1903 Folk Art Presentation Plaque

Value (2010) | $4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
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GUEST:
I bought this at an auction 25 years ago in Poughkeepsie, New York. I always liked quarter-sawn oak. I thought it was American and thought it would be perfect for a bathroom.

APPRAISER:
It's folk, it's bears on toilets.

GUEST:
Bears on toilets, and I think it was given to somebody when they retired from plumbing. And figured you always buy antiques if they appeal to more than one group, so I figured plumbers, people that collected old photography...

APPRAISER:
Old photography. People that like bears

GUEST:
You had bears...

APPRAISER:
People who like bears on toilets.

GUEST:
It doesn’t get any better. Bears on toilets—it doesn’t get any better than that.

APPRAISER:
It doesn't. This piece is unique. It is a plaque, and we just have to just guess that he was in the plumbing business because everything from the "1903" to this "ST", which I have not figured out, to all the surrounds are made out of pipes. And I love this because this is an early flush system, right? So it comes down. And on here, do you notice this? It's very tarnished.

GUEST:
I didn't notice that until my wife pointed out when we were in line.

APPRAISER:
In line here for the ROADSHOW. It says "Wannen Baer." I went on a search engine to search for that name, nothing came up. This wonderful piece was made by and for a German immigrant. And as you know, German people emigrated into America from the late 18th century, and then it really picked up in the 1830s and '40s through the 1880s. And they brought with them their ability to carve. So you have these fabulous bears carved almost in a Black Forest German style. And a pair of bears in the bathtub. And, above it all, this portrait of the man. This is actually on paper, and these are actually celluloid photographs of maybe four employees that gave it to him, do you think? I mean, we can only guess, right?

GUEST:
I have no idea.

APPRAISER:
So everything about it is great. It would appeal to so many people. It appeals to folk art people, it appeals to guys like you... That like quarter-sawn oak.

GUEST:
That like quarter-sawn oak…

APPRAISER:
It just has so much cross-appeal. And I just love it. If this plaque could talk, right?

(both laughing)

APPRAISER:
Now, what do you think? What did you pay for it?

GUEST:
I paid $185, plus ten percent commission.

APPRAISER:
So you paid approximately $200.

GUEST:
$203.50.

APPRAISER:
Now, easily at auction, because of the cross-appeal, because it's a great piece of folk art, this piece would be worth easily $4,000 to $6,000.

GUEST:
That's hard to believe.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Keno Auctions
New York, NY
Appraised value (2010)
$4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Event
Miami Beach, FL (July 10, 2010)
Period
20th Century
Form
Plaque
Material
Oak, Wood
January 24, 2011: After this appraisal aired, we received an email suggesting that the words on the small plate on the plaque, "WANNEN BAER," were not a man's name, but rather a title that translated to "tubs bear" or "bear in a tub." Online sources and a native German speaker confirm this perceptive viewer's insight.

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