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 Why do people Collect?

 You may as well ask why do people fall in love?  The reasons are irrational, the motives are mixed and the original impulse is often discolored or betrayed.  I started collecting paperweights when I was in my 20s.  But like most of my collectibles I didn’t really focus on building a collection….it just happened.  When asked, as we often are, what do you want for your birthday, Christmas etc. I would tell friends and family, well I do collect paperweights.  I suppose that is why I have such an eclectic mix of glass paperweights.

Over the last five months I have covered a fairly large range of subjects about collecting, collectors and the many collectibles that I have, in this blog.  How to research collectibles and the joy of discovering the story behind your collectible.  The stories about the makers and collectors of paperweights are rich and sometimes mysterious.  That makes for an interesting and exciting hobby to collect these art objects.

Over the next few weeks or months, (however long it takes me) I will try to tell you about paperweights, who makes them, who collects them and why.  It should be fun so follow along and check back often as I buy, sell, trade and build my collection.

Essence of paperweights

Decorative glass paperweights fit easily into the hand and are actually meant to be handled and viewed from various directions through the dome, which acts like a lens to make the design change in its appearance with its movements in an attractive way. A magnifying glass is often used to gain appreciation of the fine detail of the work within.

They have a flat or slightly concave base on which they stably rest, and a domed top, which may be faceted or cut. The glass is usually lead glass. The dome may be coated with one or more thin layers of colored glass, and have windows cut through it to reveal the interior motif. The exact shape or profile of the dome varies somewhat from one artist or factory to another, but in fine examples will be tuned to the subject within to show it off to best advantage. The base may be frosted, but is more often polished. They may also be cut in one of several variations. Star-cut bases have a multi-pointed star, while a diamond cut base has grooves cut in a criss-cross pattern. A footed weight has a flange in the base.

The ground on which the inner parts rest may be clear or colored, made of unfused sand, or resemble lace (latticinio).

Paperweights are made by sole artisans, and in factories where many artists and technicians collaborate. Both may produce inexpensive as well as “collector” weights. Workmanship, design, rarity, and condition determine the value of a paperweight. They range in price from a few dollars, to a record $258,500 once paid for an antique French weight. Antique weights, of which perhaps 10,000 or so survive (mostly in museums), generally appreciate steadily in value.

Visible flaws, such as bubbles, striations and scratches affect the value. Glass should not have a yellow or greenish cast, and there should be no unintentional asymmetries, or unevenly spaced or broken elements. Generally, larger weights are more costly and desirable. In a modern piece, an identifying mark and date are imperative.

History of the paperweight

Antique paperweights were made in the “classic” years between 1845 and 1860 primarily in three French factories named Baccarat, St. Louis, and Clichy. They made between fifteen and twenty five thousand weights in the classic period. Pantin, also a French glass company is known to a lessor degree but should be added as a great paperweight company of the period.  Weights (mainly of lesser quality) were also made in the United States, Great Britain, and elsewhere, though Bacchus (UK) and New England Glass Company (USA) produced some that equaled the best of the French. Modern weights have been made from about 1950 to the present.

In the U.S., Charles Kaziun started in 1940 to produce buttons, paperweights, inkwells and other bottles, using lamp-work of elegant simplicity. In Scotland, the pioneering work of Paul Ysart from the 1930s onward preceded a new generation of artists such as William Manson, Peter McDougall, Peter Holmes and John Deacons. A further impetus to reviving interest in paperweights was the publication of Evangiline Bergstrom’s book, Old Glass Paperweights, the first of a new genre. NOTE:  I only put photos of items I own or have owned in my blog, so anytime you see a photo you know it is part of my collection.  I don’t use anyone’s photos but my own.

    

Charles Kaziun Jr.,  “Crimped Rose” Perfume Bottle.  An older piece marked with blue “K” in a white cane with a blue border and then a yellow flowered border.  The mark is under the flower. (Recently sold to a collector in Dallas, TX.)

