The Steampunk movement flourishes through inventive repurposing: old elements find new uses. 'Nemo’s Steampunk Clock/Electrostatic Voltmeter' is the time-telling creation of Roger Wood; see more of his designs at www.klockwerks.com. Image courtesy Klockwerks.

Steampunk style: Victorian with an attitude

The Steampunk movement flourishes through inventive repurposing: old elements find new uses. 'Nemo’s Steampunk Clock/Electrostatic Voltmeter' is the time-telling creation of Roger Wood; see more of his designs at www.klockwerks.com. Image courtesy Klockwerks.

The Steampunk movement flourishes through inventive repurposing: old elements find new uses. ‘Nemo’s Steampunk Clock/Electrostatic Voltmeter’ is the time-telling creation of Roger Wood; see more of his designs at www.klockwerks.com. Image courtesy Klockwerks.

Steampunk – a term used as a noun, an adjective, and a verb – may mean different things to different people. In interior design, it denotes a twist on turn-of-the century industrial pop culture. Innovative collectors repurpose and transmute basic elements of 19th-century technology – gears, boilers, windup mechanisms – in a way that integrates modern amenities with a Victorian period environment.

Inventors become involved in the process, because no one can buy a “steampunk antique.”

Vintage elements are the basic material, but it takes creativity to turn a pump organ into a computer workstation. Craftsmen often specialize: view Roger Wood’s fantastic timepieces – for example, his “Nemo’s Steampunk Clock/Electrostatic Voltmeter” – at www.klockwerks.com.

Philadelphia inventor Jack Zylkin of USB Typewriter adapts old-fashioned manual typewriters for use as keyboards on any USB-capable computer. He says, “I wouldn’t call myself a steampunk – I don’t dress up with a monocle and a bowler hat – although I think that kind of fashion is cool. For me, it’s about the spirit of industriousness and inventiveness. I think people respond to it because it’s not mass-produced. What I do is high tech, but it’s a personal kind of high tech.”

For adventurous dressers, Steampunk can become an elaborate masquerade, where participants turn themselves into fully costumed avatars with an alternative lifestyle.

Devices and interiors become the background for a distinctive Victorian fashion aesthetic that mixes lush fabrics with Goth accents and military gear. Websites like Steampunk Emporium have sprung up to supply everything from monocles and pith helmets to corsets and lace-up boots.

Fashion designers like Philadelphia’s Nikki Cohen of MayFaire Moon Costumes & Corsetry find their creations in demand. She says, “In the last two or three years, Steampunk has been one of the major movements in the alternative world. I’ve always loved Victorian costuming. Moving on from very strict historical accuracy to you-can-do-whatever-you-want has been wonderful. It’s like being handed a whole new box of crayons.”

Costumed neo-Victorians network through websites like www.thesteampunkempire.com, which is subtitled “The Crossroads of the Aether.” Events cited range from museum exhibitions to art shows to conventions. A Season 3 episode of the hit television series Castle featured a Steampunk costume party.

Last year’s PhilCon, organized by the venerable Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, included a Steampunk Ball.

At its heart, Steampunk attempts to use Victorian technology for projects never actually realized during the 19th century. The insightful entry in Wikipedia says in its introduction: “Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used – usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain – that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy.”

“Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.”

As this explanation indicates, Steampunk influence has long been present in literature and film, even though the term may not be directly employed. Doctor Who, a popular BBC television character who moves through time and space, has often made forays into the Victorian past. The interior of the Tardis – his home base cum time machine – has a lot of steampunk detail. The successful 2009 film interpretation of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law also played fast and loose with 19th-century tech, and a sequel is on the way later this year.

Collectors may read up on the movement and even dress up in the clothes, but questions remain. Where do I get the stuff? And how do I adapt it? Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum remodeled the kitchen of their 1901 Sharon, Mass., house. Later, when people began to admire their stylish modifications, they realized they had been steampunking unawares.

In 2007, the Rosenbaums founded their website www.modvic.com, where viewers find images of their projects and links to articles and events. The couple built a steampunk kitchen at the Stella Pier Show in New York City last March. Bruce pointed out, “We’re looking at it as a creative design solution. For people who love the Victorian period and the Industrial Age but want to live in today’s world, this is where we come in. We blend the best of both worlds.”

As a source for vintage material to steampunk, Kamelot Auctions in Philadelphia has offerings that go far beyond the usual industrials and architecturals. Some are easy to repurpose – for example, a fabulous Victorian warming stove with cast-iron masque feet sold in April for $738. Others are nifty gizmos and gadgets just waiting for a new life. In the same sale, a vintage electrostatic machine with glass disc and tole canister, circa 1910, sold for $600.

Joe Holahan, a partner in Kamelot Auctions with Jeffrey Kamal, says, “What’s interesting about Steampunk is that historically – from a dealer perspective – the kind of dealer who would buy Victorian and the kind of dealer who would buy industrial have nothing in common. It’s interesting to see the two different profiles come together. I’ve never walked into a shop that called itself a steampunk store, but it’s cool stuff. I’ve been in the business for 25 years, and I’m always thinking, what’s next? So this makes sense – it’s stuff that’s been done, but it’s being reinvented in a new form.”

Jeffrey Henkel, Kamelot’s resident furniture and decorative arts specialist, says, “I happen to like all aspects of design and many different genres. Steampunk is something that’s been around for a long time and then the term became attached to it. The beginning of us going into steampunk was with metal vitrines made around 1900-1910. Those have been so popular for us; we’ve done very well with them.”

“Urban Outfitters began to buy them – that really was the beginning – they were usable objects in store for display. People would go in and buy a bohemian blouse and want these vitrines for their houses. We tried to develop a clientele that bought more unusual objects, and we’ve been fairly successful doing it.”

He concludes, “We’ve got the stock – we get things from all over the world. All the factories that closed over the years were full of all sorts of fabulous, crazy things, and we’ve been lucky enough to have them in our auctions. There’s a market for these objects, and it’s great. Young couples are buying these things as everyday useful objects.”

Watch for Kamelot’s Oct. 22 event which will offer a perfect mix of architecturals, industrials, and Victoriana. Catalogs of past and future sales can be found at www.kamelotauctions.com. The auction house is located at 4700 Wissahickon Ave. in Philadelphia: for more information, call 215-438-6990.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


The Steampunk movement flourishes through inventive repurposing: old elements find new uses. 'Nemo’s Steampunk Clock/Electrostatic Voltmeter' is the time-telling creation of Roger Wood; see more of his designs at www.klockwerks.com. Image courtesy Klockwerks.

The Steampunk movement flourishes through inventive repurposing: old elements find new uses. ‘Nemo’s Steampunk Clock/Electrostatic Voltmeter’ is the time-telling creation of Roger Wood; see more of his designs at www.klockwerks.com. Image courtesy Klockwerks.

Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum began steampunking as they were restoring their 1901 house in Sharon, Mass., and now share their expertise through their website www.modvic.com. In their kitchen, a modified 1890s J.L. Defiance stove has been updated with a glass cooktop and double ovens where the wood once burned. Image courtesy ModVic.

Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum began steampunking as they were restoring their 1901 house in Sharon, Mass., and now share their expertise through their website www.modvic.com. In their kitchen, a modified 1890s J.L. Defiance stove has been updated with a glass cooktop and double ovens where the wood once burned. Image courtesy ModVic.

