Antique Appraisals

Pacific NW history can hold value for collectors

Readers have questions today about two items tied to Pacific Northwest history. One is by a world-famous early day photographer.

The other represents Seattle's first world's fair; and it's not the one you attended.

Q. I recently found the name of this picture, but I would like to know more about value. I have been told the photo is on Opal G paper, the photographer's signature -- Edward Curtis -- is in white at the bottom. I also have been told the signature was made on the original negative It is not in its original frame, but the frame appears to be old. Oh, and its size is 5 inches by 7 inches. I fell in love with it the minute I saw it. Could you please help me find an approximate value and some background? -- Debbie in Knik, Alaska

A. Edward S. Curtis is famous today for his multi-volume, comprehensive photographic documentation of Native Americans between 1909 and 1930. His The North American Indian series eventually was published in 20 volumes and all of Curtis' original images are highly valued by collectors today.

By 1891, Curtis had a photo studio in Seattle and was a successful society photographer. He started making images of Native Americans, and his early efforts led to national awards and strong sales. Chief Joseph had his portrait taken at the Curtis Studio in 1903.

This photograph, formally titled Maid of Dreams -- Tribe Unknown, is a well-known image. It was available from in many sizes and different finishes. Curtis produced some in his "Orotone" finish, a chemical process that gave an overall golden tone to the photograph, which was on glass. He also had his own frames custom made.

In an original frame, an 11-by-14 inch Orotone version of this photograph can command as much as $25,000 at a gallery. An 11-by-14 inch brown-toned image sold recently at Craftsman Auctions in New Jersey for $8,600.

There are many inexpensive copies of Curtis' work, and one has to be very careful about authenticity.

An expert should examine and authenticate the image. If it is "right," we'd suspect an auction sales estimate for this size between $1,500 and $3,000.

Q. I have a souvenir pillow from the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle. It was made by Geo. Heincke & A. Schroeder Novelty Printers, Seattle. It is definitely showing its age, but really in good condition. No stitches broken and no holes or fraying. The printing and pictures are very clear and readable. This was given to me by an elderly couple; it may have been a souvenir they personally got at the fair. Is it of any great value? -- Noreen in Port Townsend

A. This is one of the nicest souvenir pieces of that fair we've seen in a long time. The Exposition was staged on what later became part of the campus of the University of Washington, just north of the city. The AYPE, as collectors call it today, opened June 1 and ended Oct. 16, 1909.

As next year is the centennial of the fair, there will be an increased interest in these souvenirs, probably starting soon.

Over the years, we have seen "official" fair souvenirs (licensed items sold on the actual fairgrounds) and "unofficial" souvenirs -- things sold in downtown department stores and the like. Some of those off-site souvenirs actually were licensed to the sellers by fair management, but collectors today don't discriminate much. Your pillow certainly looks to be an "official" item.

The imagery the 1909 fair used was among the most striking ever developed for an international exposition. The official logo was a version of the Three Graces, each holding something representing the rapid development of the Pacific Northwest. One has a small railroad engine, another has a steamship and the third holds what appear to be apples. The figure holding the ship looks Oriental, an intentional reference to Seattle's claim as the "Gateway to the Pacific."

There are quite a few 1909 fair items around, and they come up regularly at shows and sales here in the Northwest. This part of the country also is where these items realize their highest prices and there are the most collectors.

Anything made of fabric is subject to more wear and tear than, say, a souvenir porcelain plate or metal watch fob. This pillow seems to be in quite good condition and the printed images still are vibrant.

An enthusiastic collector would be interested in the $150 to $200 range.

* Terry Maurer, a Tri-Cities personal property appraiser and antiques dealer, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. You may submit your antiques and collectible questions to What's It Worth by e-mail to