Book Review: Warman’s Shoes Field Guide by Caroline Ashleigh

Warman's Shoes Field Guide by Caroline Ashleigh
Warman's Shoes Field Guide by Caroline Ashleigh
Warman’s Shoes Field Guide by Caroline Ashleigh

With the May 27 sequel to the Sex and the City movie just around the corner, the release of Caroline Ashleigh’s Shoes Field Guide is what you might call a perfect fit.

Shoe lovers, collectors, or anyone with a sense of fashion will love Ashleigh’s pocket-size book on Warman’s® Shoes Field Guide. It’s more than a price reference; it’s a stunning, illustrated history of 20th-century shoes. Just as people buy shoes on their aesthetic appeal, this guide has a layout that is hip, fresh and sleek.

This is the only book on collectible vintage and contemporary footwear with current pricing. This area is second only to handbags in popularity among collectors of vintage clothing and accessories from the later half of the 20th century.

An acclaimed couture author, Ashleigh writes authoritatively while at the same time focusing on the fun aspect of shoes. Four hundred gorgeous color photos illustrate everything from chunky and wild disco platforms, celebrity and contemporary shoes to the restrained elegance of Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Chanel, Christian Dior, Michael Kors and more.

Caroline Ashleigh has been a featured appraiser on the popular television show Antiques Roadshow since 1997, and has been featured in publications such as Forbes, the New York Times, and Art and Antiques. Throughout her appraising career, Ashleigh has claimed some of the biggest names in the collecting world as clients, including working relationships with respected auction houses, major museums and celebrity collections. Ashleigh is also a noted public speaker and lectures extensively on many facets of appraising and collecting throughout the United States. She is a certified member of the Appraisers Association of America.

Warman’s® Shoes Field Guide will be available in May at a retail price of $14.99. Published by Krause Publications, a division of F+W Media. Purchase it through by clicking here.

ISBN-13: 978-1-4402-08981-0

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Caroline Ashleigh, antiques authority and author of Warman’s Shoes Field Guide
Caroline Ashleigh, antiques authority and author of Warman’s Shoes Field Guide

Books in Review: Antiques Roadshow Behind the Scenes

Antiques Roadshow Behind the Scenes by Marsha Bemko, Touchstone Books (Simon & Schuster)
Antiques Roadshow Behind the Scenes by Marsha Bemko, Touchstone Books (Simon & Schuster)
Antiques Roadshow Behind the Scenes by Marsha Bemko, Touchstone Books (Simon & Schuster)

NEW YORK (ACNI) – Ever wondered what goes on at an Antiques Roadshow shoot after the cameras stop rolling? Marsha Bemko, executive producer of PBS Television’s No. 1 weekly show, could tell you all about it – and she does, in the newly published soft-cover book titled Antiques Roadshow Behind the Scenes.

Because you’ve taken the time to read this review, it’s safe to say you like antiques. In that case, you’ll find Bemko’s book to be an addictive read. It’s unlike any other antiques-related book you’ll ever come across, if for no other reason because of the author’s privileged and unique perspective. It’s not a price guide, nor is it a long, dreary narrative about things Mom threw out when the writer went off to college. Each chapter is an insider’s view of America’s favorite collector show, peppered with entertaining sidebars and short bursts of colorful commentary. It’s as much about people as it is things.

Marsha relates with obvious relish those tales of the unexpected that occur on the Antiques Roadshow trail – not just the rare and bizarre objects that are depicted and back-storied so skillfully in this book, but also the events, like the time the owner of a lakefront mansion in Hot Springs, Arkansas invited the entire staff, crew and appraisers to her lavish home. “They really rolled out the red carpet. There were fireworks, boat rides, Jet Skis and a private chef,” Bemko quotes associate producer Jill Giles.

And what about those end-of-season wrap parties? Oh, those madcap Roadshow experts – as Season 6 drew to a close in the summer of 2001, some of the appraisers decided to produce a skit that roasted various staff members, including Bemko. One of the show’s most popular appraisers, Noel Barrett (of Noel Barrett Antiques & Auctions in Carversville, Pa.), let down his long, usually pony-tailed hair and donned a beige miniskirt similar to those Bemko was known to wear at the time and spoofed the Roadshow boss. “What unfolded was very funny, but I was so embarrassed I couldn’t watch,” Bemko recalls in the book. The skit went on to include a representation of the actual Holy Grail brought in for appraisal at a mock Roadshow event. The object was dismissed after failing to meet “Bemko’s” stringent standards for on-air presentation.

Bemko delivers the goods with this fresh and insightful memoir that intuitively answers the questions we all wonder about – how do the producers pick the Roadshow cities? What are the most valuable items discovered on Roadshow, and where are they now? What types of items are most likely to be selected for on-air appraisal, and how can I maximize my chances of being chosen?