Perfect for steampunk conversion, this late Victorian cast-iron and bronze warming stove sold in April at Kamelot Auctions for $738. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia .

Perfect for steampunk conversion, this late Victorian cast-iron and bronze warming stove sold in April at Kamelot Auctions for $738. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia .

A nifty gadget, this electrostatic machine with glass disc and tole canister, circa 1910, brought $600 in April. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

A nifty gadget, this electrostatic machine with glass disc and tole canister, circa 1910, brought $600 in April. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

 Ideal for a kitchen counter, four farm implement seat stools with cast-iron bases labeled “Baker Hamilton, San Francisco, Sacramento” sold for a hefty $3,690 in April. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

Ideal for a kitchen counter, four farm implement seat stools with cast-iron bases labeled “Baker Hamilton, San Francisco, Sacramento” sold for a hefty $3,690 in April. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

A vintage Golden Glow spotlight in polished steel, made by the Electric Supplier Co. of Philadelphia, circa 1920, brought $1,080 in April. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

A vintage Golden Glow spotlight in polished steel, made by the Electric Supplier Co. of Philadelphia, circa 1920, brought $1,080 in April. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

This pair of wood and metal industrial rolling shelf units, sold on June 11 for $4,800, could be used for either storage or display. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

This pair of wood and metal industrial rolling shelf units, sold on June 11 for $4,800, could be used for either storage or display. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

Vintage metal vitrines, ideal for collections, have been popular with bidders at Kamelot sales. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

Vintage metal vitrines, ideal for collections, have been popular with bidders at Kamelot sales. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

Any reconstruction of Dr. Frankenstein’s experiment would require a good mechanical table. This example, nickel over bronze with multiple gears and levers, sold in Kamelot’s June auction for $3,840. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

Any reconstruction of Dr. Frankenstein’s experiment would require a good mechanical table. This example, nickel over bronze with multiple gears and levers, sold in Kamelot’s June auction for $3,840. Image courtesy Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia.

Victor Talking Machine Co. built this School House Victrola in a quartersawed oak case and stand. Auctioneer Bob Courtey estimates the scarce Victrola will sell for between $6,000 and $9,000 at his May 28 auction in Millbury, Mass. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bob Courtney Auctions.

Phonograph enthusiasts attuned to aural time tunnel

 Victor Talking Machine Co. built this School House Victrola in a quartersawed oak case and stand. Auctioneer Bob Courtey estimates the scarce Victrola will sell for between $6,000 and $9,000 at his May 28 auction in Millbury, Mass. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bob Courtney Auctions.

Victor Talking Machine Co. built this School House Victrola in a quartersawed oak case and stand. Auctioneer Bob Courtey estimates the scarce Victrola will sell for between $6,000 and $9,000 at his May 28 auction in Millbury, Mass. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bob Courtney Auctions.

DENVER (AP) – Gary Stone pulled a 78-rpm record from its paper sleeve. He placed the disc, which weighed about as much as a Big Mac, atop a felt-covered turntable. Its mahogany cabinet boasted as much craftsmanship as anything in an Ethan Allen store.

A stainless-steel needle hit the platter’s grooves. There was a crackling, then the vibrant, patrician voice of President Franklin D. Roosevelt jumped out, announcing to Americans that they had just lived through a day of infamy, but that the foe would be fought and vanquished.

“Every time I hear that I get tingly and emotional,” said Stone, who lives in Northglenn. “Just listen to the anger in FDR’s voice. He’s telling the country we’re going to war, yet no one could imagine what lay ahead.

“It’s as if you’re sitting in front of a tube radio on a cold December evening in 1941.”

The lure of owning an aural time tunnel – in this case a Victor II Humpback Phonograph from 1904 – is what binds Stone and his fellow collectors in the Old West Antique Phonograph Society.

“It’s an addiction, I’ll be honest,” Stone said. “You get hooked on it, and if you’re not disciplined it becomes an obsession.”

The machines are marvels, embodying a timeline of technological innovation that started when Thomas Edison – he of the 1,093 U.S. patents – launched the Edison Speaking Phonograph Co. in 1878. (“Phonograph,” for the record, was Edison’s coinage.)

There is also a deep aesthetic appeal. Cabinets were fashioned by master craftsmen from fine woods such as mahogany, quartersawed oak and bird’s-eye maple.

Price tags on the machines run from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Collectors vie for them on Craigslist and eBay.

“Each of these has a different story,” Stone said of his 10 machines. “They’re amazing. They were all handmade, and the wood they used was beautiful. You just don’t see that today.”

One of his prizes is a Victrola 18 model from 1915. Housed in a burnished mahogany cabinet, the machine cost $315 in its day – more than a car. It was later modified with an orthophonic speaker, an upgrade that was sort of the Dolby system of its day.

“It’s my pride and joy,” he said.

Stone’s wife is good-natured about his collection, referring to the parlor as the “toy room,” though lately she has imposed a “buy a new one, sell an old one” caveat.

She probably hasn’t seen Bob Stapel’s house.

On a recent evening, club members descended on Stapel’s house in southeast Denver. Stapel is a popular figure among these folks, in no small part because he’s a master repairman and restorer of the machines.

Stapel’s house is something of a museum to the early recording industry. The shelves of his workshop, redolent of machine oil, sag with spare parts.

His collection includes numerous players from early in the last century: an Edison William & Mary model with an intricate filigree, a couple of French Pathes, and a Columbia AF Graphophone with two rubber earplugs, just in case your teenager was driving you nuts playing Over There.

Stapel also collects ephemera, and Stone pointed out a turn-of-the-century record-cylinder cabinet that he covets. “I’m still trying to find one,” he said.

For Stapel, who is an attorney, scoring the wooden box was the result of a practiced eye.

“The lady I bought it from called it a lingerie drawer, but I saw the pegs in it to put the cylinders on, so I knew what it was,” he said. “It was a real find.”

Club member Fred Williams delights in cylinder players, where a steel needle traced a mechanical track across a spinning wheel. One of his machines is an Edison General, built in 1899 as an answer to the 1898 Columbia Model Q, with its “clockwork” motor.

His passion runs deep.

“It’s all about the hunting,” he said. “See this? It’s a recording of President William Howard Taft. An original, from 1905, not a rerecording. Who else has that? Me.”

Some record collectors specialize, concentrating on vaudeville acts, historical recordings or the works of a specific artist – say, pianist Jelly Roll Morton or Bix Beiderbecke, the cornet titan.

There are other collector niches too.

Curt Vogt specializes in the record brushes used to keep 78s clean. They are housed in their original ornate tins, many of them stamped with the colorful logos of the stores that carried them. Vogt pointed to a cabinet holding an array of tins, brands from such labels as Okeh and the American Musician Co.

“When I started collecting, I couldn’t really afford the machines themselves,” said Vogt, who works at Rockler Woodworking and Hardware in Denver. “Plus, I was in the Air Force, and most of the machines don’t meet the weight restrictions for traveling.”

Stone has several hundred recordings, culled mainly from auctions and to a lesser extent from antiques stores. “Stores aren’t the best place to find things because they’re often picked through and it takes hours to go through the stocks,” he said.

The recordings recall another time.

Listen to Stone’s century-old recording of The Star- Spangled Banner through a conical, “witch’s hat” horn, and you hear a version of the song with none of the melisma and swooping vocal tricks found in performers at today’s ballgames. The singer gets the words right too.

