Antiques – Quality Craftsmanship and Historic Significance

Some people prefer to buy new, factory-made furniture or household items because there is an idea that because it is ‘new’ it is somehow better. However, this is a fallacy and anyone who has purchased a new piece of furniture only to have it fall apart a few years later knows that this is true. Purchasing antiques is a better way to get a truly quality piece of furniture that has already stood the test of time. Many people have heard of the saying ‘They don’t make them like they used to…’ and the fact is, they don’t. Not only is the quality of a good antique much better than any piece of big-box store furniture, it also holds a greater historical significance, which illuminates an intangible value and interesting story behind the work. These are two of the main reasons why it is always better to purchase antiques over modern factory duplicates.

Quality Craftsmanship

The majority of antiques come from a time when skill and craftsmanship were valued for the beautiful work that it could create. These days, skilled labor and crafting technique is not as appreciated as it once was. This has resulted in a decline in the quality of work that is being produced. What was once a table lovingly crafted by a carpenter is now a table pumped out of a factory setting. The woodworking skill and craftsmanship techniques that were used to create wonderful furniture and ornate carvings are simply not as common now. The work that was being made before industrialization had taken over every aspect of production is work that had much more effort put into it. Many antiques are the result of countless hours of dedicated labor and the result is something that not only looks amazing, but has been built to last lifetimes. Many antiques have been passed down generation upon generation and they are still solid and beautiful pieces to this day.

Historic Significance

Another reason why antiques are so valuable is that they hold a greater historic significance. To tell someone that you bought an armchair at an outlet mall is no story at all. In fact, there are thousands of other armchairs with the exact same story. However, purchasing an antique holds an entire history to it, which is something that makes an antique special. Estate liquidators know this and that is why so many of them can make thousands of dollars from an ‘old chair’ purchased at a garage sale. The reality is that history is valuable and it defines an object by setting it in a time and place, which is something that should be respected. To own a piece of history is to own a piece of humanity.

Man Finds 40k Painting At His Own Garage Sale

Many people have heard this type of story before, but most of the time it sounds like some sort of fantasy. How could something so valuable be hidden right under a person’s nose? Well, the reality is that many time times people do not realize the true value of some of their belongings, particularly when it comes to antiques, rare, or unique items. Yes, many people will hold onto their Spider-Man comics in the hopes of one day retiring on their future sale, but the fact is that without a trained eye and strong knowledge of what is actually valuable on the market, a person is not likely going to make any money from the things that they store away in their attic. More often than not, the items that people own that are actually of significant value are not even recognized or considered as valuable by that person.

Experts Have The Eye And The Experience

When someone has a garage sale, it is usually because they have a lot of extra things or they want to make a little bit of extra cash on the side. They may spend hours hauling everything out to their lawn or driveway, just to make a couple of hundred dollars, if they are lucky, by the end of the day. However what they may not realize is that they could have actually sold something of much greater value without even knowing it. Any person with some knowledge of antiquities or other coveted items could walk up to a garage sale and get the deal of their lives on something that is worth far more than the owner ever realized. This is because most people are not trained to know the true value of an antique hutch or the true origins of an old painting that was passed down from their parents. This results in all types of terrible transactions where the owner of something special doesn’t get what they really deserve for it.

An Exceedingly Rare and Important Soapstone Figural Carving

An Exceedingly Rare and Important Soapstone Figural Carving, 18th Century, dated by inscription to 1750, Sold for $2,235,000

This is why it is so important call in estate liquidators before a person has a garage sale. Estate liquidators are experienced and knowledgeable about all kinds of valuable objects and rare items. They also know how much it could sell for at an auction or to the right buyer and they have the connections to make it happen. There are many stories of people selling away a one-of-a-kind item for only a few dollars when it was really worth thousands, but this can be avoided by calling someone that can properly evaluate a property and its contents. This could be the difference between $200 at a garage sale and $40,000 at auction.




Appraising the Situation

Harry Huang Asian Art Appraiser

Asian Art Appraiser, Harry Huang

With every passing week it seems that Michaan’s Auctions Appraisal Event has grown in attendance.  It appears that the power of television has caused a flood of new traffic to stream through the event at rates never seen before.  For those of you who are not quite as familiar with Michaan’s Wednesday Appraisal Events, I’ll try to show you the ropes.  Let’s count down some helpful facts and information regarding the free service.

5)Each person can have up to five pieces appraised at the event. Not to worry, it works like this: grandma’s chair counts as one. Grandma’s silver service set for eight counts as one.

