“What’s it Worth Mike” -Singer Sewing Machine…


This Singer sold for $1400.00

Several times a month I get a call that starts like this, ” I have this Antique Singer sewing machine I got from my Great Grandma..” Quite often the tale goes on to add  ” A local Dealer tried to get it off  Great Grandma for a $1,000 10 years ago and she chased him out of the house with a broom.”  This is not to say these machines are worthless, only that some are worth  a great deal more than others.

Where the idea started that these old treadle machines had such huge value is anybodies guess, but it probably is the belief that because of their being over 100 years old they are Antiques and must follow the equation”100 years old X (Antique) = Valuable”.

The family stories that come with these machines to often inflates their age, rarity and value as well tales that generally include mention that some aged member of the family, a great-grandmother or great aunt, usually aged between 92 and 104 bought the machine used Circa 1894.

As with all things Antique or Collectible, the value for different models of Antique Singer sewing machines is based “Demand & Supply” rather than standard “Supply and Demand” equation used in the regular economy. The market for all Antiques differs from the regular economy for brand new items because the supply of an individual Antique item is always limited to how many were originally made way back when. When demand and value for an Antique item increases due to changes in Decorating or Collecting trends, there are no factories put into production to create new Antiques to fill demand.

This Singer Featherweight could sell for $450.00 at auction.
This Singer Featherweight could sell for $450.00 at auction.

In the case of Singer sewing machines, some models were made in such huge numbers their values remain relatively modest today, but some can go at auction for over $1500.00.


If you have one of these old Singer Sewing machines and finally want to know how old it is and what it’s worth, use our $4.95 Valuation option.


Mike Wilcox

Wilcox & Hall Appraisers

“It’s Genuine Ivory”

Ivorex Plaque
A set of Ivorex Plaques

Appraisers & Dealers come across unusual  items that their customers are sure are made of “Genuine Ivory”, or some other hand-carved material such bone, marble or jade.  Sadly most are anything but what they first appear to be what they appear to be when first viewed in a busy auction hall or dimly lit “Junk Shoppe” . The pieces shown above above are prime examples of that, routinely praised as being  “Genuine Ivory” or “hand-carved ivory” by the eager seller of the piece, the story backed up by family folklore. The reality being far more humble,  rather than ivory, they are often a form of plaster casting.

The history of plaster casting dates back 9,000 years. There is evidence of ancient plaster in the Middle East, used in Syria and Egypt. Early Roman Antique Dealers used plaster to make copies of Greek statutes to fill the market demand for originals (some things never change). We know it today as “Plaster of Paris,” after its extensive use in France as a fire retardant coating and decorative material. By the 1700s, Paris came to be known was known as the “capital of plaster,” which is why the name has stuck,  the term “Plaster of Paris” emerged into a generic term.

The “Ivory” Plaster plaques like the ones above were mass produced from molds, their ivory like appearance a result of paint or glazes used to to give them the appearance of ivory or marble. Their origins are often far more humble then the family histories let on, but then the truth often is.  Quite often these were used as inexpensive carnival prizes during the early years of the 20th century or sold simply sold as inexpensive souvenirs of historical sites. many of these plaques are unmarked. Some post-First World War examples carry copyright marks and company names, but the problem is many used a foil or paper label, which seldom survive to this day.

Unlike most such plaques, these two are marked and traceable to a maker. They were made by B. Osborne Company, who marketed them as “Ivorex,” a line of decorative plaster wall plaques made between 1899-1965 . The company was located in Faversham, Kent, England, their catalogs indicates they produced 495 different plaques. At the companies peak they were producing 45,000 pieces a year.Values vary quite a bit for these plaques, depending on condition the size and subject. Most like the ones shown above have modest values, this set of four sold for less than $20.00


“What’s it Worth Mike?”- Oil Painting in a Dumpster

impasto boat
A “Starving Artist” type painting with an illegible signature

No item causes more angst than inheriting an Oil Painting and for good reason. It seems a couple of times a year someone finds a very valuable painting in a dumpster a yard sale or hung in Grandma’s spare bedroom and it receives a huge amount of Media attention.  This is probably why we field more questions about Oil paintings than anything else.

99 times out of a hundred though, the painting in question is what I call the “Starving Artist” painting.  Based on the large numbers of these I see every year every home in North America must have a couple stashed away, received as gifts or inheritances.

What I mean by “Starving Artist” painting are those heavy Impasto* paintings done in a semi-impressionistic style, the usual subject being most depict Parisian street scenes, Sail boats, cafes or crashing waves on a craggy beach, with or without a lighthouse and windblown fences.

