Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hand Painted Works of Art

by Miriam Randazzo

I recently had a one of my auction listings ended early by a large online auction company, not just once, but twice!  The reviewer reasoned that the item I had listed was a duplicate; identical to another I had listed and in serious defiance of their duplicate policy.  The merchandise in question was this beautiful, hand painted Limoges cup and saucer. 


The whiteware blank with swirl design was manufactured by Charles Field Haviland of Limoges, France, and the decoration, hand painted by a china painter during the late 1800s to early 1900s. 

Had the reviewer been keen enough to catch the word, "hand painted," he would have, or at least should have realized, that any hand painted item, cup and saucer set included, is a true one of a kind.  Every brush stroke individually made by a human hand is no different than an autograph, similar, but never a duplicate. 

I sat perplexed; clearly the reviewer was a Limoges novice and just didn't understand that this work of art was not a mass produced dish identical to hundreds, thousands or millions just like it.  Clearly, the reviewer didn't understand the basics difference between "hand painted" and "transfer" decoration. 


Close inspection of any hand painted porcelain ware will reveal that the texture and technique with which the paint is applied is individual and varied.  A good painter, even a master, can  replicate their painting but will never duplicate their work.  

To the novice and visually challenged, It can be quite difficult to ascertain brush strokes with a naked eye.  You should inspect all items in bright natural light with a high powered loupe or magnifier for assistance.  As you look closely at a piece of hand painted porcelain, you will see a variety brush strokes with sometimes obvious and other times subtle thickness or texture variations, made as the paint brush was pushed or pulled along the porcelain surface.  Every petal and every leaf of a painted flower was made with at least one brush stroke, often several; and every petal and leaf is unique. 

You may find it helpful to browse through some "How to Paint" books.  By identifying how certain flowers are painted, you can more readily identify the brush stroke technique on a piece of porcelain.  These books can be found at most craft stores and are generally categorized according to subject: flowers, trees, animals, etc.


Not all French porcelain was hand painted during the Victorian and Edwardian Eras, in fact, most was not.  Factories that wished to mass produce their dishes used "Decalomania," a method of applying or affixing printed decorations to a porcelain ware.  Under magnification, you will notice a dot matrix look to the design, similar to newspaper print but a much better quality.  Sometimes, if the decal bunched together during application, you'll find a clump of color that can be confused with a brush stroke, so  be sure to carefully inspect the whole decoration. 


This process of identifying hand painted wares verses transfer wares does take practice, but there is one major clue to identifying a painted piece of porcelain.  Like an artist signs his paintings, so did china painters.  Although not all are signed, many are.  This particular example is artist signed on the underside of the cup and saucer initials, "R.W."   

One of the best places to learn the difference between hand painted porcelain and transfer decorated wares is at an antique shop where a dealer specializes in antique dishes.  Most dealers will gladly help you differentiate. 

As for this beautiful, antique Limoges, porcelain cup and saucer, I give up.  I'm not fighting to re-list it a third time only to have some antique porcelain illiterate cancel it again. So if you'd like to buy it, it's only $24.99 plus shipping and insurance.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2011 Wayne County Antique Show

by Miriam Randazzo

It's that time of year again; time for the 47th Annual Wayne County Antique Show and Sale.  Over fifty antique dealers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York will display their wares on Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12 from 10 AM to 5 PM and 11 AM to 4 PM respectively.

We at Tillie's Antiques and Trinkets will feature some outstanding early to mid 19th century books discussing the American Revolution, Native American Indians, Sullivan's Campaign and Luzerne County history.  We'll have antique glassware, porcelain, military pins, jewelry, silver, and so much more.

The sale is located at the Wayne Highlands Middle School, located on Upper Grove Street, in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. 

