Appraisals & Management of Personal Property

“Anything lying around your home is only as valuable as the quality of the advise you receive about it.”


The act of video game collecting is a fairly new hobby with the first consumer video game released in the early 1970s. It's only very recently we have had an increased number of people looking back fondly at childhood memories of retro video gaming and also having the disposable income to indulge in this very nostalgic avocation.

Video game collecting was a small and specific community and fairly obtainable to the average collector. Now, due to the 2019 pandemic prompting nostalgia hobbies during the lockdown, poor access of older games on current generation consoles, resellers, and the increased exposure of the hobby by YouTubers, the market has grown substantially over the past few years. In addition, a large inflation of sealed and graded retro games at auction have been a detriment to long-standing collectors with them deterred by this recent unpredictable growth.

Vintage games and rare consoles can fetch high values at auction but will need to be in exceptional condition with their original packaging. Availability, age, and the popularity of a title or series are a major factor in the value of a video game, but the price difference between a vintage video game still in factory shrink wrap vs. a well-played game is, now, thousands of dollars.

Thanks to Heritage Auction and their video game grading company, WATA, the value of vintage games has increased dramatically. In April 2021, a 9.8 A++ graded sealed copy of the 1996 hit Super Mario 64 broke the record for most expensive video game sold at public auction at a whopping $1.56 million. A 9.4 A+ graded sealed copy of the game sold for only $38,400 a few months before it. In the last few years, other copies in similar condition have sold for under $10,000 at both Heritage and eBay, while they were going for as little as $179 on eBay back in 2015.

It’s understandable grading would increase the value, but it has certainly has had collectors questioning the legitimacy of this enormous and sudden market increase and is a rude awakening to the economy of a collector’s market when its popularity surges. And even so, a determination of its quality done by a grading company like WATA and Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) (where a member of their team gives it a value out of 10 depending on its condition) is not an exact science and they are not always consistent in their grading – and a wrong grading can greatly misrepresent a value of an item!

While many can be discouraged as they become aware of their hobby turning into an investor's game, there is still much out there for the average collector. There will always be a rush in searching flea markets, brick and mortar, conventions, garage sales, and independent game stores to find a deal or a rare find. And while they may not be as remarkable as a sealed retro Mario game, that’s not what most collectors usually strive for. If not for the aesthetic, the different editions, the packaging, the obscure and the unwanted and the discontinued, it’s for collecting for the sake of collecting. There’s always room to expand their walls full of pop culture relics – relics that are now evolving from nostalgia to a recognized form of art and history.

Are you a video game collector with vintage games? We hold no conflict of interest and can appraise your collection for you – for insurance or for sale. Contact Christopher Phillips at for a consultation.

Automotive memorabilia – otherwise known as Automobilia – is one of the largest collecting domains today. Collectors of automobilia typically accumulate items such as signs, fuel pumps, trophies, autographs, and brochures. They evoke nostalgia and cherished memories of a special era and of larger-than-life personalities.

Some of the flashiest items an auto-collector can own are motor signs. They tell the history of the auto industry and roadside in the United States. They’re classic Americana. The most inviting and atmospheric signage is the “neon sign”, which made its debut in the early 20th century and continues to be the hottest category in automobilia today. At the 2022 Scottsdale Auction, a 1940s-50s Mobil Oil neon porcelain sign sold for $161,000, a restored 1940s Greyhound bus depot sign with animated neon brought in $149,500, and a 1953 Ford Jubilee neon porcelain sign sold for a tremendous $460,000 – a world auction record for a neon sign.

As antique signs can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, it’s important to look for age, condition, brand, rarity, and complexity in design. There are plenty of imitations to watch out for, too. And while restored pieces are quite desirable, the most rustic and flawed looking sign are also enjoyed by the most ardent collector, due to the feeling of authenticity in age and relation to their original source.

Signage can be highly valuable and will continue to be trendy due to their place in history and for their aesthetic. While a trophy or brochure may not be valuable, they are treasured by the avid collector and are a fine addition to an assembled display. And with the hundreds of motor manufacturers, companies, and events in America’s history, the automobilia world has something for every enthusiast at almost any price point.

