Friday, December 29, 2006

Finding rare glass at yard sales

Finding rare glassware

In our family, the phrase "Going Saleing" has nothing to do with sailboats. For us, Saleing has to do with going out on a bargain-finding adventure at yard sales and auctions. It’s the 21st Century outlet for the hunting man, a way to seek-out and capture rare and valuable antiques!

Don't let anyone tell you that successful yard sale buying is easy or lucky. It takes years of study, and just learning a minor area like Carnival glass or Depression glass can take years of study. It's impossible for anyone to memorize the value of the millions of items that have been manufactured in the past 250 years since the Industrial Revolution, and that's a great equalizer in the search for treasures.

Janet and I have been antique dealers for decades and we have made as much as $2,500 in a good auction. Over the decades I've witnessed some amazing deals.

I studied for several years under the tutelage of a museum curator and I used to love going to sales looking for colonial American glassware. You cannot tell that they glass is 250 year old by its outward appearance, and it's a rush to snag an ancient glass piece that George Washington might have used. It's also fun to seek out EAPG - Early American Print Glass. Here is an eBay search to see authentic glass from the 1700’s. This web site has an amazing collection of 18th Century glassware.

Carnival Glass profits

A few years ago, a fellow bought two Carnival glass vases in North Carolina for under $50, and they turned-out to be the only two of their kind, the rarest Carnival glass in existence. At the auction, the winning bidder arrived from Texas in a private helicopter and paid over $100k for the best vase.

The lesser vase went for over $50k, and the yard sale buyer made over $100k for a few hours work, not a bad profit. However, carnival glass collecting is very tricky. Prices are dictated by scarcity, not beauty, and some of the ugliest pieces are the most valuable. You need a reference book:

Heisey Glass

Finding Heisey is a huge adrenaline rush, especially when you snag rare Heisey piece at auction for a fraction of the retail price. Years ago, Janet snagged a rare Heisey Zircon set and sold it for a $1k profit. Heisey Zircon is a bluish color, and it's rare because it was so ugly that very few pieces were made.

Rare Catalogs are very hot

Year ago I stumbled across an old bicycle catalog from the 1800's and I was very happy to discover that it was the only surviving sample in existence! Thanks to eBay, I was able to find several wealthy collectors who absolutely had to have it. Niiice . . .

Grandma's skillet

I've seen some amazing things at auctions, but the craziest was a bidding war at an estate sale. All the extended family was there to buy-up Granny's heirlooms, and when her old skillet went up, the grieving family went nuts, brother against sister, bidding-up Grandma's greasy old skillet to over $800!

To this day, I'm amazed at how many families hate each other because of crap like this . . . .

It's priceless

The biggest snatch that I've ever seen was at an auction in upstate New York. There was an original Indian bow and arrow set, complete with six arrows and a quiver with original beadwork.

I knew that the bow was old and valuable, but not being educated in American Indian collectibles, I had no idea of the tribe or the real value. It looked like it belonged in a museum, and I could tell that it was going to be hot because the top buyers were "pretending" to ignore it, a common trick to keep prices low . . .

An American Indian Bow and Arrow set

It was a madhouse when the bidding started and it sold for more than $8k! Later, I asked the winning bidder about it, and he claimed that it was one-of-a-kind artifact and that he flipped it to a collector for a six figure price.

Today, we still enjoy the rush of finding an overlooked treasure. If you are an Adrenaline junky, yard sales and auctions may be just the ticket!