The Caza Blog

Everything we know.
In one webpage.
Even though we hate blogs. 

Art people can be pretentious. With closely guarded secrets, and big made-up words like “craquelure”, the industry is designed to confuse people. This blog is aimed to demystify all things art and antiques, for the masses.  

How to tell the difference between a real painting versus a gicleé

It’s a weekly occurrence — during our open-to-all fine art and antique appraisal days, where novice art collectors can bring in any item for an Antiques Roadshow style evaluation, inevitably someone brings a canvas with a beautiful image, and high hopes. To the naked eye, the work looks to be a bonafide masterpiece, often complete with artist signature and discernable brushstrokes. An appraisal in the six or seven-figures? Unfortunately, usually not the case. 
What is a giclee?
While the term “giclee” was first used in 1991 by a printmaker seeking a fancier term for his process of making prints look like paintings, the process of creating a giclee was developed in the 1980’s with the advent of ink jet printers. Simply put, a canvas is run through an ink jet printer, which applies ink to the canvas in variable weights, creating the illusion of paint build up and brushstrokes. Giclees are the most common form of print seen in many big box furniture and art retailers. The works are printed in the thousands and hundreds of thousands, making most of them worth very little.
How do you spot a giclee?
If you don’t have the trained eye of a fine art appraiser or auctioneer, it’s still very simple to spot a giclee vs. a real oil or acrylic painting. View a small portion of the work under a magnifying glass or ideally a jewelers loupe. You’ll want to look for a distinct pattern of small dots, arranged nicely in a grid, in a way only a machine could create. This dot matrix is the smoking gun of a giclee — it could only be applied by a printer, and not the hand of an artist.

How to tell if something is gold, silver, or something else

Every estate, every household, whether art collector or not, contains jewelry. And 95% of jewelry is valued based simply on very quantifiable metrics such as the weight of the gold, silver, platinum or the quality of the stones. The other 5% is comprised of outstanding jewelry from known makers, such as Tiffany, Chanel and others, and these items carry a premium above and beyond the raw material values.

So, the key to knowing if you have valuable jewelry or other metals such as tableware and silverware is determining the contents of the metals. Fortunately, for years jewelers and silversmiths have been marking their wares with very small impressions that serve as clues for people hundreds of years later. These impressions makes it easy for jewelry appraisal and estate evaluations. 

Get a loupe
The easiest way to find a mark is to get a jewelers loupe — a tiny magnifying tool that can be found on Amazon for a few bucks. Tnen go hunting for marks. There are a number of resources out there on the web to consult. The Cliffs Notes version is this: for gold, look for markings of the karat composition — 10K, 14K, 18K and so on. GF means gold filled, and is low on the value scale. For silver, it’s a bit more complex. American examples will say “Sterling.” British examples have a proprietary taxonomy, but all British sterling will have the mark of a lion. Makers from other countries sometimes will simply write 925 (meaning 92.5% sterling).  

Do you have a valuable print? Look no further than the margin.

A common conception in art collecting is that prints (artworks that are created in multiple) are generally worthless and only original, one-of-a-kind works carry value. Tell that to the guy who spent nearly $2 million on Picasso’s La Minotauromachie in 2010, still one of the most expensive prints ever sold at auction. We frequently do art appraisals for prints in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. Our fine art auctions frequently offer prints from Picasso, Matisse, Charley Harper and others. 
It’s true that many houses are chock-full of framed but worthless wildlife prints, as it remains an inexpensive way to decorate a house. But stumble upon the right type of fine art print, and you could be in possession of a valuable item. Popular modernist and post-war artists like Chagall, Calder, Kelly and others became enamored with the printing process and found it a way to get their art to the masses, while still carrying some of the artist’s touch. To identify one of these, look no further than the margin. 
Typically an artist will adorn the margin with three important pieces of information — the title of the work, the edition number, and a signature in the hand of the artist. Look here and you’ll find important clues. The title allows you to find similar prints online that have sold. The signature identifies it as a genuine work by the artist. And the edition number helps identify the rarity of the print. This will look something like “35/100.” The smaller the second number, the rarer the print. 
Often unknowledgeable framers will hide the margin, thus hiding all the good info. Dig in, remove some frames and go margin hunting to see if you have a gem in your collection.