Do you have a collection that needs to be insured? We have experience appraising hundreds and hundreds of automobilia and we can give you peace of mind with a professional valuation. Contact Christopher Phillips at

Miniature rooms were popular from the late 1800’s. Miniature rooms were conceived by Narcissa Niblack Thorne (1882 – 1966) and were executed by her craftsmen in an Oak Street studio including Eugene Kupjack (1912-1991) between 1932 and 1940. She is responsible for the 68 miniature rooms on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The miniatures have often been called a vignette. Actually, a vignette is more often a small box used as a repository for memorabilia such as dried flowers. One of the ways in which this form distinguishes itself from the vignette is that it is in perfect scale of 1 inch to 1 foot. From replicas of furniture to fruit to silver flatware, the craftmanship of these miniatures are often time consuming, with much planning and patience needed by a skilled artist. Each piece is a precise and delicate portal to an era or memory. It has often been said that with the miniatures you “crawl into it and go into another world.”

These miniature rooms come from the tradition of the dollhouse. The tradition of the dollhouse is a toy home made in miniature. For the last century dollhouses have primarily been the domain of children, but their collecting and crafting is also a hobby for many adults.

The miniature home, furnished with domestic articles and resident inhabitants, both people and animals, has been made since the Old Kingdom in Egypt. The earliest known European dollhouses were the baby houses from the 16th Century which consisted of cabinet display cases made up of individual rooms. Dollhouses of this period showed idealized interiors complete with furnishings and accessories and were solely intended for adults. They were owned by the wealthy matron living in the cities of Holland, England and Germany primarily. With the Industrial Revolution, factories began mass producing miniatures for dollhouses. By the end of the 19th Century American dollhouses were being made in the U.S. by The Bliss Manufacturing Company. Germany was the manufacturer of the most notable houses and furnishings until WWI when the war seriously impeded both production and export. Production started up in other countries including America. After WWII dollhouses were mass produced in factories on a much larger scale with less detailed craftsmanship than before.

If you are in London, go see Queen Mary’s doll house on display at Windsor Castle. It was designed for her in 1924 by the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869 - 1944). It is five feet tall and contains 16 fully outfitted rooms. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling contributed special books which were written and bound in scale size. When first put on display, it was visited by 1.6 million people in seven months!

Are you yourself the owner of miniatures? We have the experience and knowledge to appraise such unique items. Get in touch with us at +1 (312) 372-9216 to set up an appointment.

Paper was a very expensive product. It spread throughout Europe having made its way from Asia via Egypt and North Africa to Italy. With the greater spread of paper for reading and writing and not just book production, greater organization of documents and other official messages became necessary. The European postal system developed and a regular exchange of mail, primarily of letters, was soon possible for everyone. The first official postage stamps in the present-day sense to be issued by a postal system appeared in Britain in 1840. Other countries such as Switzerland, France and Belgium quickly followed this example. Only in the middle of the 19th century did the railroads link several important places in Europe. Thus, letter writing ranked second only to laborious travel in mail coaches as the most important form of communication.

Letters organized on the desk at home or in the office could be blown about with a sudden breeze. Paperweights or “letter-weights” as they were called, were necessary to maintain order. In the 18th century such weights were made of wood, precious and other metals, rock such as marble, leather bags filled with sand, or hemispheres of glass or ceramic. Prior to then, these various types of weights had also been used to hold rolled documents open such as parchment rolls. It was in the 19th century that genuine, practical paperweights of a great variety of materials reached their pinnacle after being displayed at various expositions, particularly after the Great Exhibition of 1851 at London’s Crystal Palace.

In the 20th century, the glassmaking movement relocated from factories to studios, where artists turned the functional into art. Glasswork became more popular to the point it was being taught in schools and shown in galleries. While paperweight makers still hold on to classical design and technique, contemporary artists like Josh Simpson endeavor to elevate the craft by creating extraordinary miniature worlds and ecosystems with mesmerizing colors, forms and complexity.

Paperweights are highly collectable, and collectors’ clubs can be found throughout America. The condition and the size play a big factor for most collectors. Minor imperfections can be forgiven if there is enough glass in the dome to polish them out. To many collectors, a perfect centered composition is crucial. The bigger the dome, the more outstanding the magnification of the design is, revealing its technical skill and illusion of depth.

Why should I get an appraisal?
There are many different benefits to having an appraisal. An appraisal can be as simple as satisfying your curiosity about an object, it can be used to secure insurance, it can help establish a price when selling, and it is crucial in the distribution between family members in a divorce or an estate.

When should I get an insurance appraisal?
When the property is valuable to you and you would replace it in the event of a loss then you should get a replacement value appraisal for insurance purposes. This should be updated every 3 years as prices fluctuate.