    

Charles Kaziun Jr. Miniature Pedestal paperweight, Spider Lily on Gold flecked background (one of his most popular peices) marked with his characteristic 14 karat gold “K” signature on the bottom side of the ball of the weight.  Currently being sold on eBay for $435.00.  Actual retail value listed in price guide is $1400.00.

A number of small studios appeared in the middle 20th century, particularly in the US. These may have several to some dozens of workers with various levels of skill cooperating to produce their own distinctive “line”. Notable examples are Lundberg Studios, Orient and Flume, Correia Art Glass, Lotton, and Parabelle Glass. In later blogs I will talk about and show photos of my collection of all of these studios.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, artists such as Paul Stankard, his former assistant, Jim D’Onofrio, Chris Buzzini, Delmo and daughter Debbie Tarsitano, Victor Trabucco and sons, Gordon Smith, Rick Ayotte and his daughter Melissa, and the father and son team of Bob and Ray Banford, began breaking new ground and were able to produce fine paperweights rivaling anything produced in the classic period.

Types of glass paperweights

Collectors may specialize in one of several types of paperweights, but more often they wind up with an eclectic mix.

Millefiori paperweights contain thin cross-sections of cylindrical composite canes made from colored rods and usually resemble little flowers, although they can be designed after anything, even letters and dates. These are usually made in a factory setting. The exist in many variations such as scattered, patterned, close concentric or carpet ground. Sometimes the canes are formed into a sort of upright tuft shaped like a mushroom that is incased in the dome.

Lampwork paperweights have objects such as flowers, fruit, butterflies or animals constructed by shaping and working bits of colored glass with a gas burner or torch and assembling them into attractive compositions, which are then incorporated into the dome. This is a form particularly favored by studio artists. The objects are often stylized, but may be highly realistic.

Sulfide paperweights have an encased cameo-like medallion or portrait plaque made from a special ceramic that is able to reproduce very fine detail. They often are produced to commemorate some person or event. Although still produced today their heyday was before the classic period.

Swirl paperweights have opaque rods of two or three colors radiating like a pinwheel from a central millefiori floret. A similar style, the marbrie, is a millefiori containing weight that has several bands of color close to the surface that descend from the apex in a looping pattern to the bottom of the weight.

Another variation is the Crown weight. It has twisted ribbons, alternately colored and lacy white, which radiate from the crown from a central millefiori floret down to converge again at the base. This was first devised in the Saint Louis factory and remains popular today.

Miniature weights have a diameter of less than two inches or so, and magnums have a diameter greater than about 3.25 inches.

California-style paperweights are made by “painting” the surface of the dome with colored molten glass (torchwork), and manipulated with picks or other tools. They may also be sprayed while hot with various metallic salts to achieve an iridescent look.

Victorian portrait and advertising paperweights were dome glass paperweights first made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania using a process patented in 1882 by William H. Maxwell. The portrait paperweights contained pictures of ordinary people reproduced on a milk glass disk and encased within clear glass. This same process was also used to produce paperweights with the owner’s name encased or an advertisement of a business or product. Pittsburgher Albert A. Graeser, patented a different process for making advertising paperweights in 1892. The Graeser process involved sealing an image to the underside of a rectangular glass blank using a milkglass or enamellike glaze. Many paperweights of the late 1800s are marked either J. N. Abrams or Barnes and Abrams and may list either the 1882 Maxwell or 1892 Graeser patent date. It has been theorized that Barnes and Abrams did not actually manufacture advertising paperweights for their customers, but instead subcontracted the actual manufacturing task out to Pittsburgh area glasshouses. The Paperweight Collectors Association Annual Bulletins published for 2000, 2001 and 2002 describe these in detail.

Bohemian paperweights were particularly popular in Victorian times. Large engraved or cut hollow spheres of ruby glass were a common form.

