Looking back over the month of February, one virtual consultation, two hours, stands out to me. I discussed more than 70 properties, starting with the most valuable, a 4’ standing gilded wooden robed Buddha with hands in prayer on a lotus throne around $5,000.00. I discussed the quality elements and then the value characteristics. The other material was of average to below average quality, collected by person for theme of Buddhist or Eastern philosophy/thought over four decades.
There were tables with ten or more small gilt metal Buddhist figure statues, with a fair market value of $100-$500 each, with the walls covered with Tibetan thangkas. The owner had collected in New York City in the 1970-80’s, when Eastern ethnic merchandise stores were exotic and quality of material was limited to what was being imported, often by adventure travelers from Turkey to Nepal. I was one of those travelers who returned in 1975 with merchandise to sell so I could return to Asia and experience another adventure.
Before our conversation, I received over one hundred clear photos, and did an hour quick research and then asked my husband, Arthur Leeper, a dealer of Chinese art for more than fifty years his opinion, and we discussed for two hours. I spoke with client for two hours, talking origin, material and age, and a value range was given. It became evident, no matter the value of the material, the same amount of time and research was often spent on each individual property. For this assignment, no written documentation was needed, so I accepted the job. The last consultation involved the pair of blue ceramic dragons in photograph provided by client. This pair of mid 1900’s Chinese dragons were discovered by the county sewer line workers while digging seven feet down from ground level to replace existing piping. Why were they there? Who knows. My speculation was the decorative dragons were purchased circa to the time the previous house was built in the 1940’s and were simply lost when home was torn down. Inside the dragon, written in pencil within the cavity of the rectangular base, is ‘Italy’ along with a few unrecognizable markings. This was a red herring and led to research on Italian mid-century blue ceramics. This was a fun path to travel, with client sitting next to me watching my laptop as I researched material. I suggested they turn to county records to see what family owned the land in 1940’s, and maybe take the dragons to The Chinese Historical Society in San Francisco to see if what information they could give as to the importation of similar material from China during the early part of the 21st century. It was a fun assignment and enjoyed the participation of my husband and the owner.