The road to knowledge is filled with potholes, part II

An authentic Tiffany Acorn lamp, similar to the reproduction I purchased

An authentic Tiffany Acorn lamp, similar to the reproduction I purchased

In the 1970s, I thought I had made friends with an auctioneer named Jerry Schuster. He had an auction house in New Windsor, NY, about an hour north of NYC. I visited him one day while driving past. He had what he said was a Tiffany Acorn lamp. In the years since my first signed lamp purchase, I was becoming an expert in Handel reverse-painted lamps. There were no Handel reverse-painted reproductions on the market, so getting a good education wasn’t that difficult. I had never purchased any leaded lamps because there were reproductions around and I couldn’t tell the difference. Jerry didn’t have the best reputation, so I asked him if he would guarantee the authenticity of the lamp. I remember what he said almost verbatim. “I don’t guarantee anything, but I guarantee this lamp to you.” So I paid him a fortune for the lamp, about $3,000.

I took the lamp home and made some calls to collectors and dealers, including Alice Osofsky, an old-time dealer. She came to my house with a friend, and after examining the lamp, told me the lamp was a reproduction. My heart sank, so I called other dealers and they all agreed – the lamp was a fake.

No problem! I’ll call Jerry and he’ll give me my money back because he guaranteed it to me. “Jerry, the lamp is a reproduction, so I’m returning it.” “What are you talking about, Phil? If you have an expert to say it’s a reproduction, I have another one to say it’s not.” Again, this is almost verbatim. So this was one costly lesson. I sold it to another dealer, telling him the truth that I was told it was a reproduction. I took a big loss on the lamp, but it was gone and at least I recovered some of my money.

Fast forward a few years to 1979. I was sitting in my car on Canal Street in Manhattan, listening to the news, when the announcer told of the arrest of an auctioneer from Westchester County, named Jerry Schuster. I started whooping and hollering and jumping up and down in my car. Sorry, folks, but I’m not a saint. I was as happy as a clam. In 1980, a Federal District Court in Manhattan found Schuster guilty of knowingly selling paintings with forged signatures of famous artists and reproducing Tiffany-style lamps with unauthorized Tiffany imprints. Jerry was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, plus four years probation and a $10,000 fine. Nice guy that he was, he was re-arrested and in 1990, he was convicted of conspiracy, bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud in connection with an insurance scam involving a damaged painting. He was sentenced to three years in prison and prohibited from working in the art, antiques or auction field for three years after his release. You’d think he would have learned his lesson, but again in 2000, his art gallery agreed to refund an estimated $111,000 to 18 defrauded customers, and pay $45,000 to the Attorney General’s office for their legal costs. (Thanks to the International Foundation for Art Research for the exact information above.)

And now I have my own blog and I can tell Jerry and the rest of the world, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!

Please send me your suggestions or questions about art glass, lamps, Louis Icart, shows, auctions, etc. If it’s interesting, I’ll answer your question in a future blog entry.

Call or write and let me know what you would like to buy, sell, or trade. philchasen@gmail or 516-922-2090. And please visit my website.

7 thoughts on “The road to knowledge is filled with potholes, part II

  1. Every 10 years or so I decide to check to see if I can find a value on the authentic acorn tiffany lamp we own. I did a google search, clicked on the exact image, and was brought to your blog. What a fun story! My fun story is that our lamp was found in my grandmothers attic over 50 years ago hidden in a box from a previous owner! Is the original lamp probably only worth $3000? Or is that your dealer purchase price from Jerry? I don’t think we would sell it- but knowing a value makes the story complete. Thanks!

  2. I bought that lamp from Jerry Schuster over 30 years ago. They’ve gone up in value. If you need more specifics, my fee for appraisals is $125. You’ll get a written appraisal that you can use for insurance purposes.

  3. My father would take me with him to Jerry’s auctions in the 1980’s. Jerry sold my father an Albert Bierstadt painting, that I am sure Jerry felt was a fake, for $1500. Through due diligence my father authenticated the painting and sold it to a New York dealer for $40,000. As much of a scoundrel as he was, Jerry’s auctions were fun to go to and sometimes there was a gem for a great price!

  4. I was a dealer and owned a shop on Metropolitan Ave in Forest Hills back in the 90’s. Jerry used to come in and visit all the time. Was a funny guy. We called him “Jerry the Shoe” in the neighborhood.

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