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Missing Masterpieces

Willem Van de Velde Painting
Caption: Reproduction of a painting by Van de Velde

This Week: Willem Van de Velde Painting

Alan Fausel, head of the paintings department at Doyle New York, tells a tale of mystery, theft, and disguise — except that unfortunately, this tale is very true. On Christmas Eve 1978, thieves broke in to the MH de Young Museum in San Francisco through the skylight and made off with four paintings. The paintings vanished for 21 years, until November of 1999, when three of them turned up in a New York auction house where Mr. Fausel worked. The gallery held a walk-in day where, much like the ROADSHOW, the public could bring in their art to be appraised by experts. When a mysterious stranger came into the gallery and asked for help, one of the crew noticed that he was wearing a disguise — a wig and a hat. After the event was over, the stranger called from a local phone booth to let the crew know he had dropped off a box. Having no idea what the box contained (trash, treasure, a bomb?) they opened it and found three of the four stolen de Young Museum paintings. One of them, a Rembrandt called "Portrait of a Rabbi," was probably not saleable since it was too high-profile and would be easily recognized. The other two paintings were by less well-known artists and in poorer condition. As for the remaining missing piece, a painting by Willem Van de Velde the younger called "Harbor Scene," Fausel says it is worth at least $200,000. This piece was the most commercially viable of the four, since Van de Velde did a lot of similar nautical scenes and this one could probably pass in the market without being noticed easily. If the missing painting is ever brought to public auction, and a good auction house refers to the painting's history, the painting will likely be recognized as belonging in the MH de Young Museum. Until that day, Fausel says, the search goes on.

Featured in Program #105

One of Schreckengost's jazz bowls
Caption: One of Schreckengost's jazz bowls

Jazz Bowls

Viktor Schreckengost was one of the most prominent industrial designers of the 20th century. Born in Ohio in 1906 as the son of a potter, Schreckengost quickly became interested in design and studied in Vienna under Josef Hoffmann. Schreckengost invented the cab-over-engine innovation of truck design, which is still used today and helped cement his reputation as the "Henry Ford of the pedal car." Antiques dealer Chris Jussel claims that Schreckengost's great missing masterpieces are the jazz bowls he designed for the Cowan Pottery Company in 1931. Cowan had been commissioned by Eleanor Roosevelt to design a bowl to commemorate New York nightlife during the Jazz Age. She liked Schreckengost's bowl design so much that she ordered two more, one for her Hyde Park country house and another as a gift to her husband after his presidential election victory. Chris estimates that between 20 and 50 of the original bowls were produced by Cowan. The original bowl had a straight rim that was very difficult to fire in the kiln, so Cowan asked Schreckengost to design another bowl with a flared rim. Schreckengost didn't like the new design, but Cowan produced 50 of them anyway. Both of these bowls sold for $50 each. The third bowl in the series was a Poor Man's Bowl, which was smaller and simpler with a flared rim. This bowl sold for $25, and 50 of them were produced. The bowls were produced in a variety of blue, green, and yellow colors, but the most sought-after bowls are the midnight blue variety. All of the bowls depict New York nightlife at the time — skyscrapers, Times Square, the Cotton Club, jazz musicians, and even a clock reading 3:30am. Several bowls reside at large art museums in Cleveland, New York, and Boston, but Chris says there are more than 100 bowls out there still undiscovered. The three that have sold at public auction were all purchased in 1931 and have remained with those families. A bowl with the original straight rim sold for over $200,000, and bowls with the flared rims sold for over $100,000. None of the smaller Poor Man's Bowls have ever appeared on the public market, so Chris has no way of judging how much they might be worth.

Featured in Program #126

The missing Kämmer & Reinhardt 131 googly-eyed doll
Caption: The missing Kämmer & Reinhardt 131 googly-eyed doll

Googly-Eyed Doll

Appraiser Richard Wright already owns 500 dolls, but he can't rest until he's found one more. He is searching for a googly-eyed doll once manufactured by the German company, Kämmer & Reinhardt. The Kämmer & Reinhardt Company began making googly-eyed dolls in 1927 after its competitors started producing popular versions — the Campbell Kid and Kewpie. Googly-eyed dolls have their eyes set looking to the side, which gives them a cute and attractive yet slightly bizarre appearance. The dolls were available in three different sizes: 5 inches, 8 inches, and 15 inches tall. The 5-inch doll sold for $1 is now worth $5,000 to $6,000; the 8-inch doll sold for $2 is worth $8,000 to $15,000; and the 15-inch doll sold for $5 is now valued at $12,000 to $18,000. One particular doll has never shown up on the market, the 15-inch black 131 googly-eyed doll wearing short clothes. The doll appears in a catalog, but Richard has never been able to find it. Kämmer & Reinhardt had outlets on several continents, so the doll could be anywhere. Richard is so desperate to find this googly-eyed doll and complete his collection that he will pay more than $40,000 for it.