Funny thing, how once- cutting-edge technology is reduced to an archaic novelty. Sony’s Walkman is nearly there. The iPod will be there soon enough.

Somehow, it seems doubtful these inventions, in their compact plastic casings, will enthrall people on the cusp of the 22nd century.

“I bring kids in from the neighborhood, and they look at these machines with practically no reaction,” Stone said. “They’re puzzled by it. Then I play them something, and they’re mesmerized.”

___

Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-19-11 0036GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


  Victor Talking Machine Co. built this School House Victrola in a quartersawed oak case and stand. Auctioneer Bob Courtey estimates the scarce Victrola will sell for between $6,000 and $9,000 at his May 28 auction in Millbury, Mass. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bob Courtney Auctions.

Victor Talking Machine Co. built this School House Victrola in a quartersawed oak case and stand. Auctioneer Bob Courtey estimates the scarce Victrola will sell for between $6,000 and $9,000 at his May 28 auction in Millbury, Mass. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bob Courtney Auctions.

These Lucite circular form candlesticks echo the 1970s. The larger one is 14 inches tall. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Rago Arts & Auction Center.

After 75 years it’s clear: Lucite is tough and beautiful

These Lucite circular form candlesticks echo the 1970s. The larger one is 14 inches tall. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Rago Arts & Auction Center.

These Lucite circular form candlesticks echo the 1970s. The larger one is 14 inches tall. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Rago Arts & Auction Center.

NEW YORK (AP) – Her friends’ Lucite-and-white kitchens were far more inviting than the outdated, psychedelic wallpaper and avocado-colored appliances that greeted Jeannine Anckaitis at home during the late ’80s.

“It was the absence of color that looked so clean, fresh and bright,” she said. “They were clutter-free and seemed upscale. Our kitchen, on the other hand, seemed garish and was overwhelming to the eye.”

It’s been more than 75 years since rival chemical companies came up with a new generation of clear acrylics known in their world as polymethyl methacrylate. Lucite wasn’t the first brand in 1936, but it’s an enduring symbol of mid-century modern style spanning home furnishings and decor, industrial design and retail merchandising, contemporary art and costume jewelry.

“It’s so modern, but it also looks futuristic at the same time,” said Alexis Bittar. “It’s definitely the platinum of the acrylics.”

Bittar is the wizard of Lucite after a 20-year journey from hawking his jewelry on the streets of New York to hand-sculpting masks for Lady Gaga and floral pins for Michelle Obama. “You can manipulate it any way you want,” he said.

Lucite’s qualities – it’s easy to form, glue, cut, tint and fuse with other materials to add texture, color and sparkle – are the things that made it a hit. Lucite handbags from Charles Kahn and other designers in the ’50s now fetch up to $600 or more from collectors.

There were precursors when DuPont put tough, clear-as-glass Lucite on the market for the windshields and canopies of fighter jets, the eyes of submarine telescopes and the gun turrets of tanks. Cheaper to produce than Bakelite, Galalith and Catalin, with a unique ability to conduct light, it moved over the years to a myriad of other applications, from three-story aquariums to the heels of women’s shoes.

“It’s definitely fresh,” said interior designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, who created a sleek living-room set of clear Lucite for the New York City digs of Sean “Puffy” Combs. “I like that it’s clear, so the rooms tend to look larger when some of the pieces are in that material. I also combine it with white or black so it’s a combination of clear and solid. It’s easy to clean. You don’t have to paint it.”

Lucite has its purists. Some wouldn’t consider designing in color, for example, or embellishing it with metals and other bling. Perhaps all those neon Lucite laminate keychains produced by high schoolers during shop class in the ’70s left a bad taste.

Etienne Coffinier, an architect and furniture designer who grew up in Algeria, Holland and Dubai, works solely in clear Lucite.

“It’s a staple of our design,” he said. “We have clients who have huge rooms and therefore they have huge coffee tables. I don’t like to have the huge coffee table hiding the beautiful rug I have designed for them. The best quality of Lucite is that it’s more transparent than glass. It doesn’t scratch so easily, and if it does you can usually buff it out.”

Noriega-Ortiz straddles the divide, using pops of bright solids in chairs or yellow see-through tabletops in the same home as clear Lucite chandeliers, and shaped legs holding up other pieces.

Lucite is great, he said, for combining periods in home furnishings. “We mix it with antiques so it doesn’t compete.”

Ultimately sleek and modern, the designers said, the acrylic – in name and sensibility – has traveled far from the ’50s, considered its heyday, straight through to the ’70s, a period followed by several years of sagging interest revived by a new generation of designers.

“As a sculptor in addition to a designer, I was attracted to the endless possibilities of using Lucite to create new jewelry shapes – a loose-fitting bangle or cuff that wraps around the wrist, a solid Lucite ball on a long chain,” said Isaac Manevitz, creator of the Ben-Amun jewelry line.

“When I started my brand in the early ’80s, Lucite helped pave the way for outrageous fashion jewelry that was more fun than the smaller diamonds that had been so popular in previous decades,” he said.

In suburban Chicago, Wendy Piersall has the bug for vintage, inspired in part by a grandmother who passed down a tortoise-colored Lucite bag.

“My father’s mother was incredibly fashionable, with impeccable taste,” she said. “It’s really one of my favorite pieces of all time. You just can’t find stuff like that anymore.”

In the ’50s home, after the war and its rationing were over, all things “modern, fresh and clean” were appealing, and Lucite swept in, said Chris Robinson, business manager for Lucite International, a Memphis, Tenn.-based division of Mitsubishi Chemicals.

“It was cool to have clear Lucite cutlery. It was in everything,” he said. “Back then it was expensive stuff and arty stuff, so the fancy people were getting it. They were looking for things that weren’t metal, like the things their parents had. Lucite was a material that no one had seen before.”

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-11-11 2118GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


These Lucite circular form candlesticks echo the 1970s. The larger one is 14 inches tall. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Rago Arts & Auction Center.

These Lucite circular form candlesticks echo the 1970s. The larger one is 14 inches tall. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Rago Arts & Auction Center.

Measuring just 6 inches by 5 inches, this Judith Leiber gold tone metal and Lucite bag is early and rare. Photo credit: P.S. (Post Script).

Measuring just 6 inches by 5 inches, this Judith Leiber gold tone metal and Lucite bag is early and rare. Photo credit: P.S. (Post Script).

The face of a 1920s flapper adorns this vintage garter button mounted on lace. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bella Button Auctions.

Retired librarian puts 250,000 buttons in their place

The face of a 1920s flapper adorns this vintage garter button mounted on lace. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bella Button Auctions.

The face of a 1920s flapper adorns this vintage garter button mounted on lace. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bella Button Auctions.

SHELBYVILLE, Ill. (AP) – Mankind has long been uptight about buttons.

Once some enterprising clothier had invented the buttonhole (they appeared in 13th-century Europe) the button was sure to follow, and then people started getting obsessed with them.

Flashy, showy buttons sprouted all over the garb of medieval fashion plates, and a man’s social prowess could be judged by the magnificent extent of his gold, silver, ivory and bejeweled fastenings. It got so out of hand that church authorities feared the unraveling of the social order and sought to undo the harm by promoting “sumptuary laws” designed to criminalize excessive button frolicking.

