Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Books, Books and more Books



A few months ago I was sitting in my office looking at the amount of books I had in the bookcases. I knew that they were only the books that were out on the shelves, and there were more in the drawers and under cabinets.   It seemed so overwhelming for some reason and I got to thinking about the need for books in my world today.  I was actually considering selling some, giving some away or even tossing some of the price guides I seem to have the need to hold on to forever.  I could clean my office, it would look like a human being worked here and that being (me) had a head on their shoulders.   But as things seem to go, I didn’t get around to cleaning off the bookshelves that particular day or week and there they stayed.

Thank Goodness.

 In the past two months I have had to do valuations that involved many pieces of property.  One project had over 500 pieces which had to be identified, evaluated and valued.  That is quite a few pieces of property to cover.   The problem with this project was that many of these pieces were Victorian and early 20th Century glass.  Now, you see where my books came into play.  Luckily I have loads of good books on glass and I needed almost everyone on the subject of this type of glass.  I needed to identify the glass if it was Hobbs, Fenton, McKay, Westmoreland, Wavecrest, and on and on.

Sure you can go to the internet and do your identifications by clicking and clicking, saving, printing and reading.  But you know sometimes that takes more time than sitting with your stack of books, opening to the pages you need and doing some actual reading.   Good books have great information and they can answer a mountain of questions before you start to make mistakes that you don’t even realize you made until it is too late.  For example,  how to tell if the milk glass is an original 19th Century or a reproduction.  Or, is that unmarked painted butter dish by Northwood? Is that Tiffany candlestick complete or is something missing?

I know it might not appear that most glass items from the 19th Century are very important in today’s marketplace.  But, you know they are to those who collect and cherish these items.  If they are some ones parent’s collection and you have to help them divide the property you better be on target as to what you are looking at before you start to value.  It can be overwhelming at first but when you find your rhythm you start to move along pretty quickly.  Once I found the type of glass I was valuing, finding the values was rather easy and quick.

It is not just glass that causes this kind of problem, it can be lamps, figurines, vases,  pottery and all sorts of decorative items that somehow are stored in the estates I work with.  After all these years of looking at things my brain can only hold so much at the ready and sometimes it needs a reboot.  Thank goodness for my books . When I go to them, they trigger that particular file in my brain database and automatically refreshes my knowledge that I know I had somewhere in that flash drive otherwise known as my mind.  

So my word of caution is this – be careful when you clean out your library, the one you give away or sell might just be the next one you need for your project.

Judith Martin, ISA CAPP

1 comment:

  1. Judy: Timely post for me. I too have struggled with this over the years. Recently, due to a move and office renovations I have been unpacking books and trying to fit way too many books on too few shelves. Thoughts of finally shedding price guides or books on Victorian items or glass from my collection passed through my mind. Within 5 seconds of the first thought, I envisioned researching items that you described and couldn't convince myself to do the pruning. Your article confirmed for me that I was right!

    Recently, I have been adding books on new hot areas - photography, more in depth books on mid century modern and contemporary, and Mexican silversmiths. I would be interested in hearing what books others having been squirreling away in their collections lately.

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