Our Antique of the Week is this German POW made violin that came to us as part of a recent estate sale. A living piece of history that tells us a story, literally, with its fascinating sound, and its beautiful aesthetic qualities, this item has it's own voice, it's own story, and is one of the most rare items we've handled to date.
This letter, pictured below, was the best piece of provenance that we had, yet it still posed more questions than we have ever been able to answer. CCPWE#19 (short for Continental Central Prisoner of War Enclosure) was one of our POW camps during WWII. Located at Foucarville, near Normandy, the camp was originally intended to hold 20,000 prisoners, but later was enlarged to hold 40, 000.
The handwritten label inside the violin reads:
Alb. Kiefer, Trier (Trier is a town in Germany)
amerik kriegsgef 1945 (American Prisoner of War, 1945)
Normandie (Normandy, France)
There have been more than a few violin makers of some renown from Trier, Germany. In-depth research did reveal that Albert Kiefer was born in 1910, he was in fact a violin-maker from Trier, and that he survived the war. An article written by the curator of the Simeonstift Museum reveals that Albert Kiefer built a large scale model for the museum depicting Trier in the 1800s. It took him over 15 years to complete.
As you can perhaps conclude from the photographs and from the letter, the violin ended up in the possession of Major Ellis F. Vaughan who retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1967. Our client purchased the violin at an estate sale over ten years ago.
A violin expert confirms that the violin is largely carved from materials not normally used in the making of violins. The body is carved and shaped from a variety of hard woods, and quite possibly from salvaged materials. The bow is wound with an OD green type thread, most likely from a uniform, which is also highly unusual. At our request, the violin was actually tuned and played by a professional who assured us that with only minor work, such as new strings and the like, that the violin would be of concert quality. There have been absolutely no alterations done to the violin to date because as far as we know, the strings are original to the piece.
There is so much about this item that remains shrouded in mystery. There are but a few examples of POW made instruments that survive today in museums, and as family heirlooms. If anyone has any additional information about this piece please feel free to reach out.
We feel privileged and honored to have been able to view and hold this hauntingly beautiful piece of history.
This looks a little unusual to any coin collector for a couple of reasons. The #1 reason is because pennies in 1943 were supposed to look like this:
If you happen to be one of the very, very few people to have a coin like the first one pictured above then you may be able to pay off your mortgage a little early. Let me explain:
In 1943 the United States was deeply involved in WWII which was in full swing, and there was a shortage of greatly needed copper for the war effort. The U.S. Mint temporarily made pennies in zinc-plated steel at all of their mints in 1943 only. These, albeit awesome to look at and collect, are really not worth very much even in uncirculated condition.
However, there were a couple of cases of folks (Kenneth Wing in particular) who had found copper pennies dated 1943, that defied logic. You can read Kenneth Wing's story here.
If you clicked the link then you're already ahead of me. It wasn't until 2008 that it was officially accepted that there were in fact, a handful of copper 1943 pennies made in error. As you can probably imagine, their value absolutely soared. A 1943-S can sell for 62k in average condition, while one that was uncirculated, in mint condition can go for as much as 400k. If that doesn't get you to searching through your loose change then I don't know what will. But of course, there has to be a down side to everything, so here it is:
There are a lot of counterfeit coins masquerading to be this rare and lucrative penny. Here's an example:
The altered fake is a 1948 penny that someone ground the eight in half on and passed it off as original. Also, a real copper penny will not stick to a magnet, and a fake copper coated penny will.
In short, if you think you've found one, examine the date and compare it to the one above. Then try passing a magnet over it. If it passes those tests, get it to a coin dealer. They usually don't charge anything to examine a coin and always remember to get a second opinion. You can certainly bet that they'll let you know what the next steps are.
Think you might have one? Send us an email, or leave a comment below. You can also reach us on Facebook, or just give us a call at 423-268-7195
Chances are, you've probably seen the popular TV show, and have some idea of what a hoarding situation looks like, but not many people are truly aware of how painful and stressful that deeply seated emotional attachment to items really feels. Many people do not know what it feels like to be trapped inside your own home, or how it feels to be controlled by your possessions. Many do not know the fear of first responders being unable to reach them inside their home in an emergency, or worse, a fire, or unstable conditions.
This kind of situation creates safety and health hazards, strained family relationships, and suffering of the individual (or individuals) who feel as though they just can't stop. Compulsive hoarding is a very real mental disorder which is characterized by extreme acquisition of items, and then in an inability, or an unwillingness to let go of those items. It is often associated with obsessive compulsive behavior, though the number of hoarders is twice as many as OCD patients. It is more common than you might think as well, as many as 14 million people in the US are compulsive hoarders.