Zipping forward in time, we find Maude Hartman living in the country south of Shelbyville with 250,000 reasons to be thankful such draconian couture constraints have gone the way of doublets and ruffs. Her home is packed with more than a quarter-million buttons, and she’s off to Urbana on Friday and Saturday for the Illinois State Button Society’s annual meeting and convention. Once there, the indefatigable button hunter hopes to add a few more treasures to her vast accumulation.

Hartman says you can come, too, and believes with evangelistic zeal that there is no finer hobby in the great sweep of the human fabric than button collecting.

“Don’t worry about buying buttons,” says Hartman, 60. “Just come to the convention to see what is going on, come to look and visit with everybody and talk to people. Talking to people is what got me going about buttons.”

And she’s so right. It’s best not to dive in too deep too soon when confronted with the infinite ocean of collectible buttons: You’ll drown.

Hartman’s own collection, for example, is awash in a riot of colors, shapes, materials, designs and button purposes. There are little stylish buttons shaped to look like a flapper’s head and designated to festoon women’s garters in the Roaring ’20s. There are buttons made by artists as collectibles shaped like Humpty Dumpty and other nursery rhyme characters.

And then there are the useful buttons, actually designed to hold our clothing together. These come in celluloid and bakelite (the 19th- and early 20th-century parents of modern plastics) as well as glass, china, fabrics, enamels, wood, bone, horn, brass and steel stretching across 150 years of fashion history.

Button shapes, however impractical, cover about anything you can think of: anchors, playing cards, ships, ice-cream cones, pieces of fruit, bees and even the intricate shape of an orchid. All of which is only just barely unbuttoning the topmost layers of this “fastenating” subject.

“There are buttons made using pee – urine – as part of the manufacturing process,” Hartman explains helpfully. “And there are buttons made of blood.”

Some rare buttons, she adds, have prices in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and yet you might find them in a jar at a yard sale if you know what to look for.

A retired teacher and school librarian, her ordered mind arranges her finds on neatly filed stacks of cards, where they are grouped by type and materials into a precisely ordered hoard the Smithsonian Institution would give its eyelets for.

Hartman’s husband, Dwane, watches with a smile as his wife shows stunned visitors around the labyrinthine assemblage. He says people on the outside of the button world just have no idea how far the need for buttons can push you. “I tell someone, ‘She’s off to a button convention,’ and they say, ‘You’re kidding me.’ And I say, ‘No, I’m not.’”

Hartman started collecting seriously in 1995 and says the fascination of hunting and categorizing antique and modern buttons is a great way to knit up the raveled sleeve of care.

“Jobs like teaching can be very stressful,” says the collector, who is also a serious Harry Potter fan. ‘I had to have something to keep away the dragons (her word for buttonholing the nature of mental stress); I think we all do, don’t you?”

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-04-12-11 1241GMT

 


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


The face of a 1920s flapper adorns this vintage garter button mounted on lace. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bella Button Auctions.

The face of a 1920s flapper adorns this vintage garter button mounted on lace. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bella Button Auctions.

Waterford crystal chandelier. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Waterford, Ireland: City sparkles like the crystal

Waterford crystal chandelier. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Waterford crystal chandelier. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

WATERFORD, Ireland (AP) – Waterford Crystal is renowned for its sparkle – and lately the city it’s named for lives up to that description.

But Waterford, in Ireland’s sunny southeast (sunny being a relative concept in Ireland), hasn’t always had it easy. The city is often passed over by tourists in favor of Dublin’s nightlife or the emerald-green seaside hills of Kerry. And two years ago, the crystal factory shut down, leaving Waterford without its most famous attraction.

Then last year, a Waterford Crystal-themed tourist center reopened. Now visitors can again explore Waterford Crystal’s history and the art of crystal-making, an unexpectedly fascinating and intricate process.

House of Waterford allows visitors to tour a new production facility where they can see master craftsmen at work. The new location, which produces high-end pieces and has crystal for sale in an expansive showroom, is far more central than the previous factory in Kilbarry. From molds to glass-blowing and sculpting, visitors see all the stages of crystal-making as the furnaces burn before their eyes and pieces take shape, emerging from hot glass to meticulously engraved collectibles. Guests can even don goggles and smash some crystal as guides discuss the fate of flawed pieces, an opportunity eagerly grabbed by the children on my tour. Also on view are replicas of some of Waterford Crystal’s work, from a Super Bowl trophy to a Sept. 11th memorial.

The experience is similar to the old factory tour but spiced up with more multimedia. It marks the continuation of a brand that has made its home in Waterford since 1783.

“Waterford Crystal is the marquee icon attraction, and within that, the city wants to harness the heritage it has adjacent to us within this quarter,” commercial director David McCoy said of the new location.

“We’re fortunate in the sense that the way we designed the facility, we want people to see every aspect of what we do. We’re very proud of the work and effort that goes into producing the crystal.”

After seeing the crystal center, visitors may continue the pursuit of all things luxurious at Waterford Castle, located on its own island, with access by ferry. The secluded castle dates back centuries but has been converted into a four-star resort with 19 elegant rooms, including fixtures like freestanding bathtubs with carved, ornate legs. If you prefer more modern accommodations on the island, the 320-acre property also offers three- and four-bedroom lodges. A restaurant offers afternoon tea and gourmet meals, and there is an 18-hole golf course designed by former Ryder Cup player Des Smyth.

Another way to experience Waterford is to get a taste of hurling, a 2,000-year old, lightning-fast Irish field sport similar to field hockey, using a ball and flat, curved wooden sticks called hurleys. It’s especially popular in counties Tipperary, Waterford and Kilkenny. Though it’s an all-amateur sport, many loyal fans travel to away games and matches in Dublin, and there is no greater buzz than in Waterford City when the county team plays. National league games are played from winter until April, and All-Ireland qualifying matches follow until the end of September.

The city comes alive in a sea of Waterford blue-and-white jerseys, with pubs like Alfie Hale’s drawing particularly big hurling crowds shouting “Up the Deise” (pronounced day-shuh), as Waterford is known as An Deise in Irish.

Waterford is also home to several shops where hurleys are still made. Hurley-maker Frank Murphy learned the craft from teachers and relatives, meticulously fashioning the hurleys from wood such as ash and often personalizing them for new owners. Other hurley-makers include Peter Flanagan, who is newer to the trade but comes from a carpentry background. It’s worth a visit to their home workshops for a chat and a look at the process.

And while a hurley from Waterford won’t sparkle like a crystal bowl, it’s a worthy souvenir of your visit.

___

If You Go…

GETTING THERE: Waterford is located about 115 miles from Dublin. The city has its own airport.

HOUSE OF WATERFORD: The Mall, Waterford City, Ireland; http://www.waterfordvisitorcentre.com. Open daily March-October (closed St. Patrick’s Day, March 17). Factory tour, 9 a.m.-4:15 p.m. (retail store until 6 p.m.) Hours vary by season. Adults, $16 (11.50 euros).

WATERFORD CASTLE: http://www.waterfordcastle.com. Overnight lodging rates range from $95 to $485 (69 to 350 euros) depending on accommodation and season, with some rates per person and others by the room. Dinner menu, $90 (65 euros) a person. Reachable by ferry.

HURLING: http://www.upthedeise.com/waterfordhurling/. For links to Waterford hurley makers, go to http://www.handcrafthurleys.com and click on “Handcrafted Hurleys” and “Munster Hurley Makers.” Hurleys sell for up to about $42 (30 euros).

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-ES-03-01-11 1436EST

 


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


Waterford crystal chandelier. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Waterford crystal chandelier. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

At any auction, the gavel has the final say. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Kaminski Auctions.

