Anthony Vizzari – A tale of cameras, booths and bodies.

Cameraman Philip Bloom has worn many hats through-out his career, amongst them photographer, blogger, entrepreneur, educator, writer, marketeer.  Apologies if I have missed any. It is through his wonderful talents as a film-maker however that he has risen to prominence outside of his industry.

He has made many fine short films over the past number of years, many of which can be seen on his site philipbloom.net, or on his Vimeo page. One of my favourites is his short documentary about the camera shop owner and collector Anthony Vizzari.

Vizzari sells antique photographic equipment, cameras etc. but also collects old antique Photo-Booths. The short documentary film below by Bloom, tells Vizzari’s story and also delves deeper into another interesting but macabre subject that Vizzari has been collecting for years. (Warning some of the images can be a bit disturbing)

 

Booths & Bodies: The life and work of Anthony Vizzari from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

 

 

Beauty can be profitable.

This article first appeared in the February 2000, in the Sunday Business Post

Considering the current activity within the equity markets, especially with technological stocks on the Nasdaq, it is easy to forget that long before the performance of firms like Microsoft, Iona and Baltimore Technologies were part of dinner party conversations, the profit motive was a secondary factor in the acquisition process. Factors such as functionality, desirability and beauty took precedence over profit and percentages.

It is now worth going back to the pleasure-versus-profit question in relation to antiques.

The property market has given a steady return on investment of 12 to 20 per cent, depending on where you live, over the past number of years, but the stratospheric price rises that are common among internet stocks at the moment have been seen on numerous occasions in the antiques business.

Consider the Irish artist Jack B Yeats, brother of poet William B Yeats and friend to many literary icons of the era. His style of painting was considered a little inaccessible until the mid-1970s.

But then, for no apparent reason other than that tastes and attitudes had changed, his popularity and value shot through the roof. A fine example of his work was sold at auction by Adams in their Stephen’s Green auction rooms in 1986 for £40,000, and was sold for close to £52,000 at Sotheby’s in London just over a year later.

This was a record price for a word by the artist at the time, and a tidy return on investment. But in the context of today’s property market, and indeed some of the more attractive equities, this would seem rather unspectacular.

But the timescale involved and the prevailing economic climate at the time should be considered. If you consider the fact that good works by the artist can command seven-figure sums when they come to market, the figures speak for themselves.

But what is value in relation to the antiques world? Beauty-which is not a word in the stockbroker’s vocabulary-is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder. It should be the cardinal consideration in determining value, and is quite subjective, regardless of price.

The aesthetic value, coupled with the practicality of the item and its functionality, allied to a little bit of common sense and basic research, are all parts of the decision making process, and thus part of the joy of collecting.

After all, you are going to have to live with your purchase for a couple of years, so obviously you would not buy a Victorian mahogany breakfront library bookcase if you lived in a one-bedroom apartment. Quite apart from the cost, anything from £5,000 upwards, the sheer scale alone should promote a bit of head-scratching. Taking out a Black & Decker is not an option.

But sitting on your Chippendale chair while sipping champagne from you antique crystal flutes can be rewarding when you know that the objects of your desire are increasing in value by the second.

A few caveats here. As with equities, some collectibles do go out of favour from time to time. This is more a feature of the amount of money in circulation and the rules of supply and demand than a crash or the bottom falling out of the market. But it always returns.

Buying at auction can be exciting, but before you purchase you should always check the fine print and conditions of sale. Many prospective purchasers forget or are unaware that the auction houses charge the buyer as well as the seller.

Commission rates vary, and Vat is calculated as a percentage of his figure, but it is wise to add this into your price range before you start shaking your paddle about.

And so to the pleasure-versus-profit question. If you buy what you like and what you can afford, with a good eye and modicum of knowledge, you can have both pleasure and profit without the pain. As with the equities market, it is never too late to start.

If you go down to the woods today.

A selection of Steiff Bears from the Vienna Teddy Bear Museum


This article was first published in Collectors Corner, Oct 1st, 2000 in the Sunday Business Post

In case you hadn’t noticed from the masthead, today is the first of October. This is of no major consequence except for the fact that from now until the end of the year, we can expect to be inundated with those annoying adverts announcing the countdown to Christmas.

Not to be outdone we have decided that if you can’t beat them, you can at least get your say in first.

With only a little over ten weeks to go until December 25, those much-loved gift items, teddy bears, are a seasonally appropriate topic.

There are few objects which provide a more intimate link with the past than an old teddy bear or a cloth doll.

In good condition these souvenirs of childhood can be of far more than sentimental value.

Teddy bears, more so than other soft toys, have acquired considerable value as collectables of late, with the rarer ones changing hands for five figure sums.

While soft bears on all fours were made before 1900, it was not until around 1902 that the first ones appeared with movable joints and not until 1906 that the teddy bear got its name.

In 1902 US President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, who was a keen hunter, appeared in a newspaper cartoon refusing to shoot a bear cub.

The cartoon go national attention in the US at the time and soon afterwards the bear cub was used in other cartoons featuring Roosevelt.

Steiff bears are still produced today.

At the time soft toy bears were being imported from Germany in large quantities and they soon became popular with Roosevelt’s adult followers. By 1906 the toys had become known as ‘teddy bears’.

The first teddy bears looked fiercer than the cuddly teddies we are now familiar with, as their features were originally modelled on grizzly and brown bears.

But gradually their appearance changed to the furry creature that we know today.
This was due in no small part to a German lady called Margarete Steiff, founder of the Steiff Toy Company. Steiff, who was polio-stricken from an early age, began making underskirts for a firm in Stuttgart in 1877 as a means of gaining independence.

In 1880 she made her first soft toy, an elephant, using felt from her uncle’s felt factory. This was soon followed by pigs, horses, cats and camels and in 1884 she made her first standing bear.

For some time Steiff bears failed to arouse much interest, but a US company placed an order for 3,000 of her bears at the Leipzig Fair in 1903 and the Steiff bear took off.

The fine quality of the bears has ensured that Steiff bears have become one of the most popular makes for bear collectors today.

Arctophiles, as teddy bear collectors are called after the Greek word arctos, meaning bear, will pay thousands and even tens of thousands of pounds for the rarer examples.

While Steiff bears can be identified by the small metal button in the left ear, imitation buttons are now being made so it may be useful to examine an authenticated button before buying.

The designs of the buttons have changed over the years and if they are in good enough condition can be used to determine dates. Prices vary according to age, colour, condition, maker and size.

Only bears in good condition, with their fur intact, and identifiable as being made by a recognised firm have kept or increased their values.

Unusual colours can command higher prices but rare black Steiff bears can fetch as much as £30,000 when they come up at auction though collections can be started from as little as £200 to £300.

This article was first published in Collectors Corner, Oct 1st, 2000 in the Sunday Business Post