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Vox Pop w/Ray Graf – May 21st, 2019

On a recent episode of Vox Pop with Ray Graf, Mark Lawson of Mark Lawson Antiques and Ray entertain digging up Abraham Lincoln, debate the merits of car salesmen, and learn how to use Google for everything. You can listen to the full recording HERE to follow along with the time stamps below. 


We had another great radio call-in session with Ray Graf over at WAMC on the VoxPop show. Listeners scoured their basements, garages, and attics in search of old treasures. Some of our most exciting finds have been stuff dug up in storage units and stumbled upon behind refrigerators. We started off the show with some incredible news, a Beatles album that had recently sold for $234,000. Part of the value was that it was the original album cover with the boys dressed as butchers holding doll body parts and cuts of meat. Totally not good for the record company branding, so they had to change it. An original, limited version of something that is imperfect or weird like that often commands better value than the mass-produced version.



Our Caller #1 (03:55), Bob in Ulster County, called in regarding an old Louis Vuitton steamer trunk. He was wondering where to bring it to sell it. As many readers and listeners probably know, Louis Vuitton is a leather accessory designer, producing awesome luxury goods going back to the 19th century. Vintage trunks, especially those from a well known designer like Louis Vuitton, are very desirable. They will command the best prices at auction venues due to “auction fever.” People will often pay more for something when they are in competition with someone than they would pay normally. The great thing about this trunk is that it was a luxurious, expensive item when it was made. It wasn’t mass produced and there aren’t a lot of them available. Relatively uncommon, in this case, may mean sought after competitively. We recommended local auctions as a potential avenue for Bob to sell his trunk. One thing you always want to check for when working with an auctioneer is that they do live internet bidding. This allows them to reach the maximum number of potential buyers, which means the biggest market, the best possible price for you, and the best new home for your treasure.

Rare Collectibles




Caller #2 (07:40), Cary from Plainfield, MA, called in with a collection of Harper’s Weekly newspapers from 1872. In the 1880s and 90s, publishers began to use newspaper with high amounts of acidic residue, which causes the paper to deteriorate quickly. As a result, newspapers from the time period after this change are more rare, and papers before this change have survived well. The latter, including Cary’s, are relatively common now because given the right dry environment they will last forever. The most valuable examples of papers from this time period are those with specific and noteworthy content, maybe those with Winslow Homer illustrations, scenes from 1870s Saratoga Springs, or Civil War news. Usually you might get $5-10 for papers like Cary’s, unusual ones can fetch up to $40. A good way to judge the value of old newspapers is to flip through them. Is there anything that you recognize? Anything that you find special? If not, they are probably not valuable. If you don’t find them interesting or important, it’s unlikely anyone else will.

Historical Memorabilia



Our Caller #3 (10:55) was actually an email from Josh, looking for a clocksmith or other way to identify and value an 1850-1870 Seth Thomas clock, which also needed some repairs. Josh was wondering if there was a standard way to go about doing this. He’d already found the stamp “S Thomas A.” We recommended websites such as “” What makes this task a little more difficult is that since 25 or more years ago, clock collecting has faded as a hobby. People tend to collect things out of nostalgia, and mechanical wind up clocks began to be less popular in the 1920s as the wristwatch took over. It seems that the population of people who loved to collect clocks, people who grew up with them in their homes, simply passed away. As a result, in the past 10-15 years we’ve seen an extreme drop in clock values and interest in general. Clock repairmen and craftsmen have become hard to find as many of them have gone out of business. We recommended giving Howie’s a call in Lansingburgh. They do watch repair and would certainly be able to provide a referral to a clocksmith or clock maker for identifying, valuing, and repairing clocks. 

Caller #8, Christine, recommended West Side Clocks in Pittsfield, MA.



Our Caller #4 (13:35) was Bill over in Western Mass, with a “Paoletti Impronte” book inherited from his grandpa. These were like books, except that instead of paper inside they had little plaster cameos, images with various Classical or Renaissance themes in extraordinary detail. They were made by the Paoletti family originating in Rome in the 19th century, and were traditional “grand tour” souvenirs for wealthy travelers visiting the Holy Land and other ancient Christian religious sites such as Rome or Constantinople. We don’t see them very often, but they were mass produced and relatively inexpensive. They’re worth a little bit, but not a fortune, at around $2-300 each. They’re absolutely beautiful and intricate. 

