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Antiques Art and Beauty Bizarrities

State of the Antique Business (in Hawaii)

For the past score of years, I’ve made antiques and collectibles a significant part of how I pay for my family’s right to live. Obviously, if we don’t pay, we become homeless, we suffer disease and the elements, and we die – so, like almost all Americans not endowed with generational wealth, we are forced to pay to live.

In 2013 when I started doing this (in Oregon) the business was good. There were plenty of buyers for just about every category and sellers were generally clueless about one or more categories so it was common to go to estate sales or garage sales and find things like old military gear, boomboxes, early video games, or even high value art, electronics, music, or books priced so that you could earn ten/twenty/one hundred/ or even a thousand times your cost – overnight. Ebay was in decline from the glory days of the 90s and oo’s, but it was still relatively free of scammers.

It felt like the business was changing though – decorative objects, furniture, and historical pieces began to sit on the shelves of my shop for longer and longer. Customers became pickier and pickier – which is a good thing for customers and a bad thing for dealers.

In 2017, I sold my shop and moved my family to Hawaii – I brought the best of my inventory with me – thinking to open a shop, rent an antique mall space, or sell at shows. The rents were too expensive, there are no antique malls to speak of, and for the past three years, I’ve been selling my inventory at shows, swap meets, and online. I brought a lot of stuff with me – quality items that would have sold in my shop for decent prices.

In Hawaii, I’ve lowered and lowered the prices until they are the prices I used to charge for junk. Then, in frustration, I’ve donated a lot of stuff to the charity shops. The things I’ve kept, many of which I’ve tried to sell – simply won’t sell for any sort of reasonable price – not even a hundred dollar bill. I’m talking about carved black forest ink wells, art glass from Italy, palace keys from Morocco, signed first editions by known authors, quality costume jewelry, and vintage toys in their boxes. People like them, but only at a price where they can quadruple (or more) their investment by selling on Ebay.

At this point, I’m happy to say – I’ve gotten rid of all the junk and much of the mid-range stuff. I’ve sold a couple of pieces for prices that I know were significantly lower than I should have – but they were big, heavy, or simply not my style.

Here is what I’ve learned about the antique and collectible business in Hawaii in 2020.

1) Gold, silver, jade, and luxury items will sell – but only at 10-15% less than you could get on Ebay.

2) You are more likely to get a buyer for a used shirt, a used toaster, a set of kids bed sheets, or some tools than for even the best glass, paintings, carvings, or ceramic pieces.

3) Japanese arts don’t do well in Hawaii -unless it is on the high end of swords, militaria, or older period items.

4) Ivory still commands a premium here. I don’t buy it but I watch others sell it and buy it – I just don’t get it.

5) American coins and military items sell well.

6) Baseball cards (and other sport cards) have made a comeback. Spiderman is still the king of comics – most comics sell for less than a dollar if they sell at all.

7) Good luck selling furniture anywhere besides Facebook or Craigslist.

8) People will buy those little Pops bobble head dolls – but to make money you have to find them very cheap somewhere else

9) If a knife says ‘Made in China’ people just won’t buy it – no matter how good – unless it is below $10.

10) There was a brief period when original Nintendo games and consoles were commanding a premium and could be bought for a song – those days are gone. You can still make some money if you can buy them low enough, but they get snatched up quickly and at garage sales I commonly hear “Do you have any gold, silver, old video games, or watches?”

11) Watches are also a fairly done category except for the very top end. Rolex, Omega, etc.

12) Records seem to have had their moment of resurgence which now has passed. Like everything, the top is still there, but the middle has moved to the bottom. Same for fountain pens, ink wells, pottery, paintings, books, etc.

13) On the mainland – vintage, shabby chiq, and mid-century modern were  popping from 2013-2017 – pyrex, old kitchen stuff, rusty signs, farm tools – all of that stuff was gold. I think that moment may have passed – but in Hawaii, it never really came – it’s almost impossible to sell a nested set of primary color Pyrex mixing bowls for more than $20 in Hawaii.

14) Here in Hawaii – the shows are more about people selling very valuable small things from cases than anything else. The sellers doing a brisk business are selling gold, silver, coins, paper money, high end sports cards, jade, gems, and rare bottles.

15) Hawaii dealers are among the cheapest anywhere in terms of how much they will pay and then how much they will charge. This can yield funny results as this story illustrates.

