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    Auction Finds

    Reader asks about ‘Alex Haley Remembers’ collectible

    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 in the “Alex Haley Remembers Collection.”

    haley1

    “First Love,” a figurine depicting Alex Haley’s childhood, sculpted by artist Ellen McGowan. Photo from HootHootSaysTheOwl at etsy.com.

    Question:

    We had a gift shop in the 1990s and purchased several sets of “Alex Haley Remembers” collectibles. We kept all but the display set intact and in the original boxes. We no longer have the gift shop and are trying to determine what the market is for these unopened numbered set. Any idea whom we should contact?

    Answer:

    The reader had come across a blog post I wrote two years ago about a series of figurines depicting the childhood of author Alex Haley. I had seen several of them at the home of a friend’s sister in Savannah, GA. They were sculpted around 1989 or 1990 by a Tennessee artist named Ellen McGowan, who contacted me a year later after she stumbled across the blog post.

    At that time, McGowan graciously agreed to allow me to interview her by email about the experience. She met with Haley and his childhood best friend at the author’s grandparents’ home in Henning, TN, recording his childhood stories during three sessions.

    Figurines from the collection, including "First Love" on the right.

    Figurines from the collection: “Special Flower,” left; “Homework,” center, and “First Love,” right.

    “The stories all made a lasting impression on me,” McGowan wrote. “He was such a genuine man and the stories showed much love and respect for his grandparents – and also (he had) a wonderful sense of humor. I just took the stories and tried to tell them in figurines instead of words.

    “A lot of them were scenes with his grandparents. One that was particularly poignant was that most African Americans worked in the cotton fields and when someone in their community died, they would all stop and stand respectfully for a moment. My favorite (is) the one where he is saying his prayers as his grandmother looks at him affectionately.”

    I always suggest that people do the research on the web to see what their items are selling for. I’ve even written blog posts that offer some direction on how to do that.

    Ebay is a good place to start; it is such a huge marketplace that it sets the value/worth/price of many items. While I suspect that most buyers on the site are looking for bargains, I’ve seen items go for a lot more than I expected.

    It’s not much unlike being at a real live auction: All you need are two people who desperately want an item, especially if it’s a hard-to-find piece.

    Checking eBay, I found only one figurine, titled “Playing Marbles,” that sold for $26. It appeared to be used and did not have its original box. Three others titled “The Storyteller” did not make the low bid of $3.99. Interestingly, there was only a limited number of pieces for sale.

    In the center "Walking with Grandpa," along with other figurines.

    The two figurines at left depict Alex Haley with his grandfather, and at right, a kiss from his grandmother.

    Googling, I found several others for sale on etsy.com (a marketplace primarily for crafts) for up to $200, which seems pretty expensive. But someone who really wants one of those pieces for their collection may be willing to pay 200 bucks for it.

    The figurines in the “Remembers” collection were made in large editions, which means that there are a lot of them out there and they are not rare. “First Love,” for example, was released in 1990 in an edition of 10,000. “Grandma’s Kiss” was an edition of 5,000.

    The reader could try setting up a site on etsy.com to try to sell the collectibles.

    You could also consult an auction house in your area (you can find some near you via auctionzip.com) and find someone on its staff who may be able to give you a ball-park figure on the value of your pieces. Some auction houses have days when they will appraise your items for free.

    If you find one you’re comfortable with, you could consign the pieces to the auction house to sell. Ask to have the figurines included in one of the special auctions, where items tend to be sold for more money.

    Reply:

    Thanks so much for your reply. We will check the suggested sites.

     

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