Looking back on 10 years of collectibles


Today is the 10th anniversary of What's It Worth? in the Tri-City Herald.

In the first 262 columns, we've researched and valued almost 600 items from readers; most living in our region but including dozens from around the country and across the globe, thanks to the online edition of the Herald.

To mark the anniversary, we thought you'd like to see some previous items showing the depth of collectibles and antiques in our area. They highlight the best we've reviewed in their categories.

In 2003, What's It Worth? had been around only six months when D. F. in Richland asked about her set of handmade sterling silver flatware by Harry Osaki. He was one of America's leading 20th century silversmiths and worked in California.

Osaki's brilliant pieces -- he also was a sculptor -- always bring high prices. Back then, we valued the set at $10,000 for insurance purposes; it is worth more today.

In 2007, we reviewed the sale of an oil painting by the French artist Antoine Blanchard (1910-98). The Paris street scene -- Place Vendome -- crossed the block in a Tri-Cities auction at a cool $5,600. A great buy at that price, his work today would bring between $7,500 and $12,000.

What's It Worth? has researched and valued more than a few pieces of pottery and porcelain for our readers. Perhaps the most unusual and certainly very valuable was a little piggy handed down in the family of Alice in LaCrosse, Wash.

Made by the Anna Pottery of Illinois about 1875, it actually is a 71/2-inch-long whiskey flask. Decorated with depictions of regional railroad lines and business-booster slogans, the pig had some damage, including a mostly missing tail. Still, we valued in 2008 at $5,000. The highest price ever paid at auction for a similar Anna Pig is $24,000.

Baseball cards have been around for longer than most people would expect. Generations of collectors -- kids and adults -- have accumulated boxes full. Most are modern and not worth very much.

Vintage cards, such as the examples from Old Judge Cigarettes brought to us to Robert and Allen of Spokane in 2010, are exceptions. The guys had baseball and boxing cards from the late 1880s.

Even in less-than-perfect condition, and as yet not graded by an independent authentication service, each card was worth between $300 and $500.

In 2009, Audrey in Milton-Freewater wrote to ask about the Oregon chauffeur's badge used by her father's uncle in the 1920s.

What's It Worth? was able to tell her the 1927 badge was something specialist collectors would go for and they are becoming harder and harder to find.

Chauffeur's badges were issued by many, but not all states. Oregon started their program in 1909, and the last badge was issued in the 1950s. The badge -- a license to drive a taxicab, limousine, bus or other vehicle for hire -- is worth $20 to $30.

Old typewriters -- really old ones -- have a strong collector market. At an auction in Walla Walla last year, the collection of the late William Shawver Sr. of Finley sold at prices ranging from $150 to $900.

There were no typewriters by Blickensderfer in that sale, and had there been, they would have sold for strong prices too.

In 2003, Susan from Richland inquired about her father's "Blick," a Standard Model 7 typewriter that had been in the family since the 1920s.

Very popular with collectors and the best typewriter What's It Worth? has ever valued, it was worth $150 in 2003 and about $300 today.

Ten years is a long time to do any one thing. What's It Worth? now is one of the longest-running newspaper columns of its kind in the U.S. All because of you, our readers. Thanks for your questions, curiosity and support.

* Terry Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by e-mail at tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com.

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