 

A year ago, I bought a storage locker and found a whole bunch of radio tubes. I sold most of them on Ebay but some just wouldn’t sell despite being cool and potentially valuable. I took those to the swap meet and sold them to a dealer who was from the same town that I bought the locker in! He took them back to that town and sold them to another dealer (for a much higher price). Yesterday, I saw those tubes in a showcase at the collectors Expo and the price blew my mind – that’s when I found how much that dealer had paid when buying them from the dealer I sold them to. Later, I noticed they were gone, he had sold them to yet another dealer for an even higher price – and I suppose that will continue until some dealer dies and loses his storage locker…

 

It reminds me of the old joke. Two antique dealers are shipwrecked on an island – their friend, also a dealer searches for years to find them and discovers them living alone on the isolated island. His first question “How’s business?” The two castaways instantly reply “Never better. ” And so it goes….

I believe I”m done with this business for now. I’ve got a few odds and ends I’ll sell – but who am I kidding – I’ll be right there, back at the next show – hoping the tide has turned.

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America Art and Beauty Machinations of Power Politics r(evolution) terror suspects

Bravo! A Spectacular Performance by Hannah Roemhild – Operatic Virtuoso by Oscar Wallace

Hannah RoemhildWe would love to congratulate Hannah Roemhild on a spectacular operatic performance yesterday at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida (There is a marker on the Iwahai Map at Mar a Lago where you can hear a bit about this property). Ms. Roemhild showed great courage and a remarkable resilience as she was hailed with bullets from police and secret service agents. Her ‘Dance Atop the SUV’ was perhaps the most memorable moment of the night but the repeated and surprising power of ‘Smashing the Checkpoints’ left everyone stunned. Prior to the finale, she drove the utterly smashed and bullet scarred SUV to the airport where she showed that a daughter’s duty to her mother is more powerful than ugly nationalist acts – she picked up her mother at the airport before the drama finished. Her powerful performance ended with a show stopping rendition of ‘Surrender at the Inn’ that literally brought down the law.

For those who are unfamiliar – Ms. Roemhild is a the founding genius behind ‘Hannah Supranah’ and is rumored to have studied radical philosophy with Oscar Wallace at Western Connecticut University.

Personally, we find it funny that the media is talking about her big anti-Trump stance based on two social media posts from 2017 – one of which simply said “Not my President” and another that showed that remarkably, Donald Trump looks very similar to Donald Duck upside down. Personally, we also think that dancing on top of an SUV should not be a crime and that smashing a civilian’s car window should not be acceptable action from police unless there is a clear and present danger.

Frankly, this looks like the start of pogroms designed to dis-empower, imprison, and limit the liberty of critics of the antichrist.
You heard it here first.

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Art and Beauty Bizarrities

Turkish Copperwork from the Ottoman Empire

These Ottoman Empire copper pieces were hand hammered by skilled craftsmen to tell stories and evoke emotion.

Turkish Copper

Large and ornamental but made for use, this ewer, pitcher, and urn have stories to tell and speak loudly when you enter a room.

 

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Art and Beauty Bizarrities

Marshland Meadow by L. Regalski – Oil on Canvas

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This painting is both compelling and detailed and transports the viewer to the destination when one looks at it. This painting is masterful and relatively modern by L. Regalski.

 

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Art and Beauty Bizarrities

Oil on Canvas Painting of Mill by R. Popping – 1942

R. Popping Oil Painting of Mill

This painting was done at the height of the Nazi regime during World War II, it’s stark industrial lines are in sharp contrast to the earth tones and pastoral imagery, and yet, when one looks at the long shadows of the trees and the orderly progression of the painting from left to right, symbology becomes clear. Little is known of the artist but his work has sold in major auctions at top auction houses.

 

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Art and Beauty Bizarrities

William Tell’s Dilemma by Gustav Hauser

Gustav Hauser was a little known artist and political conspirator in Switzerland who worked hard with the socialist party to bring about constitutional change and end the proto-fascist rule of the Radical Party in the 1870s and the obstructionist tearing apart of Swiss democracy prior to 1891. This painting, attributed to him, was representative of his work – overtly political with the flame of the candle representing Swiss democracy and the apple harking back to the tale of William Tell, the Swiss hero who overthrew a tyrant. The painting was presented to Captain Preston L. Vapoor by Hauser’s daughter in San Francisco, CA. Hauser died a debtor in a Swiss prison in 1907 after seeing his dream realized. While a great political visionary, he was a lousy capitalist.

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William Tell’s Dilemma by Gustav Hauser

 

The legend as told by Tschudi (ca. 1570) essentially follows the account in the White Book, but adds further detail, such as Tell’s given name Wilhelm, his being from Bürglen, and the precise date of the apple-shot of 18 November 1307.

William Tell was known as a strong man, a mountain climber, and an expert shot with the crossbow. In his time, the Habsburg emperors of Austria were seeking to dominate Uri, and Tell became one of the conspirators of Werner Stauffacher, vowing to resist Habsburg rule. Gessler, the newly appointed Austrian Vogt of Altdorf, raised a pole under the village lindentree, hung his hat on top of it, and demanded that all the townsfolk bow before the hat.

