About 20 years ago, Mr. Q and I took a cruise in the Baltic. It was an amazing trip with lots of fabulous ports of call like Oslo, Copenhagen, St. Petersburg and Stockholm. I think Mr. Q’s favorite city though was Helsinki.
We made our way to the Tourist Info office there and picked up a brochure for a self-guided walking tour from the Market Square to Kaivopuisto Park. Eventually the tour would take us past the Mannerheim Museum where we got a personalized tour of the exhibits, likely because absolutely no one else was visiting the Mannerheim Museum that day. Mr. Q was in heaven chatting with our unofficial guide about … well … you know, historical military stuff.
But before we headed out from the Market Square, we checked out the open air market stalls there. Mr. Q ate some reindeer paella, and tried on some fur hats.
And I purchased a mid-century vase.
In my mind it had that quintessential Scandinavian look, and I loved the colors. I thought it made a great souvenir from our trip.
I have no idea how much I paid for it. I’m sure it wasn’t terribly much (because we all know I’m pretty cheap). Plus, 20 years ago mid-mod stuff was not all that hot.
We’ve displayed it in various spots over the years, and most recently it has been on the window ledge at the bottom of our staircase.
Over Christmas I replaced it with a row of nutcrackers. After taking down my Christmas decorations, I went to put the vase back in place and I thought (as I often do) that it really doesn’t jibe with the rest of my décor.
All this time I’d been hanging onto it because I thought it reminded Mr. Q of the awesome time we had in Helsinki. But when I asked him about it, he said “What vase? I just remember the fur hat.”
So I thought I’d go ahead and bring it into the shop to sell it. I was just about to make out a price tag of $25 for it when I thought, gee, maybe I should make sure it isn’t valuable. After all, it was signed on the bottom.
Maybe Google would have some clues.
Turns out that my vase was made by Pirjo Nylander, probably in the 1960’s. I found quite a few examples of her work online including this vase …
It has that same motif of rectangles, so I’m sure I’m on the right trail. This one is listed for €475 at vntg.com. I found another of her vases on Etsy for $475, but it’s still available so I’m not sure what that means. There is also a Pirjo Nylander vase listed on 1stDibs for over $1,000. But then, we all know that the prices on 1stDibs are horribly over-inflated (called ludicrously expensive by some), right?
Well, even so, now I feel like putting a price tag of $25 on my Nylander vase would be a mistake. But I’m fairly sure a price tag of over $100 would be puzzling to most of the shoppers at Reclaiming Beautiful. And that brings me to my pottery predicament. What to do with this vase?
How many of you remember my blog post about the ‘death star’?
This goes back to 2014. I had purchased some mid-mod furniture at an estate sale, and on a whim I asked about this metal sculpture that was hanging on the wall above the credenza. The sellers threw it in for free. After some research, I discovered that it was a signed Curtis Jere, and the exact same piece was listed at 1stDibs for $5,900!
Again, that’s a 1stDibs price, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. But I did do some further research. I sent inquiries to two auction houses that specialize in mid-century modern. Palm Beach Modern Auctions said they would love to take it. They estimated it would sell for $800 to $1,000. But, I would have to ship it to them in Florida (and it was extremely heavy and large), and then they take a 20% commission. So that was a no go. I also contacted Wright in Chicago. They estimated its value at $2,000, but they felt it wouldn’t be worth it to ship it to them and pay their auction fees (they did not elaborate on what those are) so they suggested I try to find a local buyer. I did eventually find a local mid-century dealer who offered me $300 for it, and I took it.
You know what? I actually kind of hate finding out that something I have is ‘worth something’. I really regard most home décor as discardable. I enjoy it for a while, and then I sell it onward or take it to the Goodwill when I’m tired of it. I don’t have any collectibles that I consider valuable in any way (one of the many reasons I call them non-collections). Or at least, not that I know of.
One of these days I’m probably going to buy a Rothko for $20 at a garage sale and then sell it on to someone else who will make millions on it (if you’re as fascinated by art that sells for millions as I am you might want to watch Made You Look, it’s a documentary on Netflix about the largest art fraud in American history, to the tune of $80 million).
In the meantime, what am I going to do with my Nylander vase? Keep it? Try to find a mid-century lover who will pay what it might or might not be worth? Or just go ahead and bring it to the shop, maybe with a price tag just a tad higher than $25?
What would you do?