1) For my international readers, Goodwill Industries International, host of the site "ShopGoodwill" that I discuss in this post, is a non-profit active in the US and Canada that focuses on helping to employ folks. They are very active in assisting persons with disabilities find meaningful work.
2) Though the item described below is a religious item, I did not select it specifically to condone such a practice. It just so happens that the item best illustrated my lesson.
3) I did not receive any compensation or benefit from mentioning the site ShopGoodwill in today's post. Actually, I'll probably be in the doghouse when older son learns that I describe his favorite treasure hunting website--thinking that it will somehow increase the number of bidders there.
Ok, now that is out of the way...
Though my interest in crime and investigations are generally not an appropriate topic for our ten-year-old son, it still does not mean that the same approach to solving mysteries cannot be used in other areas of life.
His most recent hobby is to pretend he is a "picker" and visit yard sales looking for a discarded item that is really a hidden treasure.
One of the local dog and cat rescue organizations recently had an indoor yard sale, and he came home with a few vintage toys, lamps, and an old Looney Tunes watch. These items were purchased for pocket change, but are worth much more.
To help him understand how real pickers research and assign value to items, I used this example involving a painting that just sold on ShopGoodwill's auction site--a place online where Goodwill sells items that were donated to their organization.
ITEM: Original Framed Painting
ITEM DESCRIPTION: 1918 Crown of Thorns Oil Ptg. Signed Hagenaber. First initial appears to be an "R", but I am uncertain. Condition issues: one scratch resulting in loss of paint on upper right edge; square indentation to canvas caused by stretcher bars; two white marks on left portion of image; whitish residue on lower edge; canvas loose within frame....piece measures approx. 14 1/8" x 19 3/4", framed.
So, it is appears to be an old painting by an unknown artist.
Step #1: Examine the Artist's Signature
It is important to realize that the good folks at Goodwill do the best they can, but they are not experts and spend the day busily posting items for sale online. They have limited time to research paintings and other potential antiques--as there is a pile of stuff waiting to be processed for sale.
So, to learn more about this painting and the artist, start with the signature: "Hagenaber."
In the photo, the letters are difficult to decipher. Maybe it is Hagenaber, maybe not.
Step #2: Search for the Artist
When the name "Hagenaber" is Googled, the results reveal, well, nothing. No painter. No artist. Actually no information on anyone by that name. A red flag.
If the name is spelled correctly, certainly someone somewhere with that name would have been returned.
Step #3: (if Step #2 reveals nothing) Modify the Artist's Name and Conduct Additional Searches
So, begin trying other possible combinations of the letters.
With a keen eye and/or some luck, the name "Hagenauer" is tried, and we learn there was an artist by that name with the first initial "R."
One of the search records reveals this gem of information:
Painter: Hagenauer, R.
Medium:oil: Oil on canvas. canvas
Control number:IAP 9A450004
Notes:Owner, 1990, 1997
Summary:Half-length figure of Christ in white and red robe; stigmata evident on Christ's palms
So, none other than the Smithsonian Institute possesses an oil painting by R. Hagenauer, and the theme of the work is Christian.
Unfortunately, there is no image online where one could compare the signatures, but it is strong circumstantial evidence (name, time frame, technique, subject matter, etc.) that the painting at Goodwill and the one in the Smithsonian's collection are by the same artist.
Step #4: Assign a Value
Obviously, this is difficult.
E-Bay's selling history database or other tools can be used to determine what folks have paid for specific works of art. Also, one could find current selling prices for paintings by the artist to get a feel for value (remembering that what people pay for something and the price on an unsold item are two very different concepts).
In this case, that information does not appear to be available online, so using a pay-for art research service or having an expert examine it would be a next step if valuation is necessary.
I do believe that the Shop Goodwill buyer of this early 20th Century work by "R. Hagenauer" got a fantastic deal in that the purchase price was a whopping $21.
Twenty-one bucks for an artist whose work is featured in the Smithsonian?
I'd say that was an overlooked treasure; and not the last to be found at yard sales or online, if someone uses a well-designed approach and has the patience.
And the son had fun with this exercise as well.