booths later that day. This year I found a beautiful vintage Pucci button-down shirt and denim jacket. My friend, whom I shared a booth with, bought a vintage barber’s pole, which worked. It sold within an hour of being placed in our booth.

Mark your calendar for the show dates next year: Feb 2-5, 2012. It’s certainly a show you won’t want to miss.

For more information, please visit: http://www.originalmiamibeachantiqueshow.com/

 



ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE

A.B. Levy Antiques. Image courtesy of the Original Miami Beach Antique Show.

A.B. Levy Antiques. Image courtesy of the Original Miami Beach Antique Show.

Roberts Antiques. Image courtesy of the Original Miami Beach Antique Show.

Roberts Antiques. Image courtesy of the Original Miami Beach Antique Show.

Ophir Gallery. Image courtesy of the Original Miami Beach Antique Show.

Ophir Gallery. Image courtesy of the Original Miami Beach Antique Show.

Image courtesy of Laura Trueman of Truetiques, www.truetiques.com

Reyne Gauge: More on repurposing antiques

Image courtesy of Laura Trueman of Truetiques, www.truetiques.com

Image courtesy of Laura Trueman of Truetiques, www.truetiques.com

It’s a new year and many of you resolve to get your life and your homes in order. That can often mean tossing things that seem to have no use; clutter from the attic, basement or garage you promise to put in this spring’s yard sale, and odds and ends you’ve inherited or collected over the years needs to go.

Have you ever wondered if the item you are about to throw out could have a second life? In its current state, it seems to have no purpose, but is there something you can do with it to change that?

I’m always interested in repurposing antiques. It’s the ultimate in recycling. It’s like a challenge to see if you can make that “trash” into a “treasure.”

Recently, my friend Laur sent me images of a recycled item that I just loved. Who doesn’t love candles? I buy them all the time. I love to have them burning in the kitchen, something on the dining room table for ambiance, in the bathroom, bedroom … You get the picture.

In the past, I’ve taken single porcelain coffee cups and turned them into a candleholder of sorts by mixing coloring and scent with wax beads, melting them and inserting a wick in the bottom of the cup. Tada …a unique gift that has function and a bit of history behind it.

Laur showed me how to take a candleholder concept to new heights.

She’s taken vintage sugar molds from Mexico and – yes, I had the very same question: What is a sugar mold?

She explained that sugar molds were made during the 1920s-30s from wood. One would pour liquid sugar into the cones, which are known as pilloncillo.

Once the sugar hardened, pieces could be chipped away as needed for cooking.

These would look fabulous in your fireplace for summer use, along the backsplash of a bathtub, down the center of a long dining room table or on a hall table in an entryway.

To learn more about the sugar molds, check out her website: Truetiques – www.rvt01.com

If you have an idea for repurposing antiques, I’d love to hear from you. E-mail me!

 



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

Image courtesy of Laura Trueman of Truetiques, www.truetiques.com

Image courtesy of Laura Trueman of Truetiques, www.truetiques.com

Image courtesy of Laura Trueman of Truetiques, www.truetiques.com

Image courtesy of Laura Trueman of Truetiques, www.truetiques.com

Behrens glassware has been manufactured at the Freiherr von Poschinger factory for over 100 years. The glasses were part of the tableware presented by Peter Behrens at the exhibition in ‘Glaspalast’ in Munich in 1899. Image courtesy of Bavarian Kunst Ventures Inc. ‘Poschinger Stemware.’

Reyne Gauge: Art glass – where old is new again

Behrens glassware has been manufactured at the Freiherr von Poschinger factory for over 100 years. The glasses were part of the tableware presented by Peter Behrens at the exhibition in ‘Glaspalast’ in Munich in 1899. Image courtesy of Bavarian Kunst Ventures Inc. ‘Poschinger Stemware.’

Behrens glassware has been manufactured at the Freiherr von Poschinger factory for over 100 years. The glasses were part of the tableware presented by Peter Behrens at the exhibition in ‘Glaspalast’ in Munich in 1899. Image courtesy of Bavarian Kunst Ventures Inc. ‘Poschinger Stemware.’

