Dec 21, 2013

Wayne Henderson’s Hand-Made Guitars are the Perfect Collectible

Henderson guitars are certainly not the most expensive hand-made acoustic guitars. At about $5,000 (plus or minus) when new, their price pales in comparison to some other small-luthier-built guitars. They are not even the most well-known; but Eric Clapton owns one, and so does Tommy Emmanuel, Peter Rowan and Grammy winner Gillian Welch. Doc Watson played his often. Used Hendersons have sold privately for as much as $100,000 and sell regularly at auction in the $20,000-plus range. There is a 10-year waiting list to get one from the manufacturer. If orders for the guitars keep coming in at the current rate, and Wayne Henderson lives long enough to fill them, he may just live forever.

Henderson guitars may be the perfect collectible: they are high-quality, rare and in demand. They can sell for three to 10 times their initial cost as soon as they leave Wayne’s shop. He could sell his guitars for more, but Wayne says that more money wouldn’t improve his life any. Indeed, he seems to have found fulfillment building his guitars and playing bluegrass music. Read More

Don’t Let Sales Get Thrown Under the Bus

American popular culture loves a catchphrase. Always has. In the 1890s, businessmen were anxious to “get down to brass tacks,” and a well-heeled customer who was satisfied with his purchases was “as happy as a clam.” In the 1990s, if a customer discovered that a dealer’s claims were all smoke and mirrors, then the deal “went down the tubes,” and it was “hasta la vista, baby.”

Dealers thrown under the bus

The latest popular catchphrase — “thrown under the bus” — was originally used by sports writers. Referring to the team bus, an athlete was either in favor (on the bus) or out of favor (under the bus). The recent economic environment has made the phrase a favorite of politicians and financial writers. Washington Post writer David Segal called the expression “the cliché of the 2008 (Presidential) campaign.”

“Thrown under the bus” has come to mean the sacrifice of a person who doesn’t deserve to be sacrificed. For example, consider the way customers sometimes treat antiques dealers (or other retailers): Read More

Dec 20, 2013

Harry Rinker's Antiques and Toys up for Auction

Harry Rinker's antiques and toys up for auction (via Repost Video News)

All great collections eventually get sold. Fortunately, Harry is still around to oversee the sale of his collectibles - this isn't an estate auction.

Harry has been very vocal over the years about what's collectible and what's not. It will be interesting to see how the items he has collected "play out" at an auction. One thing's for sure: we'll all be watching, even if we're not bidding.

The Top 5 Liquidation Mistakes Made by Untrained Estate Executors

To the uninitiated, being chosen as executor of an estate would seem to be an honor; it’s an indication that the decedent trusted you to wrap up their affairs. At first glance, the job appears to be easy enough: liquidate all the assets, pay all the liabilities (including taxes) and distribute the remainder to the heirs.

Thoughts of distinction quickly disappear, though, when an executor begins to inventory the estate’s tangible personal property. Room by room, the executor sorts through a lifetime accumulation of “stuff” in the closets, rooms, sheds, garage, basement, attic and storage units. Trunks, boxes and tool chests must be opened to see what’s in them. Categories of personal property must be valued and collections appraised. Personal property values are added to the value of the estate and taxed accordingly (at the county, state and/or federal levels). Compared to other estate assets (like homes and stocks), it’s an enormous amount of work for a very small return on investment. Read More

Sell More with Better Merchandise Tags

Sitting in his cell awaiting trial for treason, Van Meegeren considered his options. The year was 1945, and the war was over. Meegeren had been arrested in his Dutch homeland for being a Nazi collaborator. His crime, according to Dutch authorities, was trading a painting by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer to the Nazi commander of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Goering. Collaborating with the enemy was a capital offense. If convicted, Meegeren would hang.

At his trial, Meegeren offered a novel defense: that he had, in fact, painted the Vermeer himself. It was a forgery. In return for his forgery, he acquired from Goering six genuine paintings by Dutch masters. Meegeren had conned Goering. Meegeren asserted that he was, therefore, a national hero and not a Nazi collaborator.