Antique American and European Decorative Arts



Caller #5 (16:30) was Jesse in Kingston, with a beautiful wall covering with tassels, possibly Native American or Mayan in origin. He had seen a similar one on the Antiques Roadshow, displaying images of wheat and water, demonstrating how well the owner had done that year. We invited Jesse to send us high quality pictures by email. It’s very difficult with textiles as they are so easy to copy. Even if something seems old or legitimate, any textile or rug that has known value over the past hundred years will have been copied, and copied well. It’s hard to verify without experts right there in person, but we’re always happy to take a look and make recommendations.

Rugs and Textiles



Caller #6 (18:50) was Patrick in Columbia County, wondering why more mirrors aren’t featured on the Antiques Roadshow. A great question! The most valuable antique mirrors tend to be from the 18th century or earlier, with original glass. Due to their advanced age, this often means that the reflective surface is terribly corroded and deteriorated and therefore useless. This makes them tough to present flatteringly on television. However, their unique patina is highly sought after and loved by antiquarians, even if they’re not useable. Another reason that you don’t see them so often is that it must be a nightmare to record a highly reflective surface well in a television studio with all the lighting and equipment behind the camera which would be visible in the mirror.

Patrick did have an antique mirror that had been given to him by an elderly woman who had grown up in England. We recommended he send an image to our email. Another good option is to take it to a local antique shop and have them give it a look. The best way to find a reputable antique dealer in your area is to bring your item in and talk with them, get a sense of their “vibe.” 99% of the time you’ll know within 10 to 20 seconds of meeting someone whether or not they are a high quality person that you would like to do business with. If they seem pleasant and trustworthy and you like them, go ahead and work with them. 

Antique European and American Decorative Arts

At this point in the show, Ray mentioned that this method doesn’t work too well when buying a car…




Caller #7 (22:30) was Linda in North Adams, with a walnut-framed 3ft by 4ft steel engraving of Abraham Lincoln. According to Linda, the artist is John Marshall, who also did the five dollar bill. The frame is certainly original. The engraving itself has been hanging in her dining room for some time, and perhaps due to this environment there are some imperfections in the metal surface. Nice period engravings of iconic presidents such as Lincoln can fetch up to $1000, maybe even more. Any deterioration can affect the value of the item in proportion to how much it would cost to restore it. Deterioration can include spotting, foxing (mildew dots), or toning (oxidation). We stressed to Linda that it’s very important that any restoration is carried out by an experienced expert! We’d advise anyone else the same. Going the DIY route with antique restoration can seriously lower the value of your items.



Caller #8 (25:00) was Christine in Monterey, with a collection of late 19th to early 20th century unsigned political cartoons. She had two homemade scrapbooks of these Tammany Hall-era illustrations and didn’t believe they had any value. With these kinds of things the value depends on the topic, with interesting ones such as presidential elections or political events in recent memory holding more appeal. The decorative aspect of the items can help as well, with exceptional design or craftsmanship being more desirable. We recommended Dennis Holtzman, a political antique specialist that may be able to help.



Caller #9 (27:35) was Mike in South Hadley, with a couple of vinyl albums from the 1970s in perfect condition. The first was a Rare Earth album that came in a backpack and the second was an original copy of Street Survivors by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The second one is of particular import because it shows the band members surrounded by flames. Three days after the album was released in 1977, the band’s plane crashed, killing several band members. Out of respect for the deceased, the album cover was changed, so today the original version will be more valuable. The best resource for information on music memorabilia values is Goldmine Magazine.



Caller #10 (29:55) was an email from Tracy, with a piece of cloth allegedly from Abraham Lincoln’s coffin. How to authenticate such an item? A very interesting claim. With things like this, you need documentation, or at least a documentable family history of possession. If you have a clear family history, and can document it to at least a degree, that’s a start. Without a robust record, it’s going to be tough to make a persuasive argument that it is indeed from Lincoln’s coffin. Of course the question came up, who would fake this kind of thing? And how could you really prove it short of grabbing a shovel and digging up Honest Abe? A scrap of cloth from his coffin would certainly be a sought-after item.



Caller #11 (31:35) was an email from Michael, with an 1898 newspaper breaking the news of the sinking of the USS Maine, which set off the Spanish-American War. It had been put under glass 40 years ago in an effort to protect it, but without UV protection it turned brown. Yow! The paper may be able to be whitened, but the newspaper from that era contains acid residue and generally doesn’t last. At this point, it may be too brittle to restore. We just sold a similar group of newspapers from the Spanish-American War, with 10 papers totaling $50. It’s the kind of thing that is very cool, but unfortunately not valuable as it’s a mass-produced item. Fewer people care about this war as it’s no longer in living memory.