Bemko’s wit shines through in this book, as does her honesty. A case in point would be her unvarnished explanation of one of very few dark moments in the revered television show’s history – the infamous “watermelon” sword incident. Bemko pulls no punches in her recollection of the episode in which a person identifying himself as “Steve” turned up at a Seattle appraisal in 1997 with a Confederate Civil-War-era sword he claimed to have found in the family attic. He stated that, as a child, he had used the sword to cut a watermelon. Then-Roadshow appraiser George Juno valued the sword at $35,000, to “Steve’s” overwhelming surprise and delight. But it turned out that the whole thing had been a hoax. The watermelon story was an unethical, entirely staged fabrication – but that was a minor concern compared to what would follow. According to the FBI, and as recounted in the book, descendants of Major Samuel J. Wilson, a Union officer in the Civil War, contacted the American Ordnance Preservation Association after viewing the appraisal and realizing the sword was the very one used by their ancestor. Juno and another dealer, Russ Pritchard III (who subsequently went to prison for a string of charges related to deceptive appraisal and resale practices) had previously appraised the sword for them, assessing a value of $8,000 and persuading them to sell the valuable heirloom to them. There is much more to that story, but the bottom line is that Bemko could have glossed this one over or left it out entirely, but she didn’t. She even admits, “The watermelon sword and other incidents really just started out as allegations, and our first instincts were to defend our guys.”

This single quote gets to the heart of what Antiques Roadshow really is, beyond its status as a seven-time Emmy© Award-nominated TV show. It’s a family, and one that intrigues us and makes us proud to be part of the antiques and fine art world.

Antiques Roadshow Behind the Scenes, full color, 182 pages, is a Touchstone Press book published by Simon and Schuster, and retails at $16.99. Purchase it through by clicking here.


Copyright 2010 Auction Central News International. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Books in Review: Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2010

42nd edition of Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide - 2010.
42nd edition of Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide - 2010.
42nd edition of Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide – 2010.

For the past 42 years Terry Kovel has enlightened and informed antique buyers with the incomparable Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide she co-founded with her late husband, Ralph. The new 42nd edition of this indispensable reference, co-authored by Terry’s daughter Kim and published by Black Dog & Leventhal, is an incredible value at $27.95 retail. It retains all of the features we’ve come to rely upon in Kovels’ annual price guide, plus many improvements that keep this title a step ahead of the rest.

As with each successive Kovel’s guide, the book is completely fresh from the ground floor up – you’ll never get a rehash from Terry and Kim, who are known as sticklers for accuracy and detail. We’re operating in a different market than we were 18 months ago. If you’re still relying on a price guide from a few years ago, it’s probably doing your business more harm than good.

The new Kovels edition contains than 47,000 actual retail prices gathered from shops, shows, sales, auctions and the Internet; plus hundreds of factory histories, marks and logos; and expert tips about buying, selling, collecting and preserving your treasures. All of the photos – more than 2,500 – appear in full color, and readers can look forward to more definitions, pattern information, histories and dating clues than ever before. If you’re like me, you’ll love the informational sidebars and comprehensive, computer-generated index.

The user-friendly book is organized into 700 categories that cover a vast range of interests, from pressed glass, pottery and porcelain to furniture, jewelry, photography and sports memorabilia. As useful to the novice collector as it is to the experienced dealer, Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2010 is the book to take to flea markets, garage sales, auctions, antique shops or shows to buy, sell, evaluate and collect with confidence.

Terry Kovel has been a lifelong collector and has written more than 98 books on antiques and collectibles. She also writes the oldest nationally syndicated newspaper column by the original author (Auction Central News is proud to have been the first digital publication to sign up for the column after it went into online syndication.) Kovels’ monthly newsletter has over 60,000 paid subscribers, and a weekly e-zine, Kovels Komments, boasts almost 200,000 subscribers.

Until the fall of 2008, when Terry’s husband, Ralph Kovel, passed away, all Kovel ventures and adventures were the work of this indefatigable husband-and-wife team. Now Terry, who lives in a gracious old house in the Cleveland area, continues to spearhead the Kovels enterprise along with her daughter, Kim.

As one might well expect of the daughter of Terry and Ralph Kovel, Kim Kovel caught the collecting bug as a child. She grew up in a house filled with antiques and traveled regularly to antique shows and flea markets. She manages the Kovels’ Web site and has spent the last 10 years working on the Kovels’ price guides and other Kovel projects. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and her collections in Miami, Florida.

Start the collecting year off right with the book The New York Times calls “the bible of [its] field.” Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2010 (ISBN: 978-1-57912-816-6) retails at $27.95. This is the one you need.

