It’s a What? A Whirligig?

If I told you a whirligig could bring in some big money, would you know what a whirligig is and how to spot one?

I always teach that the money in this business is made in the rare. The rare and desirable will keep your money turning, and a whirligig falls into this category.

So what is a whirligig? Think motion. Think action. Then, consider our past as a farming culture. When we were mainly farmers, birds in the fields, pecking away at crops was a real problem. Farmers needed something to scare off the birds without having to constantly have someone on the lookout who could to run out into the fields and wildly flap their arms to get rid them. Enter the whirligig. It’s a type of interesting and creative folk contraption made by a farmer on his time off from the fields, to solve the bird problem. Many will call it a toy, because it brought much delight to children, as well as to adults, but this contraption was designed with a purpose.

Most of these interesting contraptions are made of wood, but they can be made of almost any material. They have moving pieces, and when the wind blows on them, it creates an action. They might remind you of windmills — folksy windmills.

I have seen figural whirligigs whose arms spin and the head moves. These are rather simple, but there are others depicting a person sawing a log or a woman churning butter. With these, you are beginning to touch upon the higher dollar whirligigs. They weren’t actually meant to scare off the birds, but rather to enjoy. These are the ones whose dollar value has escalated so much. The number of these pieces that have survived till now is limited. To the avid collector of these artistic creations, the hunt for them is a labor of love.

Unlike items like duck decoys, whose value escalates when it is signed by a particular artist, whirligigs don’t have to be signed for them to be valuable; the value is in the design.

Here is an example of some whirligig values: Two men turning a fan, articulated limbs, 13X18 inches, valued at $690. 20th Century 12” man wearing black jacket and blue trousers,$1380. Policeman, one arm and band leader the other arm, 20 inches, wooden, $3300. And, a man wearing a pealed hat, blue jacket, and red vest, 21 inches, $6325.

While there are reproductions, a close look will tell you the differences. Look for signs of new paint, modern screws, no patina, poor workmanship and materials not of the time.

There are so many items that have the potential to bring big money, but first we have to know what to look for. If you come across one of these during your hunt, I hope this blog will come to mind. And, if you’re successful in buying it, you might just keep a whirligig for a while before selling it just to amuse yourself.

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Antiques & Collectibles: Only Buy What Has a Secondary Market

Daryle Lambert’s 31 Club Blog 


“Casablanca” movie poster sold for $23,000 in March of 2006 through Heritage Auction Galleries (

What is the true value of an item? This is the most important question that can be answered for you in the Antique, Collectible and Fine Art business. Being able to understand what creates an item’s value will save you unlimited pain and loss in the future.

There are many areas within the antique & collectible business and several of these areas you will want to avoid at all cost. So, before you get started, you’ll want to scratch them from your want list because they will likely not create profit for you, regardless of their price.

Franklin Mint items are tops on the list. I once saw a young man with Franklin Mint collectibles that he had paid over $30,000 for turn around and sell them to a dealer at $1500 – and the dealer still lost money. This is also true of the collector plates, most often sold on the Bradford exchange. Today, these plates are listed at ten cents on the dollar of their original selling price.

I’ve had to learn some valuable lessons in these area myself. I once attended a large auction in Louisville, and I couldn’t help myself when a set of twelve plates came to the block. I had researched them and found they had originally sold for $3,600. I won the plates with my bid of $400, and I was sure I had found a treasure that day. I kept them for many years, and after moving to Chicago, I thought I’d test the water on my great buy, so I listed them at a local auction. They sold for only $300. The only way I could justify my $100 loss was to tell myself that at least I hadn’t lost as much as the first buyer.

Another market that hasn’t done so well for me is the Movie Poster Market. You can look in the Kovel’s price guide for Movie Posters and find prices for many posters as high as $5,000 or more. However, I am very familiar with prices that reach tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands for the most rare posters. Heritage Auction Galleries auctions movie posters and recently, a Bride of Frankenstein poster sold in the high 300,000’s. The movie poster market is a very controlled market, and a poster getting anywhere near the posted price is nearly impossible. Go to any dealer that specializes in Movie Posters and ask the price for a rather rare one they are showing. Return later to the booth and tell them you have one of those posters, and I will almost guarantee you they won’t give you a price. I do think that some movie posters are wonderful, but we are in the business of making money. If you buy something and can’t sell it at a reasonable price, then you must go on to the next item.

For the consumer, Galleries selling works of unlisted artists might be the most unfair market that I know of. There isn’t ever a secondary market for this type of art work that I can find, and after it’s bought, the paintings will only have a value similar to other decorative art items.

I once was call to a house by a woman who needed money for a surgery. She showed me a painting that her father-in-law had gifted to them, having paid over $18,000 for the painting at the time. Many phone calls later to auction houses and galleries, I was finally able to sell it for $1,000 to a buyer. (He did me a personal favor by buying it.) If the artist isn’t listed or the painting doesn’t have a record of its history, pass on it and go to the next item.

The final area of items to stay away from is Limited Prints. If the prints aren’t signed by the artist, I have no interest in them. Unsigned prints are a dime a dozen and are to be avoided at all cost. The framing will be more valuable usually than the print. Signed prints are a different story. Most of the prints you find will be signed within the print. But, what you’re looking for is where they have been signed after the print has been produced. So on most of these they will have a double signature and usually one will be in pencil.

While you’re on the lookout for valuable antique and collectible treasure, keep these three words in mind: Secondary, Secondary, and Secondary. I repeat it three times so you’ll not forget it – ever. If there’s an item you are considering and you don’t know if there is a secondary market for it, let someone else have it and save your money for a better buy.

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