To prove his defense, Meegeren painted another Vermeer before the court while under police guard. Compared to Vermeer, Meegeren’s technique was clumsy; but with the aid of a new product called Bakelite, Meegeren produced a satisfactory forgery. He was convicted of forgery and exonerated of the treason charge. He was sentenced to a year in jail. Read More

Dec 19, 2013

Early Slot Machines a Collecting Jackpot

No one should have that much fun in a mausoleum. But fun was the order of the day: the Elks were in town, holding their 1961 national convention in Miami Beach. Local Elks clubs opened their doors to out-of-state members and provided them with a variety of entertainment options. One such club was the politically well-connected Miami Elks Lodge #948; the club’s past Exalted Rulers included a State’s Attorney and a local Sheriff.

Conventions of any kind can get rowdy, and rumors of illegal slot machine gambling at the Elks Lodge reached Florida State Agents, who raided the lodge. They found nothing. The week following the raid a cemetery grounds man discovered four slot machines while inspecting a broken window in the mausoleum next to the Elks Lodge. The grounds man contacted the police; another raid was conducted and the machines were destroyed. No one knows—or won’t tell—how the slot machines came to be housed in the mausoleum. Read More

Negotiate, Don't Haggle

“You saved $36 today!” exclaimed the clerk at JC Penny’s. “Gee, that’s great!” I replied. “I spent $31 and saved $36! What a deal!”

These days, corporate retailers love to tell me how much I saved while shopping at their store: They tell me when I buy groceries, and when I buy hardware. I was even reminded of how much I “saved” the last time I got my car serviced. Sometimes, they even print the savings amount on my receipt so that I’ll be reminded of what great folks they are when I reconcile my checkbook.

The crux of the matter for me is that I don’t really care how much I saved; I care how much I spent.

Who believes anymore that retail prices actually reflect what the seller expects to get for his merchandise? It’s been known for decades that the asking price for homes and automobiles is fiction. For the past five years, retailers in almost every category have been training us that their asking price is fiction as well. Read More

Online Celebrity Fundraising Auctions: Here's the One that Started ItAll

What does a guitar from Carlos Santana, a boxing glove from Mohammed Ali and an audience with the Pope have in common? They were all sold at a celebrity charity auction.

Celebrity auctions have become the prime generator of “big bucks” for charities of all types. Consider recent auction results: for $255,000, you could have spent the day with President Clinton to benefit the Clinton Global Initiative. For $497,000, you might have owned the 1956 Fender Stratocaster that Eric Clapton used to write his hit “Layla,” which he contributed to benefit the Crossroads Center, a substance abuse rehabilitation facility in Antigua. And, for a mere $75,000, you could learn to play your Strat in a private guitar lesson with Paul Simon, to benefit the Children’s Health Fund. The cost for an audience with the Pope? A mere $39,500, and you didn’t even have to be Catholic. His Holiness donated his time on behalf of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. Read More

Dec 18, 2013

Keep Your Collection in Tune: Insuring Your Musical Instruments

They looked like a line of ants at a picnic. Having finished their gig and packed their instruments, the band steadily loaded their van. An unbroken stream of musicians and equipment flowed from inside the Washington, D.C., hotel to the parking lot. No one was quite sure when the theft occurred; it seemed as if the open van was never out of sight. But, at some point, the bass player’s 1958 Fender Precision Bass disappeared. Valued at more than $10,000 the instrument would not be easy to replace. The bass player was more than distraught: his insurance wouldn’t cover the loss, and he didn’t have the money for a new one.

