A Fine Pair of Louis XV Ormolu Candlesticks
French, mid 18th century
Advice to Collectors
By Helen Costantino Fioratti
Many who favored French eighteenth century interiors throughout this time frowned upon what some call "palace furniture" as too elegant to be in keeping with the simplicity of the American way of life and wanted provincial things. During the financial depression in the United States, a great department store coined the expression: "It's smart to be thrifty." This spirit pervaded many people's thinking and thus a simple, provincial atmosphere was sought, although sometimes at a very high cost.
Elegant French eighteenth century furniture was popular in the 1950s and again now there are collectors paying huge prices for such pieces.
The Renaissance and seventeenth century have their champions. The French decorate their houses preferably in "Haut Époque" and Louis XIII furniture. Even in contemporary interiors this style can enliven.
The much discussed question of an article's value is a very interesting subject, but is extremely difficult to determine. True, there is a so-called market value for run-of-the-mill objects which are frequently offered, but as a piece of exceptional quality is very rarely encountered, no exact figure can be set. A very find piece in any field retains or increases its value to a far greater extent than a mediocre one, whether it is furniture or a jewel. However, even the more ordinary pieces are now growing scarce and prices are rising to such an extent that estimates are often very inaccurate. Newspapers and a number of magazines report sale prices at public auction as a guide to collectors, but these are extremely misleading because they do not tell the whole story.
In most countries there are groups of dealers who form rings. There is an understanding between them that only one of t heir number will do the bidding and the rest do not compete at a sale. This enables them to obtain an object for a much lower figure than if each were to act independently. Immediately after the auction this group meets again and in a second little auction called a "Revision" follows, at which the ultimate purchaser pays off the others in equal shares.
The man who purchased an object at the sale was acting, not for himself alone, but for whatever number of other dealers was interested in it originally. Later the dealers meet at an agreed place and hour and sit around a table while one of their number keeps the score. The first man bids a certain sum that he is willing to pay, over and above the purchase price. Let us say, for instance, that he offers the equivalent of five hundred dollars. Going around the table each man then meets the figure of five hundred dollars. The second time around the first man bids another five hundred dollars and each one who meets his bid remains in the pool. When one of the number drops out, he ceases to be entitled to a share of the future bidding from that time on. His share is determined by the number of men entered in the "Revision" and the point at which he stopped bidding. If there are only four participating, he gets a quarter of whatever was bid up to the time that he dropped out. The eventual purchaser is the one offering the next increment more than any of the others, and is also entitled to his quarter of the bids. Thus, his final purchase price is whatever he had offered over-and-above the others, less his share of the money offered above the original purchase price at the auction. The fewer the participants of the "Revision," the greater the profit for those entering it. Since the number of shares depends on the number of contestants, the profit shrinks whenever there are many taking part.
It is possible for a member of the group to make a very substantial sum of money without actually buying a single item, while the highest bidder may be obliged to pay as much as double, or three times the amount for which the piece was sold at auction some hours earlier.