Rare entertainment memorabilia will be auctioned off during the “Spring Catalog Auction” on Thursday, April 30 at J. Levine Auction & Appraisal at 10345 N. Scottsdale Rd. in Scottsdale. The public can preview auction items 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29 and again before 11 a.m. before the auction begins on Thursday, April 30. Two of the more unique items included in this auction are an original “Ocean’s Eleven” movie poster signed by all of the members of The Rat Pack and a first edition of “Playboy” magazine featuring Marilyn Monroe on the cover. A special visit from Curtis Dowling will also be part of this auction event.
Curtis Dowling, star of CNBC’s “Treasure Detectives” will be visiting from London and will conduct a free lecture about spotting fakes and forgeries 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29 at J. Levine Auction & Appraisal. Light hors d’oeuvres and wine will be served. Reservations are respectfully requested no later than April 27.
Dowling’s interest in collectibles was cemented many years ago after he purchased a book about the life story of a cabinetmaker. “I bought a book by Charles Hayward, a cabinet maker from the early 1900s who wrote his life story and a cabinet makers’ guide in the 1970s,” says Dowling. “IN his cabinet shop before World War I they bought old worthless Victorian furniture and turned it into expensive Georgian furniture. He said he couldn’t tell the fakes from the real thing by 1949 because it had age and patina and the wood was already old. I thought, ‘If he can’t tell; how can anyone else?’ That started me on my journey that I am still on-trying to spot the real from the forgery.”
Having a keen eye for collectibles is only part of the skill set Dowling needs to do his work. His training in the areas of authentication have been paramount. “I started on Portobello Market in London in the early 1980s. Half the stall holders were crooks who sold everything from silver to furniture to books and nearly all of them were forgeries and we used to stock the stall from the local fakers,” Dowling explains. “That was the best education you could get in the art and antiques trade. After that, I had antique shops and galleries but realized that my services were more about authentication rather than actually buying and selling these beautiful items.”
In the world of collectibles, forged and faked items are rampant so “Buyer Beware” is always a good warning to heed. “Everything is forged,” Dowling states. “Everything including eggs in China (it’s cheaper than keeping chickens) and also it’s about trend, what’s selling, what’s popular-so simply supply and demand, nothing else. Some people will say it’s impossible to forge some things… trust me, it’s not.”
Every once in a while Dowling comes across something very unique or of special significance. “Over 30 years we have had some amazing finds. John Constable paintings recently bought for $45, the King of France’s suit of armor, a Stradivarius violin, the list goes on. But it’s not about the value for us, it’s about uncovering fabulous lost treasures from a world that no longer exists,” Dowling says.
Although Dowling has authenticated a wide range of items, he is primarily now working in the area of high level paintings. “Picasso, Renoir, da Vinci, etc., but we get involved in everything and always have-from Chippendale furniture to baseball cards-there is nothing we haven’t done now, I think,” Dowling says.”
For Dowling, work is work and that’s where it stays. “I collect nothing,” he explains. “For me it would be like taking work home. We adore art and antiques and when you are around these beautiful things all the time they drain you. They radiate love like a person and if you love them like we do, how can you concentrate on anything else when these fabulous things are staring at you? It would be like having a lap dancing bar in your front room… try watching the TV or reading at home then!”
There is no way to tell what the next big trend of valuable collectibles might be. “The person who tells you they know the answer to that is someone you should never listen to,” says Dowling. As one group of items gets rarer, the more readily available items start to increase in value. In the 1980s no one wanted 1970s furniture-now its hot property. Will the furniture of today be as valuable in the future? Who knows?
Guests are in for a rare treat when they come to Dowling’s free seminar 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 29. “They can expect great stories, tricks of the trade and some very useful information to stop them from getting caught up themselves,” says Dowling. “It takes a lifetime to learn the business but a good list of helpful tips can set anyone on the road to knowing their stuff. Remember every expert (and we hate that word) knew nothing once. If you love it, you’ll learn it quickly.”
Josh Levine, auctioneer and owner of J. Levine Auction and Appraisal said the timing of the upcoming auction has many collectors excited since this year marks what would have been Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday. “The ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ poster is part of a lifetime collection of more than 50 pieces of rare and important movie memorabilia that belonged to Artie Kern,” says Levine. “It’s signed by Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and other members of the cast. Artie was an audio-visual specialist who worked for songwriter Sammy Cahn who was Frank Sinatra’s personal lyricist for more than 50 years. Artie also was a memorabilia consultant to the Songwriters Hall of Fame Museum in New York City.”
The “Playboy” magazine’s history is also one that will be of interest to collectors. In December 1953, 27-year-old Hugh Hefner published the very first “Playboy” magazine. This first edition was 44 pages long and had not date on its cover because Hefner wasn’t sure there would be a second edition. In that first run, Hefner sold 54,175 copies of the magazine at 50 cents each. The first edition sold so well because Marilyn Monroe was the “Sweetheart of the Month” (which was thereafter termed, “playmate”). On the front cover of the first edition, Marilyn Monroe appeared waving her hand. Inside, she bared it all in the centerfold. Monroe did not pose nude specifically for “Playboy”-Hefner had purchased the picture from a local printer who made calendars. This first edition of the magazine is also the only “Playboy” that does not have Hugh Hefner’s name inside.
Live online bidding can be accessed through www.jlevines.com or through www.invaluable.com. Reservations for the free seminar with Curtis Dowling are respectfully requested by Monday, April 27. To register for the free Curtis Dowling seminar call (480) 496-2212.