Please stop by our booth, in the main room. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Antique Haviland Limoges Egg Dish

During the late 1800s, Victorian elite adorned their dining table with some of the most elaborate and unusual porcelain oddities imaginable. I've shown several examples over the past few months, including chocolate pots and turtle soup bowls, but there are so many more so explore. Take for example, this pretty little plate:

This porcelain oddity was manufactured and decorated by Charles Field Haviland of Limoges, France, during the late 1890s. The gently ruffled edge is adorned six, individually-applied, oval egg holders. The plate is decorated with hand painted violets with transfer outlines; the edges burnished with gold. The dish was used for serving deviled eggs, the spicy stuffed savory we still enjoy today.

Egg dishes like the one shown above are available in today's market, but they are not an easy find. If you are looking to buy a similar dish, expect to pay between $150 and $250.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bloomsburg Spring 2011 Antique Show Postponed!

Due to the rising Susquehanna River, the Bloomsburg Antique Show has been postponed until Saturday and Sunday, March 26th & 27th. The hours remain the same from 10 AM to 5 PM on Saturday and from 11 AM to 4 PM on Sunday. Any coupon you may have will be honored.

We've packed some great new merchandise including hand drawn Luzerne County maps, coffee grinders, costume jewelry, Wedgwood bone china, atlases, a great early 19th century oak umbrella stand and so much more.

Be sure to mark your calendars.

We're looking forward to seeing you again!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gold and Silver Sellers Beware!

I was speaking with a client who attended an event, at a local hotel, where out-of-towners were offering to buy your gold and silver. She only had silver to sell, and was offered $7.00 per ounce!

Take a look at silver prices today: $33.38 per ounce. Now sterling silver is 92.5% silver, and a dealer will pay you less than market value, but don't get ripped off. Reputable silver dealers are paying up to 75 and 90% of silver value.

Don't be afraid to sell, just be cautious and educated.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Was Outdated is New Again!

by Miriam Randazzo

We recently held a Mid-Century and Retro Auction at the auction gallery where I work. The auction was filled with over 200 lots of merchandise from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, including 1970s psychedelic polyester shirts, life sized robots, Herman Miller bent wood chairs, and 1960s movie posters and lobby cards.

The auction screamed, "Funky Retro!" and was the first time we conducted a specialty auction of this sort. Truth be told, we questioned whether or not the auction would fly here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where change is something people like in their pocket and avoid in all other facets of life.

As it turned out, the crowd was big, the bidding swift and the results super!

The highlight of the evening was a 1980s life sized robot that sold for $1100, including buyer's premium. The robot, zoomed and spun about the gallery, bringing us a grinning, laughing audience. Is there anything more pleasing?

Its good to reinvent your business, every now and then. It brings a renewed curiosity from past customers, excitement from a new clientele, and a staff satisfaction second to none. You may have to endure a few remarks in exchange, but it is definitely worth it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Antique Appraisal Tea at the Stegmaier Mansion

How exciting! An afternoon tea and antique appraisal set at the Stegmaier Mansion in downtown Wilkes-Barre! If you haven't had the opportunity to visit this extraordinary Victorian delight, let me encourage you!

Mr. Joe Matteo, owner of the bed and breakfast, painstakingly restored the 19th century building, previously owned by Frederick Stegmaier, whose family owned and operated the the Stegmaier Brewing Company. The building dates back to the 1870s, and from its detailed entry foyer to opulent dining room, is Victorian splendor at its finest.

Hostess for the afternoon will be the always entertaining, Ms. Lisa Griffiths-Lewis, a professional Victorian Era living history actress. Ms. Griffiths-Lewis is the owner of Victoriana Lady, a traveling museum of Victorian clothing and accessories.

Food will be prepared by award-winning executive chef, Mr. Jody Klocko, who's food and presentation is second to none.

Antique appraisals will be conducted by Miriam Randazzo, owner of Tillie's Antiques & Trinkets. Mrs. Randazzo has been engaged in the antique industry for over fifteen years and completed appraisal training with the Institute of Appraisal of Personal Property, in 2003. She conducts estate sales in the Luzerne county area and displays at a variety of notable antique shows in the state of Pennsylvania. She also works as a research and technical analyst and appraiser for Cook and Cook Auctions of Plains, PA and as an auction consultant with White Rose Auctions of Boiling Springs, PA.

