Hess Fine Art

Fine Art, Auction, Watch and Antique Experts Since 1984.
1131 4th Street North
St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (map)
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What’s It Worth? Collecting A Troubling Past

COLLECTING A TROUBLING PAST

We have always been puzzled by the popularity of collectible stereotypical items like African-American, Asian-American and Native-American memorabilia. These items were all the rage during America’s troubled past. Today, our customer base for black memorabilia is often people of color who seek objects from the most painful chapter in American history. (Interestingly, Whoopi Goldberg is one of the largest collectors of black memorabilia.) And it is the more bleak and reprehensible images that typically bring in the most dollars.

For insight into this phenomenon, we reached out to some of our collectors. The frequent answer was that the most objectionable images were destroyed at a faster rate than others, making them more rare. Second, collectors have a mindset that they want to preserve history so that future generations will remember how erroneously minorities were viewed and portrayed. Experts on the subject say such memorabilia tells stories no history book can tell.

Not all African-American memorabilia is offensive. From a Tampa resident, we recently accepted on consignment a rare Civil War medal (above). Civil War medals are usually fairly common and only worth between $150 and $500, but this one was given to Elijah Moorhead for his service with the 41st United States Colored Infantry. It was presented by the state of West Virginia to Mr. Moorhead, who likely served in the trenches of Richmond and possibly Appomattox and Hatcher’s Run – as these were the most important battles that this regiment was involved in, as well as the surrender of Lee and his army. Thankfully, African-American heroic collectibles such as this bring in much more than the offensive items do. A high auction estimate would be $2,000 to $3,000.

If you have an item of African-American or other early American memorabilia that you would like to sell, let us bid on it. From top, a ruby necklace that belonged to Marcus Nash, head of NAACP; it was a gift for his wife 100 years ago, $20,000. A spoon depicting children in Texas, circa 1890, $500. A Vaudeville minstrel show photo, $2-$5 each.

If you have an item of African-American or other early American memorabilia that you
would like to sell, let us bid on it.

Stop in or call 727.896.0622 for an appointment.

Comments, questions or suggestions for this column, please send to jeffreyphess@aol.com.

St. Petersburg 1131 4th St. N, St. Petersburg FL 33701.

Ph: 727.896.0622

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Hess Fine Art - Fine Art, Auction, Watch and Antique Experts Since 1984

What’s It Worth? Collecting A Troubling Past.PDF

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Publish Date: 
January, 2017