Author: Joyce

Malta Community Center speaking event

Antiques Appraisal Event at Hearthstone Village September 15, 2017

Mark Lawson of Mark Lawson Antiques will be hosting an Antiques Appraisal event at Hearthstone Village in Latham, NY on Friday September 15th, 2017. Register in advance to claim one of 40 spots to have your family heirloom or mysterious attic find evaluated. This Antiques Roadshow-style event will publicly evaluate and discuss the antiques, art, and other objects of interest provided by the audience. Our previous events have turned up some unexpected treasures – who knows what we’ll find this time? Even if you don’t have anything you’d like to bring for appraisal, this event is open to the public and you’re welcome to come and enjoy the show!

Register today by calling Hearthstone Village at (518) 867-4050.
Only 40 spots are available and they’ll go fast!


Where: Hearthstone Village 4000 Florence Dr, Latham, NY 12110

When: Friday September 15, 2017 at 10am

Registration: $10/item. Preregistration is required – call Hearthstone Village at (518) 867-4050 to register. Please call Hearthstone Village for any questions or additional details.

Details: All proceeds from the event will be donated to Hope House of Albany.

William Aiken Walker painting

Malta Community Center Spring Antiques Appraisal Show

William Aiken Walker paintingMark Lawson of Mark Lawson Antiques will talk about antiques, appraisals, and the ins and outs of downsizing at the Malta Community Center on Saturday May 6, 2017. Learn more about the constantly changing trends in the antiques world, and watch a live appraisal of antiques and other items of interest provided by audience members. This promises to be an exciting event; you never know what treasures will come to light at this highly anticipated yearly appraisal show. Previous finds at the Malta event include an uncommon original oil painting by William Aiken Walker.

Where: The Malta Community Center One Bayberry Dr. Malta NY 12020

When: Saturday May 6, 2017 at 10am

Details: Pre-registration is required. Contact the Malta Community Center at (518) 899-4411 for additional details.

Saratoga chip serving spoon - Whiting sterling silver, Empire pattern

Serving Up Local History: Saratoga Chips

The holiday season is upon us! As our thoughts turn towards warm gatherings of friends and families around the table, let’s take a look at Saratoga Springs’ most famous family recipe: the Saratoga chip. The history of Saratoga chips is controversial, passed down word-of-mouth through local legend and lore, embellished by some sources, disputed hotly by others. Although many of the specifics about the Saratoga chip’s invention can’t be verified, it can certainly be said that the thin crispy slices of fried potato were made famous in Saratoga Springs in the mid 1800s.

During the early and mid 19th century, potatoes were often served in what was popularly known as the French style: cut into thick slices and fried. These pommes de terre frites à cru, or “potatoes deep-fried while raw”, were served by President Thomas Jefferson in the White House. By 1813, many popular American cookbooks had recipes for fried potatoes. By 1859, the The Economical Cookery Book for Housewives, Cooks, and Maids-of-all-work by Eliza Warren used the term “French fried potatoes” for the first time in published history.

Saratoga Chips - Moon's Lake House, Saratoga Springs NY

Legend has it that the Saratoga chip was invented around 1853 by George Crum, an African-American cook at Moon’s Lake House, a restaurant on the shore of Saratoga Lake. One day, a wealthy patron came in and ordered the house specialty: Moon’s fried potatoes. But, when he received his order, he sent them straight back to the kitchen, claiming they were too thick and soggy to eat. Crum sliced a thinner batch of potatoes, fried them, and sent them out to the customer only to have them sent back again, this time accompanied by the imperious one-word demand, “Thinner!” The story goes that George Crum did not appreciate criticism of his cooking abilities and decided to teach this demanding customer a lesson. Crum sliced the potatoes paper thin, salted them heavily, and fried the heck out of them until they were crispy and brittle, too brittle to be eaten with a fork without shattering (and since no polite gentleman would have eaten with his fingers in public, this was the cherry on Crum’s spite sundae).