Museum collections

Notable displays of paperweight collections can be seen in a number of museums. The Wheaton Village museum in Millville, NJ has many examples of American paperweights. The Bergstrom-Mahler museum in Neenah, Wisconsin contains a particularly fine collection of representative paperweights. The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY also has an exceptional collection of fine paperweights.

Paperweight collectors

There are many paperweight collectors worldwide. Several collectors associations hold national or regional conventions, and sponsor activities such as tours, lectures, and auctions. Famous collectors include such literary figures as Collete, Oscar Wilde and Truman Capote. Princess Eugenie, Napoleon III’s wife, the wife of Mexico’s Emporer Maximillion and King Farouk were also avid collectors.

Paperweights just have to be the most interesting items I collect. You can see most of my collection being sold on eBay by putting your cursor on My Assistant “the duck” and press enter to go to my eBay store, Kelekchens.  So…follow along with me as I describe my collection and the stories behind it all.  Until next time Happy Collecting and remember “the best is yet to come”.

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Among Nipponear’s the Cleopatra’s Barge Scene is  familiar.  You can find this motif on chargers, plaques, vases, urns, smoking sets, and jugs, both the wine and whiskey jug.  The story goes that Cleopatra fell in love with Marc Antony and they ruled Egypt and Rome together.  It was said that Cleopatra once came sailing up the river Cydnus on a barge that had outspread sails of purple and oars of silver. The barge supposedly had a gilded stem and Cleopatra sat under a canopy of gold cloth dressed as Venus.  A sight to behold I am sure.

But since we were not there we can only dream and imagine what the royal lives of such as those like Cleopatra was truly like.  To help us imagine such scenes are the beautiful hand painted artwork of Japanese painters from the early 20th century.

         

This is a very nice 12″ charger of  Cleopatra’s Barge, matte finish. The name given this Nippon motif.  Recently purchased and added to my collection.

A very similar 10 1/4″ wall plaque with the Nippon green mark #47 is listed in Joan VanPatten’s ABC’s of Collecting Nippon Porcelain on page 203 and listed at $400.00 to $475.00, 2005 price guide. With the charger I received a nice bonus piece.

    

Vase 5 1/2″ with excellent gold gilding, matte finish.  Mint condition.  Green mark #47.

  

Most normally you will find Cleopatra’s Barge motif in orange background with lavender highlights but occasionally you may see a “hard to find” piece that is particularly alluring such as this lavender/blue Cleopatra’s barge. Note that the bow of the barge is different but the background scene is the same.  This ashtray is not in a VanPatten book and I own all 7 series. I was excited to get this piece. However there is a wall plaque of a blue Cleopatra’s Barge lavender/blue as shown in The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Nippon, Joan VanPatten 1979, Plate 355 on page 217.

    

Cleopatra’s Barge motif in lavender/blue with white highlights, an unusual find.  Ashtray is 3 1/2″ C  by 1  1/4″ H  Green mark #47

If you are collecting Nippon or Noritake I would highly recommend some reference books on these wares.  Not necessarily to find items that are listed in the books but to find the items that are not listed.  Those not listed are the most exciting because you never know,  that one piece might be a “hard to find” piece or production from that mold and/or the color is uncommon. 

I would recommend the Nippon books by Joan VanPatten and also The Wonderful World of Nippon Porcelain 1891 – 1921 by Kathy Wojciehowski.  It wouldn’t hurt to also have Noritake Collectibles A to Z by David Spain.  I come across many Noritake pieces that are the same mold and even the same design as Nippon pieces and sometimes just as well painted although without the “Nippon” on the backstamp.   Also a copy of 2010 Antique Trader by Dan Brownell or a Kovell’s 2010 price guide. Indispensible for collecting and antique-ing.

Here are a few more very nice recent acquisitions:

Nippon wall plaque, 10 1/4″, green mark #47. Listed in VanPatten’s ABC of Collecting, 2005 on page 300.  Mint condition.

  

Very similar to the “Green Swan Scene.”  8 3/4″ plaque also listed in the ABC’s of Nippon by VanPatten. Blue mark #52 which dates this plaque to as far back as 1891.