Auctions 101: Expert tips for novice bidders

At any auction, the gavel has the final say. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Kaminski Auctions.

At any auction, the gavel has the final say. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Kaminski Auctions.

UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. – “Sold!” the auctioneer calls out. This is the very moment when title legally changes hands from the owner (or consignor) of the property being sold. to the bidder who won the item.

The “bids” (the offers to purchase the item being sold) are the essential elements in any successful auction. These incremental bids by those who raise their paddles indicate to the auctioneer that they are making an offer to purchase the item.  

The process of incremental bidding, i.e., a method by which bids are increased according to pre-determined increments, should be as simple as it sounds, and often is. This article deals with both the standard, everyday incremental bidding at an auction, as well as some of the vagaries of the process. It also deals with some things that bidders need to be aware of.

The numbered bid paddle (or card, or in some cases even a paper plate with a number written on it) is provided to the bidder once he or she has registered at the auction house. Registration is the process by which you supply the auction house with your identification, and any other required information, so they know who you are. Often, this requires a valid driver’s license.

Once registered and supplied with a bid paddle, bidders are given, or have the option of purchasing, a printed catalog that should include the auction’s Terms and Conditions of Sale. Read them carefully. The catalog usually contains the listing of all the items being sold, the lot number assigned to each item, detailed descriptions of the property being offered and sometimes condition reports that describe such things as repairs, breaks, etc.  

The catalog may also contain an estimate of each item’s value. These values are based on the auction house’s research of historical selling prices of similar items. These estimates are often represented in ranges such as $200-$300, $400-600, etc. Most items eventually sell in or near these estimate ranges.

Now that you’re armed with your bid number and catalog, you have everything you need to move along to the next step of the process, the all-important pre-auction inspection, or preview. As you go from item to item and identify those pieces that may interest you, the catalog is an excellent in-hand reference. Refer to it frequently, as it may supply you with information you might not be aware of. Many buyers also use the catalog to circle items of interest, jot down their maximum bids (how high they are willing go), general notes, etc.

Once you take your seat and the actual auction begins, the paddle is used to indicate to the auctioneer that you are making an offer to purchase, or bid. The auctioneer will often begin by asking for a low opening bid from the audience, often one-half of the low estimate of the item being sold. Once someone’s paddle is raised into the air, the bidding process begins, and it continues to progress until the item is deemed “sold.”

For example, an opening bid of $100 is often followed with a subsequent bid of $125, then $150, and so on, as the bidding process continues. The advances in the bids usually follow pre-determined bidding increments. At Leighton Galleries, as an example, the increments are published in the catalog, and range from $10 bid increments for items selling for $10 to $100, to $100 increments for items selling for $1,000 to $5,000.  

If the auctioneer opened an item by asking for a $100 bid, and you raised you paddle, the auctioneer would acknowledge your bid and, in the same breath, start looking for $125 from someone else. Then, if that someone else were to raise their paddle, the auctioneer would acknowledge that bid and almost certainly look right back at you for the next bid, now at $150. If you were to bid again, he would look back at the other bidder (called the underbidder) for the next bid, and so on, until one of you stops bidding. The sale happens when no additional bid, or advance, is made beyond the last and final bid. At that point, the auctioneer calls “Sold!” and moves on to the next item, repeating the entire process.

Sometimes in the heat of the auction, a bidder will call out a bid in excess of the bid that the auctioneer is asking for. Say the auctioneer is trying to get a bid for $225, and a bidder raises his paddle and yells out “$300”, this is referred to as “jumping” the bid. This is an aggressive move on the part of the jump bidder, an attempt to intimidate the underbidder into capitulating. This move sometimes works, but sometimes it can also fuel unintended competition.  

Another bidding tactic used by determined buyers is to raise their paddle into the air, and leave it there, holding it up through the entire bidding sequence. The motivation to bid in this way varies from person to person, and for a variety of reasons. At our auctions, I personally appreciate this type of bidder since it helps to move the sale along. However, for those who might consider bidding in this way, be forewarned. Unscrupulous auctioneers might see this “paddle-in-the-air” bidder as an easy mark, as it indicates a relentless bidder who will not stop bidding until he wins the item.

I’ve seen this illegal practice myself, many times. Bidding in this manner opens the door to a dishonest auctioneer “bouncing” bids (taking nonexistent bids from the floor, the back of the auction hall, out of the air, etc.) and running up the price to the detriment of the paddle-in-the-air bidder. This bouncing will continue until the paddle comes down or the bidder shows some hesitation. Then, and magically, the “underbidder” stops bidding and the paddle-in- the-air buyer wins the item, ultimately paying far more than the real bidding justified.

One victim at a particular auction, who was bidding on a reproduction Tiffany lamp, happened to be a long-time customer of Leighton Galleries. I didn’t even know he and his wife were there until I looked around to see who was bidding so high on this reproduction lamp. As an auctioneer myself, I’ve developed a keen eye for picking bids out of an audience. A blinking eye here, a tipped catalog there, the nod of a head – I have seen them all. I stood at the front of the auction hall and believe me, there wasn’t another bidder is the house – except my customer and his wife.  Not one!  

This buyer grossly overpaid as a result of a dishonest and greedy auctioneer. I immediately told my customer. I cautioned him that he could bid that way at MY auction without any apprehension, but to be careful at THIS auction because he was the only bidder on the lamp; the others were phantom bids. I later learned that this particular auctioneer had been arrested and his auction business closed down for similar indiscretions.

Finally, bidders should be aware that they may find themselves competing with legitimate bidders who aren’t physically present in the auction gallery. For a long time, now, telephone bids have been a staple at auctions. Essentially the bidder on the other end of the phone is bidding just as if they were in the hall, with the auction staff communicating with them on the phone and bidding on their behalf.  

Absentee bids, or bids left with the auction house, are fairly common as well. Absentee bidders are folks who can’t attend the auction due to scheduling conflicts, geography, or just not wanting to spend the evening waiting for a few items to come up for bid. In this case, they fill out a form and tell us how high they want to bid. The auction house then bids on their behalf in a competitive fashion.

Most auction houses impose minimum-bid requirements on absentee and phone bidders to justify the extra time their employees must invest in handling the bids. For instance, if a phone bidder wants to bid $100 on a sapphire ring of obviously greater value, most auction houses will not take the bid. A $1,000 bid on a bronze is a completely different circumstance.

The Internet has shaken up the auction business in recent years in ways never before imagined. These days, buyers can sit at their computer at home, in their office, or anywhere in the world for that matter, and participate by entering bids through their computer [or, if using LiveAuctioneers.com, also via apps downloadable to their iPhone, iPod Touch or Android phone; absentee only through BlackBerry]. They can leave bids just like a traditional absentee bidder, and we bid on their behalf. The Internet also allows bidders to bid in real time through the Internet, as though they were right there in the hall or on the phone. As the item comes across the screen on their computer, all they have to do is click on a BID button, and voila. Internet bidding has become so popular that in most of our auctions, more than 35% of the items sell to the Internet.

If you are new to auctions and are thinking about attending one, find a local auction, register if you choose to do so, or simply take a seat and watch. Alternatively, learn the ropes by monitoring an auction through LiveAuctioneers.com. It’s absolutely free to watch any sale in progress on LiveAuctioneers. The process is so simple, you’ll catch on quickly. Within a few minutes of watching an action, you’ll be ready to jump right in with confidence.