On 18 November 1307, Tell visited Altdorf with his young son and passed by the hat, publicly refusing to bow to it, and was arrested. Gessler—intrigued by Tell’s famed marksmanship but resentful of his defiance—devised a cruel punishment. Tell and his son were to be executed. However, he could redeem his life by shooting an apple off of his son, Robert’s head in a single attempt. Tell split the apple with a bolt from his crossbow.

Gessler then noticed that Tell had removed two crossbow bolts from his quiver. Before releasing him, he asked why. Tell was reluctant to answer, but after Gessler promised he would not kill him, he replied that if he had killed his son, he would have killed Gessler with the second bolt. Gessler was furious and ordered Tell to be bound, saying that he had promised to spare his life, but instead would imprison him for the remainder of his life.

Tell was brought to Gessler’s boat to be taken to the dungeon in the castle at Küssnacht. A storm broke on Lake Lucerne, and the guards were afraid that their boat would sink. They begged Gessler to remove Tell’s shackles so he could take the helm and save them. Gessler gave in and Tell leapt from the boat at the rocky site, already known in the “White Book” as the “Tellsplatte” (“Tell’s slab”). Since the 16th century the site has been marked by a memorial chapel.

Tell ran cross-country to Küssnacht. As Gessler arrived, Tell assassinated him with the second crossbow bolt along a stretch of the road cut through the rock between Immensee and Küssnacht, now known as the Hohle Gasse. Tell’s blow for liberty sparked a rebellion in which he played a leading part, leading to the formation of the Old Swiss Confederacy.

 

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Art and Beauty

Buy My Art!

This is your chance to own an original oil painting by me. Chances are that I will never be a famous artist or famous anything else – but maybe you like my style, maybe you like my art. These are available for sale. One of my goals this year is to sell a piece of my art to someone who likes it – and isn’t related to me and so possibly inclined to look on bad work favorably. Maybe these aren’t the paintings that will sell – but I will keep trying. These are all oil on board – which is new to me.

1) MonaLisa Simpson

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2) The Fool SOLD
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3) Hot Virgin Mary sold

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4) The Scarlet Letters sold

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5) Rising Spider Sun sold
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6) Poof Room SOLD
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7) The Dictator Strong Man sold

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8) Doc Bugeyes sold

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Antiques Art and Beauty

Selling My Special Finds Here

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It’s funny that it’s taken me this long to come to this decision – but finally, here it is. I’ve decided to start selling those things I consider special finds – here – on my personal website.

I’ve had an antique shop for years now and been selling on Ebay, through auction houses like Bonhams, Sothebys, and Skinner and at flea markets and antique shows – and for some reason – I’ve been hesitant to sell here. No more.

I will be listing art, ethnographic, toys, advertising, books, and more here. I hope you enjoy these things as much as I do – at the very least – this creates a record of some of the beautiful, interesting, and bizarre items I enjoy the most.

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Antiques Art and Beauty

Japanese Statuary – Hakata Urasaki – Beautiful Japanese Life

 

History of Hakata Urasaki

One of the first items we’ve featured in our brick and mortar art and antique shop is a wonderful collection of Hakata Urasaki figures. These figures vary in size but most of the one’s we have are 8-10 inches tall. The porcelain figures are known for their exquisite details – in particular when it comes to capturing facial details and the minutia of Japanese life.

I should point out right away that there is a distinct difference between a Hakata figure and a Hakata Urasaki. It is helpful to know the history of both.  The original Hakata dolls date back to the late 1500s in Fukuoka Prefecture on Kyoshu. A lord was having a castle built and noticed a worker constructing figures from clay. The sculptor, Sohichi,  was so skilled that he was immediately patronized by the lord and passed his skills and trade secrets on to the next six generations. The secrets died in the mid 1850’s with his final heir.

Hakat Dolls Washable

It wasn’t until 1885 that artisans in Hakata took up the art and displayed their work at a national exhibition. This is where the dolls came to be known as Hakata. The figures became internationally known at the Paris Exposition of 1900. Hakata are earthenware and each is hand painted.  They are delicate and as a result, not many true Hakata have survived.

Hakata Urasaki Dolls

In post WWII Japan, there was a revival of Hakata dolls, mainly as souvenir’s for US troops.  In the 1950s during the Korean conflict, a doll making firm was contracted by the US Exchanges to produce a special line of Hakata dolls, called Hakata Urasaki, after the name of the firm making them, the Urasaki doll store. Hakata Urasaki were painted with a waterproofing coat which allowed them to be washed. These were produced only during the 1950s and only for the exchanges and US Servicemen. The dolls were not as brightly colored as the original Hakata dolls and were not desirable to Japanese consumers and so they were discontinued when the bulk of US troops left.