While glass has been made for centuries, around the globe and by thousands of makers, only a few can still tout being in business today. Surviving different economies, changing consumer tastes, and the rising costs of materials and payroll can’t be easy. Those that were able to overcome these hurdles have also in some instances had to rethink formulas used over the years in order to become eco-friendly.

A few very recognizable glass companies are leading the way in using recycled materials, or recycling their own glassware.

In the United States, there is the Fenton Art Glass Co. Founded in Ohio in 1905, the glassmaker moved to its current residence in West Virginia in 1907. When Rivanna Natural Designs tapped Fenton Art Glass to create art glass awards for them, but by using recycled products, they jumped at the opportunity. They located a local source for recycled bottle glass and a new start-up was formed.

In Italy, the Murano Glass Co. began designing glass as early as 1291. The tradition of blowing glass has been handed down for many generations. Many of the designs being produced today are inspired by the artisans working there over 100 years ago. They are known for making affordable treasures for tourists to take home as mementoes of their trip to Italy, but some of their artists’ wares can command several thousand dollars. Today, Murano does not dispose of their broken or irregular glass, but keeps the glass to be recycled for use another day.

Finally, in the Black Forest of Bavaria is Poschingera, a well-regarded glass company. Poschinger has been in operation since 1568, and is still owned and operated by the same family. Poschinger Glass produces utilitarian products along with decorative items and has recently started selling in the United States. The company uses 40 percent to 45 percent recycled cullet in the glass melt.

Not only do these companies have the “green” theme in common, but also their products can be found in numerous museums around the world.

To learn more about these eco-friendly products, visit their websites:

Fenton Art Glass: www.fentonartglass.com
Poschinger Glass: www.bavariankunst.com
Murano: www.muranoglass.com

 


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

Behrens glassware has been manufactured at the Freiherr von Poschinger factory for over 100 years. The glasses were part of the tableware presented by Peter Behrens at the exhibition in ‘Glaspalast’ in Munich in 1899. Image courtesy of Bavarian Kunst Ventures Inc. ‘Poschinger Stemware.’

Behrens glassware has been manufactured at the Freiherr von Poschinger factory for over 100 years. The glasses were part of the tableware presented by Peter Behrens at the exhibition in ‘Glaspalast’ in Munich in 1899. Image courtesy of Bavarian Kunst Ventures Inc. ‘Poschinger Stemware.’

Pair of folk art candy canes sold by Morphy Auctions on Dec. 11, 2004. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Morphy Auctions.

Reyne Gauge: The History of the Candy Cane

Pair of folk art candy canes sold by Morphy Auctions on Dec. 11, 2004. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Morphy Auctions.

Pair of folk art candy canes sold by Morphy Auctions on Dec. 11, 2004. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Morphy Auctions.

You might be surprised to know that the candy cane, or concept of, was not created by a major American candy manufacturer.

The candy cane actually dates back to the 17th century, when the European Christians celebrated Christmas by decorating trees with food and candy-type items. Originally, the decorations were sugar stick candy. In 1670, a choirmaster in German bent the stick-form treats to represent a shepherd’s staff. They were given to the children during the Nativity services at church to keep them busy. Back then, candy canes were solid white.

The act of handing out candy canes during the holiday services became quite popular and spread all across Europe. We did not see the candy cane in America until the mid-1800s, when a German immigrant in Ohio named August Imgard decorated his Christmas tree with candy canes.

No one is exactly sure who added red stripes – and even green stripes – to the candy cane. Images of candy canes on postcards and Christmas cards prior to 1900 all illustrate a white cane; however, images dating after 1900, in large part, show the red and white striped canes we know today. It was during the early 20th century that candy cane manufacturers began experimenting with peppermint flavoring in their candy canes. Apparently, this flavor was a hit with consumers.

One of the first companies to mass produce the candy cane in the United States was Bob’s Candies of Georgia. “Bob” didn’t set out to produce candy for consumers; he started out making candy canes with the red stripes for friends in the 1920s. Eventually his plans were to sell to shopkeepers, but making candy canes was very time consuming, and he quickly realized he would be unable to sell beyond the local stores.

