I tried to fill a hole in my heart with vintage things…and it worked.
Somehow, over the last few years, I’ve managed to amass quite the collection of TV Lamps. “Back in the 1950’s, the first decade of mass television adoption, there was a common belief that watching TV in low light could damage one’s eyesight. But early televisions, with their dull luminescence, were best viewed in the dark. So the TV lamp was invented to add a little light to the room and dispel people’s fears. These lamps are often referred to as “kitsch”, styled to look like animals, people, plant life, or other objects. Lacking a shade like a normal lamp, the bulb created a silhouette of the lamp’s shape, casting its illumination on the wall behind the TV to create a kind of a mood lighting.
I’m not the biggest TV Lamp fan but I understand their appeal with collectors of Mid-Century nostalgia.
Here are a few in my collection (many available to purchase on Etsy)
I’ve been relatively lucky when it comes to bids I place on a whim, in the heat of an estate auction. I’ve ended up with extremely valuable paintings, prints and pottery that have yielded significant sums of money in resale. You have a tendency to view other bidders as knowledgeable threats, in general, but I’ve been surprised at some of the things that are completely rejected by an entire crowd of my peers.
For instance, I once purchased several pieces of pottery – one that had clearly been shattered and glued back together, for $8. No one in the crowd wanted to touch it and the auctioneer seemed visibly relieved when I threw up my mercy bid. Long story short, the pottery was broken and restored by an archeologist because it was ancient and therefore significantly valuable.
I was lucky.
Many times I truly have no idea what I’m bidding on – NONE.
Which brings me to a Kansas City, Dirk Soulis auction I attended in September, 2014. Dirk runs one of the tightest ships I’ve seen in Missouri. They always appear like they’ve done their homework on value and do their best to appeal to collectors more so than dealers, which tends to be more lucrative for the consignor.
At this particular sale, however, there was such an abundance of fine art and collectables, the auctioneer, in his tailored pinstripe suit, was just trying to finish before sundown and breezed through much of the inventory swiftly. Of the many tables along the auction path, there was one, in particular, completely covered in antique/vintage woodblocks. The collection of woodblocks were not photographed and barely mentioned on the online preview page, therefore no one in the crowd had much time to consider them or their value. They divided them up into lots that were selling at around $15 for a random selection of 10. I had never seen such an item before and was intrigued by their potential. I assumed that my eventual winning bid of $10 would be a fair one, as I could easily recover this nominal investment on Etsy. They looked like stamps and would surely make some crafty individual delighted with their vintage provenance.
So there I was, carrying my box of miscellaneous woodblocks, wishing I hadn’t bought them because of their weight and my subsequent discovery of the overall lackluster resale value of printer’s blocks in general.
I ended up bringing them home, putting them on a shelf and not thinking about them for nearly 6 months. It was when I started researching woodblock prints and values, that I became intrigued. I slowly realized that some of the blocks I had weren’t simply banners and advertisements, they were actual works of art, etched/engraved by their original artist.
This is when I realized that I had likely brought Pablo Picasso back home to Mid-Missouri by accident and, OMG, what do I do now?
First step was getting them out of my garage and placing them somewhere more secure and dignified. Second step was figuring out where the artwork originated from.
Two of the canceled matrices can be traced to the 1930’s, when they appeared, presumably as chapter headers, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses
“Written in the spirit of Ovid (43 B.C–A.D. 17/18), this lively and erudite book traces the art derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses from the Renaissance up to the present day. The Metamorphoses has been more widely illustrated than any other book except the Bible; for centuries, great artists have drawn, painted, and sculpted its stories, the artists often responding not only to Ovid’s work but to one another’s in their depictions”
Also, among my stash, I have a woodblock by the late Saul Steinberg, famous for his illustrators in the New Yorker.
So, it’s a bit overwhelming, to say the least, because I honestly have no idea where to go from here with these magnificent things.
Who do I call?
Who collects these?
What are they worth?
Yes, I’ve been in touch with the biggest auction house for fine art in the United States, who said they would love to handle them but cannot risk their reputation by selling matrices that might be used to make reprints of original canceled art.
What’s a girl to do now?