Knowledge is power, part VI

This story doesn’t end the way I planned it, but I trust you’ll find it interesting.

Daffodil table lamp, Hindman lot #346

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, of Chicago, held their Marketplace auction on January 19-20, 2011. Included in their offerings was lot 346, described as An American Leaded Glass Daffodil Table Lamp, after Tiffany Studios, raised on a tree trunk standard. Height overall 18 1/2 inches, outer diameter of shade 13 7/8 inches. Estimate $800-1,200 , and that’s where my story begins.

As soon as I discovered lot 346, my curiosity was piqued. Here was a lamp that was described as “after Tiffany Studios”, which is auction-speak for “the lamp is not authentic”. To my eyes, the lamp appeared to be authentic, but late-period. Late in their production, Tiffany Studios stopped using their own glass that had been manufactured in-house. Rather, they purchased glass from outside suppliers, like the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company of Kokomo, Indiana. This outside-purchased glass had a different “look” to it — “flatter”, less subtle and more garish. To the untrained eye, late Tiffany lamps look like reproductions. So here was the perfect opportunity to sneak up on an item and use my knowledge to gain the advantage. (Read my blog of July 24, 2009 for a good example. Here’s the link. July 24, 2009 blog)

I called the auction house and spoke to the expert in charge and asked Hindman to ship the lamp to me for inspection. I volunteered to pay for the shipping in both directions. Unfortunately, they were unable to comply with my request as this wasn’t their property, but the property of the consignor (in this case an estate). They sent many detailed photos, which only confirmed my suspicion that the lamp was authentic. The problem was that photos were insufficient to make a 100% decision about its authenticity — I had to see it in person. Unfortunately, the only way I could do that was to fly to Chicago.

So, on the Saturday before the auction, I flew to Chicago. The expert in charge, Mike Intahar, kindly agreed to meet me at the auction house to view the lamp. In person, there was no question — the lamp was authentic. I turned right around and flew back to New York. In and out in a few hours. Now armed with knowledge, I could bid with confidence. The lamp had a retail price of $25,000 – 30,000, but I wanted to be conservative, so I could resell it quickly for $20,000 or less.

The auction took place on Wednesday, January 19th. The problem was that I didn’t record it in my calendar, so I completely forgot about it. I was in the city with my wife, when I checked my phone. There were two messages from Hindman’s that I had missed their calls. My heart sank! Here I had spent the time and money to go to Chicago to inspect a lamp, only to forget about the auction!!! Argh! I called Hindman’s and much to my relief, I hadn’t missed the lamp. It was an unimportant lot, earlier in the sale, that I had missed. Whew!!! Dodged a bullet on that one. Now I was prepared to bid. They were going to call me back within the hour.

At around 2 PM EST, Hindman called me to bid on the lamp. The bidding started at $400, which was a very good sign. It meant that no one had left a bid. I let other bidders start the bidding before I jumped in. $1000, $1500, $2000, still good. I was prepared to bid $10,000, or more, so there was plenty of room. $8,000, $9,000, $10,000 — oops, not looking too good any more. $16,000, $17,000, ($20,740, including buyer’s premium), and the bidding ended. Oh well! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I exchanged one day’s time and $500 in expenses for the possibility of a big payday. But it wasn’t meant to be. Two other bidders, one on the phone and one in the room, were also knowledgeable.

I have no regrets. If I have the opportunity again, I will do exactly the same thing. Throw enough #*&% against the wall and something will stick.

If you like my blog, please let your friends know by sending them a link. Then check out my new Tiffany, Daum, Gallé, Webb and R. Lalique acquisitions. I’ve recently listed many of them on my website, including Daum swans, rain, a Gallé monumental red vase — more each day, plus a killer red Tiffany Favrile vase and a millifiori vase. Here’s the link.

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