Caller #12 (32:45) was an email from Mike in Saratoga, with three items. The first was a first edition, fifth printing, autographed copy of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Any famous book signed by the author has good value, but unfortunately there’s not much value created by the printing – anything beyond the first printing is less significant. The best thing to do with this item is head over to Abe Books, where you can see what similar signed books are selling for right now.

Mike’s second item was a Christmas card from Vonnegut to Mike’s cousin. Unfortunately as celebrities move out of the public consciousness, value decreases along with the individuals’ import and significance to people. Such a card might be worth $20 or $30. If the card had had a note that said something along the lines of, “…when I was writing Slaughterhouse-Five, it occurred to me that…”, or some other important content relating to Vonnegut’s fame, it would be more valuable. 

Mike’s third item was a limited edition 2ft by 3ft lithograph with a weird saying by Vonnegut (we didn’t want to say it out loud on air). Since the height of Vonnegut’s popularity the market has cooled significantly for things like this, unfortunately. We’d be surprised if it sold for more than $100. 

Historical Memorabilia



Caller #13 (35:45) was Eileen in Chesterfield, with a Louis XIV knock-off gilded furniture set that her heiress grandmother-in-law had bought in Europe in the late 19th century, while waiting for her mansion to be built on Lake Shore Drive in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Unfortunately, the furniture market has changed fundamentally since the housing market collapsed in 2008. People don’t keep house or entertain guests in the same way that they used to. Formal dining rooms aren’t being built as much. As a result, the furniture market has cooled off. However, there is still a market for exceptional items, and high style Gilded Age furniture that is beautiful and actually gilded may fit this bill. We recommended trying to identify the pieces by looking at the craftsmanship, or looking for a signature or tag which can sometimes be on the inner structural parts of the furniture. There may be a strong market for furniture like Eileen’s, but do your research first. 

Exceptional Furniture



Caller #14 (38:30) was Mark in Rockhall with bootleg Beatles albums including picture disks, where the album art is embedded in the vinyl and is playable. Very cool. These are relatively rare specialty items and may have some good value. The best resource for finding information may be Gold Mine Magazine, and in any case dealers in the Gold Mine community may be able to help. Ebay is an active marketplace for these kinds of items, so it may be useful to use a service like Terapeak, which indexes all Ebay sales and can help you determine what pieces like these are actually selling for.

Historical Memorabilia



Caller #15 (40:25) was Andrea in Middlefield, who had accumulated a lot of artwork and original paintings and was wondering the best method for valuing and insuring her collection. She was wondering about the timeframe and cost for professional appraisals. She also had a hard time finding information through Google about a certain artist called Karl Straussberg. Although most professional databases will be indexed with Google, it’s possible that this artist maybe died or quit making art early in his career. We let Andrea know that most professional appraisers are going to charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $100-200 an hour, and generally don’t take possession of the artwork unless that’s the most convenient way to perform the service for the customer. For further information, you can check out the American Appraisers Association, the American Society of Appraisers, and the International Society of Appraisers.

Fine Art



Caller #16 (44:25) was Russell in New Paltz, with a collection of “Toby” mugs. Toby was an English character popular 75-100 years ago. We often see figural mugs and pitchers sporting Toby’s likeness from Staffordshire in England. Russell’s problem is that he can’t sell them, and nobody even wants them at all. How to get rid of the darn things? We recommended an estate sale or donation.


Caller #17 (45:45) was Phyllis in Poughkeepsie, with a couple of blue and white ceramic pieces. She wanted to know how to find out what they might be worth. She found a couple of markings on the bottom that looked like a backwards J with a dot. That could be a lot of things! Maybe it is the artist’s signature. We invited her to send some pictures over by email and we might be able to help out. This may come as a surprise, but we often recommend just using a Google Images search! In Phyllis’ case, she could search “blue and white ceramic marks.” You’ll get a ton of results, but by poring over them you might be able to find just what you have. We actually get information using this method every day. We live in strange times with unheard of amounts of information right at our fingertips. 

Porcelain and China


That just about wraps it up! These radio shows are so much fun and very entertaining. Thanks for calling in, emailing, listening in, and reading!

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Antiques, appraisal event, estate sale, events, folk art, historical memorabilia, Native American, New York, Niskayuna, NY, Saratoga Springs, vox po