Featured in Program #125

A sample of George Washington's distinctive handwriting
Caption: A sample of George Washington's distinctive handwriting

George Washington Address

Even though it was not required by law or tradition, George Washington penned a very long inaugural address to deliver to the new nation. He hoped to inspire and prepare Americans for the future by endorsing the new Constitution (with its forthcoming Bill of Rights), and discussing vital topics of foreign policy and currency. As a precaution, Washington showed the address to his good friend James Madison, who judged the 62-page speech too long and too specific. Madison advised him to write a simpler speech in lieu of the first, more ambitious draft. Thirty years after Washington's death in 1799, historian Jared Sparks discovered the manuscript of the first speech among documents he had borrowed to write the president's biography. Given his intimate knowledge of and access to Washington's collection of personal papers, Sparks was soon inundated with requests for samples of the former president's handwriting. It was then Sparks decided to sacrifice the first speech, which he deemed of little historical worth. He gradually dismembered the manuscript leaf by leaf, and as the pages thinned out, cut them into strips and sent them off. Since then, pages of the address have been discovered one by one and placed in large institutional archives like Princeton University Library and the Massachusetts Historical Society. Others are still in the hands of private collectors. Out of the 31 leaves of the original address, 24 have been located. In 2002, as a part of the Forbes collection, appraiser Christopher Coover sold one leaf for $360,000. His guess is that most of the remaining pages are probably in the United States with older collections of autographs from the 19th century.

Featured in Program #124

One of the missing paintings
Caption: One of the missing paintings: Landscape with an Obelisk by Govaert Flinck

Isabella Stewart Gardner Paintings

Fifteen years ago, two men dressed as police officers knocked on the door of Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the middle of the night to pull off the largest art theft in U.S. history. After binding and handcuffing the two security guards who allowed them to enter the museum, the thieves spent the next hour and a half systematically going through the museum and removing 13 works of art. The crime remained unnoticed until the next day, when the morning shift arrived and discovered the two bound guards in the basement. Since the thieves had stolen the surveillance tapes, the only clues left were descriptions given by the security guards. The theft remains unsolved today despite an ongoing international investigation into theories of theft for a private collector or for a ransom. Among the missing works of art are The Concert, one of only 35 paintings painted by Vermeer; Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee, his only known seascape; A Lady and Gentleman in Black, an oil also by Rembrandt, painted in 1633; Rembrandt's etched self-portrait, which is the size of a postage stamp; Chez Tortoni by Manet, painted in the 1880s; Govaert Flinck's Landscape with an Obelisk, painted in the late 1630s; five drawings by Degas in various media, ranging from landscapes to quick sketches; an ancient Chinese bronze beaker which dates back to 1100 BC; and a Napoleonic finial taken from the top of a flag in the museum. The museum is offering a $5 million reward for the return of the art works, whose value may reach $500 million. But to the museum, these pieces are priceless, because they were part of the ensemble that Isabella Stewart Gardner originally arranged to "encourage people to have their own personal encounters with beauty in a domestic setting." She created her art collection, designed her museum, and left it to the public in 1903. As homage to her, the museum has left the empty frames from which some paintings were cut down hanging exactly as she had arranged them, awaiting the paintings' return.

Featured in Program #123

A whole Philadelphia highboy
Caption: A whole Philadelphia highboy

Highboys

J. Michael Flanigan is on the search for only half of a masterpiece — the top half. A highboy is a piece of 18th-century Philadelphia furniture that consists of two parts, though the upper sections of these elegant case pieces were often removed and lost. Highboys became popular in the 18th century, when Philadelphia, then the largest city in North America, attracted the finest craftsmen from America and Europe, who brought their great skills along with the latest styles to that city. Successful merchants in Philadelphia would purchase a highboy and matching dressing table for their bedrooms, and these pieces were often the fanciest furniture in the whole house. They were considered the top-of-the-line in Philadelphia woodworking. But because highboys typically stood over 8 feet tall (sometimes up to 9), houses with standard 8-foot ceilings couldn't accommodate the stately pieces. So, Michael says, highboy owners would separate the upper section from the lower section; often, over the years, the tops were lost. Even the U.S. State Department, which acquired a highboy base in the 1960s, put out a $10,000 reward for information about where the matching top might be. The bases alone are worth quite a lot — from $25,000 to $60,000 — but when two exactly coordinating halves are matched up and united, Michael says a whole highboy's worth can be up to three quarters of a million dollars!

Featured in Program #122

One of the missing Buddy L toy cars
Caption: One of the missing Buddy L toy cars

Buddy L Toy Cars

Andy Ourant is looking for a buddy — Buddy L, that is. In the early 1920s, Fred Lundahl founded Buddy L toys and named it after his son. Lundahl, who manufactured truck and automobile parts, had made a few toys for his son from the same parts he sold for real cars. The large toy trucks became a hit in the neighborhood, so Buddy L toys was born. The extremely durable, oversized trucks were manufactured and sold, but Lundahl created two special toys made just for Buddy himself: a pedal car and an oversized 200 series truck. For every Buddy L toy that was made, Lundahl kept a sample for himself, and in the 1960s his archive of toy trucks was packed away and stored in a warehouse in New Jersey. In 2001, the collection of over 1,000 toys was sold in a public auction. Most came in their original boxes and were in near mint condition. The record selling price of a production Buddy L was over $40,000 at auction, for a late 1920s coach bus. However, several pieces were suspiciously missing from the archive, including the pedal car and the oversized truck. Andy estimates the value of the oversized truck to be between $50,000 and $60,000. He notes that the pedal car is the pinnacle of what Buddy L collectors look for, so depending on its condition and who wanted to buy it, Andy guesses its value to be between $75,000 and $100,000. Here's hoping that someday Andy finds his Buddy L!

