The Importance of Provenance

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.

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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

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 donna@naoel.com or by phone at 800-521-8820.

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WWII Japanese Good Luck Flags

The Japanese flag is probably one of the most recognizable international flags, so it’s easy to spot. If you come across one that looks older and has Japanese writing on it, it may be a Yosegaki Hinomaru, or “Good Luck Flag.” Although Japanese Good Luck Flags go back to the late 1800s, WWII-era flags are more common. The Good Luck Flag pictured was part of one of our recent estate liquidation sales.

What Is a Good Luck Flag?


The Good Luck Flag was a national flag presented to a Japanese soldier before he went to war. His name was written on it, and it was signed by family, friends, and members of his community, along with messages of support and good wishes. He carried it with him into battle, and these flags were sometimes taken as trophies from soldiers who had been killed. U.S. Servicemen often brought them home, so you may find a flag in your estate liquidation sale or at garage sales.

What's It Worth?


The resale value of a flag depends on the material (usually cotton or silk), its age, and its condition, so examine the piece carefully for any signs of damage or neglect before pricing it. Flags that have been properly handled, preserved, stored and/or displayed will be in better condition, and more valuable. These flags can be frequently found on eBay selling in the $100 - $200 range, so be sure to do your research.

Special Care May Be Required!


As with all heirloom textiles, Japanese Good Luck Flags should be handled with care and stored properly. The National WWII Museum has excellent guidelines for preserving and caring for historic artifacts here.

Have you seen one of these special flags recently? Please share!

Stay tuned to Tales From the Sales for more insightful and valuable articles.

  • Donna

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 donna@naoel.com or by phone at 800-521-8820.

Helpful Links:

OBON 2015 is a non-profit organization committed to helping return Good Luck Flags to the families of Japanese servicemen lost during WWII. If you want to return a flag to the family, OBON 2015 can be reached through their website.

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Mary Gregory Glass

You may have come across one of these lovely vases or similar items in one of your estate liquidation sales, or at a garage sale. They are highly collectible, though finding a genuine antique is fairly rare.

Who Is Mary Gregory?


“Mary Gregory” is a style of decorative glass named after the American artist who worked at the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company in the 1880s. However, the style was actually established in the 1920s by the Westmoreland Glass Company, which continued making the glass until 1985 when the company closed. They feature hand-painted portraits of children in Victorian-era clothing, usually in profile, doing activities typical of that time.

Why Is This Glass Special?


The portraits are painted onto a glass object using white enamel paint mixed with ground glass. When the item is fired, the painting is fused onto and becomes part of the glass. They are found on a variety of objects including glasses, vases, plates, and boxes, in a range of colors including clear, green, amber, blue and reds.

What's It Worth?


The value of Mary Gregory glass depends on its age, quality, glass color, and condition. Older pieces made prior to the 1950s were hand-blown and will be lighter weight than the machine molded pieces produced later. Look closely at the quality of the painting; older pieces often have very fine detail and a three-dimensional appearance similar to a cameo. Because they are fairly cheap to produce, you’re likely to find plenty of reproductions and knock-offs on the market, but the lower quality should be fairly easy to spot.

Want More Information?


It’s not clear whether the artist Mary Gregory actually painted Victorian children while she worked at the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, though she did use the technique of painting on glass. Here is an interesting article that goes into the stories surrounding Mary Gregory. And for a short history of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company and glass production in Sandwich, you can check out this article on the Sandwich Glass Museum website.

Have you come across any Mary Gregory glass? Let's hear your story!

Stay tuned to Tales From the Sales for more insightful and valuable articles.

  • Donna

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 donna@naoel.com or by phone at 800-521-8820.

Become a Member of the National Association of Estate Liquidators and enjoy all of the benefits we offer.