April 20, 2013

Archaeology

Filed under: ◦Fabrics,◦Vintage — sharon @ 3:28 pm

I think I’ve written before that some of our best finds are things that we turn up right here at home, among the many items we’ve stashed away while accumulating our stock or collection of vintage textiles – items that we bought at auctions, flea markets or privately and put away, not necessarily having an idea of what to do with them. Since we’d been doing that sort of thing for nearly twenty years, naturally we’ve forgotten many of the things in those boxes and containers. So today, when we access an area that we haven’t explored in a while, it’s like an archaeological dig; a history of our follies of the past, some of which turn out not to have been follies at all, but instead rather fortunate purchases.

One of the best examples of this is a group of embroidered pieces we unearthed last year. When we bought them, Chinese embroidery was popular among some collectors, but the value changed considerably with the growth of China’s economy and the resulting availability of cash to collectors in China. Not having a ready market at the time, we put them away. Last year we finally offered them for sale.
Chinese embroidery

There were a variety of motifs, some floral, others figural; most of the items were longer, narrow pieces, known as sleeve bands, apparently from Chinese robes.

Chinese embroidery

Knowing that we didn’t have a large investment involved, I started most of them at about $25 each, and though some went for opening bid, there were others that brought one or two hundred.

Chinese embroidery
Chinese embroidery

But one was different, round instead of rectangular, completely covered in stitching, just magnificent.   This one had to be a cut above the others, so we started it above $100.   And there was some chinese calligraphy on the back, which we also photographed.   Soon our suspicions were confirmed, as we got a message asking if we would sell it outright for $1250, and more requests for instant purchase, to which we politely replied that it was our policy to allow the auction to run its course.
Chinese embroidery

The bidding began immediately, but proceeded slowly, and as the final day began, I was worried that I might have  been hasty in declining the offer made the first day, but hoped that the person would bid at least an equivalent amount.  Finally, when the dust cleared at the end, this one sold for just over $1800.  I still don’t know exactly what it is or why it sold for so much more than the rest, but at least I had made a good investment when I had bought it years ago. 

Most of my timing has not been so good; often I’ll buy things at the peak of their popularity and try to make a little profit, but then if I own them for too long I may lose money.  I own a number of quilts that I bought when the market was better than it is now, some of which will sell for a loss.  But since I’m not buying much at all these days, I’m constrained to selling items that we already own and have stashed away.   Hopefully I can unearth a few more gems at the right time to maximize their potential.

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