We were recently contacted by a woman who wanted to sell some of her antiques. She needed help identifying and determining the value of her items, and finding buyers. Although she did not want to hold an estate liquidation sale, we agreed to help her.
Not Just an Antique
While I was working with our client evaluating the pieces she wanted to sell, she mentioned she had a letter that was written to her great grandmother in 1936 by Margaret Mitchell, the author of "Gone With the Wind." Although she did not want to sell it, I asked if I could see the letter. It was typed on an older typewriter, on paper that would have been used at that time, and the signature looked authentic. I contacted one of my experts, and he agreed with my assessment.
Not Just a Letter
But our client had another item that lent more weight to the authenticity of the Margaret Mitchell letter. Our client’s great grandmother had been a nurse, and had cared for Margaret Mitchell’s mother while she was ill. This nurse had written to Margaret Mitchell about this experience, and our client had that handwritten letter. The letter from Margaret Mitchell was her response. This type of supporting documentation provides important provenance for rare items and antiques.[/img_text_aside]
Corroboration Makes a Difference
What is provenance? In the simplest terms, provenance is documentation verifying the origin of an item, or that supports its authenticity. In the world of high-priced art and antiques, the provenance often consists of more than one document, as well as the certification of an expert. For something simpler like this Margaret Mitchell letter, verification of the signature by an expert and the supporting letter provide provenance.
What's It Worth?
The letter by itself, if the signature can be verified by an expert, could be quite valuable. But, having the provenance provided by the original supporting letter makes it more valuable. I estimate that our client could sell the Margaret Mitchell letter for between $900 and $1,200 in the current market.
Whatever you are evaluating or selling, whether it is antique furniture, art, textiles, or documents, you can always demand a better price if the item comes with provenance. Never hesitate to call on your expert contacts to ask for assistance in identifying and authenticating an item if you feel it may be of higher value.
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Donna Davis has over twenty years of experience in the antiques and estate sale business, and conducts sales every weekend in the Greater Atlanta Area. She is also the Founder and Director of the National Association of Estate Liquidators, and Lead Instructor of NAOEL’s online school. You can contact Donna by email at email@example.com or by phone at 800-521-8820.
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