Alexander Calder Mobile, ca. 1950

Value (2010) | $400,000 Auction$1,000000 Retail
Watch  

GUEST:
It's a mobile by Alexander Calder, and Calder gave it to my aunt. My aunt and uncle were having a cocktail party, and Calder was visiting friends of theirs who were invited to the party, so they took Calder along. And my aunt was very creative, and among other things, she had done a needlepoint pillow of one of Calder's works. And he was astounded. He'd never seen one like that before. And so she gave it to him, and a couple of days later, somebody appeared at the doorway, and he had given her this mobile as a thank-you for the pillow.

APPRAISER:
You've owned this for a while-- since 1985, I believe.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
And you had a slight restoration to it in 1986. Some of the colors were touched up a little bit.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And clearly that's going to have an effect on the value, to a certain degree. This was originally given to your aunt in 1958.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
But this probably, as far as the actual date of construction, dates a little bit earlier than 1958.

GUEST:
Oh, yes. I think it's... early '40s was a guess.

APPRAISER:
Alexander Calder essentially invented the art form known as a mobile.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
And it became very iconic of 1950s modern art. And I think the late '50s sort of marks a turning point where he begins to concentrate more on larger installations. It's made on very thin wire, and then these are usually either aluminum or an anodized, weather-resistant material that.. slipped in and then very delicately soldered. And you can see in here where all of the knots and joints, all put in, in a very balancing kind of format. He always liked the use of primary colors. This back one is a little bit more of an orange, and some of the other appraisers on the set thought this might be a little bit unusual for a color. We should mention the Alexander Calder Foundation.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Which is a major element in both identifying the work of Alexander Calder, authenticating it, and I believe that you had sent some letters, some documentation.

GUEST:
We've sent the documentation and a transparency, and they just said they would need to look at it in person, and we haven't gone to New York to do that.

APPRAISER:
Calder Association is, like any foundation, is set up so that an artist's work are not diluted. And that's why they're very diligent about keeping up to make sure that things are authenticated so if that they are sold, that they do have that stamp of approval...

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
...or of authenticity. I know that earlier, back in the late '80s or '90s, you had an approximate value of what it was worth?

GUEST:
The man who restored it said at least $30,000.

APPRAISER:
It's gained a little bit in value since then. We worked on the values to somewhat of a consensus and it still needs to be validated. Based upon that, a fair auction value, the range is somewhere between $400,000 and $600,000.

GUEST:
How much?

APPRAISER:
$400,000 to $600,000 at auction as somewhat of a wholesale price. Right now, Alexander Calder's market is extremely hot, and in a good retail setting, it would not be at all inconceivable that this very small, wonderful piece of art could probably break $1 million.

GUEST:
Oh, my God.

APPRAISER:
Not bad for a pillow.

GUEST:
Oh! My problem is, I've got one mobile and two children. (both laughing)

APPRAISER:
I'm sure your husband, who is watching off-camera, will be equally happy with the good news.

GUEST:
(laughing): Oh, I think so.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
DESIGNbase
Northampton, MA
Appraised value (2010)
$400,000 Auction$1,000000 Retail
Event
Miami Beach, FL (July 10, 2010)
Period
20th Century
Form
Mobile
Material
Metal, Paint

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.