4)The event is held every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. An easy way to remember: it’s hump day, it’s lunchtime, bring it on over!

3)You have an Asian vessel, a World War II firearm, an old coin, a framed print and a diamond ring.  Can someone be helped at the appraisal event with such a mishmash of items? The answer is yes!  Not only are specialists on hand that cover specific categories such as Asian art, but more than one generalist appraiser is usually available to look at the unusual and the curious.

2)You made it to Michaan’s Main Gallery with your things; what do you do to get seen? It’s so very simple.  When you walk in there will be a sign in desk. Fill out your information on the provided sheet.  Then just have a seat and when the appropriate specialist is available your name will be called and you will be seen.  If you have a variety of items and need to see multiple specialists, you will continue to be helped on a first come, first served basis – it’s that simple.

1)Your main goal is to have your items appraised so they can be auctioned at Michaan’s.  Can this be expedited at the appraisal event? Of course; if that is the case we actually have the same goal.  After the specialist evaluates your item(s) and provides estimate(s), a contract can be opened on the spot and your item(s) slated for future auction.  Terms and conditions will be laid out in detail; all you need is a minimum of $1,000 in sellable property and we are ready to roll!

Please visit the Michaan’s Auctions Appraisal Event every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Main Gallery located at 2751 Todd Street, Alameda, CA 94501.  Find out if you are sitting on a treasure

J.D. Strong Painting Journeys From Summer Appraisal to Winter Fine Sale

A summer appraisal event at Michaan’s Auctions unexpectedly unearthed an exceptional find for the winter fine sale season.  A woman from Dublin, California brought a painting she had inherited to Fine Art Specialist Thomas De Doncker for appraisal.  She went on to tell Thomas how both her and her sister inherited the painting after their father had passed away.  Their father had purchased the piece as well as another work by J.D. Strong at an unnamed auction in the early 1960s, because “he liked the subject.”  The sisters, unaware of the valuable art work they were in possession of, donated the smaller of the two paintings to the Goodwill over a decade ago.  Fortunately, they kept the larger piece and were thrilled to learn that they had quite a treasure on their hands.


JOSEPH DWIGHT STRONG JR (American 1852-1899) “Diamond Head, Hawaii – Launching the Outriggers, 1888,” Oil on canvas, 24 x 37 inches, Estimate: $60,000/90,000

J.D. Strong was one of the leading members of The Volcano School.  This was a group of non-native Hawaiian artists who painted dramatic nocturnal scenes of Hawaii’s erupting volcanoes.  Strong’s Hawaiian paintings are extremely rare and most of his works of this theme are relatively small.  Any work of his from this genre that is vintage or period Hawaiian, that is pre-1900, is even more rare due to the ravenous effect that the Hawaiian humidity had on the paintings.  Thomas’ awareness of the rarity of the piece caused him to reflect that, “Collectors of J.D. Strong’s work as well as period Hawaiian collectors will undoubtedly be thrilled that this painting will be up for auction on December first.  To my knowledge, a J.D. Strong of this size has never been offered at auction before.  I am delighted that it will now be a part of the fine sale at Michaan’s Auctions.”

The oil painting titled “Diamond Head, Hawaii – Launching the Outriggers, 1888” measures 24 x 37 inches.  The piece depicts a beautiful Hawaiian day in which natives in canoes are setting out to sea.  The painting will be offered at an estimate of $60,000-90,000 in the Fine Works of Art Auction on December 1, 2012.  For more information please call Michaan’s Auctions at (510) 740-0220 or visit us on the web at

Auction Makes Me Feel Like Singing

Hopefully you’re having a good work week.  But, if you find yourself having that hump day feeling, some singing is in order…

To the chorus of “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias –

I love to go to auction baby
Auction takes away my pain
I could browse these lots forever
Please don’t take my paddle away.

*Please visit us on the first Sunday of every month for our estate auction held at the main gallery at 2751 Todd Street, Alameda, CA 94501.  On the following Tuesday/Wednesday is the Annex warehouse auction held at its new and improved location at 2701 Monarch Street, Alameda, CA 94501.

To the chorus of “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston –

How will I know
The worth of granny’s china?
I have a prayer
Miss Dalton will tell me
It will be done
On Wednesday when we meet
I’m asking her
‘Cause she knows about these things.

*Visit us every Wednesday in our main gallery from 10-1 p.m. and have up to 5 pieces appraised for free!

