Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Follow-up on Recent Sales (and Non-Sales)

Well, to say that I was surprised to hear that the "Syracuse Daily Standard Presentation Drum" sold at auction at Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York, on Sunday for $2,000 would be an understatement (Telephone call, March 30, 2009). Shocked would be a better description. The drum is attractive but if all it takes to turn a $300 relic into a $2,000 collector's item is a slick paint job, a lot of underemployed artists will be brushing up their emblazonment and antiquing techniques and converting old junkers into next month's NYC rent payments. They will be spinning straw into gold.

Worth $2,000?

I am sorry but I really must speak out against this. This drum is NOT WORTH $2,000! But as long as there are people out there with more money than judgment, we will see more of this.

What's Wrong with This Drum? The basic drum looks fine -- market value $300 to $600 based on sales over the past year of basically similar drums (size, design, materials, etc.). Why did this drum draw attention? The painting. But that is also what's wrong with the drum. The painting is striking. In fact it's so striking that it can't be original. And the auction house confirmed in an email to me over the past weekend that the drum had been overpainted. Well, whether the new painting merely copied the old painting or is brand new makes little difference. The drum would have retained more value had there been only a visible old painting of an eagle with the flag burst motif, even if washed out and partially lost. The overpainting, however, destroyed any historic significance and value that the painting (and the drum) might have had. But, that's just my opinion. Some buyer evidently proved me wrong for in the marketplace, value is defined as the price that a willing seller and a willing buyer agree upon for the transfer of an asset. My concern, among others, is that with buyers willing to purchase adulterated goods, whatever stock that may remain of old fading chipped painted drums could be in jeopardy by financially motivated artists seeking to profit from a bit of sprucing up with a paintbrush and possibly anachronistic paint materials.

Fraud in the Drum Marketplace: First let me make it clear -- there is no evidence of which I am aware of any fraud in this auction. However, past examples of questionably high prices have been reported in this blog in the past and we will continue to offer our opinion when something strikes us a just not quite right. See, e.g., "Caveat Emptor -- 'Civil War' Drum Questioned by Reader", this blog, January 29, 2009. Also, see "IS IT AUTHENTIC OR BOGUS?: Brass Eagle Drum attributed to Spanish American War", this blog, November 30, 2008.

Leo Brennan's Drums Still Available: On a different note, Leo Brennan's large collection of modern and antique drum offerings, reported in various recent posts on this blog, has not sold. No bids even for any of the drums on eBay. So the eBay market is telling Leo that his starting prices were too high to get any action going. My advice is to start with a lower price but set a reserve. That way, at least some intelligence on the market's appetite for his drums will be received. Also, putting so many drums on eBay at the same time simply floods the market which is thin to begin with. Start with one good Cooperman drum, set a low entry price, keep your reserve wherever you want it and at least get some bidding action going.

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