Auctions are an excellent way to buy everything and anything from jewelry to antiques to collections of all kinds. You decide what you’re going to pay, and it’s fun too!

John Merowski
Owner/Auctioneer – Leighton Galleries Inc.

Leighton Galleries is a full-service Auction House advocating Buyer Awareness in the matters of art, antiques, auction houses and appraisal practices. Watch for Leighton Galleries’ auction catalogs and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


Bidders can take part absentee or in real time in any auction supported by LiveAuctioneers through the company's mobile phone bidding app available to users of iPhone, iPod Touch, Android or BlackBerry (absentee only through BlackBerry). Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers.com.

Bidders can take part absentee or in real time in any auction supported by LiveAuctioneers through the company’s mobile phone bidding app available to users of iPhone, iPod Touch, Android or BlackBerry (absentee only through BlackBerry). Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers.com.

$86 million Chinese vase. Image courtesy of Bainbridge's.

Slew of records set for antiques & collectibles in 2010

$86 million Chinese vase. Image courtesy of Bainbridge's.

$86 million Chinese vase. Image courtesy of Bainbridge’s.

Now is a good time to review 2010, which will be remembered in the antique and auction trade as a year of surprising prices – including many records – and great stories. Here are highlights gleaned from kovels.com.

December 2010

It was “save our history” week at New York auctions, with record prices set at Sotheby’s for three items:

1 – The highest price ever paid at auction for a U.S. Presidential document was $3,778,500 for an 1863 copy of the Lincoln Emancipation Proclamation;

2 – The guidon (the flag that identifies a unit going into battle) carried in Custer’s 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn sold for $2,210,500;

3 – The third bit of history was the document that listed the 13 rules for the game of basketball invented by James Naismith in 1891. It sold for the highest price of all, $4,338,500.

Another piece of history was auctioned in February. George Washington’s personal map of the Battle of Yorktown, which descended through the family of an aide to Washington, auctioned for $1.15 million at James Julia Auctions.

Some of the jewelry owned by the Duchess of Windsor (Wallis Simpson) was sold at Sotheby’s London on Nov. 30. Her flamingo pin made of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds sold for $2.7 million.

Bottles of vintage champagne were salvaged last summer from a shipwreck that happened near Finland and Sweden sometime between 1832 and 1844. Close to 50 sealed bottles are expected to sell for about $68,000 each.

Wallis Simpson flamingo brooch. Image courtesy of Sotheby's London.

Wallis Simpson flamingo brooch. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

November 2010

A signed Babe Ruth home run baseball the New York Yankees slugger hit in 1934 sold for $264,500 at an auction at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Kentucky.

The Maltese Falcon, the 1941 classic movie starring Humphrey Bogart, also featured an 11 1/2-inch statue of the bird. A group of collectors paid $305,000 for the movie prop made of resin.

Another found-in-the-attic story has a happy ending. Two relatives were cleaning up their inherited house near Heathrow Airport in England. They found a number of Chinese items, including a colorful 16-inch vase. They were wise enough to take it to a suburban London auction house, Bainbridge’s. Peter Bainbridge estimated the value of the vase at $1.3 million to $2 million. But the final auction price was $85.9 million (including the buyer’s premium and value-added tax). It’s a new world record price for a piece of porcelain and for a piece of Chinese art. It’s also the 11th-most-expensive piece of art ever sold at auction.

A Honus Wagner T206 baseball card in poor condition sold for $262,000 at a Heritage Auction Galleries sale. The card belonged to an order of Catholic nuns, the School Sisters of Notre Dame. However, when the winning bidder failed to pay, the auction house contacted another regular customer, who paid the full bid price to ensure the nuns got all the money.

Carnival glass set some records this month. A Northwood opal aqua Grape & Cable cracker jar sold for $67,500.

Babe Ruth signed baseball. Image courtesy of stricklerautographs.blogspot.com.

Babe Ruth signed baseball. Image courtesy of stricklerautographs.blogspot.com.

'The Maltese Falcon' figure. Image courtesy of Guernsey's.

‘The Maltese Falcon’ figure. Image courtesy of Guernsey’s.

$86 million Chinese vase. Image courtesy of Bainbridge's.

$86 million Chinese vase. Image courtesy of Bainbridge’s.

Honus Wagner baseball card. Image courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries.

Honus Wagner baseball card. Image courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries.

Carnival glass cracker jar. Image courtesy of Seeck Auctions.

Carnival glass cracker jar. Image courtesy of Seeck Auctions.

October 2010

A treasure hunter with a metal detector found a second-century Roman helmet in England earlier this year. It sold at a Christie’s auction in London for $3,629,469.

The Jazz Bowl sold for over five times estimate at Rago Arts and Auction Center. The Viktor Schreckengost art pottery masterpiece brought $158,600.

Roman helmet. Image courtesy of Christie's London.

Roman helmet. Image courtesy of Christie’s London.

Art pottery 'Jazz Bowl.' Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center.

Art pottery ‘Jazz Bowl.’ Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center.

1943 copper alloy penny. Image courtesy of www.luxist.com.

1943 copper alloy penny. Image courtesy of www.luxist.com.

September 2010

A 1943 zinc-coated steel Lincoln penny is worth less than 10 cents today. But a 1943 one-of-a-kind copper alloy Lincoln penny struck at the Denver Mint was sold by a New Jersey coin dealer for a record $1.7 million.

August 2010

A lot of comic books set records this year. The price for the rare 1940 Batman No. 1 comic book was $55,269. Found in Alaska, it was sold by Heritage Auction Galleries.

Another very valuable comic book has been found. It’s a copy of Action Comics No. 1, the 1938 issue that introduced Superman. That comic book has been attracting super prices since 2009. A couple was packing to move out of their foreclosed house when they found a copy of the famous comic book. They had read about the record-breaking sales and contacted ComicConnect. Presale estimate for the comic was $250,000. It sold for $436,000. The house was saved!

Action Comics No. 1. Image courtesy of ComicConnect.

Action Comics No. 1. Image courtesy of ComicConnect.

Flash Comics No. 1. Image courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries.

Flash Comics No. 1. Image courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries.

July 2010

Not many stuffed horses sell for $266,500, but probably no other horse is as famous as Trigger, the palomino used by Roy Rogers on television and in the movies. Christie’s and High Noon jointly auctioned the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum collection, including Trigger.

Roy Rogers' Trigger. Image courtesy of Christie's Images LTD 2010.

Roy Rogers’ Trigger. Image courtesy of Christie’s Images LTD 2010.

June 2010

The world record price for a sports uniform was set at a Canadian auction house. The 1972 hockey jersey worn by Paul Henderson of Team Canada in the Summit Series sold for $1.275 million (U.S.). Henderson scored the winning goal for Canada in the deciding game against Russia.

An autograph by a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Button Gwinnett, sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $722,500. The rare Gwinnett signature was on a letter.

“Dave the Slave,” the famed Edgefield, S.C., potter from the 1830s, made news in 2010. A jug bought for $25 years ago sold at an Eagles Basket Auction in Travelers Rest, S.C., for $13,000.

A cigar store Indian that had been in the family basement since the 1960s gave the owner an unexpected legacy. The Indian, in fine unrestored condition, was sold by Heritage Auction Galleries for an amazing $203,150.

Another very expensive comic book sold in June. A copy of Flash Comics No. 1 in pristine condition sold privately for $450,000.