Click here to buy the book through

Audubon’s ‘Birds of America’ was U. of Michigan’s first book

John James Audubon recorded seeing a flock of flamingos for the first time along the coast of southeast Florida on May 7, 1832. He pictured a male flamingo in his book ‘The Birds of America.’ The chromolithograph print based on Audubon’s original drawings was also included in the 1860 Bien Edition of ‘The Birds of America.’ Neal Auction Co., New Orleans, recently sold a nearly complete Bien Edition for $271,999. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.
John James Audubon recorded seeing a flock of flamingos for the first time along the coast of southeast Florida on May 7, 1832. He pictured a male flamingo in his book ‘The Birds of America.’ The chromolithograph print based on Audubon’s original drawings was also included in the 1860 Bien Edition of ‘The Birds of America.’ Neal Auction Co., New Orleans, recently sold a nearly complete Bien Edition for $271,999. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.
John James Audubon recorded seeing a flock of flamingos for the first time along the coast of southeast Florida on May 7, 1832. He pictured a male flamingo in his book ‘The Birds of America.’ The chromolithograph print based on Audubon’s original drawings was also included in the 1860 Bien Edition of ‘The Birds of America.’ Neal Auction Co., New Orleans, recently sold a nearly complete Bien Edition for $271,999. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – Of the 8 million tomes in the University of Michigan library system, one is exalted above all: The Birds of America, from Original Drawings, by John James Audubon.

Other books might be older, more rare or more expensive, but none hold the distinction as the first ever purchased for the university’s library.

The school’s Board of Regents approved the book’s purchase for $970 on Feb. 5, 1838. That was before the university held its first class or constructed its first building.

Less than 125 sets of the “double elephant folio” remain intact, out of the 190 originally printed. Christie’s auction house sold a copy in March 2000 for $8.8 million.

Michigan’s copy of the oversized volume was serving as the cornerstone of the “Treasures of the University Library” exhibit at the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library’s Audubon Room.

The exhibit, which ended recently, was intended as a gateway for scholars and the curious to appreciate the resources available throughout the 30-plus libraries in the university’s network.

The university’s collections also include an early edition manuscript of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, an early edition of the Koran, and a second edition of the Haggadah. A map from the 1695 Haggadah was the first in a Jewish publication to depict Israel.


Information from:,

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP-CS-12-28-09 1127EST

Books in Review: Chairs by Judith Miller

Judith Miller began collecting antiques in the 1960s while a student at Edinburgh University. Since then, she’s become one of the world’s leading experts on antiques. In 1979 she co-founded the international bestseller titled Miller’s Antiques Price Guide, and has since written more than 100 books on antiques-related topics. Judith appears regularly on radio and television, most notably as an appraiser on Britain’s Antiques Roadshow. In the United States she’s appeared on CNN and the Martha Stewart Show, most recently to promote her beautiful new coffee table book about the history of chairs. Keeping it short and sweet, and definitely to the point, the book is called “Chairs.”

Recently Auction Central News had the pleasure of meeting with Judith in Philadelphia. Rather than simply reviewing the book, we decided we’d launch our new Books section by sharing the transcript of our conversation with Judith, as it lends great insight to the subject of chairs and Judith’s approach to writing the book. You may never look at the chairs in your own home quite the same way after you read Judith’s comments about their noble history and importance to design overall.