Featured in Program #121

One of Ruth Pershing Uhler's paintings
Caption: One of Ruth Pershing Uhler's paintings

Ruth Pershing Uhler Paintings

David Lackey is searching for paintings by an artist named Ruth Pershing Uhler. David is afraid that not many survived after she burned a number of them in a huge bonfire in her backyard. Uhler had a habit of tearing up paintings that she didn't like, and she didn't want works that she considered inferior to survive. Uhler lived and worked in Texas, but she was born in Pennsylvania and returned there to study art before settling back down in the Houston area. She exhibited her paintings, mostly in Texas, from the 1920s until the 1940s. Though most artists of that time painted in a conservative and traditional style, Uhler's paintings showed a fluid and modernist style, much like that of Georgia O'Keefe's. This unusual style may have been influenced by her two years spent in Santa Fe while she recovered from tuberculosis. During her time in Santa Fe, she created a series of nine paintings called "Earth Rhythms" which depicted landscapes of flowing hills. Though Uhler painted hundreds of pieces, dozens of which were exhibited, only ten are known of today; three are in museum collections and seven in private collections. David knows that others are bound to be sitting around in houses of people who might not even know of the masterpiece they have. Uhler's paintings are easily recognizable since they are very clearly signed in block letters. As for their value, only two that David calls "not great examples" have sold at the prices of $3,000 and $9,000. However, he estimates that one of her "Earth Rhythm" paintings would be worth from $20,000 to $40,000. Eight from that series are still missing — do you have one?

Featured in Program #120

One of William Stoddard's Queen Anne high chests
Caption: One of William Stoddard's Queen Anne high chests

Stoddard High Chest

Appraiser Dean Failey is searching far and wide for a rare and beautiful piece of furniture by William Stoddard. Stoddard was born in Newport, Rhode Island where he was trained as a cabinetmaker. He moved to Oyster Bay, Long Island in 1720 where he continued to create furniture. Dean believes that Stoddard and Christopher Townsend, another Newport cabinetmaker, learned from the same master craftsman, since Stoddard's furniture looks similar and has often been misattributed to Townsend. The particular piece that Dean is on the lookout for is a Queen Anne style flat top high chest with curved, slender cabrio legs and pointed slipper feet. One distinct feature on Stoddard's high chest is a curved molding on the top drawer which projects out from the flat surface of the case of drawers. This feature is found in New York furniture and not in Rhode Island furniture. The whereabouts of several of these Stoddard high chests are known: one chest descended in the Townsend family of Oyster Bay, and a second is owned by the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. However, the third one that Dean knows of was sold a number of years ago by a firm that has since gone out of business, and now the chest is nowhere to be found. This is unfortunate, since Dean considers this third chest the most aesthetically successful of all the chests. It is made of fruitwood, probably maintains its original surface, and is not as wide as the other chests. Its graceful, slender shape makes it "the epitome of what a Queen Anne high chest should be." Since Stoddard never signed his pieces, the chances of finding this chest are slim. But Dean hopes that it will resurface one day, and estimates its value to be between $60,000 to $100,000.

Featured in Program #119

What "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" ball might look like
Caption: What "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" ball might look like

"The Shot Heard 'Round the World"

Simeon Lipman from Lelands.com has been striking out in his search for what he calls "the most important home run baseball in baseball history." That ball, hit by Bobby Thompson off of pitcher Ralph Branca on October 3, 1951 is known as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World." In the final game of a three-game playoff between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants for the National League pennant, Thompson's three run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning made a storybook ending for Giants fans that year. At the time, the Dodgers and the Giants had the most heated rivalry in all of sports, and the whole season came down to this one game. Simeon explains that the game was one of the very first televised sporting events in America. Because the game was available to the public via television and radio, this home run was named "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" since so many people heard it happen. The ball was hit into the left field stands, as photographs and television footage show, and someone definitely caught the ball. Simeon describes the official National League stamp that would appear on the ball, as well as the facsimile signature of Ford Frick, the league president. Finding the actual ball might be as easy as stealing home, though. Simeon explains that authenticating the ball would be extremely difficult to do; it would require some kind of hard proof that the ball actually came from that hit, the ultimate famous home run baseball. Based on the auction prices of other famous home run baseballs, Simeon estimates that this ball would go for well over a million dollars. Here's hoping that the ball is somewhere "safe" and not "outta here!"

Featured in Program #118

A sample of Ernest Hemingway's distinctive handwriting
Caption: A sample of Ernest Hemingway's distinctive handwriting

Hemingway's Lost Luggage

Many of us have experienced the inconvenience of losing our luggage while traveling. Usually, most items lost in these travel mix-ups are easily replaceable. Ernest Hemingway was not so fortunate when his life's work disappeared from the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris. Francis Wahlgren of Christie's explains the details of this great literary mystery: when Hemingway was living in Paris with his first wife Hadley, his writing was flourishing, unlike later on in his life when depression caused him to struggle. To make money early on in his career, Hemingway worked as a journalist for the Toronto Star and various magazines. Once, when Hemingway was in Switzerland, Hadley planned to surprise him with a visit. She decided to bring along his writing so that he could work on it. So Hadley gathered carbons, original typescripts, handwritten manuscripts — everything Hemingway had ever written — and left for Switzerland. In the Gare de Lyon train station, she handed her bags to the porter, including the valise containing her husband's writing. She boarded the train, entered her cabin, and discovered that the valise was missing. It was never recovered. The most difficult loss for Hemingway was a fragment of his novel A Farewell to Arms. All but two short stories were lost, and though he tried to reconstruct many of them later on from memory, the knowledge of what was going on early on in Hemingway's writing is what scholars are missing. Francis explains that the manuscripts would be easily recognized by anyone in the book world, because of Hemingway's distinctive left-hand handwriting. Francis estimates the value of the valise would be around $3 to 4 million if found. While no one would ordinarily pay that much money to recover just any old lost bags, this very special luggage would certainly be worth recovering!