For reservations, please contact Lisa Lewis, The Victoriana Lady, at 570.655.8392 or at

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day Cards

of the

Late 1800s and Early 1900s

by Miriam Randazzo

Valentine's Day greetings have been exchanged for hundreds of years, beginning as hand written notes and gradually giving way to printed cards, during the early 1800s. By the mid 1800s, Valentine's Day cards were mass produced and exchanged in much greater numbers. Some of the prettiest antique, Valentine's Day cards date to the Victorian Era, are die cut and made in Germany.

Three dimensional Valentine's Day cards from the Victorian Era were quite popular for their beautiful colors and design detail. The cardboard die cut designs opened from a flat greeting to a three dimensional shape, like the one shown to the left. Some of the Valentine's Day cards combined cardboard with tissue paper. It is the three dimensional cards that remain most popular among collectors today.

Not all Victorian Valentine's Day cards were three dimensional, some were simpler flat cards, like the German dog example shown to the right. This example is also die cut.

Another popular style of Valentine's Day greetings was the postcard. Postcards were sent in mass quantities during the late 1800s and early 1900s and can still be found in abundance at most antique shows and shops. Richly adorned with embossed roses, cherubs, doves, hearts and arrows, these cards epitomize romance.

Although the message wasn't private, postcards did have the advantage of being less expensive to purchase and to mail.

The most popular Valentine's Day postcards include those made in Germany and those that are artist signed. Many collectors decorate their homes for the holiday with these pretty antique postcards. They are simply works of art.

As the Victorian Era ended, the style of Valentine's Day cards became simpler, but remained aesthetically pleasing, even by contemporary standards.

As the 1920s approached, mechanical cards surged in popularity. Notice how the young girl's eyes move and the swing moves back and forth on the card below.

For a period of time during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the value of antique Valentine's increased dramatically, due to an increased demand and limited local availability. With the introduction of the online market place, availability increased and prices dropped significantly. Lucky for today's collectors, antique Valentine's Day cards can be readily found and for a reasonable price.

If you decide to collect antique Valentine's Day cards, recognize their fragile nature and always ask a dealer for permission to open a card or work a mechanical card. Inspect cards for tiny tears, spotting and paper break down.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Victorian Dining
by Miriam R. Randazzo

During the Victorian Era, society's elite filled their dining tables with beautiful porcelain dishes and serving implements. Nine course meals ranging from soup and savory ramekins to sorbet intermezzos and desserts, were elaborately served to impress guests.

Oysters were served on oyster plates; eggs, served on egg dishes; and cocoa poured from chocolate pots. Perhaps the most unusual porcelain oddity I've discovered from this time period is the soup bowl shown here.

Made in France, this Limoges dish was manufactured and decorated by the Charles Field Haviland, makers and purveyors of some of the prettiest porcelain dinnerware used during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The soup bowl is non-traditional in form, which at first glance could easily be overlooked.

Careful inspection of the bowl's rim reveals the head, tail and four legs of turtle. Fascinatingly enough, the dish was designed for serving of all things, turtle soup!

Collectors of porcelain rarities search for these strange little oddities and it my pleasure to present this one for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Victorian Chocolate Pots

Melt chocolate shavings into piping hot milk with a bit of sugar to create that delectable drink we all love on a cold winter’s day, cocoa. During the Victorian Era, this sweet smoothness was served from a special pot designed specifically for pouring cocoa. The pot, called a chocolate or cocoa pot, was typically made of porcelain and often decorated with roses or other floral arrangements.

