The smart collector: Lion ornaments by 'Erik Kramer' could be the pride of any garden

2012-12-02T00:00:00Z The smart collector: Lion ornaments by 'Erik Kramer' could be the pride of any gardenDanielle Arnet Tribune Media Services Arizona Daily Star
December 02, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Q: We bought this pair of Erik Kramer lions about 25 years ago at a local auction. In the same sale, many Remington bronzes were sold, so we assume these lions have value. We're having a hard time finding info on the artist. Can you help?

A: The reader adds that his metal lions stand about 34 inches high. Looking at images sent, I see a pair of decorative cast lions, photographed outdoors. The grayish metal is not bronze or iron. It's hard to tell from images, but the material seems to be zinc or a composite made of resin with metal powder mixed into it.

Seated on their haunches, each lion is shown in a fearsome roar. One has a left front paw raised as if to strike; the other has a raised right paw. Clearly, they were made to be used as a pair. Neither has a matching plinth or base, but the homeowner has them on raised stone bases.

Our reader cannot find info on Kramer, whose name is incised into the metal, because there is no sculptor by that name listed as a fine artist.

These lions, while handsome, are commercial castings; note the mold marks and basic facial details, also the scalloped paws, rather than finely molded toes and claws. They were created and sold as garden ornaments at the end of the 20th century. I suspect they were made in the Far East as exports.

When the reader bought them at auction, they were probably new. The name on the lions could be fantasy or a company name. For sure, it's intended to look like an artist's signature on the master rendering.

Here's another fact that should have our reader thinking twice: Bronze sculptures by cowboy artist Frederic Remington are among the most widely copied and forged on Earth. Don't assume that all "Remington" artworks seen at auction are valuable.

Now, about those lions. Attractive garden ornaments are sellable. Anyone who has admired grand scale castings at a garden center can tell you that they don't come cheap.

Similar "Kramer" bronze lions have sold on eBay and at auction for $2,000-$3,000. Remember, that's retail.

Q: Any idea on the value of two brass stirrups from the Spanish Colonial period that I bought in Peru decades ago? They're not a matched pair. I can't remember what I paid, but recall I thought them quite expensive at the time.

A: First, let's clue readers that Spanish Colonial stirrups (estribos) of the 17th Century are not open in the way most of us know stirrups. Imagine the toe end of a sabot style shoe in brass. Cut it off at the instep and that's it.

Spanish colonial stirrups are collected, depending on type and condition. It's about history and the romance of the conquistadors.

I think it would be very instructive for this reader to pay for short-term use of the database www.worthpoint.com There he can see photos and sales results for differing estribos as he compares his. We found wild fluctuations on results, from $49 to $562.

2013: Start thinking about the coming year with calendars that fit a collecting passion. For 2013, Workman has wall calendars "The Collectible Teapot and Tea" ($12.99) and "Victoriana" ($14.99). The first features 12 months of teapots and settings from Coalport to Gaudy Welsh and Imari. Victoriana, a perennial favorite, is crammed with beautifully overdone die-cut period illustrations.

COLLECTOR QUIZ

Q: Which country produced the majority of 19th century zinc garden ornaments? And what are the advantages of zinc vs. lead?

A: Americans produced the majority of 19th C. zinc garden ornaments. The surface, which dulls to gray when weathered, is light, cheap and corrosion resistant. Lead is heavier and tends to sag with age.

Source: "Miller's Garden Antiques" published in 2003

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.

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