Mid-century pieces fuel mania in collectibles market
If you've been raiding your great aunt's attic in search of treasure, set your sights on her vintage brooches rather than her fussy figurines. In an age when engaged couples prefer to register for barbecue grills than bone china, Sloans & Kenyon Auctioneers and Appraisers president Stephanie Kenyon has seen a wholesale change in collecting trends. Say goodbye to Grandma's rocking chairs and vitrine cabinets and hello to mid-century modern furniture of the late 1950s and 1960s.
“Blond and light-wood furniture is in; brown furniture is out,” Kenyon says. Terry Kovel, author with daughter Kim Kovel of the go-to “Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide” (the 2013 edition has just been published), sees a surge in popularity of anything 1950s as well as Scandinavian furniture from the 1960s and 1970s. Original pieces by major designers including Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen and Finn Juhl are especially in demand. “Most people are buying it to live with it,” Terry Kovel says.
Big brooches in both vintage and new jewelry are in vogue, says Matthew Rosenheim, president of Washington's Tiny Jewel Box, known for both its antique and modern jewelry collections. Kenyon says there has been an uptick in big jewelry in general: cocktail rings, bold link bracelets and enamel bangles mix well with the Audrey and Jackie O.-era sleeveless sheaths that are in style. She sees a direct connection between today's collecting crazes and the much-watched and talked-about fashions and decor in the TV series “Mad Men.”
Here's what our experts say top their list of collectibles:
• Straight lines, minimal hardware and light wood are hallmarks of the mid-century modern aesthetic. A classic example of the style is the Hans Wegner Wishbone chair. Compact, lightweight and graceful, the chair was designed in 1949.
• Rosenheim says platinum and diamond jewelry from the 1920s and 1930s is hot, as are 1940s art moderne pieces. “There's lots of value to be had in vintage,” he says. A Van Cleef & Arpels or Tiffany mark ups the ante.
• Peter Voulkos is famous for his abstract expressionist ceramic sculptures; he was instrumental in moving ceramics from functional to artistic forms in the 1950s. A circa 1955 plate of his sold for $843.75 in June 2011 at Treadway/Toomey Auctions. Pieces made between the 1950s and 1980s by regional artists who haven't been similarly discovered could become valuable. Kovel suggests going to a local art school to learn what appeals to you.
• Lisanne Dickson of Treadway/Toomey Auctions notices buzz around classic art deco pieces, which share a “Mad Men” vibe and are becoming scarcer. A circa 1934 silver-plated/red-lacquered metal Lurelle Guild cocktail shaker by International Silver Co. sold for $40,000 in May.
• In election years, political buttons become coveted collectors' items, Kovel says. A Barack Obama for President button featuring Abraham Lincoln and commemorating Obama's February 2007 announcement in Springfield, Ill., that he would run for the highest office in the land sold for $500 in 2008.
•Vintage costume jewelry is frequently more affordable than the newer versions, and signed pieces bring more. A Lanvin medallion pendant on a snake chain, Miriam Haskell faux pearl necklaces, a Hattie Carnegie rhinestone pin and two Trifari rhinestone bracelets from the 1960s and 1970s sold for $600 at Sloans & Kenyon after the pieces were estimated at $75 to $125.
• First ladies from Mamie Eisenhower to Laura Bush carried a Judith Leiber bag to their husband's inauguration. Some people, Kovel says, display rather than use the bags. A snake purse from the late 1980s with gold leather interior, hideaway strap and white rhinestones sold for $450 in October 2010. The original, from which copies were made for retail and collectors, is on exhibit with about 300 others at the Leiber Collection museum in East Hampton, N.Y.
• What's next? Kenyon thinks an increased interest in ‘80s Versace may signal that we're due for a revival of Reagan-era style.
Janet Bennett Kelly is a staff writer for The Washington Post.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Man dies after jump from Route 130 overpass in Hempfield; all traffic stopped
- Pirates again approach Polanco about contract extension
- Reliever Holdzkom among three players cut by Pirates
- Five is enough for Penguins’ defensemen
- 350-pound black bear briefly stuck between Uniontown buildings is relocated
- Rolling Stones roll into Heinz Field June 20
- Former Pa. Gov. Corbett: From pension critic to collector
- Reversing the field: Pirates continue to raid Yankees for hidden skill
- Injuries to Penguins’ Ehrhoff, Letang force defense to pick up slack
- Friendship mortgage broker sentenced to 20 months in prison for fraud
- Pgh. International leader strives to inject Pittsburgh flavor into airport