Featured in Program #117

A sketch of "The Chanting Cherubs"
Caption: A sketch of "The Chanting Cherubs," Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University

Horatio Greenough Sculpture

Colleene Fesko of Skinner describes her search for this missing masterpiece as being "like a Perry Mason episode." This 19th-century marble sculpture by early American sculptor Horatio Greenough is still at large. Greenough was well known for his busts and figural groups. Some of his most famous commissions include a colossal portrait of George Washington and original designs for the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Greenough was born in Boston in 1805 and emigrated to Italy to study in Florence. While there, he sculpted a bust for American novelist James Fenimore Cooper. Cooper grew fond of the sculptor and became Greenough's mentor. In 1829, Cooper suggested a commission of two Putti figures, which were small cherubs featured in Raphael's painting "Madonna del Baldacchino." Greenough started on the statue that became known as "The Chanting Cherubs" in 1829 using live models. One of the cherubs is thought to be modeled after Cooper's son Paul. When Greenough finished the statue in 1830, it was sent to Boston to be exhibited. People paid 25 cents to see the sculpture, which was considered expensive at the time. Characteristic of Boston society, disparaging comments flew about the figures being nude and in bad taste. So, "little aprons were made for the little Putti," laments Colleene. After their Boston exhibition, the Cherubs moved to New York in 1832 and were displayed in the National Academy and the American Academy until 1837. Then, they went into storage for many years. Before his death in 1851, Cooper sold the Cherubs to a private family who never listed it in their collection, and there is no reference of what happened to the sculpture after that. Colleene describes the markings on the Cherubs: Greenough signed the piece at the back with the words "Sculptured for James Fenimore Cooper 1830." The front of the base says "In Excelsis Deo." Colleene asks you to join her in solving this mystery of a missing statue that could easily sell for $250,000.

Featured in Program #116

The missing "Tres Personajes, second version" by Rufino Tamayo
Caption: The missing "Tres Personajes, second version" by Rufino Tamayo

Rufino Tamayo Painting

August Uribe of Sotheby's is on the lookout for a stolen Rufino Tamayo painting. A large-scale investigation with the help of the Houston police, the FBI, Interpol, and a $15,000 reward has turned up no solid leads toward the recovery of the painting. August explains that Tamayo, who started out as a figurative painter, is considered the father of modern art in Mexico. During Tamayo's time, he was set apart from well-known muralists such as Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siquieros who were popular for including their political aims in their art. Tamayo instead embraced art for art's sake, keeping his national identity but depicting his imagery in a more "non-confrontational manner." Later on in his career, Tamayo became more interested in color, adding ground-up marble and sand to his compositions. He was influenced by pre-Columbian art, making reference to the ancient walls and ghostlike figures of West Mexico. August gives us an idea of the worth of Tamayo's art — the most valuable, an easel painting, sold for a record price of $2.3 million and his watercolors sold for over $100,000 each. The missing painting, "Tres Personajes, second version," was sold in 1977 at a sale of modern pictures in Sotheby's. In the fall of 1987, after its owners had placed the painting for safekeeping in an art storage warehouse, it was discovered that "Tres Personajes, second version," along with several other pieces, was missing. After the FBI and Interpol exhausted all leads, the painting is still at large. August estimates the painting's worth at auction today would be between $750,000 and $1 million.

Update: "Tres Personajes" was found among trash on a Manhattan street in 2003, having vanished from a warehouse in 1987. Elizabeth Gibson, the woman who found the canvas, credited an ANTIQUES ROADSHOW FYI "Missing Masterpieces" segment about the painting for providing confirmation of her amazing find. On Nov. 20, 2007, "Tres Personajes" was sold to an undisclosed collector for $1.049 million in a Sotheby's auction of Latin American art. Watch the original AR FYI segment that clinched the discovery.

See also:
Oct. 23: "One Person's Trash Is Another Person's Lost Masterpiece" (NY Times)
Nov. 22: "Lost, Found and Sold" (NY Times)

Featured in Program #115

Sketch from Eastlake's book, Hints on Household Taste
Caption: A sketch from Eastlake's book Hints on Household Taste, British Architectural Library, RIBA, London

Eastlake Furniture

These days there is no lack of name brands, stores, TV shows, and expert designers telling us what "good taste" means in terms of decorating our homes. In that respect, Charles Eastlake was way ahead of his time. An architect and writer born in the south of England in 1836, Eastlake published his book Hints on Household Taste in 1868. The expanding American population turned to Eastlake's how-to guide in household decoration for tips on domestic tastefulness. Although Eastlake was not as well known for his work in the furniture design world, he had great influence on the American Victorian furniture of the late 1800s, according to Kerry Shrives, an appraiser with Skinner in Boston. Kerry explains that the furniture designs that Eastlake featured in his book were ones that ultimately did become popular, and it is a relatively little-known fact that although he was famous for his taste, he also created pieces of furniture. Along with William Morris and Philip Webb, Eastlake was one of the early makers of furniture in what is known as the Gothic Revival style. Also influenced by aspects of the Arts and Crafts style, these pieces were very basic forms, made with solid wood, large strapwork hinges, revealed construction, and shallow chip carvings. Pieces that Eastlake made himself are extremely rare today: they weren't manufactured in large numbers, weren't signed, and the manufacturing records have been lost. In fact, only a single known piece has ever surfaced — a cabinet, made in 1867, which appeared at auction in the late 1980s. Kerry believes that there must be many Eastlake pieces out there, but people who might have them in their homes probably are unaware of the significance of the furniture beyond its status as a family possession. A genuine Eastlake piece could be worth tens of thousands or more, depending on the form. Yet because there is so much Eastlake-inspired furniture in the marketplace, Kerry advises caution; all elements should be carefully examined before confirming that a newfound piece of furniture is an authentic Eastlake design.

Featured in Program #114

Example of George Ohr's pottery
Caption: Example of George Ohr's pottery

George Ohr's Pottery

Appraiser David Rago is a big fan of quirky pottery made by a quirky man, George Ohr. David describes Ohr as a man who was "as crazy as a fox" who produced pottery as art — vases that could never hold water, pieces that could never hold flowers. He was a real arts and crafts potter, digging and mixing his own clay, building his own kiln, and chopping his own wood. With his sense of form, manipulation, and color, Ohr could be considered as the world's first abstract artist. The majority of his pots were mostly drab in color: gunmetal, green, brown, and shimmering. Pieces that are bright reds, oranges, or mixed glazes are worth much more. Jim Carpenter, a New Jersey antiques dealer, purchased 10,000 pieces in 1970 from Ohr's sons. He won't say how much he paid, but David guesses the figure to be around $50,000 to $100,000. Back then, Ohr was not very well known. But when the pottery made its way to the center of the art world, New York, interest in his pieces began to skyrocket. One piece, a red pitcher, emerged in Colorado five years ago and sold for $44,000, despite its damage. Today, David estimates its worth from $65,000 to $70,000. An antiques dealer in West Virginia found another piece recently that would be worth around $50,000 today. David guesses that less than 500 pieces of Ohr's pottery are still out there to be found. For George Ohr's fans, the search continues for the missing pieces. A famous fan, the late artist Andy Warhol, collected Ohr's work and even painted some into his pictures!

Featured in Program #113

Facsimile of Poe's "Tamerlane"
Caption: Facsimile of Poe's "Tamerlane"

Poe's "Tamerlane" Book

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) emerged from a hard childhood as an orphan to become a great writer, editor, critic, poet, and the inventor of the detective novel. He was one of the greats, but burned out very fast amid problems with drinking, gambling, and drugs; he died at the age of 40. Appraiser Ken Gloss from the Brattle Book Shop in Boston is one of many book dealers who are on the lookout for Poe's first published work. Little more than a pamphlet, the book is entitled "Tamerlane and Other Poems," and doesn't even bear Poe's name — its author is simply listed as "a Bostonian." In fact, because Poe's name doesn't appear anywhere on the book, it is easily missable in the marketplace. Poe convinced a publisher to put out "Tamerlane" in 1827, when he was just 19 years old and serving in the military. Ken says it doesn't look like much, and the publisher didn't make many copies. It has become one of the really true rarities of American literature — there are only 14 known copies, all in libraries. The first ever "Tamerlane" to be found was uncovered in the 1890s in Boston on a book dealer's 10-cent table. Another dealer spotted it, bought it and sold it later for $1,000, a lot of money in those days. Then, in the 1950s, two postmen in New Bedford, Mass., found a trunk of books at a yard sale. In the bottom of the trunk was a "Tamerlane," which they sold six months later for $10,000. Later, in the early 1990s, an antiques dealer from Newburyport, Mass., died and his whole estate was sold. An antiques dealer from New Hampshire bought a box of books for $600 and sold each book for $15. Someone who purchased the "Tamerlane" from him sold it a few months later for $198,000. If one were found today, Ken says the price would go way beyond that, especially if it were a signed copy, since no signed copy has ever been found.

Featured in Program #112

Photograph of the bank
Caption: An example of the shoe bank with significant restoration

Shoe Bank

Appraiser Noel Barrett is on the lookout for a cast-iron bank. But this isn't just any old piggybank; it was made in the honor (and shape) of the famous "Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe" from the nursery rhyme. Noel explains that mechanical banks are the "blue chip" of toy collectors, since they were probably the first toys in America to be collected. One of the most sought-after banks is this particular one, which is shaped like a shoe with the torso of the old lady coming out of the top of the shoe. She's holding a stick aimed at a little boy who's climbing up the shoe, and lots of little children are climbing in and out of the bottom of the shoe. This shoe bank was patented in 1883 by W.S. Reed of Leominster, Mass. They were known for their lithograph paper and wood toys, so the shoe bank was probably the only iron toy they made. The shoe gained its charisma when it appeared on the cover of F.H. Griffith's book on mechanical banks, which defined the hobby. One of the original examples of the shoe bank sold at public auction in 1998 for $426,000. This is an astounding figure, considering the amount of restoration done to the piece, which included a replaced figure, replaced coin trap, and repair to the stick in the old lady's hand. Noel explains that even half of the bank is valuable, since two right halves have turned up. A left half of the shoe bank could be worth thousands, since it could complete one of the right halves to make one whole, and very valuable toy. You can bank on that!