Nearly all of them have single European sounding “first name” type signatures, such as “Alfonso” or “Ricardo”. In others the signature looks like a Doctors signature on a prescription form, virtually illegible, followed by the last two digits of a date; E.G. “74” ( for 1974, not 1874). It’s actually very common to find almost identical paintings showing up on online auctions sites that have different signatures.

I recall one time at a Roadshow type event I participated in where four people showed up with the same painting, but each had a different signature. While this seems confusing to the owners of these paintings, it’s really not all that unusual. These paintings were made to order as multiples of the same scene under for art wholesalers. These same Wholesalers have been staging traveling “Art on a Fence”, Gallery Bankrupcy” or “Starving Artist” sales in hotels and  conference centers since the 1970s.

These shows are usually heavily advertised as a “Limited time” only chance to buy “Genuine Oil Paintings at Dealer prices,” . Most also offer upscale framing options, which truth be told is where they make most of their profit. Each sale will have a wide selection of painted scenes, if a particular scene sells well, the wholesaler will order multiples of it for the next show, pulling a new one out as soon as the first one moves out the door.

Sad to say,  the signatures on these paintings are often just pseudonyms, the real artist’s name or even where they were painted remaining unknown. The origins of these paintings is anyones guess, and probabaly are churned out by “Starving Artists” at a piece rate of so much per painting.

Values for these paintings depends a great deal on the subject matter, the quality of the painting, size and the frame, but for the most part, at auction a lot of these paintings sell for less than $100, the frame being the bargain. Still, one should be very careful when buying or selling oil paintings, to erase any possibility of doubt, original artwork such as oil paintings or watercolors should be examined by a qualified Fine Arts Appraiser.


*Impasto: In English, the borrowed Italian word impasto refers to a technique used in painting,
where paint is laid on very thickly, usually thickly enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible.


Mike Wilcox

Wilcox & Hall Appraisers

“What’s it Worth Mike?”- Fayral Figurine

Pierre le Faguay’s “Nude with Grapes” Signed Guerbe

“Fayral” is one of two pseudonyms (Fayral and Guerbe) that were used by the French sculptor Pierre le Faguays (1892-1956 ), stamped on his figurines.  The names “Fayral” and “Guerbe” were taken from the family names of his mother and his wife. Faguays, born in Nantes, France, he was famous for the “Stop Action” figurines of his dancers.  The illusion of movement, even when standing still was a very popular design motif during the Art Deco era, which was at its peak in the late 1920’s.  Faguays worked in a number of different mediums, such as spelter, bronze, ivory, stone, wood, alabaster and even ceramics, he also produced designs for the “La Stele” label Arthur Goldscheider figurines.

Faguays was a close friend of fellow sculptor Max Le Verrier (1891-1973), who established the Le Verrier foundry during 1926, which cast pieces for a number of well known of French sculptors of that era, including Faguay’s and those of Marcel Bourain. Le Verrier used his own alloy mix of metals which allowed exceptional detailing, which sets them apart today from others of the Art Deco period.  These originals, cast in white metal, have an artificial bronze patina, which is part of its original design. This original artificial patina must be left intact to retain its value as an original . This same advice also applies to any bronze or spelter figurine of this period, please do not polish them!

Foundry marking for Le Verrier

Pierre le Faguay’s originals cast by Le Verrier will have a foundry mark, unfortunately though the Fayral figures have beenknown to be recast from original molds and modern copies are still being produced. These reproductions have flooded the market, which has tended to depress prices of  even genuine Art Deco Era examples lacking foundry marks. It’s best if you intend to collect Art Deco figurines that you concentrate on pieces with a documented foundry marking, a provenance and a bill of sale stating what you’ve purchased is an original. In the current market at Auction expect to pay in the $1500.00-$2000.00 range for a genuine Fayral or Guerbe figure.

Mike Wilcox
Wilcox & Hall Appraisers

“What’s Worth Mike?” – Polyphon Disc Type Music Box

discplayer small
A small Polyphone Disc Player with discs

This Polyphon Disc Type Music Box is an odd piece to those that have never seen one,  looking for all the world like a “Steam Punk” record player. These disc type music boxes first began to appeared in the 1880s. Unlike the cylinder players which used cumbersome and hard to store metal cylinder to pluck the musical comb, a thin metal disc was used, this allowed multiple tunes to be played on the same machine, in some cases the machines had self changing mechanisms that could play multiple discs, one after another. The disc players were made for a relatively short time and most companies that produced them faced tough economic times when Edison’s phonograph was perfected.

Regina  disc player 27 inch
A Regina 27″ disc player

The largest maker of the disc machines was Polyphon, which made 100,000’s of these machines during the glory years of the Disc player, 1895-1905.  At its peak the firm employed more than 1,000 people, they diversified in later years, the company selling mechanical pianos, pneumatically-played pianos, phonographs and other items.