The compulsive hoarders shown on TV are often portrayed in a negative light, however, most hoarders are high functioning individuals who hold down jobs and have families, just like everybody else. There are different types of hoarding as well, such as:
-magazines, and books
-stuff for making crafts
Just to name a few. Pretty much anything can be hoarded, even animals. However, sometimes hoarders purchase thousands of dollars worth of items off the internet or from TV shows, creating a huge financial strain. Companies that work to clean out a home where a hoarding situation is occurring may or may not be focused on helping the client sell the items but rather helping them begin to have a healthier living space.
Wiley Estate Sales and Antiques are there to help recover the often vast amounts of lost monetary value in these kinds of situations. We are sensitive to the needs of our client, and will bring in specialists as necessary to help the process go smoothly. Our goals are to help the Client release the items causing the issue, to help them get their home into a livable condition again, to help discourage the behavior from happening in the future, and to help them recover as much money as possible. We work on a percentage based commission, so if you don't make money, we don't make money. Any and all upfront costs, such as hiring a crew, or acquiring portable dumpsters are discussed up front, in person, before any decision is made, giving the client more control of the process.
Feel free to contact us via email, on Facebook, or simply give us a call at
423-268-7195 for an absolutely free no-obligation consultation. We are here to help.
Collecting of objects has been around since the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty in 350 B.C. The old adage goes "If something exists, somebody, somewhere, collects them." Collections of any size or scope can be sold, but there are a few factors to consider.
Monetary Value vs. Emotional Value
My grandfather fished in the New River as a way to make a little extra pocket money in the late 70's - early 80's. One day he lost his Old Timer pocket knife over the edge of the boat, and he didn't even realize it until he got home that evening. The next day he was in the same area cast netting for fish, and lo and behold, by some coincidence he managed to catch his lost knife in the cast net!
This is the tricky part about selling collections. The emotional value that we place on items is sometimes a stark contrast to the monetary value of the item. A person who has inherited a collection likely knows those stories about specific items, making it difficult for them to objectively sell those items. A good estate sales professional understands that, and though they will often be happy to listen to those stories, they can still place a realistic monetary value on those items.
Supply and Demand
Comic books can have market value depending on the condition, the rarity and any number of other factors, but it really comes down to supply and demand. A comic in "near mint" condition might fetch $10, but in "good" condition you might only get $2 or $3. If it's a common comic book from the late eighties, even that might be a stretch. Older material from the 60's and 70's are a different story because there is a large market but little supply. This applies to any number of collection types. Just because you have a Crown Royal bag full of wheat pennies does not mean you'll get top dollar. It depends solely on the rarity and quality of select pieces in the bag. A professional knows this, and they know the market supply and demand for the items, and many times will know with a glance what they can and cannot sell and get the most money for.
You've probably seen something like this before, if not, let me explain. Realistically, you can only have two of these, or two sides of the triangle. Sometimes maybe only one, hence:
You can sell your collection fast, with the least effort, but you won't get as much money. You can make the most money with the least effort, but it won't be fast. You can make the most money, and do it quickly, but it's going to take a huge effort.
This stands true for most of the general public. Even if you really know your collectibles, chances are you haven't done a great deal of networking to recognize potential buyers. You probably don't have the resources to dedicate to selling each item individually, and in all likelihood, you aren't set up to sell items day in and day out. If you were, then you probably wouldn't be reading this blog post in the first place.
A professional can make those objective decisions and weigh emotional value against monetary value. A professional also knows what the supply and demand is for those items in the collection, and if they don't, they will certainly find out before they sell ANYTHING. A professional also has the resources to sell the collection without compromising too much effort, monetary value, or speed, all the while taking care of the leg work for you. Hiring a professional to liquidate a collection may not be the best option for everyone, but for many, it prevents lost money, hours and hours of research and a lot of hair tearing out.
Have any items that you're curious about and would like us to have a look at? Send us a picture and we will be happy to tell you what we think. You can reach us by posting in the comments section below, via email, or Facebook, or just give us a call at 423-268-7195
Estate sales sound pretty easy, right? Why would I need to hire someone to take care of it for me when I have all the skills and knowledge to sell stuff myself? How hard could it be?
THREE REASONS TO HIRE AN ESTATE SALES PROFESSIONAL
1.) Do you know what this item is?
This tiny item, not much bigger than a quarter, is an antique enameled button that sold for $25. The old saying goes "One man's junk, is another man's treasure." This saying probably came from an estate sales professional.
There are so many different kinds of collectable antiques and vintage items that it's impossible to know them all. What you might see as a loose button in an old jewelry box might be just the thing a button collector is looking for. An estate sales professional will evaluate ALL the items in the estate, and if they don't know about one item in particular, they will definitely take the time to do their research.
2.) What most people imagine an estate sale to look like:
What an estate sale actually looks like most of the time:
There are many folks who come to estate sales looking for rare antique furniture, paintings and collections, but there are also many people who come looking for good deals on tools, household items, and the like. The biggest mistake that many folks make when trying to sell their estates is to "clean-up" and "de-clutter," leaving only what they consider to be the most valuable. This simply doesn't work out very well. A professional estate sales person will make the most of those old wood working tools, and mix-matched dishes to try to maximize profits for you, and for themselves.