Don’t be scurrrrred. Auctions are easy. Here are some tips.

Just the thought of bidding in an auction scares people. Will I pay too much? Will I get called out with the paddle in my hand? It’s all a little confusing, we get it. 
However, today is the golden age of auctions for the masses. It’s an opportunity to own one-of-a-kind art and antiques, usually at prices below retail. And ever since auction moved primarily online, the fears of a mistaken bid or errant eyebrow raise are long gone. We endeavor to make our auctions as customer friendly as possible, and wanted to pass along some tips here:
Find the lowest Buyer’s Premium:
Most auction houses have variable Buyer’s Premiums (BP) based on how you purchase. For example, we charge 28% if you buy on a third party auction platform like Live Auctioneers, 25% if you purchase on, but then only 23% if you bid by phone. That savings of 5% adds up when you are bidding on expensive items.  

Ask about item conditions before the auction:
Most auction houses post their sales prior the the auction date, allowing for prospective buyers to preview the sale. If you are interested in an item, it’s customary to ask the auction company for a condition report. A small hairline crack in a ceramic piece can mean a difference of hundreds or thousands of dollars in value of an item. Know before you bid!
Look for in-house shipping:
Winning an item is only half the battle. Then you have to find a way to get your item. Caza Sikes offers in-house shipping for winning bidders creating a streamlined invoicing process for buyers. But many auction companies do not, leaving you to struggle in the wild west of shipping companies attempting to transport your item. Here gouging abounds. Ask auction companies about their shipping policies beforehand, or beware!

New York > Louisville > Cincinnati > Hong Kong

The journey of a 3000+ year old Chinese bronze

We often sees interesting objects that hopeful consignors offer for analysis and potential sale. When the phone chimed recently with the prospects of auctioning the contents of the Man O’ War Horse Farm in Louisville, KY, the expectation was an estate full of equestrian art, and (hopefully) rare bourbon. That was not to be.

Decades ago, the horse farm with the iconic resident was purchased by a couple from New York City – Michael and Reiko Baum (Sakagami). He, a renaissance man with a successful framing business. She, a Japanese-born artist and socialite who palled around in high-culture circles, was involved in the formation of New York’s Japanese tea society. They lived for decades in a six-story brownstone in New York, complete with a custom and meticulously curated rooftop Japanese garden. Upon their passing, all of the contents of the home were sent to Lexington to be stored. 

In lieu of horse paintings (maybe there were a couple), the modernized estate where the famous thoroughbred Man O’ War “studded” and lived out his final days, was filled with modern art and ceramics, rare prints, Asian antiquities and a selection of art created by the Baums. There were more than 100 delicate Chinese yixing teapots – the lifelong collection of Reiko. There were modernist prints from names like Albers, Picasso and others. And there was one inconspicuous Asian bronze, a Chinese serving vessel of unknown age, that was packed on the truck with all the other art for a short trek back to Cincinnati for processing. 

After all the items were researched, cataloged and photographed, the auction launched for preview on the major online bidding platforms. The preview period, roughly 2-3 weeks before the day of the auction, provides a keen sense of what items will attract the most interest and bidding come auction day. Of the more than 300 items in the collection, packed with works from museum-worthy artists, it was the little Chinese bronze attracting all the questions and bidding registrations. 

Come auction day, Caza Sikes had multiple people registered to bid by phone, and thousands of bidders watching online. The bronze, possibly from the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 B.C.), attracted heavy bidding on the phones and online. As the price increased, the bidders dropped one by one, leaving two online bidders duking it out in the realm of the high-five-figures. When the hammer dropped, the winning bidder had agreed to pay $102,400 for the item – the top lot of the sale. Often, little is known about buyers of such objects, but we do know this item now heads to Hong Kong, either to reside in a private collection, or to be dealt for what would assuredly be an even higher price tag.

Caza Sikes holds six auctions each year and sells objects from (but not limited to) the following categories: fine and decorative art, art pottery, modernist works and prints, collectibles, rare coins, folk art, Asian art and antiquities. They take consignments of single exceptional items and entire collections/estates. Bidders come from all 50 states and countries across the globe. Graydon Sikes, one of the owners, is a featured appraiser on PBS’s hit show, The Antiques Roadshow. 

See the object that fetched six figures: