I found this article written by Harry Rinker and it is no where on the internet so I thought I would post parts below and you can check out the rest by visiting the link above. Also, you can see the citiation at the end of the article if you want to find the publication it was written for and read the entire article. As antique collecting becomes more popular, valueing these antiques is becoming more and more important. Even more important is not getting swindled or dealing with a seller that is unethical as Harry Rinker would agree. Read his article below and you can check out his website by clicking the link above. He is very experienced with antiques and collectibles.
Collectibles do not have a fixed value. Every object has multiple values, e.g., auction value, book value, wholesale value, etc. Each value is equally valid. Value is time and place specific.
At the recent Great Eastern U.S. Antique Book, Paper, Advertising & Collectibles Show, several sheet-music devotees and I were swapping war stories. In the course of our conversation, someone commented on the outrageously high values asked and, in more instances than he cared to remember, paid for some collectibles. The prices realized at Sotheby’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis auction added credence to his concerns.
As I considered his remarks, I suddenly realized that there is a value in the collectibles field that everyone knows exists but hardly ever discusses. Time to remedy the situation. The value in question is the “light-a-candle” value.
A light-a-candle value is that price at which a collectible is sold whereby the only honorable thing to do is to visit a church or synagogue and light a candle, thanking the deity for delivering the seller a gullible fool as a buyer. Assuming this value is real and my premise correct, the churches in New York should have been ablaze with light following the conclusion of the Onassis auction.
A light-a-candle value is an extremely high value, totally out of touch with reality. It bears absolutely no relationship to what an identical object would sell for at any other time and place. It is a freak. Chances of it happening again are between zero and nil.
A light-a-candle value does not move a collecting category’s pricing structure upward. In fact, its effect is more negative than positive. Light-a-candle values frequently are reported in public and trade media. Their size and ridiculous nature make them news. Tragically, media reports rarely put light-a-candle values into context. As a result, a public perception arises that these values do have real meaning relative to long-term pricing trends within the collecting category to which they apply. Nothing is further from the truth. A light-a-candle value is a once-in-a-lifetime value.
Alas, try convincing someone who owns an identical object and wants to sell it that he should expect far less than the light-a-candle value that he read or heard about. If anything, he usually thinks he deserves more. In truth, the only time a candle will be lit for his object is if it is in his coffin when he is buried.
There are more light-a-candle values in the collectibles field than we realize or wish to admit. Think for a minute. What are the circumstances that lead to light-a-candle values? Once you turn your mind to the question, you will be surprised at how many situations you can identify. Here are a few of my candidates.
Two heirs are involved in a bitter dispute over an object in an estate. Unable to resolve their differences, the piece is sent to auction. Each relative is determined that the other will never own the object in question. The bidding quickly escalates until the value of the object is two, five, and, ultimately, ten times book. Eventually one of the two parties concedes. Neither party talks to the other for decades.
Forget the two heirs. What happens when two collectors lock horns at an auction, both equally determined to prevent their rival from adding an object to his collection? Does the word “bloodbath” come to mind? I have seen plenty of blood spilled at auctions. Alas, on occasion the blood was mine.
Collectors covet. There are always one or more objects that they desire to own but do not. Their search already may have consumed years, even decades. The matter is made worse if their biggest rival already owns said object. Unfortunately, such individuals have difficulty keeping their desires private.
A dealer, fully aware of a collector’s burning need, finds the collectible the collector most covets. What price do you think the dealer is going to ask? Rest assured, it will not be a bargain one. The dealer goes for the jugular. The dealer’s only dilemma is deciding how high is too high. Whatever the final price, the dealer will have the funds to place a generous donation in the candle offering box in the house of worship of his choice.
Citation: RINKER, HARRY L. “The Light-a-Candle Value.” Rocks & Minerals (1997): 89.