Bob’s brother, Gregory Keller, determined they needed something to produce candy canes faster. He created a machine to expedite the process, and today Bob’s Candies has become the largest producer of candy canes in the world. Bob’s Candies was also one of the first companies to use cellophane to protect their candy from moisture damage.

Just how popular is the candy cane in the 21st century? It is estimated 1.7 billion candy canes are sold each year. They’ve become a Christmas classic, still beloved by children – and tree decorators – everywhere.

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A genuine artwork by Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973), Homard et Chat sur la Plage (Lobster and Cat on a Beach). Auctioned by European Evaluators LLC on Dec. 20, 2006, for $4,773,900. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and European Evaluators LLC.

Reyne Gauge: Monumental Art Find…or is it?

A genuine artwork by Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973), Homard et Chat sur la Plage (Lobster and Cat on a Beach). Auctioned by European Evaluators LLC on Dec. 20, 2006, for $4,773,900. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and European Evaluators LLC.

A genuine artwork by Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973), Homard et Chat sur la Plage (Lobster and Cat on a Beach). Auctioned by European Evaluators LLC on Dec. 20, 2006, for $4,773,900. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and European Evaluators LLC.

I always get excited when I hear about a new “find” in the world of antiques. It just goes to show there are still things out there that are hidden, just waiting to be discovered.

The other day I was reading about the latest find in the art world, and what a find it was! A collection of 271 paintings, drawings, sketches and lithographs were uncovered at the home of a retired French electrician. The collection’s value is estimated at 60 million Euros.

So what is a retired electrician doing with 271 works of art by Picasso?

He claims they were given to him over the years by Picasso himself, in exchange for installing alarm systems in the artist’s numerous homes. Pierre Le Guennec (the electrician) produced a notebook filled with never-before-seen drawings as well as photographs of numerous other artworks. Some of the works had been assumed “lost” after floods ruined Picasso’s studio.

According to Le Guennec, the gifts were given to him during the last three years of Picasso’s life.

Among the works are nine cubist pieces estimated at 40 million Euros alone; a blue period painting, and additional drawings of Picasso’s first wife, Olga Khokhlova.

This has to be some of the most exciting news the art world has heard in quite some time. What a find, right?  Or is it?

Three months ago, Le Guennec walked into the offices of the Picasso Administration. For those of you new to the art world, there is a committee that gives the thumbs up or thumbs down for newly found works by certain artists.

Le Guennec surprised everyone with a suitcase filled with 175 different works he claimed were Picassos, and was seeking certificates of authenticity. Claude Picasso had been contacted by Le Guennec several months prior to the visit. Le Guennec had submitted numerous photos of the works, but the photos were not of high quality. Claude Picasso disregarded them, since they depicted artworks that were not documented anywhere.

The works were devoid of dates, which according to Claude Picasso, means they should have never left the studio. However, they did bear proof of a numbering system that was known only to the artist.

Picasso was a very generous person, but as his son noted, Picasso would have signed and dated, and perhaps even dedicated any artwork he gifted to another person.

So where does that leave the collection? Recently Le Guennec was arrested by the French police, only to be released without any charges made against him. The six remaining Picasso family members are taking legal action against Le Guennec for receipt of stolen goods. The French police are also delving into the case further.

Le Guennec stands by his statement that he did not steal the works from Picasso.

From where I sit, and for what it’s worth, it would seem as though these items might have been given as gifts, because as Picasso’s son states, there are no records of most of the items, yet they appear authentic. Playing devil’s advocate, one has to ask why an electrician would have sat on these for so long before having them authenticated. Then again, there is no record of his having tried to sell them. If they are stolen goods, Le Guennec might have been better off trying to get just one authenticated that day at the administration office, as opposed to hundreds.

So many things to consider, not the least of which being – what would happen to the market for Picasso art if all of these should become available?

I have a feeling this is not the last we’ll hear about this story.

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