Today the smaller Polyphon players in need of some minor restoration with a selection of usable discs often sell in the $800-$1,000 range at auction.These were made  in a wide variety of sizes, from small tabletop machines such as the one at the top of the page, with discs less than 10 inches in diameter, to large free-standing units with 33-inch discs.


Mike Wilcox

Wilcox & Hall Appraisers

A Brief History of Royal Doulton

Royal Doulton Lady Jester HN1284, designed by Leslie Harradine. Issued 1928-1938. Size: 4.25”H. Currently retails for $5000.00

Royal Doulton’s roots stretch all the way back to 1815 when John Doulton became a partner with a widow named Martha Jones. Her late husband had originally founded Lambeth Pottery with the foreman of the pottery, John Watts. The new pottery operation began operating as ‘Jones, Watts, and Doulton’, but unlike today the company was best known for water filters, stoneware bottles, sewer pipes and chimney pots. By the mid-19th century, the company entered into the production of Decorative stoneware that rivaled the best available at the time.

It was John’s son Henry Doulton who expanded the company in 1871 to include a line of Art pottery with the opening of the now famous Lambeth pottery. The Lambeth pottery allowed students and designers from the local art school to experiment and produce new designs for the company. The new line of Art Pottery was a great success, the brilliant work of Artists such as, Eliza Simmance, Florence, Arthur and Hannah Barlow,George Tinworth, George Butler, and Mark Marshall put Doulton to the forefront of Art Pottery on an almost industrial level.

The company entered into the fine porcelain market in 1882 after purchasing Pinder, Bourne & Co. of Burslem, England. Under the direction of John Slater, the company pushed into a new market, production fine quality decorative porcelain. It wasn’t long before Doulton was winning honors at major international exhibitions for their lines of figurines, vases, character jugs and plates. This exposure in international markets brought Doulton great acclaim and the patronage of the Royal family, the company given the honor of using the world ” Royal” as an addition to the company name in 1901 by King Edward VII.

It was during this period that the company began production of what it’s most famous for today, their popular lines of decorative “Series Ware,” such as the “Gibson Girl” plates, circa 1901, “Dickens ware” pottery, plates and figurines in 1911, the “Shakespeare” series in 1914 and the “Robin Hood” series in 1914.

The most well-known of these are the “HN” numbered figurines which the company still issues today. Their very first was designated HN1 “Darling” in 1913, The “HN” prefix for these figurines stands for for Harry Nixon, the head artist in charge of decorating the figurines. Other well known artists who worked on the designs and decoration were George Tinworth, Authur Barlow and John Sparkes. The huge success of Royal Doulton’s figurines brought about other lines in later years, such as the “Nursery Rhyme” series in 1930 and the popular “Bunnykins” line in 1933. The company continues to produce new lines of collectibles every year and annually expanding the production of new pieces for the HN figurines and the “D” series Toby Mugs.

We are currently working on revamping our popular line of online price guides so you, our customers can find out “What’s it worth” for any of the thousands of Royal Doulton figurines, Toby’s and series ware with a couple of clicks of the mouse. We will be updating this page with links to these services as soon as we have them up and running.

Mike Wilcox

Wilcox & Hall Appraisers

Appraisal Days/ Roadshow Events

Several times a year I participate in Appraisal Roadshow events and often come across some amazing finds that have been unloved and unknown for years. Doing appraisals for items like this is often as exciting for us appraisers as for the people who own the item In this clip from the Miami Antique show I get to examine a great Omega desk clock, while my friend and colleague Martin Willis gets to examine a jaguar coat.

“What’s it Worth Mike?”- Hunzinger Rocker

A Hunzinger Lollipop Platform Rocker

This Rocker is just one of several models of ” Lollipop” types made by the furniture maker George Hunzinger. Hunzinger was born in Germany in 1835, his family had been in the cabinetmaking business since the 17th century. Hunzinger, with his training in Cabinet making complete emigrated to New York at the age of 20, he was just one of many highly trained German cabinetmakers, including the Herter Brothers, emigrated to the United States for a better life away from the political and economic turmoil in Germany in the mid 1800’s.


An example of a Hunzinger Patent drawing

Hunzinger was one of first to take advantage of this very latest technology for woodworking, between 1860 and 1898 he was  awarded 21 for the multitude of  mechanisms used in the design and production of his furniture. A great deal of the machinery his company used to construct these elaborate pieces were also built to his designs. His work being very popular at the time spurred competition, his pieces  widely copied by other manufacturers during the last quarter of the 19th Century.

