What's It Worth? The Myths Of Ming For almost 300 years, the long-lived Ming Dynasty – the last dynasty ruled by the Han people – excelled at foreign trade, and is well-known for its incredible porcelain. Not so well-known – millions of Ming Dynasty porcelain items were manufactured not just for trade but for everyday use as well. So if you have the oft-cited Ming vase, it might not be valuable at all. (In our business, when someone says, “I have a vase for sale,” we know we have a shot at buying it. When they say, “I have acquired a vahz,” we know it is probably overvalued by the owner.) In short? read more
What's It Worth? Adieux To The Last Of The Gay Culverhouse Collection Last week we sold the remaining lots of the prestigious Gay Culverhouse art collection. Proud to have been chosen to help settle the estate of Dr. Culverhouse (a textbook “renaissance woman” who was president of the Buccaneers, noted author, philanthropist and art dealer/collector), this sale (which included a few other non-Culverhouse items) fetched under a quarter of a million dollars and was our biggest online auction yet. On Saturday, the 23rd, it was all hands on deck with phone bidders and internet dealers from around the world. read more
What's It Worth? The Love Affair With Mid-Century Style Continues Five years ago, we wrote about the mid-century trend. And it is still going strong! The style influences from the 1950s to the 1970s are still a hot trend today. When we first went into the antique business in the 1980s, no one wanted anything to do with 1950s and ’60s modernist design; the bizarre clock in your mom’s kitchen or the asymmetrical Danish-designed table in your parents’ den was seen as old hat. read more
What's It Worth? Napkin Rings: Reminders Of A More Formal Past The well-appointed 19th-century home from almost every class had napkin rings on the table. Napkin rings vary in size from tiny clips to giant figural creations and are typically sterling silver or American coin silver. Early American versions like the two “shield” versions (lower right) bring 3 to 4 times their silver value. Plain ones like the oval with Ruth monogram (lower left) often bring just their silver value. read more
What's It Worth? The Historic Culverhouse Art Collection The term “renaissance man” is overused. Used to describe a person of well-rounded, multi-faceted and varied intellect, today’s column focuses on just one aspect of a verifiable and literal “renaissance woman.” We have been tapped by museums, universities and federal bankruptcy courts to sell, promote and deaccession very important, internationally acclaimed collections over the years; but the Dr. Gay Culverhouse collection of fine and decorative art is perhaps one of the most exciting. Dr. Culverhouse defied conventional wisdom with her varied interests. read more
What's It Worth? Wallflowers Of The Art World: Craggy Old Men A recent acquisition from a Florida retiree underscores the desirability, prejudices and ambiguities of fine art that further define valuation. Chinese, Burmese and Indian art have all been on a positive upswing in the past 10 years. As we have humorously written in the past, the most endearing subject for fine art that holds its value over time has always been women. As Katrina has noted, nothing is more naturally beautiful than the female form. The second most popular subject is women with children, as seen in Mary Cassatt’s and similar artists’ works. read more
What's It Worth? The $2 Million Painting That Wasn’t A North Carolina antique estate dealer recently sent us a box of Tiffany silver and a painting by a famous artist who was local to the Raleigh-Durham area. After our first successful transaction, he began to send us more paintings from the same estate, which we paid between $1,000 and $10,000 for apiece. He said that the best were still to come; each subsequent painting was worth more than the one before. Finally he sent us what was supposed to be the best piece in the collection, an Edward Hopper, which, if authentic, could be worth several million dollars. read more
What's It Worth? Totally Tea for Teetotalers “Tea is better than wine for it leadeth not to intoxication, neither does it cause a man to say foolish things and repent thereof in his sober moments. It is better than water for it does not carry disease; neither does it act like poison as water does when it contains foul and rotten matter.” According to, this ancient Chinese saying spread through Europe as tea displaced beer in Britain and the Netherlands, when both countries were fighting the scourge of alcoholism with tea as the perfect alternative. read more
What's It Worth? American Post WWII Prints We typically advertise that we don’t buy prints, because the print market was co-opted in the 19700s97 by ne’er-dowells, exaggerators and outright fraudsters. We do often buy earlier prints, pre-1970s, created by artists before WWII. They were generally small, and black and white. After WWII, Manhattan supplanted Paris as the center of the art world with various modern, contemporary, abstract expressionist, hard-edge and pop-art works. These brought forth multiple editions of large, colorful compositions popular during the late 1960s and early 1970s. read more
What's It Worth? It’s Tiffany Week at Hess! We know we write about Tiffany a lot, but we had to share some spectacular Tiffany pieces that have come in from jewelers around the country this week. As we have written before, roughly 50 percent of our items come from area residents and the remaining 50 percent from jewelers, coin dealers and pawnbrokers around the U.S. We paid $18,000 for this large, important Tiffany Japanese aesthetic tray that is made from sterling silver and mixed metals, including gold and bronze inlay, dated 1879. read more