Prints from the Ray Witt Picture Co. of Miami
  • Louis XV style toilet chairs in soft pastels
  • Readers ask about African American art, matchbooks & dolls
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    Auction Finds

    Readers ask about bidding, potty chairs & Ray Witt art

    Friday at Auction Finds is readers’ questions day. I try to guide readers to resources for them to determine the value of the items that they own. I’m not able to appraise their treasures, but I can do some preliminary research to get them started. So, these are market values, not appraisal for insurance purposes that I suggest for items that have been determined to be of great value.

    This week’s questions are about how much to bid at auction, potty chairs and prints sold by the Ray Witt Picture Co.

    Frank J. Dillon sketchbooks

    Sketchbooks belonging to artist Frank J. Dillon.


    I don’t have wads of money to spend. If I’m going to an auction of “collectibles,” about how much money should I have to spend in order to come home with something? (very general question, I know.)


    That is a very general question with no definitive answer. It all depends on what you’re looking for, its popularity or rarity, and how many other people in the room want it, too.

    I’ve gone to auctions expecting to spend a little but ended up spending more. I’ve been going to auctions for a long time, and even I get caught up in the bidding sometimes and overspend. That happens with many of us veteran auction-goers. You get stuck on an item and become so determined and hell-bent on getting it that you lose your mind.

    I recall engaging in a bidding war over some sketches by artist Frank J. Dillon, and I stopped bidding when it reached $200. After I dropped out, I realized that I had gone way too high and breathed a sigh of relief that the other bidder was more determined than me. I walked over to the box-lot room and got another stack of his sketches for $2.

    I’d recommend that you have some idea of what “collectibles” you want to take home, and research them before you get to the auction. That way, you’ll have some idea of their market value – what someone is willing to pay for the item at a given point in time (and that could change). If it’s a rare item – and there’s a dealer at the auction who knows that – you may end up paying more.

    If you don’t have a particular piece in mind, I would advise that you preview items – either online (most auction houses have a website) or in person. It’ll give you time beforehand to research the item so you can decide how much you should spend. You shouldn’t pay too much more than you’re comfortable spending.

    Try not to get caught up in a bidding war because more than likely the item will show up on the auction tables again. Most items are not one of a kind, and there are plenty of the same stuff out there.

    To find an auction house near you, go to, type in your zip code and you’ll get a list of upcoming auctions, along with the auction house websites.

    Louis XV-style toilet chairs

    A pair of Louis XV-style toilet chairs in pastel colors.


    Is this potty chair for sale?


    The reader was referring to a set of XV-style toilet chairs that I had written about last fall. A number of people come across my blog posts months and years after I’ve written them. The items have long been sold by then.

    The chairs were sitting on a table ready for auction when I came across them back in October. You may be able to find them on the web at an upcoming auction (check, or on retail sites and eBay. You may have to keep checking pretty often until one shows up, though.

    I’ve seen several potty chairs of different styles at auctions over the last year, so there seems to be plenty of them out there.

    Evelyn Hott print

    An Evelyn Hott print of Canada geese sold by the Ray Witt Picture Co. It sold at an auction in 2011 for $10.


    I have a portrait of butterflies by Evelyn Hott framed by your company. The back of the picture has a stamp for Ray Witt Picture Company in S Miami 43 Florida. It has a subject #620-36 on it. Please let me know the history of this piece.


    About two years ago, I wrote a blog post about the Ray Witt Picture Co. when several of its prints were sold at auction. The reader apparently has me mixed up with the company.

    It was a Miami, FL, company that sold pleasant but inexpensive prints from arond the 1940s to 1960s to such places as hotels, motels, offices and home furnishing stores in the United States and abroad. Some were silkscreens of original watercolors that the company commissioned.

    The most expensive of the prints sold for $20, but some went for less. Most of the pieces have no history and no provenance, and probably are not worth much.

    Evelyn Hott may have been one of the artists without a pedigree. I could find very little about her on the web, except for some of the artwork she created for the Witt company. A painting of Canada geese by Hott sold at auction for $10 in 2011. It had been estimated at $200 to $300. Last month, a painting of swans sold for $4.99 at a Goodwill online auction in South Florida.

    I can’t give you a history of your Evelyn Hott print. You should just enjoy it with the knowledge that you have a piece of history – even if that history is incomplete and has a few holes in it.


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