The pot stood about ten to twelve inches tall and could be purchased in slender and bulbous shapes. The most defining feature of the chocolate pot would be its short spout, wider where it attaches to the body of the pot and narrower at the pouring lip. This design feature allowed the cocoa to flow more readily from the pot, in the event that the chocolate hadn’t completely melted. Porcelain manufacturers knew their job required the making of a design not only a beautiful in form, but also function.

The short spout design helped to made washing the pot an easier chore too. Imagine congealed cocoa adhering along the sides of a long narrow spout, the type we usually associate with a coffee or tea pot. The short spout of a chocolate pot made cleaning a breeze!

Some of the most beautiful examples of antique chocolate pots include those made in Prussia, Germany and France. I’ve included a few examples for your review.

If you decide to buy an old chocolate pot, be aware that reproductions have flooded the market. Before you buy, be sure to know your merchandise and know your dealer.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How to Liquidate an Estate, Simplified

Deciding how to liquidate your personal or family member’s estate can quickly become an overwhelming experience. With so many decisions to make and so many people often advising you, the choices can become limitless and quite confusing. What should I keep? What should I give away? What should I sell and to whom should I sell it? What is a tag sale? What is an antique? What is valuable? Who can I trust to help me? Your questions and concerns can seem endless. The best place to start is by breaking the overwhelming task into smaller, more manageable pieces. As with any decision making process, take your time and consider your options in a well thought out manner. Below is a list steps and recommendations to help you with the process. Step 1: EVALUATING THE CONTENTS Begin the process of liquidating an estate by evaluating the contents of the home. It is important to prepare yourself for questions a buyer and/or professional estate liquidator may ask you. Spend some time exploring and assessing the estate contents. Try not to focus on how much there is to do or how in the world you are going to take care of it all, just get a basic feel for what you have. Be able to answer some simple questions, to the best of your ability. How old is the estate? Do most of the belongings look relatively new, bought or acquired between the 1990s and early 2000s? Are things really old, so old that you couldn’t begin to guess when they were from? Are you looking at a mid-century estate with items that look like they belong in a 1950’s I Love Lucy show or a retro era estate, that looks more like 1970’s Brady Bunch episode? Do you have a combination of eras represented in the home? How big or small is the estate? When you sell a house, the number of rooms, including attic, basement, garage and storage space are important to the buyer. When you are planning to liquate an estate, it is important to know how many furnished and storage rooms will need to be emptied. Be able to tell a professional, “I am looking to liquidate an estate that consists of about eight furnished rooms, a large attic and small basement.” Does the property contain any special collections? Many people have a collection or two of some sort. A collection may can be of a more typical variety, like coins, antiques, jewelry, stamps, teacups or baseball cards. A collection may, however, be bit more unusual like fishing tackle, 1950’s kitchenware, vintage handkerchiefs or handbags. It may consist of a modest number of paintings, pocket watches or vintage radios; or an extensive collection of baseball cards, Christmas ornaments or silver spoons. Be able to tell a professional what types of collections are included in the estate.   What should you throw away while you are evaluating the contents? Most experts will tell you to throw nothing away, until a professional advises you otherwise. We’ve all watched the television programs showing the appraisal of an item of excessive value that was picked out of the trash. Don’t be that person who tossed out a priceless treasure. If you feel you must throw something away, limit yourself to the tossing away open food stuffs that you find in the refrigerator, breadbox and cupboards. That’s all. Nothing more.   Step 2: ORGANIZING IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS, PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMENTOS While you are exploring the home, you may come across important documents, photographs, letters and family mementos. Place these items aside, ideally in containers appropriately marked. You don’t have to divide and conquer every letter and photograph at this time, just organize things into more manageable groups. Box similar things together and most importantly label the boxes with the items contained within, like “photographs” or “bank statements.” Step 3: CONTACTING PROFESSIONALS You hire a doctor to cure your ills and a mechanic to fix your car; hiring a professional to liquidate your estate should get the job done in the most efficient manner possible. Talk with friends, family, colleagues, perhaps a real estate agent; ask them for names of reputable estate liquidation companies, auctioneers or tag sale consultants. Check your local yellow pages for names. Professional estate liquidators fall under several different categories in the yellow pages section of your phone book, including "Antique Dealers," "Auctioneers," "Estate Liquidators," and "Estate Sales." A professional estate liquidator will evaluate, organize, research, advertise and provide the necessary staff; they will directly purchase or sell the contents of the estate and provide you with payment for the items sold. Which should you choose? The one that best suits your needs. An auctioneer is a professional, licensed by your state to sell items to the highest bidder at auction. The auctioneer should be knowledgeable about antiques, general household goods and special collections. He may transport the estate contents to his auction house or conduct the auction on-site, which means on your property. An antique dealer is an individual who specializes in the buying and selling antiques, although many expand into the vintage and collectible markets. Some antique dealers conduct estate sales. An estate or tag sale consultant is an individual who conducts on-premise, one, two or three day sales, where each item is individually priced at a fixed amount and sold to customers who attend the sale. There are pros and cons to utilizing the services of each of the aforementioned professionals. At auction, you do not control the price. Bidding may bring the price of an item much higher or lower than you’d prefer. At a tag sale, however, you may affix a fair price on a valuable item that may not sell. If you sell to an antique dealer, she may wish to buy only certain items, leaving you with the most of the household contents to deal with. Be aware that the professionals you contact will advise you of the benefits of selecting their service while quoting the disadvantages of a different method of estate liquidation. Plan to listen to the lists of pros and cons, and consider how they may impact your unique situation. Now it is time to select three or four companies and schedule appointments with their representative. If time permits, schedule these appointments on different days. Expect the appointment to last between an hour or two.   STEP 4: INTERVIEWING THE PROFESSIONALS Prepare a list of questions or concerns you wish to address and be certain to have paper and pens available for note taking. Jotting down information and observations during each of the interviews will assist you in keeping your opinions and evaluations clear. When a candidate arrives, you should first give him a tour of the estate. Encourage the him to open cupboards, drawers and closets. Don’t feel embarrassed if a room is messy or dirty. Estate liquidators have seen it all; dust, dirt and grime are part of the job. Ask each professional what services they will provide for you. State your expectations. Ideally the companies you contact will take care of all you estate liquidation needs from set up, through trash removal. If this is you objective, be sure to state you expectations up front. If you expect the property to be broom swept and empty, let it be known.