Stories of instruments lost or damaged are commonplace among working musicians: a cello left in the trunk of a cab, a double bass destroyed by airport baggage handlers, a flood or fire that ravages an entire collection. For working musicians the loss of an instrument cannot be calculated entirely in dollars and cents. Musicians ardently seek instruments that will express “their sound,” and such instruments are tough to find and even tougher to replace. For collectors of rare instruments, money cannot compensate for the loss of a cultural icon (but it helps). Read More

The Drum Kits that Set the Beat for Swing Bands: Slingerland Radio Kings

Previously published on

One fact is clear regarding 7,000 years of drum history: whenever drums start beating, people start to move. Archaeologists have found alligator skin drums dating back to 5500 B.C. that they assume were used to create some sort of drumming-induced Shamanic trance (who’s going to argue with them?). In pre-radio military cultures, drums were used to send battlefield signals. In ethnic cultures, drums accompanied ceremonial and recreational dancing.

In ethnic cultures, drums and dancing were inseparable. In cultures that lacked sophisticated melodic instruments (e.g., African and South American) drum music became a complex mix of layered rhythms. In American culture, however, drums had a limited role before 1900. Drums were heard in orchestral and concert band music but rarely in popular dance music. Neither the formal dancing of high society nor the contra dances of the common folk required the use of a drummer. In contra dancing and square dancing the rhythm is provided by the foot-stomping and clogging of the dancers. Read More

Boost Sales by Sharing the Story Behind Your Business

As a “follicly challenged” gentleman, I take comfort in my collection of hats. Not for their collectible value mind you, but for their value in keeping my head warm and dry during the winter season.

Being so practical about my hats, I just had to smile when I read of the recent auction sale – for $14,160 – of the baseball cap worn by Neil Armstrong after the splashdown of Apollo 11. The cap’s buyer paid over 70,000 percent more for Armstrong’s cap than I have ever paid for one of mine (usually about $20).

Would Armstrong’s cap keep the sun out of my eyes any better than my tried-and-true “Key West, FL” cap? Probably not. What made the cap worth five figures to the buyer? Bragging rights.

The cap has zero intrinsic value: Would you wear a $14,000 cap to mow the lawn? No, the collector will display this cap prominently in his home as a testament to his own shrewdness. The buyer didn’t walk on the moon, but he owns Armstrong’s cap and will forever be associated with the name Neil Armstrong through the provenance of the cap. Read More

Dec 17, 2013

Online Video: Tap a Super Bowl Sized Audience for Pennies

Do you remember the 2011 Super Bowl ad about the antiques dealer? Neither do I. At nearly $3 million for a 30-second ad, you won’t see any small retailers advertising during the Super Bowl. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing an ad for an antiques store on television – ever.

The Super Bowl attracted about 111 million viewers last year. The $3-million-for-30-seconds price tag breaks down to less than 3 cents per viewer. Not bad for a cost-per-impression.

Now hold on to your seats: 111 million viewers a year is a drop in the bucket compared to how many viewers YouTube is pulling in every month. According to a recent study by comScore, 147 million viewers watched 14 billion videos on YouTube in the month of May 2011. Add in the other video hosting sites, and the total views for online video was almost 34 million last May. That’s like having a Super-Bowl-sized audience every day, and the Internet delivers that many viewers 24/7, all year. Even in prime time, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, and all the television networks combined don’t reach that viewership level. Read More

Dec 16, 2013

Bacon & Day Silver Bell: The King of American Tenor Banjos

The hard-driving banjo in bluegrass music is a familiar sound to most 21st-century Americans. But, before the stylings of Earl Scruggs, Don Reno and Ralph Stanley created the distinctive sound of bluegrass, banjo playing (and banjos) in America were quite different. From modest roots as a gourd-based instrument to today’s sleek wonder of acoustic engineering, banjos have always adapted to America’s changing musical tastes.

