Clipper Ship Diorama, ca. 1890
It's a family piece. It belongs to my father. And the history behind it goes is that his great-grandfather was Captain Eli of the Rebecca Clyde. It was a merchant ship, clipper ship out of Baltimore Harbor and it sailed down the eastern seaboard towards the Caribbean and down to Rio to pick up goods. And somewhere along the journey, it was lost at sea and they sent out a fleet of recovery ships. And what they found was the mast and some fragments of the boat. And one of the carpenters of the recovery ship was commissioned to make this out of the fragments found and the mast was sent back to Baltimore for insurance purposes.
This is the best of American folk art because there are so many things that are pulling together here. First of all, there's the family history, which is really important to you. Second of all, it's a document of the history of the merchant marine in Baltimore, which is a phase of history that has really passed. Baltimore had the fastest clipper ships that were afloat. And then, it's... it's a beautiful object made from the remains of this boat that came to a terrible end. It fits into a tradition of these sort of shadowbox dioramas that were very popular in the 19th century. But this one has such a strong family history and social history connected to it that the value is going to be even greater than the ordinary run-of-the-mill pieces. With all of that going for it, I think that this piece would be valued somewhere in the range of $10,000 to $15,000.
That's great, my father will be pleased.
It’s great, and I'm so glad to have seen it.
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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."
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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.
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