The smart collector: Bookends usually sell for theme, not maker

2012-11-25T00:00:00Z The smart collector: Bookends usually sell for theme, not makerDanielle Arnet, Tribune Media Services, The Smart Collector Arizona Daily Star

Q: We bought these bookends in Europe many years ago, Are they worth anything? Appreciate any info you can give.

A: The reader adds that his bookends are 7 inches high, marked KBW plus G and T bronze. Images sent show a metal pair of seated, hooded and bearded medieval-style monks. Each is shown reading a book.

Though bought in Europe, the bookends were made in the U.S. by the Kathodian Bronze works of New York (KBW). The company produced figural art metal bronzes from roughly 1900-1916. Output consisted of sculpture and decorative pieces, including bookends.

To be precise, they made small plaster figurals that were then surfaced with copper or bronze through an electroplating process known in the foundry biz as cold cast bronze. Most bookends are not solid metal; they are bronze or copper clad. Metal over plaster gives them weight.

As bronzes go, Kathodian pieces are quality. But smart collectors know that 99.9 percent of bookends are collected by theme, not by the maker's prestige.

Collectors go for bookends because they are small and affordable works of art. Because they were produced in such variety, collectors can buy what they fancy. Popular themes include Native Americans, automobiles, Deco and Art Moderne, dancers, dogs, religious themes, sports, and you name it. To that, add several versions of monks.

Bookends fit every budget and taste. Circa 1910 bronze and enamel ends by Tiffany Studios sold for $1,700 at Heritage Auctions this summer, but one can find very nice sets at thrift stores and Goodwill.

We could not find sales results on Kathodian monks, but that does not indicate that they are rare and valuable. Remember, demand drives value. This fall, a Kathodian pair of a Greco-Roman male wrestler brought $125 at auction. A set of bronze bull figures sold for $400 in September.

Bottom line, value on the monks depends on how much a buyer is willing to pay. Check the book below for ideas on rarity. And see completed sales on eBay, as well.

FYI: "Collector's Encyclopedia of Bookends" by Louis Kuritzky and Charles De Costa is an excellent guide to identification and value. Text is well organized, with thousands of color plates showing "ends" by topic. Monks by varied makers (not Kathodian) are included. Perhaps your library has a copy.

Q: What can you tell me about this silver punch bowl? The friend who gave it to me said it had been in their family forever.

A: As seen in photos sent, the reader has a large Victorian silver plate compote, footed fruit bowl or stand. The piece has a fairly high hollow base plus figural handles in the form of turbaned genies.

We have no info on height or if there are marks, but we can tell the reader this: The piece is attractive, but incomplete. Structure of the hollow foot indicates that originally, the piece had a base.

Silver plate, unless remarkable by design or maker, is in a down cycle. While the figural handles are standouts, the piece might sell for $50-$75 on eBay.

Book it

"The Age of Elegance: Interiors by Alex Papachristidis" (Rizzoli, $55) features sophisticated interiors created by the New York decorator. Highlighted are spaces that include antiques from all eras. For most of us, this is a wish book, but solid tips written in the author's voice ("the living room … painted Benjamin Moore's Cloud White") make the haute interiors seem doable.

COLLECTOR QUIZ

Q: 18th- and 19th-century blue and white British transferware was made not just as dinnerware and tea services. Can you name three other forms?

A: Pick any three: Milk strainer bowls, egg mixing spiked cups, watercress draining dish, wine bin, flour dredger, steamed pudding bowl, treacle jar, preserve jar, food molds.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned. Source: "Extraordinary British Transferware 1780-1840," by R&R Halliday (Schiffer, $59.99).

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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