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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.

Categories
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.

 

Categories
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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Categories
Bizarrities Rugs

Avakain Brothers Persian Heriz Rug

Persian Hafiz Rug

A stunning Avakian Brothers Persian Heriz style area rug made in Iran. This beautiful piece is hand-crafted from 100% virgin wool pile and boasts an intricate design in shades of red, blue, yellow and green with all natural dyes. The back has original tag (slightly faded) “Avakian Brother Inc. Made in Iran 100% Virgin Wood Pile”. There is wear to the rug and it shows signs of age, but no holes or fabric missing. This rug was purchased from the original Avakian Brothers Rug Shop in New York City in 1924 and has the label to prove it. . It is 12′ x 10′ and family legend has it that this carpet was purchased from the estate of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels in 1969. There is no documentation to back this claim up, but one can easily imagine such a large fine carpet gracing the famous socialite and activists home on Knob Hill.

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Categories
Bizarrities Furniture

Deer Hide Chair Attributed to Sarah Boone (sister of Daniel Boone)

deerhide chair

This deerhide chair comes from the Wilcox Family, a family directly descended from Sarah Boone, the sister of Daniel Boone. Sarah is most famous for having shot a Native American through the eye as he rode at high speed swinging an axe towards her husband John Wilcockson. The chair is an early pioneer type chair with a deerhide seat.  It was brought from North Carolina by members of the Wilcox family who settled on Knob Hill just after the Gold Rush. The chair was purchased by Captain Vapoor in 1912 for his Bizarrities exhibitions. Famous gunmen, Indian Chiefs, and story tellers – including Mark Twain were said to have spoken of the Pioneer times while seated in this chair.

 

Boone's Deerhide Chair

Categories
Bizarrities Nautical

The Wheel of ‘We’re Here’ Presented to Captain Vapoor by Rudyard Kipling

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Rudyard Kipling and Captain Preston L. Vapoor had made an acquaintance that blossomed into a lifelong friendship in Lahore, India in about 1885. Legend has it that Captain Vapoor brought American bourbon with him and the two bonded over drinks with Kipling’s editor at the Civil and Military Gazette. In 1889, Kipling arrived in San Francisco and attempted to mend his broken heart (he had fallen in love with a Japanese geisha named O-Toyo en route in Japan) with bouts of heavy drinking and debauchery – accompanied by Captain Vapoor and a motley crew of roustabouts. Kipling was so appreciative of the Captain’s introductions and friendship that before leaving San Francisco for Portland, Oregon, he bought one of the old schooner ship’s wheels from a salvage shop – unfortunately the name of the ship is lost to history – Kipling however, never one to let facts get in the way of his fictions, assured Captain Vapoor that it was the wheel from the ship We’re Here – a fictional vessel which he 8 years later celebrated in his novel Captain’s Courageous. When one looks, it is easy to find allusions to Kipling’s old friend Vapoor in the novel.wheel of we're here

 

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Bizarrities Rugs

Buffalo Robe Purported to Have Been Killed by Yellowstone Victor Grant Smith

This beautiful large buffalo robe was purported to have been one of those killed by Victor Grant Smith, the famous champion Buffalo Hunter. Smith was one of those characters who seems to have been written for the old west.

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First a trapper and then a pony express rider, a great buffalo hunter, and even has been rumored to have traveled and performed with Buffalo Bill in his Wild West Show. One thing is certain, he was a great storyteller and was a frequent speaker at the Bizarrities shows in San Francisco in the late 1800s. This magnificent large buffalo hide is said to have come from him. It wouldn’t be surprising if it did since in 1881-1882 he killed more than 107 bison in a single hour! Smith killed over 5000 bison in a winter in Montana and when they were nearly extinct, he expressed his remorse saying “I wish my aim hadn’t a been so good.”

Pictures of the Buffalo Robe Coming Soon.

 

 

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Bizarrities Furniture People

The Arch-Bishop of California’s Chairs – William Ford Nichols

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One of the more unexpected friendships of Captain Preston L Vapoor, was that which developed between he and the Episcopal Arch-Bishop of California, the Venerable William Ford Nichols – now, on the surface, it would seem strange that a world wandering mystic such as Captain Vapoor would become the boon companion of an Arch-Bishop – or vice-versa, but in truth Arch Bishop Nichols was a bit of a mystic adventurer himself – he even wrote a book titled Some World Circuit Saunterings in which he detailed his adventures in many distant lands and with many different people. Arch Bishop Nichols and Captain Vapoor were kindred spirits and spent many evenings telling stories by the fire while drinking (no doubt sacramental) wine in the Bishops house at 2515 Webster Street in San Francisco. In fact, when the Bishop passed away in 1924 – his memories of Captain Vapoor were so fond that he made sure to bequeath to him the chairs in which they passed so many enjoyable hours.

 

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Categories
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.

Bizarrities.com
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.