  

Nippon 10″ plaque, country cottage in brown, pink and lavender highlights with beautiful enamel moriage trim. Green mark # 47.

  

Just a note about plates, plaques and chargers. A plate is not just a plate.  If labeled a plaque it has two holes on its backside to hang the plaque on the wall. A charger is normally larger than a 9 1/2″ plate, usually 12″ to 14″ and can be round or square. Does not hang without a bracket to hang it with.  Normally displayed on a large plate holder which occasionally comes with the plate otherwise you would have to buy one.  A plate usually has multiple copies and ranges from 9″ to 9 3/4″ and normally does not have ornate moriage trimwork. Plates should have matching pieces ie; cups, saucers, bowls etc.

Soon I will be receiving a shipment of more hard to find and interesting pieces of Nippon so make sure to check back often. Until then Happy Collecting and remember “the best is yet to come.”

  

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The Second World War (abbreviated WWII) was a global military conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945 which involved most of the world’s nations, including all great powers, organised into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis.  It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million military personnel mobilised.  In a state of “total war,” the majority participants placed their entire economic, industrial and scientific capabilities towards the war effort erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. This war was marked by significant acts against civilians, the Holocaust and Nuclear bombs. It was the deadliest conflict in human history with over seventy million casualties.

The start of the war is generally believed to be September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Most European countries such as France and the British declared war on Nazi Germany at that time. Those that were not involved in war eventually joined the coalition in response to events of aggression against them such as the German invasion of Russia and the Japanese attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and on British colonies that triggered war on Japan by the United States, Britain and the Netherlands.

The war ended in 1945 in an Allied victory and a changed world.  The United Nations was established to enhance cooperation among nations and at the same time the U.S. and Russia (two Super Powers) entered into a “cold war”  that lasted for the next 46 years. Throughout this period of time Western Europe moved towards economic recovery and only recently in history has the world moved towards political integration opening up international business and foreign trade for average American citizens like you and I.

My mother was 23 years old at the beginning of the war. Trained as a school teacher but having other interest she moved from the farm where she was raised in the midwest to California and was involved in the war effort as an arc welder on airplanes.  My father also in his 20s was drafted in the Navy and served as a boilerman on a destroyer  based in the Philipines but visiting San Francisco occasionally which is where my parents met.  It is a fascinating time of history and the collectibles from the war years are varied and many.  Here are a few of my own:

         

A 48 star American Flag that flew on the destroyer USS Ellet during the war and a picture of the destroyer. ca. 1942

 

I have had many questions as to the authenticity of this flag.  The flag belonged to my father who served on the USS Ellet in WW II and was given the flag by the ship’s Captain. Also, doing my research I found that the size of the flag is important.  The flag is 29″ x 57″.  Many of the commercial civilain flags sold during this period would have been too large to fly on a ship and not sturdy enough to endure the weather at sea. Also the number of grommets on the flag are important. Many of the civilian commercially sold flags of the period have two grommets or none.  This authentic Navy flag has four grommets.  The clincher is that this flag is clearly stamped U.S. ENS – 11. This is a Naval quartermaster issue number.  If you still don’t believe then do your own research.  Find out what size and kind of flags were issued to Naval ships in WWII, they were standard issue.  It’s not that hard.  In addition to that I have my father’s DD 214 which documents his service as well as my grandfather’s Army discharge paperwork from WW I, as a machinegunner, my brother’s DD 214 documenting his Vietnam service as a comabt engineer and my own DD 214 and many documets showing  that I served faithfully as an Army Combat Medic for 23 years. I retired in 1994.  My family has a history of military service and it is documented.

    

A naval Training Unit ca. 1941.  Every man signed the back and where they were from.  All were participants of  WW II.

         

Interesting documents requesting permission to bring back to U.S. from Germany captured military equipment ie; 1 German Rifle

 

         

WW II Songbook for Soldiers and Sailors and song sheet pamphlet. Official Issue.