You should ask if the liquidator if she is certified or licensed. Ask about prior education and past experience. How many years has she been working in this line of business. Ask for references. You can ask about insurance, but realize that an insured professional protects the professional against claims. An insured professional does not protect you against injuries sustained on the estate property during a sale. Only an owner can get insurance for their real estate property. Most estate liquidators work on a commission basis, ask what your commission rate will be. Rates tend to run between 25% and 35%, depending on the work involved and the value of the contents. Ask about advertising. Where will the items or sale be advertised and who is responsible for the costs. If you are responsible for the advertising fees, ask for an estimate. Do not commit selling anything to the first person who walks in the door. Be wary of an individual who wants to cherry pick through the estate, selecting only the most interesting and often valuable items. Stand your ground. Complete your interviews first. Step 5: SELECTING A PROFESSIONAL: Subsequent to the interview process, review your notes. Which candidate best meets your needs and objectives. Your gut may already be telling you, but reviewing your notes will help confirm your decision. Write a list of pros and cons related to each candidate and their estate liquidation method. Carefully review these lists, make your decision. You may decide to utilize the services of two or more individuals. Only you will know what is best for you, as every situation is different. FINAL DISCUSSION: When you have made your decision, follow through with a phone call. Be sure to tell the candidate you chose that you appreciate their help and are always available for questions or concerns. This simple courtesy will help facilitate a good business relationship. In future blogs, we will discuss in further detail the various estate liquidation processes from tag sale to auction, with the goal of making the businesses a bit less intimidating to the novice. Thanks for reading!