What is the difference between Fair Market Value and Replacement Value?
A Fair Market Value appraisal report describes the value of an object on the open market at the present point in time. It is not a current cost to replace the object. Replacement Value is often for insurance purposes and is the estimated cost to replace an item of equal quality, appearance, size, and origin. As it’s a replacement, the value would often be from the current retail market instead of a secondary market. Replacement value is often higher than Fair Market Value.

Decide on what you what to do with your items and we will review your plans so we can assess your property accurately. Call us at +1 (312) 372-9216.

Find out what your treasures are worth


What would you recommend to someone who wants to downsize?
Do not start giving away or selling property until you know from a professional what it is that you have. You can contact the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) or the Appraisers Association of America (AAA) and get a referral for a certified appraiser to help you sort out your goods. We say, “Act in haste, repent in leisure!”

How do I find out if something has value before giving it away or donating it?
Call us to help you with the process. Sometimes the emotions and memories you have related to your possessions can make the process daunting and overwhelming. We can help with the difficult task of downsizing!

What are some mistakes that someone downsizing should avoid?
It is time consuming and expensive to hire an estate sale group that is inexperienced. Let us guide you through the process from start to finish so that no family members can disapprove.

What services do you offer that assist with the downsizing process?
We separate and sort the expensive from the inexpensive. We provide guidance on what should be disposed of by what method, such as estate sale, private sale, auction, family, eBay, and craigslist. We help to take property to market, we supply cleaning services, packers, movers, and shippers, we help with insurance, and we appraise when necessary.

Check out our subsidary company page, StoneBridge Services, Inc., for more information on downsizing.

Any slightest scratch or mark that disturbs the surface of a highly polished plate of metal will hold printer’s ink and can be printed. Any method of which a design composed of such printable marks is made is called an Intaglio process.

The three basic types of Intaglio work are dry-point, engraving, and etching. In dry-point the surface of the plate is torn by a sharp point thrust in to the surface and dragged along it, the tool is held like a pencil. In engraving, V-shaped trenches are cut into the surface of the plate by a tool called a Graver or Burin, which is pushed along the surface. Etching is a process by which lines are chemically eroded in the surface of a metal plate. The polished plate is covered with a specially prepared ground, the principal of which is wax. The grounded plate is then blackened with smoke. The artist draws his design on the blackened ground with a point or etching needle. In theory, the etcher presses just hard enough on the point to scratch through the ground, but not dig in to the plate.

We are qualified experts on prints and can identify and appraise your artwork. To set up an appointment please contact us at +1 (312) 372-9216.

In 1743, Thomas Boulsolver of Sheffield, England, discovered that he could bind a sheet of sterling silver to a copper ingot by pressing and rolling the two metals into a workable sheet. The friction from the process caused enough heat to fuse the metals to each other. This sheet could then be made into a teapot, a tray, or other useful object. During the late 1760’s, the silver was fused to both sides of the copper making a kind of “silver sandwich”. Silver objects made from this sandwiched metal eventually became known as Old Sheffield plate. The English excelled at this even though other countries produced it in the 18th and 19th centuries. Even though this form of silver is very old it is not as expensive as sterling silver because it does not have sterling content.

You can tell Old Sheffield plate in several ways. The underside is tinned rather than silverplated for reasons of expense and therefore that surface has a slightly rougher, brighter look. And, many old pieces such as urns and coffeepots were formed by making a cylinder out of a sheet of sandwiched material and rolling it which creates a seam when burnished. After years of polishing, the seam will show if you breathe on the area, forming a frost, exposing the red-orange cast of the copper. Does this depreciate the value of the work?

Also, look for rolled edges. Since Sheffield plate is a “silver sandwich” the exposed edges have to be rolled over or covered with silver wire or thread (called a wrapped edge) to prevent people from seeing the copper layer in the middle. This silver plate is much more solid and heavier than contemporary silverplate. It is also usually higher in value.

If your object has a coat-of-arms engraved on it, try breathing on the edges. Sheffield plate manufacturers inserted silver sections so the engraving would not cut through to the red-orange layer. The air will condense around the outline, giving you an indication that the piece is not solid silver.

Later on, maker’s marks were used to identify their wares. Are your silver pieces sterling silver, silver plate or silverplate? There is an enormous difference in age, collectability, and value amongst these different forms.

I am a qualified expert on silver and can give you a certified appraisal. For more information please contact us at +1 312-372-9216 or

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