A special note about these dolls – even thought the labels say they are washable, the washable surface has long worn away with age – these should never be washed with water, only dusted with a dry cloth.

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Antiques Art and Beauty

Our New Venture – A Vagabond Antique and Art Shop – Brick and Mortar!

Coming back to the USA was difficult for me. I want the best opportunities for my daughter in terms of health and education and since I can’t move my family to Canada, France, or the UK – it made sense for us to move back to my home country. Coming to the USA has been difficult for my wife – but she is resilient and adapting well.

Marley Horses
Marley Horses from the Fouria Estate

One of the big problems for both of us was that of finding work – much to my surprise, nearly a year on and I find myself doing the same work that was supporting us in Morocco and Turkey (blogging) but in a much more expensive country. Over the past few years, it seems that Google and the FCC really have it in for independent bloggers and they’ve systematically made it harder and harder to earn a buck web logging – and yet – here we are. Still going.

We wouldn’t have made it without a second income – one that has always been a sort of second nature to me – picking. From the time we arrived in the USA we’ve been cruising estate sales, thrift shops, antique shops, and garage sales and grabbing overlooked treasure – then reselling it on eBay. It’s made the difference in making rent and putting gas in our tanks. Picking is a lifetime skill and I enjoy it.

A series of rather lucky events led to me putting my skills to work when a high school friend lost his parents. He needed to have a series of estate sales and didn’t have any ideas about how to run them or price things, research things, or set it up. This was like graduate school for me – suddenly, I was faced with the valuable horde of three generations of art lovers – depression glass, cast brass sculptures, paintings, French furniture, Italian art glass, Turkish brass, Japanese lacquerware, antique wood working tools, paintings and the list goes on and on.

Vagabond Antiques and Art
Our humble beginnings

Over last summer we turned what probably would have been fairly good garage sales into highly profitable estate sales – and – we cleared out a huge amount of day to day stuff in the process. I discovered my sales skills are good enough to sell three cords of firewood for a profit in 115 degree summer weather and during the countless hours of digging on the internet and in antique books – I learned about everything from Bohemian glass to Hummel figurines to vintage fishing gear and old oil cans.

Our first two sales were focused on the less than extraordinary stuff – which, in point of fact, was really extraordinary when compared with most stuff you see at sales, but not so extraordinary as the stuff we didnt’ sell. There is still all the French furniture, the Japanese wood block prints, the Victorian decorative items and more…and a truck load of smaller brick-a-brack of great beauty and moderate worth. The big success was that we cleared out enough stuff so my friends could deal with it and we didn’t accidentally give away any great treasures. We knew what we were selling and we got fair prices for it.

After the estate sales, my wife and my picking became much better. With the knowledge we’d earned, we could go to estate and garage sales – even those that had already been professionally picked – and find the extraordinary that had been missed. An example – yesterday I paid $10 at a thrift store for a painting that is most certainly worth several thousand — there is more research to do – but the painting was done by a prisoner in the Green Haven Prison facility named E. Conway in 1970. The picture does not do this oil on canvas winter scene justice…but certainly it is worth more than $10 – there is something darkly magical about it.

E. Cnway The Woods in Winter

So, my point is that we’ve accumulated a nice collection of items and a storehouse of knowledge that exceeded our eBay store and my office’s capacity to hold them. So, we decided to open a brick and mortar store. We didn’t have the money to open a full store, nor the inventory – so we opted to open a space in an antique mall. The rent is $200 per month and the owner of the mall takes a hefty 15% commission, but the store is well known and has a wonderful location – so, we don’t have to be there or pay utilities or hire employees.

As we were making the arrangements, I wondered if we had enough inventory – then I thought of my friends and asked if they wanted to consign all those boxes of stuff in our shop – they agreed and we took a quick to trip to California to pick it up.  It turns out we probably could have filled our little space – but their antiques and Japanese stuff really brought life to our space and gave us such an abundance of inventory that we don’t have to worry about it being empty for quite a while.  Kismit and with any luck (and hard work), they will get more through our shop than they would through a garage or estate sale.  The past week, I’ve been researching and inventorying hundreds of items – pricing, buying furniture, and setting up our shop. We opened last Tuesday and so far – well, we don’t really know. The busy tourist season on Highway 101 starts in a few weeks – we have our fingers crossed.

Vagabond Antiques and Art

Eventually, we would like to have our own shop and perhaps even our own little antique mall – but for now – we are starting small. Please come and visit.

Brown Dog Antiques – 595 U.S. 101 -Florence, OR 97439  –

Come in and go to the back and you’ll see us. I will be writing more about my research interesting items and art in general on this blog. I hope that we can build a little community around antiques and art – where you can share your treasures and we can share ours.