The book art of NC Wyeth
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    Auction Finds

    Readers ask about WWII artifacts, Wyeth book & Searles art

    Friday at Auction Finds is readers’ questions day. I try to guide readers to resources to help them 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 questions are about selling WWII artifacts, book illustrated by N.C. Wyeth and sculpture by Charles Searles.

    ration books

    A family’s ration books from World War II.

    Question:

    I have a bunch of World War II history items along with Italian screenplays in Italian. I have Western Union cablegrams, all kinds of interesting things and Hollywood screenplays from the 30, 40 & 50’s. Some New York Broadway plays and old pictures. I also found the food coupons, too. Who’s the best person to tell me what value these types of things have?

    Answer:

    The reader had come across a blog post that I wrote two years ago about a family’s World War II ration books. These were allotted to families during the war when a little bit of everything was scarce. They used the books to buy their ration of food, gasoline and other supplies.

    Most of the items mentioned by the reader have come up at auction. In fact, I attended an auction recently with more than 50 scrapbooks of photos and newspaper clippings of movie stars, along with movie posters, reels of films and other paraphernalia that had been collected since around the 1930s.

    You will have to do some research via Google (and also eBay) to see what the items have sold for on various retail and auction sites. Then, I’d suggest that you consult a reputable auction house near you (via auctionzip.com) to sell some of the items – if that’s what you’re interested in doing. Ebay is not only a good place to research your items but also to sell them – after you have determined their worth.

    Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote about determining the value of items.

    A collection of children's books illustrated by artist N.C. Wyeth.

    A collection of children’s books illustrated by artist N.C. Wyeth.

    I often get emails from readers deducing from my blogs that I’m in the market to buy what I write about. Usually, I am not. I write about items that interest me and hope that others will be just as intrigued. Besides, I’m spoiled. I buy at auction at ridiculously low prices, so readers are likely to get more money elsewhere for their items than what I’m willing to pay for them.

    The following emails are representative of those inquiries. I always offer alternative places for them to sell their items.

    Question:

    I was cleaning out my mother’s wonderful book collection recently and came upon a first edition of DRUMS by James Boyd with glorious color plates and black and white illustrations by N.C. Wyeth. I am an artist and have long loved the work of the Wyeth family, so I sat right down on the dusty floor beneath the bookshelves and read it cover to cover. I need to sell, therefore, I wonder if you might be interested. It is the rare Scribner and Son first edition, 1928. In very good condition for its age, kept on shelves out of direct sunlight it still retains its black cover with gold trim and color plate (by Wyeth, of course) of three Revolutionary War drummers.

    Answer:

    This reader contacted me after reading a blog post I wrote four years ago (and a follow-up a year ago) about the book illustrations of N.C. Wyeth. I love his illustrations, too, and have several of his illustrated children’s books. The 1928 Scribner and Sons’ edition of “Drums,” unfortunately, is not rare.

    I have a copy in great condition but with no dust jacket (which always increases the value). Abebooks.com is selling signed copies for up to $3,500 (with dust jacket). The site has a copy similar to the reader’s with a high asking price of $440 and low prices under $100. I found unsigned copies selling for considerably less on other sites, including eBay where most were not selling at all.

    The book, about a North Carolina youth growing into manhood before and during the Revolutionary War, was first published by Scribner in 1925, and the subsequent edition with the Wyeth illustrations was published in 1928. It was one of 25 books that Wyeth was commissioned to illustrate in Scribner’s Illustrated Classics series.

    Charles Searles' artwork

    At left, Charles Searles’ “Relaxed Traders (1974), on exhibit at Woodmere Art Museum. At right, several of his abstract sculptures from another exhibition, from kathleenspicer.com website.

    Question:

    Have available Mr. Charles Searles’ untitled sculpture tagged for $2,000 at time of purchase.

    Answer:

    I wrote about Charles Searles’ paintings after seeing them at a museum exhibit last year. I was familiar with Searles the sculptor but not the painter, and I was happy to see the breadth of his talents.

    Interestingly, I picked up a Charles Bibb print at auction earlier this year that also had a price tag of $2,000 on it, and  it was being offered for sale on several retail sites for $1,100 to $1,200. I obviously paid much less for it at auction.

    I suggest that the reader find a reputable gallery (via Google) or auction house (via auctionzip.com) near her to have the sculpture appraised. Some auction houses hold free appraisal days where staffers will eyeball your item and do a preliminary assessment. If the item is of value, you can then have it professionally appraised for a fee.

    A reputable auction house or gallery can also sell the sculpture on consignment. Here’s a blog post I wrote about how to determine the value of items andhow to get them appraised and/or sold.

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