Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Quilt Show Study

Texas Quilt Museum Display...Drunkards path with stars

Number one thing learned at Houston this past week...large shows are the best for seeing a wide range of antique/vintage quilts. It was amazing. Next year I am going with a much larger allowance and a larger suitcase....but I digress.
"Baby Bunting" with exceptional quilting circa 1930
I do "rounds" of the local antique malls and shops so that I "hit" each about once a month. With all that effort I only see about 5-6 quilts that would warrant an appraisal (so help me with my education.) In three days at the show I saw at least 100. (How is that or time management!) Also, the information on the quilt tags was much more accurate at the show (these dealers know quilts!)

When I was looking at the quilt vendor booths I did tell them I was studying to take the test...didn't think it was fair for them to think I was buying right now and that way they knew to break away for "real" customers (though I may be emailing one of them to see if a quilt is still available because DH says he would buy it for me for Christmas....does he forget the tickets to Houston were my Christmas present?! Oh well....) All of the vendors were really nice and supportive. One even said if I saw something on a tag (description or price) that didn't seem right to me to let her know.

This all brought a question to mind about appraisals. When I took the class they emphasized using local markets as the basis for a value. But what is local anymore? For instance I live in Georgia but have many Pennsylvania quilts (pinks, yellows, reds....you know the type) that I would be hard pressed to find in any "local" shop. To replace it I would have to go either to the Mid-Atlantic, a large show like Houston, or the internet.

(On the collector note: The prices at Houston I found to be really reasonable...I guess I was expecting them to be higher since it was a quilt show. (I've gotten my best "bargain" quilts when I've bought them at odd shows like a gun-show - don't ask me what I was doing there!) Perhaps the marketing strategy at the show is volume so they are priced fair...)

Monday, October 25, 2010

The things ya learn...

I know that in our appraisal class last April in Paducah they said to be prepared for some unusual experiences...I think I may have a good teaching point for them next year.

A few days ago I got a call from a woman who does estate clear-outs. In the past I have looked at a few things for her customers but so far nothing has really warranted an appraisal (value less than $200.) She had a customer who had a "lot" of textiles and quilts and wanted a specialist to evaluate them. She told me two things that I later appreciated - consider charging by the hour and remember that the executor is the decision maker.

I will not go into specifics but picture this: a large two story house full of stuff, a sister and two brothers who barely speak to one another, and quilts and textiles in every corner of every-room. When I arrived I asked the sister/executor what she wanted appraised and why she wanted an appraisal. She wanted all of the textiles "looked at" to see if they were "worth anything" because her brother was convinced they were valuable and didn't trust the folks handling the estate sale. "So let me get this straight," I asked, "you want me to go through the entire house, find textiles and provide a valuation on each of them?" "Yes," she said, "and if you could fold them and put them into one of the bedrooms that would help us when we make out decisions this afternoon on what each of us is going to keep."

This was not an appraisal situation this was more like a textile version of the TV show "Picker." Just then the two brothers arrived. I knew I was in trouble when the first one through the door asked, "don't women pay lots of money just to look at quilts? So why would we have to pay you?"

My proposal to them was that I would charge a flat hourly fee to locate the quilts and quilt related items. I would tag the items and put a suggested sell price on the items. If I found an item worth more than $200. then I would put them in a separate area and we could discuss them before I left. The sister/executor agreed...the brothers grumbled and rolled their eyes a bit.

It only took the brothers a minute to realize that if I had to do the digging then it would take longer and be more expensive...that lit a fire under them! I ended up standing in one room while these guys ran around the house dragging anything made of fabric or related to sewing back to me. Total insanity!
All I can say is they got their money's worth...In three hours I must have valued almost two-hundred items....If I saw one wedding ring quilt I saw 10 (I began to wonder if maybe they were bringing the same quilts back to me as a test?! And with every quilt Brother #1 would say "I think this is from the Civil War.") At the end of the day there was one small singer child's sewing machine still in the box, two Featherweight's in good condition, a pineapple applique quilt circa 1850, and a large box of early printed feedsack in perfect condition in the "valuable" stack.

My brain feels like mush, my legs are exhausted, and I am covered in dust. So what did I learn (this blog is supposed to be both adventures and learning after all....)

1. Be confident about putting a value on what you know. I'm fine with helping out a friend or fellow quilter if they have a question on buying a quilt at a show or if they want help dating a quilt they inherited. However when people call with the express purpose of hiring me to do an appraisal and then try to get my knowledge for free...that isn't cool.

I briefly considered walking away from the whole thing. What kept me? There is that curiosity factor. Maybe there would be something interesting. Also, it was 0630 in the morning (did I leave that out of the story...they wanted to start at sunrise! I gave up sunrises when I got out of the army.) I already lost a good morning sleep to be at this house so darn it I wanted to get something out of it!

2. Taking the time to be very specific with the client up front on what they expect and what I can provide is crucial. Do not assume that everyone understands what an appraiser does. These folks saw the clear-out crew and an appraiser in the same light! In the end they walked away happy - there were some items "worth" money and the brother got a "civil war era" quilt (even if it wasn't the red, white and blue polyester one that he really loved....)

ps...they did give me permission to use this story as a teaching point however they did not allow me to take photos. The photo at the top of this post is a quilt in my own collection and the sewing machine is a similar one to the one in the story.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Six month countdown....