Much to Crum’s surprise, the picky customer loved the brittle, salty, deep-fried potatoes. According to lore, the customer even requested a second batch! (However, the stories do not relate whether the gentleman ate them with his fingers after all.)

And so the Saratoga chip became the new house specialty at Moon’s Lake House. In 1860, no doubt inspired by the success of his invention, George Crum opened his own restaurant in Saratoga Springs, located on Malta Ave near Saratoga Lake. His restaurant was widely patronized by the wealthy elite of the day like the Vanderbilts, Jay Gould, and Henry Hilton. It is claimed that Crum placed boxes or baskets of Saratoga chips onto each table, marketing them as “take-out” boxes. The Saratoga chip rapidly gained in popularity and spread across the nation. Eventually they were re-named by the generic term “potato chip” as new businesses emerged, building factories to mass produce the now beloved snack.

Saratoga chip serving spoon - Whiting sterling silver, Empire patternThe widespread popularity of the Saratoga chip in the mid and late 19th century was reflected in the silverware of the day. The wealthy elite of the Gilded Age embraced conspicuous displays of excess, and loved to set a lavish dinner table with sterling silver flatware covering every inch. Silversmiths of the day obliged by creating unique serving pieces for each type of food: asparagus tongs, game shears, grape shears, nut picks, butter picks, butter knives, berry spoons, clear soup (bouillon) spoons, cream soup spoons, breakfast coffee spoons, dinner coffee spoons, and many more. The Saratoga chip was so popular that it earned its own dedicated serving piece: the Saratoga chip server. The serving piece features a wide flattened bowl with pierced detailing to drain any excess grease. Pictured above right is a 19th century Saratoga chip server from Whiting, in sterling silver, in the Empire pattern.

The American Pure Food Cookbook and Household Economist, published in 1899, provided the American public with a recipe for making Saratoga chips, as well as suggesting several different menus for breakfast, lunch, or dinner that incorporated the chip as a side or appetizer. One suggestion for breakfast pairs the Saratoga chips with fried chicken, sliced pineapple, steamed oatmeal, mushroom omelet, and coffee. The cookbook’s menu suggestions were tailored “[to] be within the reach of the average household at all times. These menus have also been prepared with another idea in view; namely, that of affording the variety which the latest scientific investigations in dietetics have shown to be necessary for the best nourishment of the human body.”

Saratoga Chips recipe - Saratoga Springs NY

It’s always a pleasant surprise when a client brings in a group of sterling silver flatware for evaluation and we discover a Saratoga chip server. Saratoga’s rich history and unique past makes for some very interesting finds and historical memorabilia. As we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner and contemplate the upcoming holidays, we can be thankful for the multifaceted history that surrounds us here in Saratoga Springs and the entire Capital Region.

Do you have any Saratoga Springs historical memorabilia? If you would like to sell Saratoga Springs memorabilia, and would like to schedule an appointment for a free evaluation, call us today at (518) 587-8787. We have offices in Saratoga Springs and Colonie, conveniently located for our clients in the Albany, NY and surrounding Capital Region.


Additional Resources:

The American Pure Food Cookbook and Household Economist, David Chidlow, 1899 (full text)

The Economical Cookery Book, Eliza Warren, 1859 (full text)

Chips, Crums & Specks of Saratoga County History, a local historian’s blog about George Crum

Buy Sell Gold Silver Jewelry Coins Diamonds Antiques Amsterdam NY

Appraisal & Buying Event at the Amsterdam Century Club

Come see us Saturday, November 5th, 2016 at the Century Club of Amsterdam for an Appraisal & Buying Event.

Discover the value of that family heirloom, the mysterious painting that has always been on the wall or the old sword your grandfather said came from Japan. Receive top professional prices for those old pieces of jewelry you never wear, the silver coins that have been sitting in a drawer for years, or that diamond that somehow got chipped. Our appraisers will be on-site from 10am to 2pm to evaluate and purchase:


(click on any link for more information about the kinds of things we purchase)


Appraisals are 1 item for $3, or 3 items for $5.

