Calling all yard sale fans and curious collectors (plus our first evaluation)

Westboro’s Shaun Markey is the author of a recently published memoir called Folk Art in the Attic, and he’s also behind our newest column: Collectable Treasures.

We’re kicking off a new column, just for you!

This month we’re introducing a new column that will be of interest to yard sale fans, antique collectors, and those of us who have inherited the contents of our grandparent’s closets. Shaun Markey is a resident of Westboro and author of a recently published memoir called Folk Art in the Attic and blogs about antiques and folk art at folkartintheattic.blogspot.caIf you have an antique or collectable and are curious about its past and approximate value, send a photo via email to Please make your photos are high enough resolution so that details are visible. (In other words, the files should be large.) Any extra information you can share about your treasure is helpful too. Your item – and its story­ – might just be published in the next column! Our first evaluation is at the end of this page. Read on!

Spring (if it ever gets here) is a time for taking stock, a time for renewal. For Kitchissippi residents it’s a time when many survey the contents of their homes with a view to making changes.  Refurnishing, redesigning, down sizing and de-cluttering are either optional or, in some cases, necessary.

Most people approach the task with energy and enthusiasm. Need to get rid of stuff. Simple. Stage a garage sale and whatever doesn’t sell give away to a charitable organization afterwards. Job done! Yes, your goal may have been accomplished but did you, as the saying goes, throw out the baby with the bathwater? Did valuable antiques and collectables leave via the garage sale or in the donation to charity?

Every year, homeowners unknowingly make this mistake. The categories of collecting have become so numerous and diverse, it’s easy to overlook items that can have considerable merit.  If you’re dealing with the contents of an entire house or apartment, the antiques and collectables can be impressive both in terms of number and value.

So what should you do in this situation? The key is to not rush it. The majority of people don’t give themselves enough time, especially when faced with the dispersal of the entire contents of a home.

Start by creating a simple inventory by categories. Knowing what you have is a very important first step.  Do a walkthrough and make notes. Your list could include: furniture, artwork, jewelry, books, lighting fixtures, rugs and textiles, clocks and timepieces, glass, china, hobbies and recreational items, tools, toys, nostalgia items, etc.

Some of these categories I’ve listed are obvious, furniture and artwork, for instance. I purposely added “recreational items” because vintage fishing tackle, for example, can be very valuable, as can textiles like vintage quilts and hooked rugs. Old toys and other nostalgia items are highly sought after by collectors and dealers.

Afterwards, do another walk through and add specific items to the categories. In a couple of hours you’ll have a comprehensive inventory. If it’s convenient, take along your camera and photograph some or all of the items either individually or in groups.

While at this stage you’ll know specifically what you have in terms of the number and different types of items. What you don’t know is value, and value is where the rubber meets the road in antiques and collectables.

The entire antiques and collectables industry is based on value. Items come into the market at various points in the antiques/collectables eco system and move up the system as dealers sell the items to other dealers who know that there is still a margin left for them to make a profit. An item effectively leaves the system when it is sold to a collector – the end user.

Antique items come to the market in a variety of ways including the aforementioned garage sale. There’s also estate sales, tag sales, auctions, direct sales and consignments to dealers, flea markets, antique shows, swap meets and, via one of the most if not the most powerful of all platforms – the Internet.

The other major factor in antiques and collectables is trust. Who can you trust to give you a fair assessment of the value of your items? If you’re faced with the entire contents of a home, it’s best to hire an appraiser to give you an estimate. You may want to bring in more than one appraiser and get a second opinion. Spending a few hundred dollars at this point could make a big difference down the road.

This spring, when you feel the urge to purge – think before you act. Take some time to look closely at your possessions. Give them the attention they deserve.


I purchased this wooden Pinocchio toy at a yard sale in 2006 and I’ve always wondered about its history or value. I wish I had thought to ask the vendor if he knew anything about where it came from, but it slipped my mind. Can you tell me something about it? For what it’s worth, the hands are roughly hewn. They look almost like shovels with thumbs and the only working joint is in the left arm.

Thank you!

Andrea Tomkins




Dear Andrea,
Pinocchio was originally an Italian children’s story and was popularized in North America by the Walt Disney movie about the character in 1940. The movie opted for a much more child friendly character in both appearance and manner.

Many pieces of folk art are carved from wood and painted. In fact, wood is one of the most popular mediums folk artists have used – for generations. Folk artists also frequently opt to paint their carvings and this Pinocchio features bright painted colours which are reasonably consistent with paint colours used here. (Although not relevant to this discussion, I’m reminded too that in the movie, Gepetto carved Pinocchio from a block of wood.)

Articulated limbs are not usually a feature of folk art carvings because they are not toys. Rather, they are meant to be displayed and enjoyed as a visual artistic experience. That’s not to say that “motion” and “humour” are not found in North American folk art carvings. They frequently are. But the fact that this Pinocchio has articulated limbs strongly suggests that it is a toy and was meant to be played with as a marionette, as a toy and not to be used for display. Finally, the hands of this piece are crudely carved which would make the overall arms easier and quicker to manufacture. I could go on but I think there’s enough evidence already to conclude that this is not folk art but a manufactured toy, probably made off shore and imported here in the 1960’s. Notwithstanding these facts, it’s still a fun little item and given the popularity of the character, I would put a value on it of $35 to $45.

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