To the chorus of “Beat It” by Michael Jackson –

Beat it!
Beat it!
Will all my bids be defeated?
Show them the money
Put up a fight
It doesn’t matter
Out bid with might
Just beat it!

*Something to keep in mind: Some of our most successful bidders are floor bidders.  Whenever you can, try to attend live!

Appraisal event discovery: fine Chinese silk robe

A woman from Oakland came to the Michaan’s Auctions appraisal event held on Wednesday, July 25th with this fine Chinese silk robe.  She believed her mother purchased it around 1921 when she was about three months old while the family was living in Beijing (Peking).  She has since worn it throughout her life as a fashion piece.  Although she chose to wear it, she understood it to be a garment of quality, so she took measures to take care of the robe.  Asian Art Specialist Harry Huang was in agreement that it is a special piece originating from China.  Mr. Huang also noted that the robe was made for a wealthy Han ethnic Chinese female of high ranking stature.  Indicators of this notion are seen in the genuine gold thread and exceptional decorative work.  Mr. Huang acknowledged that the expertly crafted robe would be suitable for a Fine Auction at Michaan’s, but due to some condition issues would have to be estimated at $1,500-2,000.

Fine Chinese silk robe

Fine Chinese silk robe

Chinese silk robe detail

Chinese silk robe detail

Appraisal event discovery: Schoenhut circus figures

This group of twelve Schoenhut circus figures was taken to the Michaan’s Auctions appraisal event held on Wednesday, July 25th.  The delightful pieces were brought in by a gentleman from Orinda, charming appraiser Elizabeth Dalton and staff members alike.  The toys (which Dalton believed to be circa 1910) include depictions of Buffalo Bill, a rhinoceros, a zebra, a polar bear, a giraffe, two clowns, two donkeys and two horses, one surmounted by a lady.  The toy collection was recently gifted to him after his mother’s passing, but he clearly recalls that she did not allow him to play with them while he was growing up.  These joyous pieces of classic American toy craftsmanship were estimated at $800-1,200

Group of twelve Schoenhut circus figures

Group of twelve Schoenhut circus figures

July 18 Appraisal Event find

A coin collector from Fremont brought this group of coins from his father’s collection to the appraisal event held on Wednesday, July 18th.  He chose Michaan’s Auctions as his first source of one-on-one appraisal after doing some of his own research online.  Coin and Stamp Specialist Michael “Misha” Rosenberg valued each coin to what the client felt was a “trustworthy appraisal.” He found the values given by Rosenberg to be more reliable and realistic than many of the augmented figures he discovered online; many were dealer projections with some inflated up to 4 times over the actual coin value.  As a result, he decided to return for another Michaan’s Auctions appraisal event where he would bring some of his high-end pieces for evaluation.

Coin collection brought to Wednesday Appraisal Event

Coin collection brought to Wednesday Appraisal Event

A busy day at the Appraisal Event

A busy day at the Appraisal Event

July 11 Appraisal Event find

A gentleman from San Francisco came to the appraisal event held on Wednesday, July 11th with this wonderful 19th century Bohemian enameled decanter.  He spotted it about one month ago in a pile of relative rubbish at a garage sale in San Francisco’s Mission District.  What appeared to be exceptional hand painting and a large punt at the base intrigued him and he ended up buying the wine vessel for $10.  Furniture and Decorations Specialist Elizabeth Dalton was in agreement of the fine art work and was quite impressed at the “amazing detail.”  They both noted the charming party scene depicting figures playing the doodle sack and hurdy gurdy as well as the band of gold leaf that handsomely finishes the piece.  Dalton estimated the decanter at $800-1,200, proving it to be quite a find indeed.

19th century Bohemian enameled decanter

19th century Bohemian enameled decanter


July 4 Appraisal Event find

A gentleman from Boston came to the appraisal event held on Wednesday, July 4th with this unique silver plate service set. The pieces were part of a collection inherited from the consignor’s grandparents and aunt from Manchester, New Hampshire. Upon their passing, they were discovered in their collective attics. The consignor eventually came to find that they were part of a family collection that had spawned over the course of over 100 years. Furniture and Decorations Specialist Elizabeth Dalton recognized the set to be American circa 1870s and noted the unique and impressive looking figures decorating the pieces. Dalton understood that this interesting design feature would most likely appeal to an auction audience and consigned the set with tray at an estimate of $300-400.

Silver Plate Tea Service

Silver Plate Tea Service