Appraisal fee proceeds to support the Century Club.


When: Saturday, November 5th 2016, 10am-2pm

Where: 130 Guy Park Ave, Amsterdam NY 12010 (link to map, opens in new tab)

Pre 1964 US Silver Coins

Looking at Coins: Pre-1964 US Silver Coins

Pre 1964 US Silver CoinsWhen helping clients settle an estate or prepare for an estate sale, the most common type of collectible coins we see are American silver dollars, half dollars, quarters. and dimes. The United States has been minting and issuing its own official coinage in gold, silver, copper, and nickel (along with various mixtures of nickel and copper) since 1793. From the 18th century until 1964, US silver coins were comprised of 90% pure silver alloyed with 10% other metals in order to make the coins more durable and less prone to wear. Silver and gold coins intended for circulation as currency are typically made this way because these metals in their pure state are very soft and wear very quickly – this is also why pure gold or silver jewelry is rarely made.

There’s a wide range in value for US pre-1965 coins, but we can help you figure out what it is you have. In the United States, the dimes, quarters, and half dollars coins minted in 1964 and earlier are 90% silver. These coins include:

  • Morgan and Peace dollars
  • Liberty Head (aka Barber), Walking Liberty, Franklin, and Kennedy half dollars 1964 and older
  • Liberty Head (aka Barber), Standing Liberty, and Washington quarters 1964 and older
  • Liberty Head (aka Barber), Winged Liberty Head (commonly called “Mercury”), and Roosevelt dimes 1964 and older
  • Jefferson “Wartime” nickels

These kinds of coins are sometimes called “junk silver” by coin collectors and dealers. They are typically common coins, minted in large quantities and easily found even today. However, there are some exceptions to these otherwise common coins. Most Morgan and Peace dollars, unless terribly worn or damaged, always have at least a small collectible or numismatic value above their silver value. There are also truly rare and collectible coins in these categories such as the 1916-D Mercury dime, the 1938-D Walking Liberty half dollar, and coins in high grades of uncirculated condition (as if they just came from the mint) which are very rare and prized by collectors.

The value of common pre-1964 US silver coins changes as the price of silver ebbs and flows in the global market, and is also affected by the global industrial demand for silver. The value of US silver coins is mostly based on the silver content and is typically expressed as a value of the face value. For example, if the junk silver price is $10 for every $1 of face value, a dollar’s worth of 90% silver coins would be worth $10, a half dollar would be $5, a quarter $2.50, and a dime would be worth $1.

The best word of advice is to always double check your coins before making a decision about what to do with them. A while ago, we had a client who brought in a World War II ammo case full of silver dimes from their parent’s basement, one of two boxes the parents had filled with dimes throughout their lives. Our client’s box ended up revealing $5,000-10,000 worth of 90% silver dimes, as calculated at the silver price of the day. The sister who inherited the other ammo case took it to a change machine and received $600-700 for the coins’ face value. Sadly, she had no recourse, and the true value of those silver coins was lost to the change machine.

Do you have coins you would like to investigate selling? Contact us by email or call us at (518) 587-8787.

Are you looking to identify a coin? Here’s a quick reference for the US 90% silver coins we see most often.