Featured in Program #111

 A "hairy paw" chair, part of the Cadwalader furniture collection
Caption: A "hairy paw" chair, part of the Cadwalader furniture collection

Cadwalader Furniture

John Hays of Christie's is on the lookout for missing pieces of the most famous suite of furniture made in American history. When John Cadwalader, one of the great patriots of the American Revolution, married the very wealthy Elizabeth Lloyd in 1768, he set out to build one of the most splendid houses in Philadelphia. Even George Washington was well known to have remarked in his diaries that Cadwalader's house, the pride and envy of the colony, was the grandest house he'd ever seen. Cadwalader left no stone unturned in the building of his magnificent home. He commissioned Thomas Affleck, who immigrated from England in 1763 and produced the most elaborate, high-styled furniture in Philadelphia, to create a suite of furniture to match the design of his house. Affleck brought in the leading carvers and cabinetmakers of the time to fill Cadwalader's huge order — chairs, tables, sofas, card tables, and the like — that needed to be done between 1768 and 1772. Cadwalader's furniture was carved in the very highest, most elaborate fashion of the day, the Chippendale style. The most distinctive feature of the furniture was the "hairy paw feet," which appeared on all of the forms. After Cadwalader died, his descendant Charles married their young housekeeper, which did not go over well with the people of Philadelphia. In response to this, Charles shut down the house and sold its contents in 1904. The furniture was dispersed throughout the U.S. and abroad. Since that fateful day, six saddle-seat chairs from the front parlor have been found in Ireland, and another in Italy. Four chairs from the back parlor set have also been found: a single chair sold at Christie's last fall for $400,000. Christie's was also lucky to have recently found a tea table at an auction for less than $5,000: a dealer recognized the famous hairy-paw foot. It later sold in New York for over $1 million. Among the pieces still missing are two sofas, last seen in Charles Cadwalader's 1904 auction in Philadelphia. They are so widely sought after that people are making up schematic drawings of what the sofas would look like. John Hays hopes that these drawings will help lead to the recovery of the rest of Cadwalader's furniture.

Featured in Program #110

A photograph of the Tiffany screen
Caption: A photograph of the Tiffany screen

Tiffany's Presidential Screen

In the recent craze of home makeovers, interior decorating has become a hot topic. Everyone believes that the décor of their house should reflect their own personal style. President Chester A. Arthur showed sophisticated taste when he commissioned the redecoration of the White House by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the preeminent decorator of the time. But appraiser Arlie Sulka explains that long before Tiffany became famous for his glass, he started his career as a painter and moved into home decorating. Through his family, who was connected with many top figures in New York society, he had many important commissions, such as the Mark Twain house in Hartford, Connecticut. In his work at the White House, Tiffany redecorated and refurbished the main corridor, the East Room, the Red Parlor, the State Dining Room, and the Blue Parlor for the very reasonable-sounding fee of $15,000. He added elegant touches such as painted ceilings of silver and ivory, put up walls and sconces made of mosaic and glass, reupholstered furniture, and changed fireplace surrounds. One detail that hinted at his future career in glass was a huge glass screen that he created on the first floor, which ran from floor to ceiling, connected by columns already in the room, with a geometric design depicting parts of the national emblem.

When Teddy Roosevelt was elected and moved in to the White House, he realized that Tiffany's elegant décor didn't match his "rough and ready" style. So in 1904 he hired the famous architect Charles McKim to redecorate yet again. He ordered that all Tiffany objects be removed and told McKim to "break into small pieces that Tiffany screen"! Ms. Sulka explains that McKim knew Tiffany and probably wouldn't have broken the screen as ordered; he most likely had it removed instead.* No one has seen any part of it in the past 100 years, and Ms. Sulka can't even put a value on the precious screen, since it's a part of history and already counted as completely lost. But she is hoping that someone will recognize the glass, construction, or parts of the design and shatter the myth that the screen is lost forever.

* Update: June 22, 2005.
Immediately after the first broadcast of this episode on April 6, Antiques Roadshow FYI received an interesting e-mail from Harriet Stout, curator of Maryland's Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum. Harriet writes, "I have an answer to the whereabouts of the Tiffany screen that Teddy Roosevelt had removed from the White House in his fit of redecorating. It was purchased by the Chesapeake Beach Railway and removed to Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. There it was installed in the Belvedere Hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel burned to the ground in 1923." As yet, Harriet says, she has not been able to locate a record of the sale.

However, a portion of The President's House: 1800 to the Present, a behind-the-scenes history of the White House written by former first daughter Margaret Truman, corroborates, at least in part, this version of the Tiffany screen's fate. Truman writes that President Arthur's Tiffany screen was among the furnishings that architect Charles McKim "took a dim view of" himself. He saw to it that the screen was disposed of at auction, and it was purchased for $275 by a real estate developer. Truman writes that the screen "is believed to have ended its days at the Belvedere Hotel in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, which burned down in 1923." Mystery solved? ... If you have more details, we welcome your e-mail!