In the complex history of the banjo, no instrument stands taller than the Bacon & Day Silver Bell tenor banjo. The B&D Silver Bell is considered by many musicians to be the finest tenor banjo ever made. Silver Bells are valued for their good tone, powerful sound and superb craftsmanship. Although four-string tenor banjos have been displaced by five-string, bluegrass-style banjos (except in traditional Irish music), Silver Bell banjos are still a sought-after collectible among banjo enthusiasts. Bacon & Day Silver Bell tenor banjos command higher prices than tenor banjos by any other maker. Read More

Vintage Accordions Migrating from Attics to Auction Block

American soldiers left for the Second World War with the sounds of American popular music ringing in their ears. City boys were humming the big-band sounds of Goodman and Miller, Southerners were whistling Carter Family tunes and Westerners were tapping their boots to the Western Swing of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. When they returned from Europe, though, our G.I.s had a different musical sound bouncing around in their heads: the folk music of France, Germany and Italy, a sound dominated by accordions.

Accordions were not a new sound to Americans; they had been a regular part of American popular music since Vaudeville. Accordions were regularly used by travelling music groups as a substitute for piano, which was not always available at performing venues. Bob Wills had an accordion player in his band and for a while, so did Bill Monroe and the Carters. But accordion didn’t start to move to the forefront of American popular music until after World War Two. Radio stars like Frankie Yankovic (father of “Weird Al” Yankovic) and TV stars such as Myron Floren of “The Lawrence Welk Show” brought the accordion to new heights of popularity. Soon, school children all over America were lining up to take accordion lessons. In the early 1950s, accordion was arguably the most popular folk instrument in America. Read More

Absolute vs. Reserve Auctions: Is it Legal to Retract a Bid?

OK, auction buffs, its pop quiz time!

Here’s the scenario: You’re at an auction, and the lot being offered is a Conoco sign. There are four primary bidders. Bidder A drops out at $200; Bidder B drops out at $300, and Bidders C and D drive the bidding up to $600. Bidder C then bids $650, but gets a sharp elbow in the ribs from his wife. Bidder C then frantically waves his arms saying “I’m out, I withdraw my bid.” The auctioneer should:

A. Refuse to release Bidder C from his bid because a bid is legally binding.

B. Release Bidder C from his bid and pick up the bidding with the next higher bid, Bidder D’s bid for $600.

C. Start the bidding over from zero.

The correct answer is C: Start the bidding over from zero. The reason for this is found in the Uniform Commercial Code. Read More

Dec 15, 2013

Antique Reed Organs Valued for Beautifully Styled Cabinetry

For some, the ideal vacation is lying on a beach soaking up rays while enjoying a good book. For others, nothing beats wading into a mountain stream with a rod and reel. For members of the Reed Organ Society, the ideal vacation is touring reed organ displays at museums and universities from Nova Scotia to California. Vacationers can find dedicated reed organ displays in the US, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Finland, Sweden, Germany and a dozen other countries.

Enthusiasts of reed organs (a.k.a. pump organ, parlor organ, cabinet organ and—in Europe—harmonium) are passionate about their hobby. Often purchased for their beautiful Eastlake and Victorian styled cabinetry, collectors soon find that a reed organ offers more than just furniture. For many, restoring reed organs becomes a satisfying hobby. For others, the lovely sound of a reed organ prompts one to pursue music lessons (or at least visit museums for reed organ concerts). Others prefer to act in the role of a “picker,” learning enough about collectible reed organs to buy them cheaply and re-sell them to collectors and hobbyist-restorers. Read More

How Dealers Can Boost the Shop Local Movement

No matter what you think of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it holds the seed of a successful holiday sales season for antique dealers.

The Wall Street protestors have expressed frustration with taxpayer bailouts of “too big to fail” corporations who take public tax money and then raise banking fees, restrict access to loans, and then give their CEO’s big bonuses. Versions of Occupy Wall Street have spread across the United States plus 951 European cities and 82 countries around the world. The public is endorsing the message: institutions and individuals are moving their money to hometown banks. Hometown banks have seen out-of-the-ordinary surges in deposits in the past several months.

Not only are individual citizens fed up with the “too big to fail” mentality of the banking conglomerates, state governments are as well. Lawmakers in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Minnesota have all voted to move state funds into local banks and credit unions. Labor unions, small businesses and municipalities are also moving funds to local institutions. Read More