Time Will Tell 6/29/14: Always do your research

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Gypsy’s Two Cents: I have recently discovered the importance of a nap. Don’t be concerned; being canine, I have perfected multitasking, so my responsibilities of greeting customers and of security will not be compromised. My eyes may be closed, but all other senses are on full alert. My Dad says I should be in sales.

One of the best things about this business is that you learn something every day — sometimes through conversations and interaction with customers or with other dealers, most often from research on the Internet. The following are some of my favorite tools and strategies.

+ After typing in your general search and reviewing a few options, click on “images” and look for a match. Click on the image and then “visit page,” repeat as necessary. This method is most effective when you don’t know what your item is called. 

+ eBay is the most commonly used research tool not only to help identify the item, but to determine what someone is willing to pay. What most people miss is to click on the “sold” listing option. The listing then displays the actual sold prices. 

+ Liveauctioneers.com and worthpoint.com have similar websites that offer current or sold information derived from several sources. A monthly subscription is required for worthpoint.com, but liveauctioneers.com is a free service once you sign up.

+ Heritage Auction (ha.com) is one of the largest auction houses in the world, and has put together a huge database of sold prices and research info. This is at no charge; however, you do need to sign up. Most all auction houses have searchable databases that only require you to sign up. 

Some may argue that access to this information has hurt the business. In my view, it has only leveled the playing field. Competition is a good thing, with the primary beneficiary being the customer.

This month’s story is from Marty Joachim:

“At a local flea market I purchased what was supposed to be Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter. The box contained the typewriter, and an instruction book with ‘Please Return to Ernest Hemingway’ penned on the cover, along with 10 pieces of mail addressed to him stuffed in the case with photo negatives. Those three pieces of evidence started my research to prove that it was the personal typewriter of Ernest Hemingway.

“The writing on the instruction book matched known examples of Hemingway’s handwriting. The typewriter manufacturer was Underwood, the serial number database showed the typewriter was manufactured in 1925; Hemingway moved to Key West in 1928. A 10x eye loop showed the name and Key West address of Hemingway impressed into the rubber platen roller.

“I removed the carriage off the base and removed 11 hairs (which I believed to be beard hairs) for DNA testing. Next, I matched the type and numeral font with the four letters typed from the Key West address held by the John F. Kennedy Library’s Hemingway Collection. 

“After two years of research, I presented it to Christie’s Auction in New York. It was sold in the Book and Manuscript sale in November 2011 for $22,000. It pays to do your research.”

Steve Barnes owns and along with his shop dog Gypsy, operates Olde Inverness Antiques.