Morgan Dollar - US Silver Coins
Morgan Dollar – minted from 1878 to 1904, and then again in 1921. Named after its designer, George T. Morgan.
Peace Dollar - US Silver Coins
Peace Dollar – minted from 1921 to 1928, and then in 1934 and 1935. Named for the legend ‘Peace’ on the reverse.
Barber Half Dollar - US Silver Coins
Liberty Head or Barber Half Dollar – Minted from 1892 to 1915. Named after its designer, Charles E. Barber.
Walking Liberty Half Dollar - US Silver Coins
Walking Liberty Half Dollar – Minted from 1916 to 1947. Designed by Adolph A. Weinman.
Franklin Half Dollar - US Silver Coins
Franklin Half Dollar – Minted from 1948 to 1963. Designed by John R. Sinnock.
Kennedy Half Dollar - Pre-1964 US Silver Coins
Kennedy Half Dollar – Minted in 90% silver only in 1964. Minted in 40% silver from 1965 to 1970.
Barber Quarter - US Silver Coins
Liberty Head or Barber Quarter – Minted from 1892 to 1916. Named after its designer, Charles E. Barber.
Standing Liberty Quarter - US Silver Coins
Standing Liberty Quarter – Minted from 1916 to 1930. Designed by Hermon Atkins MacNeil.
Pre-1964 Washington Quarters - US Silver Coins
Washington Quarter – Minted in 90% silver from 1932 to 1964. Designed by John Flanagan.
Barber Dime - US Silver Coins
Liberty Head or Barber Dime – Minted from 1892 to 1916. Named after its designer, Charles E. Barber.
Mercury Dime - US Silver Coins
Mercury Dime – Minted from 1916 to 1945. Depicts the goddess Liberty, misidentified as Mercury due to her winged cap.
Pre-1964 Roosevelt Dimes - US Silver Coins
Roosevelt Dime – Minted in 90% silver from 1946 to 1964. Released on January 30, 1946, which would have been Roosevelt’s 64th birthday.
Wartime Jefferson Nickles - US Silver Coins
‘Wartime’ Jefferson Nickels – Minted in 35% silver from mid-1942 to 1945. Easily identified by a large mint mark (S, D, or P) over the Monticello dome.


Do you have questions about buying and selling gold, platinum, or silver bullion coins? Call us at (518) 587-8787 or email us at

Saratoga Springs Racetrack - 19th Century Stereoview Card

History & Horses at the Saratoga Racetrack

The Saratoga Racetrack - Early 20th Century Souvenir PhotoToday marks the opening day of the 153rd season at the Saratoga Race Course, the third oldest racetrack in the United States. Saratoga Springs was the summer spot during the heights of the Gilded Age, the ultimate 19th century destination where the wealthy elite would gather to dance, socialize, and gamble at the Saratoga Racetrack or at the elegant Canfield Casino in Congress Park. The elegant hotels lining Broadway – the Grand Union Hotel, Congress Hall, United States Hotel, and the Adelphi Hotel – hosted some of the most notable names of the day from Vanderbilts to Rockefellers to Astors.

The Saratoga racetrack was opened on its current site in 1863, though standard thoroughbred horse racing had been a notable sporting event in the city since 1847. The racetrack was largely made possibly by the efforts of John Hunter (later the first chairman of The Jockey Club), William R. Travers (namesake of the Travers Stakes race held on the wildly popular Travers Day), casino operator and future congressman John Morrissey, and the American business magnate and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt.

The racing season at the Saratoga racetrack originally only lasted four days, but the season now extends to 40 days of active horse racing. There’s nothing quite like the ambience of the Saratoga racetrack: the beautiful and historic 19th century buildings, the laid-back relaxation of picnicking on the lawn, the excitement of standing at the rail watching the horses thunder past, the elegance of sitting in the Clubhouse or Grandstand, the thrill of watching the thoroughbred racehorses led through the grounds on their way to the starting gate only inches away from you.

Are you going to the Saratoga Race Course this year? Plan your visit by visiting the official website, or get in the racing frame of mind with these historic images of Saratoga and the racetrack taken from 19th century stereoview cards and Saratoga Springs souvenir booklets:


Saratoga Racecourse - 19th Century Stereoview CardSaratoga Springs Congress Hall Hotel - 19th Century Stereoview Card Saratoga Springs Congress Park & Grand Union Hotel - 19th Century Stereoview Card The Columbian Spring in Congress Park, Saratoga Springs - 19th Century Stereoview Card View of Broadway with the Grand Uniobn Hotel & United States Hotel - Early 20th Century Souvenir Photo

The Chinese Ding Bowl: Could It Happen To You?