After a couple of suggestions from other bloggers I am going to try and keep this blog going again. It also came to my attention that the AQS test is just 6 months away (yikes!) and that I could use this blog to help keep me organized.(Wool and cotton log cabin on point, Penn. circa 1880)

Back in July I got the letter telling me I was "accepted for testing in 2011." I have to admit that written application had kept me at bay for several years. I love quilts and love to write so the first draft of my application was around 15 pages...I don't think that is what they were looking for! After taking the class at Paducha last year I was able to focus my answers a bit more...it still ended up around 10 pages but better...
(Blue and white strippy quilt circa 1920)

Overall I think I do pretty well on antique and vintage quilts. I've spent a lot of time in antique malls the past few years and my valuation is generally within 10-20%. (I have been collecting quilts since 1990 so I better have a handle on this!)

So for the next month or so I want to focus on reproduction and art quilts. Reproduction would be how much it would cost to have a similar quilt made to replace the one being valued. This method is only used on quilts made in the past 10 or even 20 years. A good example of this would be a quilt I am appraising now for a quilter because she is mailing the quilt to a show on the West Coast. It is her own design and uses multiple techniques so it would be impossible to purchase a replacement.Art Quilts are a real challenge for me. I have been reading several books on modern quilts and attended several lectures to develop the vocabulary. Also I have been on many websites to get a feel for valuations. This is the area I think I still need the most work. But I have six months...lots of time, right?!

Now, just for fun, a photo of a redwork quilttop I picked up years ago in Pennsylvania. The workmanship on the embroidery is wonderful - even more so when you realize she was stitching on this very loose sugar-sack fabric.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quiltin' on the rivah

Yesterday I went over to my friend Maggie's house to stitch. She lives right on the "rivah" as they say around here (try saying river without moving your lips and you'll be close...)
Anyway, I sat around the kitchen table and talked quilts but didn't stitch much. Good food and good conversation counts for a lot though! And isn't her cat Tom just too cute...he so wanted to on everyones lap or fabricbags...Time was split between the traveling Kaffe case (a group of quilters pooled their fabric to work on an applique quilt), the cat, strawberry pie and chocolate cheesecake....

Later I stopped at our county library to find out when the exhibit of quilts need to come down...of course they need to be down by Saturday so there goes Thursday night...feels like we just hung the exhibit! The librarian said they had a really good response to the exhibit and wants us to have one again next year. One of the library volunteers asked about joining the guild! If we even get one or two new quilters out of it then it was worth the effort!

I also picked up a couple of books at the library. Two on starting a small business and one on Georgia quilts. Of course I read the quilt book first!
Don't you just love the funky tulip on the cover quilt! Like I need another project!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Visits to Antique Malls

One of the items on my list of to-do's is to become a regular visitor to the local antique malls. There is a concentration of them in our downtown so this weekend I wandered through two of the largest. A quilt appraiser I shadowed for a day kept a notebook with "observations" on availability and values when she went to stores and shows so I am starting to do the same thing. I find it much easier if walking through the doorway I remind myself "I am only stopping for quilts and quilt related items...." (Otherwise I am in there forever...as it was I stayed at the stall selling vintage Christmas "stuff" way too long! Thankfully I convinced myself I didn't need the silver Christmas tree, the salt shakers in the shape of drunken reindeer, nor the musical Christmas tree stand from the 1960's...but it was so fun to see!)
One of the challenges in this area is not many quilts make it to market an the ones that do are in poor to fair condition. In the case of doing appraisals most of them I would have to let the client know it wasn't really worth an appraisal. (and that happens a lot.)

The owner of one of the malls was really nice when I told her I was working towards quilt appraisal certification. Her take on the local market was really nice quilts never make it to the market because either a. the family holds on to them b. when she buys them at auction she sells them to known collectors/decorator so they never even get into the store (limited supply) c. if they do make it into a stall a good to excellent condition quilt sells quickly.

On the other hand fair to poor condition quilts that just a few years ago still sold well are now not moving. They had several quilts in the under $200 range. Only one of them was interesting. The same is true for quilting accessories or related items. Only the very best sell and then sell quickly.

So all in all a good learning experience. I'll continue to visit at least one a week and keep my notebook.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Starting out....

For the past 25 years I have been collecting antique and vintage quilts. I have assisted in documentation days for my guild and local museum but at the end of the day the owner of the quilt always asks..."so what is it worth."
Now I have a degree in business so I take a question like that seriously. Finally I decided if I was going to put my toe in the water then I best go all in. This year I am taking my interest in quilts and doing appraisals seriously. This blog is about the "journey" from taking the classes in Paducah last week to my going back to Paducah and testing next April.

First the classes...definitely something anyone who is interested in quilt appraisals should take...heck even collectors could benefit from taking the course. Gerald Roy and Bobbie Aug were the instructors this year. I came away feeling pretty good about what I know and didn't know but feel ok with now (IRS paperwork for donations and doing replacement insurance values) and most importantly know my limitations. Part of this year to to work on those limitations!

So here goes...it may not be cooking my way through the Joy of Quilting but I'm sure it will be a wild ride!

(just a note...I will always respect the privacy of my clients and friends. Quilts that I appraise will only be posted with their permission and I will not post appraised values. This blog is about my learning process not a site listing quilt appraisal results!)