It is done all the time is most every field of
collectable. But it's different in every field.
Good paintings are cleaned and touched up as a matter of
course, dishes get their chips filled, glass gets water
stains polished out. Every category seems to have
an acceptable limit of restoration and that limit moves
further and faster as we go. You can always find
the never-been-touched collectors in any field.
Collectors who want to go on about original mint
condition and line up at the gavel to prove it. At
first there are enormous prices paid for mint.
Then the shadow of possible restoration creeps in and
there is a big uproar. Eventually, everybody knows
that everything has been restored and the game goes back
to rarity and desirability alone.
It's just the common evolution of any collectable.
Nothing new. Seen it before. Sound unbelievable?
OK, old bottles, a subject I know very well. Along
about 1970 mint bottles were bringing 3 to 10 times the
price of their water stained counterparts. You can't
wash away water stains and everybody knew it and the
greatest majority of old bottles had it.
A fellow leaned to buff the outside of them, removing
that part. It was a crude method and some of the
sharpness was lost in the process. They were ready
to ride the guy out of town on a rail, I tell ya.
Tar and feathers. Funny thing was, people bought
the bottles, badly buffed or no because they looked
better on the shelf than ugly stains. Next, a
smarter guy figured out how to tumble polish the glass
inside and out at the same time. Better results
and no loss of glass, only stain. Another uproar.
But once again, people wanted the cleaned stuff because
it was so much prettier than the not cleaned.
After that, the word got around, school was out, and a
bunch of us built tumblers. You'd find the same
collectors who wanted to wail about restored antiques
bidding in the front row for them at auction for a short
while there. They all wanted the clean and shiny,
they just didn't want to know it had been restored.
By 1990 it had all calmed down.
Nowadays, any good
bottle found, whether in a wall or an old dump or down
at the bottom of a privvy hole goes in for a thorough
professional cleaning before even being considered going
into a big league auction. I have personally
cleaned about 1/4 of all the top quality, gold rush era,
San Francisco soda pop bottles known over the years.
And they look gorgeous. The value scale has
stabilized at color, rarity and general desirability and
that scale isn't likely not to change so much.
Only the price will rise and fall in the normal fashion.
I always hear the same story on the "Roadshow" about
furniture. If only you hadn't refinished it, it
would be worth $82,000, now it's $19.95. With some
digging you'll find that pristine mint 18th cent
furniture might fetch that much, but the beat up damaged
stuff never came close to any part of that value in the
first place. So, that's where the evolution of
furniture lies at present. The quality of the
restoration matters enormously. A bad job ruins
the piece, a good job enhances it. Sooner or later
though, it will all go back to the piece itself and not
the finish. All the good ones will look beautiful
again, wait and see.
Tools will follow at their own pace, but follow they
will. They all do.
in Happy Camp, CA