Q: Dealing with my mother-in-law’s estate, I found one antique ladies shoe, a child’s shoe, and two hooks. People tell me these are museum pieces. Any info on history and value? Who would be interested in having them?
A: As seen in images, the reader has one ladies high-top button shoe with a small heel and one child’s boot with buttons and no heel. The hooks (think of a blunt, non-barbed fish hook with a handle) are button hooks used for fastening shoes with buttons instead of laces. Longer-handled hooks fastened glove buttons; these were often fancier.
Unfortunately, the reader has single shoes. Antique shoes are collected, but generally as pairs.
Google “high button shoes” and you’ll see a variety, including types like the reader’s. The woman’s boot is fabric-lined. Dating from around 1900, it’s a commercial product with a stitched label inside bearing the name of a Cleveland-area shoe store. One metal hook is stamped with the same location. The other hook has a mother-of-pearl handle. Both hooks are base metal.
Vintage and antique shoes are collected, as are button hooks. Many doll collectors also go for children’s clothing and accessories. The most collectible items in the lot are the child’s shoe boot still in good condition, and the advertising button hook.
When it comes to footwear of that era, serious collectors insist on an intact pair in excellent condition. Exceptions are made for the best and/or unusual.
Considering that shoes came in pairs, common examples from that era are still available. The trick is finding a pair in top condition. Even better is a pair of kid-skin evening shoes. Finer and more expensive when made, they still exude luxe today.
Our reader has a dual problem: The issue of solo shoes, plus the fact that the ladies shoe is not in good condition.
The potential buyer for the shoes and hooks will be someone who can appreciate them as curiosities, display or accent pieces. They are not museum pieces.
Another possibility is someone who relates to his or her Cleveland origin. Many marked items sell because they’re linked to a specific place or store, etc.
On www.worthpoint.com, a site that tracks results from eBay and other auctions, we found a similar pair of vintage high button shoes that sold for $45. A single shoe minus the buttons but in good shape brought $29.95. A pair of quite worn ladies shoes plus one baby shoe with buttons brought $35.
An advertising metal button hook from Illinois sold for $11.27; one from Ely, Nev., brought $57.98. Obviously, someone related to the Ely marking.
Q: I have collected Austin sculptures for several years. Only once have I seen a duplicate piece. Can you tell me anything about the company and what I have?
A: Enclosed were six photographs of the reader’s collection.
Austin sculptures are not fine art. They are collectibles and were made as giftware. The company, founded in the early 1950s as a maker of museum reproductions, is no longer in business. By the ’70s, Austin moved into producing commercial sculptures as decorative arts; many pieces were made of Durastone, a composite. Once a mold was made, it was used for years and items were produced in quantities. There are many out there.
One piece in the reader’s collection, a woman with a fawn, recently sold on eBay for $84. Another, of lovers embracing, went for $57.99.
With common items such as these, paying for short-term use of a database such as Worthpoint.com pays off. That’s the best way to find the current going rate for similar objects.
When we looked, almost 700 pieces of Austin sculpture were up for sale on eBay.