Featured in Program #109

Close-up of pig fountain head
Caption: Close-up of pig fountain head

Chinese Fountain Heads

Lark E. Mason, Jr. from igavel.com pours out the story of 12 stolen Chinese fountain heads from a fountain that was built in China during the 18th century. Emporer Qianlong renovated his summer palace to make it a beautiful retreat. A series of European baroque style buildings filled a 1,000 acre complex along with lakes, fountains and artwork, all following the latest European fashions. Jesuit priest and missionary Giuseppe Castiglione was appointed as the chief advisor for this particular magnificent fountain, which depicted the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. However, during the 1780s while China's relations with the west were deteriorating, the Jesuits who maintained the fountain left China. It remained unused until the 19th century. During the Opium wars, Europeans wanted concessions to have more trading ports that China would not give them. So to force China to negotiate, they invaded and looted the summer palace, blowing up precious artworks one by one. The heads of the 12 figurines from the fountain were packed up and dispersed all over Europe. In 1987 Mr. Mason found the first two, a monkey and a pig, and sold them at auction. The monkey sold for $165,000, and later in 2000 sold for over $1 million. During 2000 a tiger head also appeared for auction and sold for over $2 million. To this day, five of the fountain heads are still missing. Mr. Mason guesses that they could be anywhere, perhaps in someone's garden, and whoever has them has no idea they're Chinese and are worth an overflowing amount of money!

Featured in Program #108

Back of Stradivarius violin
Caption: Back of Stradivarius violin

Stradivarius Violin

Any musician will tell you that an instrument is their most valuable possession; an instrument is a magnificent work of art that allows you to produce your own auditory masterpieces. Appraiser David Bonsey tells us about a rare Italian Stradivarius violin that was stolen from a musician friend. In the spring of 1980, this musician had performed in a concert recital in Cambridge, Massachusetts using his beloved Stradivarius. On his way to a post-recital reception, he left the violin in an unlocked office. While he was gone, someone made their way into the office, took the violin out of its case, and closed the case. Only when the owner picked up the case and felt its lack of weight did he realize that his Stradivarius had been stolen. Antonio Stradivari made this precious violin, which had been owned by this musician from 1946 to 1980. Stradivari created instruments in Cremona, northern Italy, from 1666 until his death in 1737. He was known for building instruments that satisfied the demand of musicians, who were constantly reaching out to larger audiences. He created violins with a bold outline and used only one piece of wood for a back, instead of the usual two pieces. These violins were works of art whose sound was described as "mystical," and no one has ever been able to improve upon the craftsmanship Stradivari was able to accomplish. They are the most sought-out instruments today for their ability to project above an orchestra, unamplified. Unfortunately, the instruments were usually only photographed in black and white and didn't have much documentation accompanying them. The FBI is handling this particular theft case. Mr. Bonsey estimates the base price for this violin to be between $850,000 and $1.2 million. If taken to an insurance company, its value would probably be around $2.5 million. The recovery of Mr. Bonsey's friend's violin would be music to his ears.

Featured in Program #107

Oath reproduction
Caption: What the oath might have looked like

Oath of a Freeman

Stop the presses! Appraiser Thomas Lecky of Christie's is on the lookout for the first known document printed in the colonial New World, "Oath of a Freeman." In 1638 Reverend Jose Glover left England with his wife and Stephen Daye to set up the first printing press in the New World. On the voyage to America Rev. Glover passed away, leaving his widow and Stephen Daye to complete the mission. They soon met Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard University, who let them set up the printing press in his house in Cambridge. The first document printed in America was "Oath of a Freeman," a pledge of allegiance to the Commonwealth, which was read aloud by people in the Massachusetts Bay colony who were given the right to vote. They had to be male, church going, and have had a transforming religious experience. The text of the oath, stating that one would uphold the laws, support the commonwealth, not act against it, and act out towards those who acted against it, has been found in Governor Winthrop's original 1630 manuscript copy. It gave people the right to be free in the society and have a say in its future. The printed oath was a broadside, which was a single sheet of paper. It was a simple and austere document, without much decoration and probably containing lots of punctuation and spelling errors, as many of Stephen Daye's printed works contained. Since the highly sought-after oath was simply a single sheet of paper, Mr. Lecky guesses that it could have been easily lost, thrown away, tucked into books, or even used to wrap meat or food. Hopefully this is not the case, as Mr. Lecky approximates the oath's worth at 5 to 7 million dollars. That's certainly an appraisal that's fit to print!

Featured in Program #106

Willem Van de Velde Painting
Caption: Reproduction of a painting by Van de Velde

Willem Van de Velde Painting

Alan Fausel, head of the paintings department at Doyle New York, tells a tale of mystery, theft, and disguise — except that unfortunately, this tale is very true. On Christmas Eve 1978, thieves broke in to the MH de Young Museum in San Francisco through the skylight and made off with four paintings. The paintings vanished for 21 years, until November of 1999, when three of them turned up in a New York auction house where Mr. Fausel worked. The gallery held a walk-in day where, much like the ROADSHOW, the public could bring in their art to be appraised by experts. When a mysterious stranger came into the gallery and asked for help, one of the crew noticed that he was wearing a disguise — a wig and a hat. After the event was over, the stranger called from a local phone booth to let the crew know he had dropped off a box. Having no idea what the box contained (trash, treasure, a bomb?) they opened it and found three of the four stolen de Young Museum paintings. One of them, a Rembrandt called "Portrait of a Rabbi," was probably not saleable since it was too high-profile and would be easily recognized. The other two paintings were by less well-known artists and in poorer condition. As for the remaining missing piece, a painting by Willem Van de Velde the younger called "Harbor Scene," Fausel says it is worth at least $200,000. This piece was the most commercially viable of the four, since Van de Velde did a lot of similar nautical scenes and this one could probably pass in the market without being noticed easily. If the missing painting is ever brought to public auction, and a good auction house refers to the painting's history, the painting will likely be recognized as belonging in the MH de Young Museum. Until that day, Fausel says, the search goes on.