Ding-bowlThree years ago in March, the world was fascinated to learn that an incredibly rare Chinese Ding bowl sold at auction for $2.2 million after being discovered at a local yard sale for $3. The now famous Chinese bowl was crafted 1,000 years ago during the Northern Song dynasty. “Ding” wares are celebrated among collectors for their delicately thin carved walls, feather light weight, and fluid naturalistic designs. Only one other bowl of this age, size, and style is known to exist and is housed at the British Museum. Sold for only $3 at a yard sale somewhere in upstate New York (our own backyard!), the bowl sat on a mantle for years until the lucky owners got curious about their garage sale find and started digging around. A quick trip to an appraiser led to the bowl’s record-breaking sale at Sotheby’s in March 2013.

The odds seem incredibly small, don’t they? It’s hard to believe, but this kind of thing really happens and it happens quite often! Rare and valuable finds can and do turn up in the most unlikely of places. A £53.1 million Chinese vase sat unnoticed in a modest London home for years until it was discovered in 2010. An art collection worth $30 million was found in a Long Island garage in 2013. More recently, an extraordinarily rare Ty Cobb baseball card (part of a group known as The Lucky Seven valued in the seven figures) was found in a brown paper bag and nearly thrown in the trash

Everyone hopes that they could be the next lucky person to stumble across a valuable piece of Chinese porcelain, a lost Old Master painting, a one-of-a-kind baseball card, or a rare coin. The easiest way to be that lucky person? Don’t have a garage sale or yard sale without having your stuff checked out first!

For example, in 2009 a woman bought a very small unsigned oil painting for $1-2 at a yard sale in the Saratoga Springs / Albany region. She had a feeling the painting might be worth more and brought it to Mark Lawson Antiques for us to take a closer look. The unassuming painting was by the famed local folk artist Grandma Moses and brought the observant woman $7,500 at auction.

clovioOr, in 2006, an elderly woman in the Adirondacks uncovered an interesting painting in the family storage unit. The painting was so vibrant it looked as though it had been painted yesterday. She brought the painting to Mark Lawson Antiques and discovered the painting was the work of the Renaissance artist Giulio Clovio. The discovery of a previously unknown Old Master painting drew the interest of collectors worldwide; the painting was purchased by the Croatian Ministry of Culture for $84,155 and returned to the country of Clovio’s birth.

Are you thinking of having a garage sale or yard sale? Your storage unit, attic, garage, or basement might have an amazing find just waiting to be discovered. Email us at or call us at (518) 587-8787 and we’ll help make sure you don’t miss out!

Paul Stankard art glass paperweight

Art Glass Paperweights by Paul Stankard

Paul Stankard art glass paperweightWe recently came across an art glass paperweight by the renowned American artist Paul Stankard. These paperweights are masterpieces of glassblowing and command very attractive prices in today’s market; we’re always pleased to see one of these beautiful works of art. Paul Stankard is considered by many to be a living master in the art of the paperweight.

Born in 1943, Paul Stankard began his glassblowing career by creating scientific instruments for chemical laboratories. He began producing glass paperweights in his spare time to fulfill his creative drive, moving to working as an artist full time after an internationally respected art dealer happened to see his early paperweights at a craft exhibit on the Atlantic City boardwalk.

Paul Stankard art glass paperweightA paperweight made by Paul Stankard is immediately recognizable by the remarkably lifelike designs suspended within. Stankard is often considered the father of modern art glass paperweights. Before him, floral art glass paperweights usually featured brightly colored, botanically incorrect designs. Stankard dedicated himself to creating highly detailed, highly realistic creations. The extraordinary lifelike depiction of plants, flowers, and insects is a remarkable achievement in glassblowing.

The artistry evident in these paperweights make them desirable to collectors, with a strong presence in the current market. Do you collect paperweights? Who is your favorite artist in glass?

Paul Stankard art glass paperweightPaul Stankard art glass paperweightPaul Stankard art glass paperweight







For more on Paul Stankard, you can visit his website, or click here to watch a CBS Sunday Morning segment on his life and work.



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