Cigar store Indian. Image courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries.

Cigar store Indian. Image courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries.

April 2010

Action Comic No. 1, the famous first appearance of Superman, has sold for an even higher record price. The new record: $1.5 million.

An ivory box, described as a 19th-century Persian piece estimated at $700 to $900, auctioned in Cleveland a year ago for $471,528. It was auctioned in 2010 at Sotheby’s London for $3.68 million.

The Gutenberg Bible is probably the most famous book in Western civilization – the first book printed with moveable type. There are 21 complete copies of the 42-line Bible in existence. It sold for $5.4 million at Christie’s, a record price at auction for a printed book.

The rare deep sapphire blue flask called “General Washington and Bust” (McKearin GI-14) brought $100,620 at an online Heckler Auction. The flask has the names Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on the ridge and is called the “Firecracker flask” because both men died on July 4, 1826.

A 1925 Buggati Type 13 Brescia race car that was pulled from a lake in Switzerland last summer auctioned for $368,686.

1925 Buggati Brescia. Image courtesy of Kovels.com.

1925 Buggati Brescia. Image courtesy of Kovels.com.

Persian box. Image courtesy of Sotheby's London.

Persian box. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

Gen. Washington flask. Image courtesy of Heckler Auction.

Gen. Washington flask. Image courtesy of Heckler Auction.

March 2010

Batman can beat Superman – at least he did once in 2010. On Feb. 25, Detective Comics No. 27, which featured the first appearance of Batman, sold for the new record price of $1,075,500 at Heritage Auction Galleries.

February 2010

Action Comics No. 1, one of about 100 copies known to exist, sold in a private sale for $1 million. It was in great condition.

January 2010

American silver bowl. Image courtesy of Sotheby's New York.

American silver bowl. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.

To read more about the items mentioned above, go to the Kovels Komments “News, News, News” listings page

About Kovels.com

Terry Kovel has written more than 98 books about collecting, including the best-selling annual price book, Kovels’ Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide. The 2011 guide is now in stores. Terry publishes a subscription newsletter and writes a syndicated newspaper column that appears in more than 150 newspapers and digital publications, including Auction Central News. She and Ralph starred in the weekly HGTV program, Flea Market Finds with the Kovels. The Kovels website, Kovels.com, offers 700,000 free prices and other information for collectors, including books, special reports, a weekly e-mailed letter to collectors, marks and an archive of other informative material. Since Ralph’s death in 2008, the Kovel brand has been continued by Terry Kovel and her daughter, Kim Kovel.

 

A 19th-century photo of a Minnesota family in front of their log cabin. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

193-year-old log house offers peek at Ohio’s past

A 19th-century photo of a Minnesota family in front of their log cabin. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

A 19th-century photo of a Minnesota family in front of their log cabin. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Pairs of volunteers watched anxiously as a screen sifted archaeological treasures from cold, damp dirt.

The group of about 20 professional archaeologists, Ohio State University students and history buffs shared a quiet sense of excitement and urgency as each historical find was unearthed yesterday at the Deardurff House, a 193-year-old log house in Columbus.

The house is the oldest known structure in Franklin County still on its original foundation. It was built in 1807, just four years after Ohio achieved statehood.

Archaeologist Andrew Sewell, one of three principal investigators hired to lead the dig, scrutinized a brass plate about 5 inches in diameter.

He rubbed it and flipped it over and over, trying to discern the inscription on the dirt-covered find. Satisfied as to its historical value, he determined that the plate dates to at least the early 1800s.

This is rare. You don’t get many chances to do an archaeological dig like this within a city’s limits,” Sewell said.

The plate is one of many artifacts found in the dig, which continues today. Animal-bone fragments, pieces of pottery and brick, nails, plates and a clay marble were unearthed.

They were just the types of remnants that Walt Reiner, 67, a real-estate agent and property developer from Westerville, hoped to find.

Reiner, who bought the Deardurff House about 30 years ago, authorized the dig as part of his effort to restore the house and turn it into a museum by 2012, in time for Columbus’ bicentennial celebration.

The restoration will cost at least $400,000, most of which Reiner will pay. He owns several log buildings in central Ohio, including his realty office, which he converted from a 19th century log cabin. He said he hopes to turn the Deardurff house’s neighborhood into a replica of what the Franklinton neighborhood once looked like.

For the 39 volunteers, the dig was a rewarding opportunity to “get their hands on some old dirt and stuff,” said Anne Lee, an archaeologist and principal investigator on the dig.

People are generally interested in archaeology and the history of this area,” she said, noting that the two-day dig had a waiting list of at least 30 others who wanted to volunteer. “It’s important for a lot of people to have sort of a connection to their history.”

For Benjamin Keller, a fourth-year anthropology student at Ohio State University, participating in the dig not only added practical experience to his resume, but it also was fun.

You get to be outside digging holes,” he said as he tossed dirt onto the screen for his partner to sift. “Who doesn’t like to do that?”

___

Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-CS-12-05-10 1640EST

 

 

The Golden Psalter, first edition, in the collection of St. Petri-Dom Museum, Bremen, Germany. Photo by Jurgen Howaldt, taken in 2008. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany license.

Medieval books give collector glimpse of antiquity

The Golden Psalter, first edition, in the collection of St. Petri-Dom Museum, Bremen, Germany. Photo by Jurgen Howaldt, taken in 2008. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany license.

The Golden Psalter, first edition, in the collection of St. Petri-Dom Museum, Bremen, Germany. Photo by Jurgen Howaldt, taken in 2008. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany license.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – He found it, of all places, in a small antique shop right here in Charleston. “It was serendipity, just happenstance,” he said. “I was looking for something else.”

It was an ancient Psalter, a book of psalms painstakingly handwritten in Latin by hermit monks in the Netherlands nearly 800 years ago.

Imagine.

“It’s my newest and most exciting acquisition. It’s not just rare. It’s unique. There is literally only one. It was quite a find for me.”

He wasn’t surprised that it hadn’t attracted a buyer. “There would be no market for it in Charleston. It’s mainly of interest to nuts like me.”

Frank Martin collects medieval books. “Some men like fancy motor cars, I’ll pay a fortune for a good book. It’s a hobby and also a kind of passion. It enriches your understanding of history.”

An Alabama native who practiced law in Washington, D.C., Martin splits his time in retirement between Alabama and Charleston. “My daughter, Jessica Lane, lives here and we like the city,” he said in a noticeable Alabama drawl. “We could live anywhere. We live in Charleston by choice.”

His hobby started in 1987 with a visit to an old bookshop in Alexandria, Va. A student of Latin since high school, he spotted a crudely bound Venetian Bible printed in 1497 and “negotiated” a purchase.

“It was a beautiful book. And that’s when I fell in love.”

Along with its craftsmanship and age, he discovered a significant distinction. “This book was the first printed book ever to have a title page.”

He started shopping for old books in earnest, both in Alexandria and on the Internet. “If you’re interested,” he said, “things kind of pop up.”

The second step, his favorite part, is research. “It doesn’t take me long to buy a book. It takes a long time to figure out what it is. Nobody knows about this book,” he said, picking up one of his finds. “There is no date in it. You have to analyze the contents. It’s a tedious thing. But I’m mainly into that part of it, not the acquisition or possession.”

He had access to a rare book room at a seminary near his Virginia home. When working in Washington, he made frequent trips to the Library of Congress.