As with all things Antique, over time similar items tend to get generic labelling. Hunzinger’s name today has become a generic term as  “Hunzinger style.” used to describe furniture made with elaborate turned spindles, barley twist legs, metal sliding, folding and rocking mechanisms. Unlike a lot of other makers of furniture of this type that did not mark their pieces, genuine Hunzinger furniture is generally easy to identify.  Being such a stickler for protecting his designs and market share from his many competitors, Hunzinger made pieces are quite easy for us to identify today, because the metal fittings and often the chairs themselves are stamped with his name and patent dates.  As for value, in the current market a comparable Hunzinger Lollipop rockers today list at some higher end dealers for over $5500.00. Values for all Hunzinger furniture varies a great deal, to get an appraisal for yours Click Here


Mike Wilcox

Wilcox & Hall Appraisers

“What’s it Worth Mike?”- Oscar Bach Furniture


A signed piece by Bach Circa 1927/28

Determining ‘What’s it worth’ for Art Deco period pieces like this one can be a bit of a puzzle for Collectors because of the mix of styles used to create them. This one dates Circa 1925  and is probably a creation of the Designer Oscar Bach (1884-1957) or his former partner Bertram Segar.

As you can see, the style of these Bach/Segar pieces is unlike just about anything else at the time, the reason being unlike a great many other studios, Bach worked in a large numbers of styles from Gothic to Art Deco, often mixing styles to get the effect he was looking for.

Furniture by both are generally marked, but it often takes a bit of looking to find the markings. The Bach pieces were marked in a variety of ways, the early pieces with a medal that reads “OSCAR B BACH / NEW YORK / STUDIOS INC.” or a stamped marking that reads “OBASO-BRONZE / OSCAR.B.BACH. STUDIOS.” The pieces made after the split with Bertram Segar in 1923 can have a metal tag with the Artist’s name in script. On the later pieces dating from the 1930s they could be stamped “OSCAR B. BACH” and tagged “BACH PRODUCTS.”

a Bach signature mark from the late 1920’s

Bach is better known than Segar, he was born in Breslau, Germany in 1884, embarking on a career as a Metal Smith after completing his studies at the  Royal Academy of Berlin and the Imperial Academy of Art in Berlin. Bach further expanded his knowledge of  a wide variety of cultural, design and metal working techniques through his travels in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Bach emigrated to North America in 1911, opening a business in Greenwich Village Bertram Segar and his brother Max Bach, operating as Bach Brothers. The company moved shop to 257 West 17th Street and changing the company name to Oscar B. Bach Studios. The early Pieces by Bach were Decorative Arts pieces created for the upper class market of New York and Architectural pieces and hardware  custom made for estates.

By 1923, Bach had severed his ties with Segar and set up a new shop, Segar remaining at the old West 17th Street studio location . Segar continued to operate in the original location under the name “Segar Studios”, but from the pieces we have seen produced in his studio they appear to be variations on Bach’;s original designs or reproductions. Segar pieces were not always marked and at times attributed as “Unmarked Bach” today.

Bach Patent drawings

Bach patented some of his designs, likely a way of protecting his market from Segar, the table pictured above looks very similar to the top patent drawing from 1927 seen here to the top left . Bach continued to be involved in Decorative Arts pieces until 1941 and his work can be found displayed in permanent collections in the Minneapolis Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bach continued to work until his death at age 72 on May 4, 1957.

In terms of value,  prices vary quite a bit depending on labels and marks or if they can be attributed to Bach via patent drawings or provenances to the original owners. In recent sales values for signed Bach pieces are on the increase, a table matching the one above recently listed with an auction pre-sale range of $3000.00 -$9000.00, the last one we have a record for of the same model sold for $1500.00 in 2006.






Mike Wilcox
Wilcox & Hall Appraisers

“What’s it Worth Mike?” Silver Coins

Dump your change jars and have a look, it might surprise you what your coins are worth.

While I do not deal in silver coins of any sort, except for those in my pocket, I get a great deal of requests for information for the value of American and Canadian Silver coins.

American silver coins were in standard circulation until silver was removed from all coinage in 1965, and Canadian silver coins until 1968. Silver coins from both countries have a monetary face value, a collectible value and bullion value for theamount of pure silver they contain.

Depending on the vintage and rarity of the coin, its value as a collecitible coin can exceed it’sScrap silver value, but for most mid 20th Century coins that contain silver, their silver value exceeds their value as a collectible coin.
I’ve provided some links below that will allow you to check the value of both American and Canadian silver coins. so dump out that old change jar and have a bit of fun, and maybe make a little extra money as well




Mike Wilcox

Wilcox & Hall Appraisers