The first photo is of a U. S. WW II Songbook “Songs of the Soldiers and Sailors”.  Has some nice WW II photos in it and of course many military songs of the period.  This was an official U.S. issued item for new recruits and was issued at Camp Zachary to a Pvt. Clarence H. Call.  Pvt. Call made a notation in the song book, “Germans captured Sept. 14th.”  The copyright is the Washington Government Printing Office 1917, Patent applied for. Also shown is a song sheet pamphlet given recruits by the Louisville War Camp Community Service, Louisville, KY. This pamphlet was compiled by E. Rowland Dawson, War Department Commission on Traininig Camp Activities.

         

Serving in the U. S. Navy window banner. ca. 1942

Shown above is a window banner that Momma’s put in the front picture window of their home proudly showing their support for their boys faithful service during WW II.

         

Navy pennant. U. S. Naval Training Center, Farragut, Idaho

         

Fancy pillow cover,  WW II, Red, White and Blue, “God Bless America”.

 

    

Occupied Japan figurines.

 

    

A beer Stein made in the WW II French Zone immediately after the War.

 

WWII collectibles are not hard to find and are an eclectic group of items.  For instance I used to have an ashtray shaped into a bomber that was made from brass shell casings.  Start looking for those interesting WWII collectibles it is a great period to collect for.  Visit my store on eBay to see more WWII artifacts or check out my booth at Bonanzle. URL is listed in Blogroll at the right.

For all collectors, happy collecting and remember “the best is yet to come.”

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The American Civil War (1861–1865) also known as the War Between the States was a conflict of major proportions and changed the lives and history of Americans forever.  Eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). Led by Jefferson Davis, they fought against the United States (the Union), which was supported by all the free states and five border slave states.

In the presidential election of 1860, the Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, had campaigned against the expansion of slavery beyond the states in which it already existed. The Republican victory in that election resulted in seven Southern states declaring their separation from the Union even before Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861. Both the outgoing and incoming US administrations rejected the legality of secession, considering it rebellion.

Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a US military installation at Fort Sumpter in South Carolina. Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each state, leading to declarations of secession by four more Southern slave states. Both sides raised armies as the Union assumed control of the border states early in the war and established a naval Blockade. In September 1862, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made ending slavery in the South a war goal, and dissuaded the British from intervening.

Confederate commander Robert E. Lee won battles in the east, but in 1863 his northward advance was turned back after the Battle of Gettysburg and, in the west, the Union gained control of the Mississippi River at the Battle of Vicksburg, thereby splitting the Confederacy. Long-term Union advantages in men and material were realized in 1864 when Ulysses S. Grant fought a battle of attrition against Lee, while Union general William Sherman captured Atlanta, Georgia, and marched to the sea. Confederate resistance collapsed after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

The American Civil War was one of the earliest true industrial wars in human history. Railroads, steamships, mass-produced weapons, and various other military devices were employed extensively. The practices of total war, developed by Sherman in Georgia, and of trench warfare around Petersburg foreshadowed World War I. It remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of 620,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Victory for the North meant the end of the Confederacy and of slavery in the United States, and strengthened the role of the federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war decisively shaped the reconstruction era that lasted until 1877.

What American hasn’t heard of the Civil War or possibly seen a Civil War artifact?  When I was about 12 years old my family took a road trip by car, driving from our small farm in Barry IL to Corsicana TX where a great aunt lived.  My mother, a major antique collector and history buff carefully planned the route down the old Route 66.  Along the way were many stops at Civil War battlefields and museums.  She took it upon herself to make sure my brother and I understood the consequence the Civil War had on our United States and how it affected the American people forever.