He searches for handwritten manuscripts and incunabula, a Latin word for “in the cradle” or “in swaddling clothes.” It refers to the infancy of printing, books printed before 1501. Gutenberg, the first to print a book with movable type, introduced printing in Germany in the 1450s.

“Any book printed in the first 50 years of movable type is valuable,” Martin said. “It was so long ago and there are so few of them. Through fire, water and war, so many were destroyed.”

Early printing methods could prove challenging. “Look at the print on this book. It’s microscopic by our standards. Imagine setting that type. You could only set maybe eight pages. Then you would break it up to set the next eight.”

His most valuable book is a New Testament volume printed in 1481, one generation after the invention of movable type. He found it at a book sale. “It belonged to a wealthy woman in California, Estelle Duhaney, who gave so much money to the Catholic Church that the pope made her a countess.”

In New York, inside a cigar box, he found a small square Bible five inches thick, an octavo. “You fold a sheet of paper to form eight leaves and you get the octovo,” he explained. “This one was all black and unbound. They didn’t know what they had.”

He had the book rebound in Magnolia Springs, Ala.

He discovered through research that the book was printed by a woman in 1549. “Experts for hundreds of years thought it was an incanubulum printed before 1500, but I found it was printed 50 years later by a woman in Paris, the widow of a famous printer.”

Bibles are the cheapest books for collectors to buy, he said, because there were so many of them. “Before we had books, we had scrolls. As long as people have written holy writ, there have been more Bibles because there is more demand. There are more Bibles printed every year than any other book.”

His collection includes a handwritten Ethiopian Psalm book. “You can’t read it. It’s all in the ancient language of Ethiopia. They didn’t develop printing until very late. They were doing liturgical manuscripts into the 18th century. This book isn’t so old, but it has these beautiful icons.”

All hand-painted on sheepskin, icons include the Ethiopian version of “The Madonna, Mary and Her Beloved Son,” with angels Michael and Gabriel standing watch on either side.

“And these are saints,” he said, carefully turning from one page to the next. “This fellow grew a beard so long he made clothes out of it. That’s an Ethiopian saint we don’t know anything about. And here’s a fellow who prayed so long his foot fell off. So God made him three sets of wings. An Ethiopian scholar told me that.”

The meticulous penmanship required of scribes hand-lettering liturgical tomes amazes him. “Think of the number of man-hours invested in a book. I don’t know how long it took. How many pages can a man do in a day? Two or three? They had one man who read from the original text and another man wrote it down.

“Then the Vikings would come and destroy all the books, and they had to start over again. That happened two or three times.

“A book used to be worth what a house was worth,” he said, “and now we just throw them away.”

Martin gives his ancient books extra special attention. He handles them gently, reverently. “And they go in a lockbox in the bank.”

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-ES-11-29-10 0000EST

Metal detectors combing the ground where Civil War battles were fought often turn up small metal objects such as buttons, coins or bullets. This tunic button representing a Louisiana regiment was auctioned by William J. Jenack on March 27, 2010, for $40. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and William J. Jenack.

Metal hunters search for the fun of it, but treasures are a bonus

Metal detectors combing the ground where Civil War battles were fought often turn up small metal objects such as buttons, coins or bullets. This tunic button representing a Louisiana regiment was auctioned by William J. Jenack on March 27, 2010, for $40. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and William J. Jenack.

Metal detectors combing the ground where Civil War battles were fought often turn up small metal objects such as buttons, coins or bullets. This tunic button representing a Louisiana regiment was auctioned by William J. Jenack on March 27, 2010, for $40. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and William J. Jenack.

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Metal detecting enthusiasts’ feet are inches from pieces of history every day.

Consider Joe Barnett, a 55-year-old Clinton resident who had walked across his backyard “hundreds of times” before finding a .58 caliber Civil War-era bullet barely below the ground’s surface.

Welcome to the world of metal detecting, which is a lot like fishing and hunting. One never knows what will be found on a particular day, but the search is often as thrilling as the find.Well, almost.

“Finding something that hasn’t been touched for 150 years is really fascinating to me,” said James Fox, 52, of Ridgeland. “I’ve been collecting Civil War memorabilia since I was a kid. And I like to find stuff that a lot of people don’t think much about – a knife handle that somebody had scratched their initials in, a straight razor with a guy’s name and regiment on it.

“This stuff hasn’t seen the light of day since the last time the owners touched it. And I’ve found arrowheads that haven’t been touched for 1,000 years. Pretty neat.”

“Metal detecting is a fast-growing hobby worldwide. It has proven to be a valuable tool in criminal cases. Barnett, a logistics coordinator with Entergy, found the gun believed to have been used in the August shooting death of Jackson police officer Glen Agee in chest-high water in a rural Hinds County drainage ditch.

“There were other guys out there looking, too,” said Barnett, who worked with the Greenville Police Department in the late 1970s and early ’80s. “I just happened to be the one who walked over it.”

Barnett was equipped with a detector that can be used underwater, which is popular among many metal hunters.

Victor McGriff, 71, of Bovina has been metal detecting since 1965.

Around 1970, he stopped at a lake that had been drained.

“I found rings, some coins, a pocket knife,” he said. “I got to thinking, ‘There has to be a lot of stuff under the water. That’s where I need to go looking.'”

He took a scuba diving course in 1971, and since then ponds and lakes have been his favorite hunting areas. He stays in areas that are no more than 15 feet deep, and his wife, Mary, usually sits on the bank while he’s searching.

“I go where they have swimming areas,” he said, “and I’ve found just about anything you can think of – rings, watches, knives, guns.”

At a lake near Morton, McGriff found a Timex watch buried just beneath some sand.

“The cloth band on it had deteriorated, but when I got it out and wound it up, it started working again,” he said, laughing. “I guess what they say is true – Timex watches really can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.”

Dan Patterson, 47, of Madison, bought his first metal detector in 1984. “Looking at relics in local museums and running into several old diggers sparked my interest,” he said.

Now, he has his own collection of “finds” that have been displayed in 35 magazines, including an Andrew Jackson button and two Confederate officer buttons, a Union officer stencil and a Bowie knife.

He’s also used his detector for those in need.

“Several years ago, a family from Carey had their house burn down. All their keepsakes from many years of marriage were in the house. I went through the rubble and ash and debris and found a box full of special family keepsakes. It’s all they have left from their marriage. It’s always good to help out.”

Metal detectors range from $150 to more than $2,000 and weigh between 2 and 5 pounds. Many models give the hunter an idea of what he or she has run across.

“It will give you a sound and a display,” Barnett said. “If you go over a nail, it’ll make a chatter sound. Solid pieces of metal give off a deep solid sound. Aluminum objects, such as a Coke can, give off a sharp, high tone. After you use them a while, you’re able to tell when it’s time to ignore it and when it’s time to stop and dig.”

One of the toughest obstacles is finding good land that hasn’t been gone over several times by previous hunters.

“Private land is the best,” Barnett said, “but it’s hard walking up to somebody you don’t know and getting permission. Two, maybe three, out of 10 will say yes.”

Metal detecting is a hobby for the curious, but don’t expect to get rich.

“If you get into it to find a stash of gold and make a lot of money, you’re going to be disappointed,” Fox said. “But if you enjoy something to get you out of the house and away from everything and are satisfied with finding some interesting things, then it can be a lot of fun.”

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-CS-11-19-10 0400EST