3.) Chances are, if you're in need of an estate sale, then you're probably already under stress and emotional strain.
This may not always be the case, but many times, people who are liquidating an estate have experienced a death in the family, a divorce, or some other sort of life changing experience. Add to that the stress of sub-contracting cleaning, moving services, and hiring sales people, plus sorting through as many as thousands of items, all the while experiencing sentimental attachment and having to do hundreds of hours of research. This is a recipe for an emotional break down.
An estate sales professional takes care of the many tasks that are involved in liquidation so that you don't have to. Especially if you're already going through a difficult time.
Hiring an estate sales professional may not be the best choice for everyone, but it's likely to be the best option for many. There are too many moving parts and people working together seamlessly for it to be wise for everybody to attempt, especially those who are already undergoing a difficult emotional experience.
If you have questions please feel free to post them in the comments section, reach out to us via email or on Facebook, or just give us a call 423-268-7195
Good question! There are many different steps that go into a well thought out and successful estate sale, certainly much more than just pricing. Here we have an outline of how it typically works. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comment section below.
The Initial Consultation
This is the first contact you will have with one of our representatives, but its also your opportunity to discuss your individual needs and goals. Its completely free and there are no obligations. We will establish who you are, whether you are the home owner, an executor of the estate, or a mediator and we'll talk to you more about who we are. We will also talk about what items are to be sold, how we're going to sell them, and all costs and commissions involved. There won't be any pressure or surprises here.
If you choose to hire us at this point, we will provide you with a copy of our Estate Sale Contract (more on this to come), which identifies your rights and our services, etc. It may sound a little scary, but it's necessary for us, the Estate Sales company, and you, the Client, to establish this agreement first thing so that we both know what to expect of one another. Any upfront fees (such as cleaning, or deposits) will be resolved at this point but remember, our commission doesn't come until the end of the sale. We don't make any money until you make money.
Cleaning and Prepping
This is the point where we have the home cleaned, inventory all of the items, price them and go into more detail about what you want. The time that is required for this stage can vary, but we typically allow three weeks so that we can be completely thorough. This is the time in which you, the client, specify what items you what to keep, sentimental items, and you can set minimum prices on certain items. That's right, you read it correctly. You can set a minimum price that you're willing to accept for items. Also at this stage, if we've agreed to sell items through other avenues such as online, or via consignment, this is the time we will begin listing and selling these. If there are any other expenses required at this stage, we will discuss them with you before we arrive at any decision. These expenses could include hiring a moving company that we didn't foresee needing. We try our absolute best to avoid it, but sometimes they are necessary. If this happens, it will be deducted from the gross receipts at the end of the sale, not from your pocket.
The Final Pricing Period
This is one full day, twenty four hours, before the doors are opened for the sale. All of the items you've specified that you don't want sold have been removed from the home or marked sold. We've listed and/or already sold all of the items that we're selling through other avenues. This is the day that time stands still at the estate, the time in which no other items may be removed from the home by anyone except the buyer. This is vitally important because of inventory.
Everything is priced, displayed and the home is staged beautifully, ready for potential buyers. We've already established the duration of the sale, we've advertised, set out signs, and done all of the prep work. Whether it lasts one weekend or three weekends, this is the culmination of all of our joint efforts. Our representatives will work the sale, the payment area, and all of the areas in-between.
Once the sale is over, the real work begins. This is the time where we gather all of the items that have not sold. Hopefully there aren't many, but realistically there will always be some. At this point, we will decide together whether to donate the items, or try to sell them through our other avenues. All of our equipment, displays, etc will be cleared out of the home. Within ten days after the closing, we will provide you with a statement showing all gross payments, itemized expenses, our 30% commission and your net receipts. Within thirty days we will provide you with a check, made payable to you, the Client.
What happens if during the sale you find sentimental items or things we haven't discussed?
We will automatically set these items to the side to be returned to you at the end, or in the case of items we have not discussed, we will consult with you before any sale is made on them.
What happens if I change my mind or something happens and I have to terminate the contract?
Unfortunately, at that point we would have to bill you for any expenses that had already been incurred, but other than that, we would forfeit the contract, and forego our commission.
How do you price the items?
We use "fair market value" and liquidation prices. We use our experience to determine the value of items and antiques and try to get as much for them as we can. We do negotiate with buyers at our discretion however, but you are welcome to set minimum prices that you will accept for certain items.
It may seem pretty simple now that we have outlined the steps involved, but remember, no two estate sales are the same. This is a loose outline for how things should go, but there can, and almost always will be situations that arise out of seemingly nowhere. Don't worry, we at Wiley Estate Sales and Antiques are equipped to handle anything.
If you have questions, or would like to schedule a consultation call 423-268-7195.