  1. Judith, you’ve written about every antiques topic under the sun, it seems, but this book is quite a grand effort to be devoting to the single topic of chairs. What inspired you to write this 336-page book about chairs? Chairs are the epitome of the style. They are the most important thing in showing how a style has developed. I’m a single-chair addict myself, and have bought a considerable number of them. When I leave the house to go shopping, my husband says, ‘Now repeat after me – we do not need one more single chair.’
  2. The chairs in your book are organized chronologically, and quite logically, starting with the Egyptians, around 2680 B.C. What can you tell us about how the use of chairs began? Chairs were a tremendous status symbol in Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece. Until medieval times in England, there would be only one chair in a room, and that would be for the person of highest status – the chairman – hence the origin of the word. Even into the 19th century, chairs were for the wealthy. Everyone else would sit on benches or tree trunks, or the floor.
  3. The Egyptian chair that starts off the chronology in your book is quite the production – it’s a fantastic gold chair from King Tut’s Tomb. What were some of the other early civilizations or cultures that used chairs? There are wall paintings, drawings and engravings that show the Chinese had very elaborate chairs. The Japanese did, as well.
  4. Based on the photographs in the timeline presented in your book – and I must say, the photography is quite stunning – it would seem that aesthetics have long been part an important aspect of chair design. Would you agree with that – that functionality and visual appeal have always gone hand in hand in the design of chairs? I think they have. If you were Thomas Chippendale or Sheraton or Hepplewhite, you were in the business of producing commercial products for very wealthy clients who demanded that the chairs be sturdy but also beautiful. For instance, to satisfy his clients, Chippendale would import Italian Damascene silk for the seat covering, which is very expensive.
  5. Who were the important craftsmen who produced chairs in England prior to American Colonial times? We don’t know a tremendous amount about furniture craftsmen in England prior to the 17th century, before the arrival of French Huguenot craftsmen who came to England through Holland. They were silk weavers and carvers, and were very influential.
  6. The chairs of Colonial America were largely crafted by cabinetmakers or other woodworkers who brought their skills across the Atlantic from England or the Continent. How is it that in a geographical area as relatively small as New England that so may disparate styles developed – by that I mean, you could look at an 18th-century Philadelphia chair or a Newport chair or a Portsmouth, New Hampshire chair and identify their region and sometimes their maker. What were the differences in the way chairs were constructed in various cities of the American colonies? This is something I’m fascinated about. I actually did a program at Colonial Williamsburg in which I talked about the many varieties. Craftsmen came to America from Germany, England, Scotland and Scandinavia. They had access to different timbers depending on where they lived and worked. That would affect the style. Also, whom they were making the chairs for was very important. If they were making chairs for someone of German descent, they would take their inspiration from German designs.
  7. Your book includes this insightful quote from Mies van der Rohe – in 1930 he said “A chair is a very difficult object. Everyone who has tried to make one knows that. There are endless possibilities and many problems. The chair has to be light, it has to be strong, it has to be comfortable. It is almost easier to build a skyscraper than a chair. That is why Chippendale is famous.” What is it about Chippendale chairs that puts them in a league of their own? Mies van der Rohe would know which was more difficult, since he did both – he designed a chair and a skyscraper. Every designer wants to make a perfect chair. They’re so much a part of what we do every day. To be known as someone who designed the best chair is something they want to do but which is very difficult to get right. At one time it was even questioned whether we need four legs on a chair. I find the 20th century to be an exciting time for chairs. Being a Scot, I love Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s chairs, but if I were sitting in a tea room on one of his chairs, I wouldn’t stay for long. I would love to have one, though – maybe more as a piece of sculpture than a chair. But regarding Chippendale, I don’t thing he was particularly innovative, but he was brilliant at assimilating ideas – whether Chinese or French Rococo – and making them incredibly elegant. When you see a Chippendale chair from his workshop, they have an elegance and simplicity that makes you gasp.
  8. I laughed at your husband John Wainwright’s comment that your own household could do without another single chair. Do you have a particular obsession for chairs in your home? I mix them up and put them to use in different ways. In the front room there’s a Philippe Starck Lord Yo chair in one corner and an English walnut George I chair in the other corner. I have them around beds as bedside tables, and in the dining room I have eight different chairs around the table. All are from the period 1780-90 but each has a completely different back. Friends who come to dinner have favorite chairs – it encourages them to talk about chairs. I think we can get too interested in sets of everything.
  9. LiveAuctioneers is a wonderful source for buying chairs through auction houses like Millea Bros., Treadway, Rago Arts or the Chicago auction house Wright, to name but a few. We all know that investment should never be the primary or sole reason for purchasing antiques or contemporary art of any type, but there’s no denying that the work of some contemporary artists is more likely to appreciate in value than others. I’ll give you a few names, and please comment on them:
  10. Ron Arad – He’s someone who was way before his time in reusing objects and giving them a second life. Ron Arad is a visionary.

    Julia Krantz – I had never heard of her before I saw one of her amazing chairs in a shop on Franklin Street in New York. She stack-laminates wood, smoothes it, and lets the lines flow. She’s an incredible designer.

    Marc Newson – Marc Newson is an amazing designer, so inspired. He sees design in everything and has designed things as simple as a napkin holder and as major as the insides of an aircraft. Finding a Marc Newson chair to feature in the book was very difficult. They sell for an enormous amount of money.

    Philippe Starck – People have tried to denounce Philippe Starck for being commercial, and he says, ‘Of course I’m commercial.’ He’s very clear about where his inspiration comes from. His designs are in hotels all over the world. Whoever said designers should not be commercial?

    Wendell Castle – I’m beside myself with admiration for Wendell Castle. Some designers get into a set way of designing a chair, but he’ll put wood with leather, or use plastics or stainless steel. Every one of his chairs is different.

  11. This takes us to your ‘desert island’ chair. Let’s suppose Judith Miller is marooned on a desert island. Which chair does she take with her? That’s so, so unfair. It’s like choosing between your children. I might be tempted to choose a great design like Wendell Castle’s Nirvana chair, but I think it would probably have to be my George I walnut chair because to me it has so many fantastic associations. My chairs are scrapbooks of my life, and that chair has been with me through happy and sad times.

The author is Judith Miller, and the book is called Chairs, published by Conran/Octopus Books USA. Retail price: $65. Click here to purchase it through

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Click here to purchase Chairs.


Author Judith Miller.
Author Judith Miller.