Featured in Program #105

One of the Washington love letters
Caption: One of the Washington love letters

George Washington's love letters

With Valentine's Day around the corner, you might be inclined to send a note to the one you love, asking them to "Be Mine." These days, it is easy to get your words to your sweetheart — through e-mail. But back in the days of our nation's first president, handwritten love letters were the way to woo. In 1758 George Washington, a successful militiaman and government leader, began courting Martha, a young widow with two children, and a year later they were married. Around that time and during the American Revolution, they exchanged love letters — hundreds of them — while George was away in Philadelphia or on the campaign trail. Christopher Coover of Christie's explained that since George was a very important and publicly known person, he and Martha most likely had an agreement to destroy the letters to keep them private if one of them passed away. So after George's death in 1799, all of the letters probably disappeared up the chimneys at Mount Vernon. Thirty years after Martha's death, her granddaughter discovered a few letters stuck behind a drawer in a desk she had inherited. These two letters were from George to Martha, written during the early days of the Revolution. Two other letters had also survived the flames, these from Martha to George. The letters reveal a very strong current of mutual affection, concern, and tenderness. The only letter that has ever hit the market, one from Martha to George, recently sold for $75,000. Mr. Coover estimates that a letter from George to Martha could easily be appraised for six figures. Your valentine would choose one of those over chocolates or roses any day!

Featured in Program #104

Reproduction of Dolley Madison's furniture
Caption: Reproduction of Dolley Madison's furniture

Dolley Madison's Baltimore Furniture

Appraiser J. Michael Flanigan is on the lookout for a missing masterpiece of great importance in American history. No doubt America's most terrible setbacks during the War of 1812 came on the night of August 24-25, in 1814, when invading British troops overtook and set fire to the White House. As the British approached Washington, and the pressure to flee mounted, Dolley Madison, wife of President James Madison, faced the difficult decision of what to save from the young nation's executive mansion. Along with an assortment of state documents, the first lady chose to rescue the now priceless "Portrait of Washington," by Gilbert Stuart. Many other precious furnishings fared far worse, including an entire suite of painted furniture designed by the great American architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe and executed by the Finlay Brothers of Baltimore. Michael says these are among the rarest pieces of early American furniture that we know of — so rare that the Baltimore Museum commissioned an artist to recreate the set using for reference the original drawings, which did survive the fire. Michael estimates that today a single chair from the original set could fetch more than $100,000 at auction. And although he hates to root for looters, Michael says that he knows some did get into the White House and took what they could after the First Family had left. Perhaps someone grabbed a piece or two of the furniture but was too ashamed to admit it. So check your basements, your flea markets, and your attics. If you happen to discover that your ancestor was White House thief, don't worry. The government would be so grateful to get the furniture back that all will (likely!) be forgiven.

Featured in Program #103

Drawing of Lalique's first vase
Caption: Drawing of Lalique's first vase, © 2005 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Lalique's First Vase

If you're looking for a beautiful container to display this year's Valentine's roses — maybe something Art Nouveau — then keep your eye out for this week's Missing Masterpiece. In 1900, the first known vase crafted by the master jeweler and eventually world-renowned glassmaker René Lalique vanished just two years after its "birth" in 1898. Its whereabouts have vexed art historians and glass collectors virtually ever since. What is thought to be a drawing of the vase by the artist himself gives us a glimpse of what we're looking for. Nick even thinks it possible that the vase is hiding in plain sight, in some museum or prominent private collection. "Because [the vase] is so early, it may not be recognized as Lalique," he says. Even the size of the vase is not known for certain, though it's thought to be around ten inches tall. While there's no question the vase is valuable, determining its true worth is difficult, since no living person has actually seen it — at least not knowingly. Nick estimates that if it were found today, the vase would be worth at least $200,000.

Featured in Program #102

French Metropolis lobby art
Caption: French Metropolis lobby art

American Metropolis

Have you seen the American Metropolis poster? It's out there ... maybe. And if it is, it might look like the French one at left — or, it might not. Movie memorabilia expert Rudy Franchi tells Lara Spencer that as a dealer, his holy grail is the missing-in-action promotional one-sheet from the American release of Fritz Lang's 1925 classic, Metropolis — the original science-fiction movie, envisioning the City of the Future. Rudy says the film drives collectors mad. And although the German and French posters, and other lobby art, have been found, nobody even knows for sure what the American poster looked like — intensifying its mystique. For now, the record holder is Mummy, the 1932 thriller with Boris Karloff, of which three are known to exist. One of those sold in 1997 for $450,000. But if the real thing were to surface today, Rudy estimates the Metropolis one-sheet could be the first million-dollar movie poster. Which would make you one wealthy bargain hunter if you're lucky ... but you'll have to wrestle Rudy for it!

Featured in Program #101


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