And keep the polish and glue on the shelf.
An antique dealer friend recently told me a sad tale.
Her friend, another dealer, purchased two framed original hummingbird prints by John Gould. This 19th Century English ornithologist was a contemporary of John James Audubon, and his portrayals of birds are considered to be as good, if not better. His pieces command fantastic prices.
However, the dealer soon discovered that the previous owner had cut off Gould’s signature and the date in order to fit them in the frame.
The result? The value of the prints plummeted from an estimated $5,000 to about $700.
I experienced something similar, as well, but thank goodness it was not on such a grand scale. Many years ago I decided to polish my C. Rogers “Belmont” silver forks. I had some of that “dip ‘n’ shine” stuff around, and figured it would work faster.
It did. It took off EVERYTHING – including some black shadowing that was original to the silver. It destroyed the beauty of the forks and pretty much destroyed any value they had.
The moral of the story?
Don’t mess with anything old unless you absolutely, positively know what you’re doing.
- Don’t refinish antique or vintage furniture.
- Don’t polish old coins.
- Don’t glue broken porcelain back together.
- Don’t restring the beads on that antique purse.
- Don’t restore a vintage or antique doll.
- Don’t glue the binding of an old book.
Find an expert who knows how to make repairs and restorations in a way that will maintain as much value as possible. Or sell it — even at a loss — to someone who will be willing to obtain expert repairs.
And whatever you do, NEVER cut off an artist’s signature when you frame the piece. That extra scrap of paper could cost you thousands of dollars – and ruin a priceless antique forever.
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And enjoy the hunt!