Sunday, February 22, 2009

Starting Small

In our recent column (viewable here), we discussed some of the ways young folks can start collecting without spending a fortune or filling a mansion. It’s all about thinking small! Here are some of our favorite “small” collections:

Silver spoons: Andrew has a strong interest in early Ohio silver, but early (pre-1840) or significant (e.g. larger hollow ware pieces) are rare and expensive. So to satisfy his thirst, Andrew collects spoons. Silver spoons are plentiful and generally very affordable (sometimes under $5, rarely over $100). Additionally, it’s allowing Andrew to build a kind of “encyclopedic” collection of early Ohio silversmith marks (currently nearly 60 and counting).

One of the most interesting (and rarest) is the spoon pictured above. Circa 1795, this spoon is marked “LM.” Though iron-clad proof remains to be found, it is believed that LM stands for Lydia Moulton. Her father, William III, was a member of the Moulton family of silversmiths in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and he, along with his family (including Lydia), were among the earliest settlers in Marietta, Ohio in 1788. If we can document that Lydia was, indeed, the maker of the handful of spoons bearing the “LM” mark, then they would be true rarities—pieces of American silver made by a woman in the 18th century.

Our recent column also mentioned a great collecting idea for those short on funds and space—reference books! The great thing about collecting reference books is that you get to learn, so when you are in a position to start buying the antiques illustrated and discussed in those books, you’ll be a knowledgeable collector. It’s a win-win! Pictured below is a photo of part of our reference library (please note: on the upper shelf, the right-most 12-15” is about all that has been published on early Ohio decorative arts!)

And if you like the idea of collecting reference books, be sure to pick up Harbor and Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710-1850 by Brock Jobe, Gary Sullivan, and Jack O’Brien. We’re confident that the exhibition will soon be dubbed “landmark” and that the catalog will become a standard and necessary part of any antiques reference library. The exhibition will be at Winterthur from March 21 through May 25, and then it will be at the Nantucket Historical Association through the summer. The profusely illustrated catalog is available at bookstores everywhere, including at Russack and Loto Books, specialists in antiques reference books.


Numismatist said...

I believe that I have found another spoon made by Lydia. How much are they worth?

Hollie and Andrew said...

Robin, it really depends. I think we paid around $85 for ours, but within the last year, one sold on eBay for around $350, if I remember correctly. It has so much to do with how fancy the spoon is, if it has any condition issues, etc., and there may be a couple different marks that might be affecting the prices with collectors. Provenance also helps - if there's a link to Marietta or Newburyport, that's more encouraging to buyers. Good luck! If you're wanting to sell it or are trying it out on eBay, let us know!