Thomas Blackshear – straight out of Hallmark
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    Auction Finds

    Reader asks about Thomas Blackshear art figurines

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

    Today’s question is about figurines by African American artist Thomas Blackshear.

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    Thomas Blackshear’s “Spring” was among several retired figurines sold at auction.

    Question:

    Thomas Blackshear items. I have a few retired pieces I want to sell. Based on your write-up of 2011, I don’t want to make the same mistake in selling at a low price. Or should it be the other way around?

    Answer:

    The reader was referring to a blog post I wrote in 2011 about figurines by African American artist Thomas Blackshear. Several of his retired pieces – apparently someone’s collection – had been spread out on an auction table. Whoever consigned them to be sold at the regular sale at this mom and pop auction house didn’t know what they had.

    Blackshear is an artist whose works featuring positive African American images are appreciated by a lot of collectors. He first got into the  collectibles field by designing Star Wars collectors plates. He’s also made commemorative stamps for the U.S. Post Office. Blackshear settled into his niche of African American collectibles with his Ebony Visions series in 1995.

    Several sites noted that the first six designs in the series bring top dollar on the secondary market. They were released in April 1995 and were named “The Storyteller,” “The Protector,” “The Nurturer,” “The Siblings,” “The Madonna” and “The Tender Touch.” They were followed by other designs in the collection, some of which are also retired – or no longer in production – but apparently not as valuable.

    The reader didn’t mention which Blackshear pieces she owned, and that will determine both the price and the interest by other collectors. Blackshear is very prolific, and many of his figurines were produced in very large lots. The five first designs were manufactured in lots ranging from 2,500 to 16,900, so there are a lot of them out there.

    Checking eBay – that marketplace where practically everything is put up for auction but does not necessarily sell – I found 1,075 listings over 22 pages with asking prices starting from $3,800 for eight figurines to 99 cents for postcards and art prints. Most of the figurines priced above $1,000 got no bids and didn’t sell.

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    “Oh No She Didn’t” figurine (left) and “Oh No She Did” (right) by Thomas Blackshear. Photos from thecollectionshop.com and robertasplace.com.

    Among the exceptions were two featuring sassy African American women, with someone paying $1,200 for a figurine titled “Oh No She Didn’t.” Another like it sold for $899 when paired with a companion piece titled “Oh Yes She Did.” Blackshear’s figurines didn’t start a selling stride until the $300 to $400 price range.

    Some art retail sites were offering those pieces and others for much less. The “Oh No She Didn’t” figurine – which was retired in 2001 with 4,500 made – was selling on Blackshear’s Ebony Visions website for $2,800. Another art site was selling “Oh Yes She Did” for $275, and another was asking $150. Blackshear was selling it for $395. So the price depends on what someone is willing to pay for it at a given time, how many people want it at that time and how bad they want it.

    Depending on how much the reader paid for the figurines and what they are, eBay may not be the best place to sell them. Before you even consider selling them, I would suggest you supplement the research I’ve done by Googling the names of your pieces. I always recommend that anyone with anything of value – or if you think it’s valuable – should do their research on the web so they have some idea of the worth of their items.

    As for selling, try an auction house near you (you can find one at auctionzip.com) and ask the staff to offer the figurines in its special or quality auction (you will be charged a fee for the service). That’s where they auction off the good stuff, and many do it through liveauctioneers.com, giving you an even broader marketplace of collectors.

    Or find an art gallery near you that sells African American art in particular (or try any art gallery) and consider consigning it after asking questions and determining if it’s the best place to work with. Here’s a link that answers a question about selling through a gallery. The  advice here is to try a “local or regional auction, at an online secondary market or auction website, or at a resale gallery in your area that has no work by the artist and wouldn’t mind having some.”

    If you just plan to keep it and enjoy it in your home, be sure to tell your family members of its value so it won’t end up at a Tuesday afternoon weekly auction where people like me go to buy cheap.

     

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