I was never a collector of Civil War artifacts per se although always interested in this momentous area of collecting.  Civil War collector’s are some of the most dedicated and zealous American collectors I have known and can usually cite the exact history, dates of battles, weapons used, units involved etc. more so than other areas of collecting.  Some collector’s had so many artifacts they collected they opened museums of Civil War history or started business enterprises evaluating, buying and selling these artifacts. Many of the States now have microfilmed records of battles fought, units involved and even list the state’s individual citizens and their involvement in this war. It is a very interesting period of history and makes for fabulous collecting.

Having served in the U.S. military myself for 23 years I can relate to many of the artifacts collected and their use in war.  Somehow, a few of these artifacts came into my possession.  Being a collector I guess I have a knack for recognizing what is collectible.  I usually hold onto things I think are really neat and have historical significance.  Here is my story and the few items I have collected from the Civil War.

    

A 1987 Limited Edition, Don Stivers print titled “First Sergeant”

This print by Don Stivers was purchased for me as a gift from my wife in 1994 just prior to my retirement from the Army as a First Sergeant.  It is a hand signed copy, number 1535 of 2000.  Don Stivers died in November 2009.  Don Stivers painted many scenes of and portraits of the Civil War era. You will not be able to purchase this print as it is very rare.  Those that own them will not part with them.  That makes them very collectible and valuable.  This one is not for sale.  One of the reasons I wanted to show you the print is to have you look at the First Sergeant’s sword as depicted in the print.

The sword or M1840 enlisted Calvary saber in the print is just like the civil war sword that I own.

         

An 1840 Civil War Sword Made by Horster.

 

Above is a M1840 Civil war sword made in Germany by Horster of Solengen.  There are many makers of Civil War swords some U.S. such as Ames and even Tiffany of New York and some imported from Europe such as this one.  This is a weapon that was used by a Union Officer. On the guard you will see stamped numbers.  These are called rack numbers, and were used as an accounting system. They were stamped on the sword by a quartermaster.  They don’t really tell us much about the sword as records were not kept, however, it does give us a bit of a feel that the sword was really “there”.  The fact that this sword was an enlisted saber doesn’t rule out that an officer carried the sword.  It was easy for an officer to appropriate an issued sword from the quartermaster rather than risking damaging a much nicer weapon that he had to purchase himself. This sword could possibly have stayed in service up to 1906.  NOTE:  This sword is not in perfect condition as the leather handle wrap is gone as well as the wire wrap that held it in place.  It would cost some pretty good money and time and effort to restore this sword to it’s prior glory. That being said, this is a valuable artifact that was used in the Civil War.

With the sword I also have a picture:

This is a photo of a Union Officer who supposedly carried this sword that I have. 

 

The thing to note about the photo is that it is not a tintype photo.  It is what is known as a cabinet card which dates it to about 1870.  Five years after the Civil War ended. Even though the photo is damaged (broken down the middle and repaired) it is still a very good likeness of a Union Officer and can be researched using a book called The Horse Soldier vol. II, 1851 – 1880

Some other interesting artifacts I have from this period is a Named Civil War Pattern Ladder Badge:

         

This is an ID’d Pattern Civil War badge made by the J.S. Ginger Co. of St Louis. This badge is 145 years old.

 

This is an authentic ID’d ladder badge, presented to Isaac J. Ogle, Co D, 50th Illinois Infantry.  The 50th Volunteers known as the Blind Half Hundred was organized at Quincy ILL in the month of August 1861 and mustered into service on Sept 21 1861.

Pvt. Ogle joined this unit on Aug. 19 1861, age listed as 20 years old.  If you would like to know more about this badge visit my eBay store and search for Militaria Kelekchens and read the sales ad I have with all of SGT. Ogle’s info.  Just go to My Assistant, (The Duck) in the upper right hand corner of this post. Put your cursor on the duck and press enter.

Here are some more period pieces, a Souvenir Badge dated 1922 and a desk/secretary made just prior to the Civil War.

 

That is it for today.  Come back often as I buy, trade, sell and build on the many different collections that I have.  Next post I will show you some of the Military artifacts I have from WWI and WWII. 

Until then Happy Collecting and remember “the best is yet to come.”

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