Antique Dealer Sick Of Appraising Smurf Collections

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Vol 38 Issue 02

Howie Long Expresses Desire To Direct Radio Shack Spots

LOS ANGELES— Pondering his next career move, Radio Shack pitchman and former NFL defensive end Howie Long told reporters Monday that he is interested in directing an upcoming installment of the series of commercials in which he playfully endorses high-tech gadgets with actress Teri Hatcher. "I've given it a lot of thought, and I think I'm ready to get behind the camera," Long said. "I've done the acting thing for a while now, and I just feel like it's time for a new challenge." Long said he could bring the kind of experience and insight to directing the commercials that only comes from having spent countless hours on the set.

Receptionist Takes Leave Of Absence Citing Dehydration, Exhaustion

QUINCY, IL— Citing "dehydration and exhaustion," a spokesperson for Andrea Conklin announced Monday that the Quincy dental receptionist will take an extended leave of absence. "The stress and strain of answering Dr. Taubman's phones all day long has finally taken its toll on Ms. Conklin," spokesman Chris Vinocur said. "Andrea is now in the care of her personal physician, who has recommended that she take two months off to regain her strength." Vinocur denied rumors in last week's National Enquirer that Conklin had checked into a drug-rehabilitation facility.

Consumer Reports Rates Self 'Excellent'

NEW YORK— Consumer Reports magazine earned a rating of "excellent" in its special "Consumer Advocacy Magazines" issue, which hit newsstands Tuesday. "From our exhaustive, unbiased appraisals of all types of consumer products to our clear, concise writing style, Consumer Reports is once again the undisputed winner," the article read. "For the latest in consumer information and product-safety recalls, look no further than us."

Enron Executives Blamed For Missing Employee Donut Fund

HOUSTON— The Enron Corp. scandal widened Monday, when The Houston Chronicle reported that top company executives stole nearly $10 from the employee donut fund sometime between June and August of last year. "There should be at least $9.25 in the coffee can next to the filters," said Laurie Baker, a recently laid-off Enron employee. "I personally put $2.50 into that fund, and now it's gone." Enron CEO Kenneth Lay is already under grand-jury subpoena regarding $45 in Chinese-food-delivery allocations that mysteriously vanished on Nov. 17, 2001.

Confused Marines Capture Al-Jazeera Leader

DOHA, QATAR— In a daring effort to dismantle the vast Arab network, a company of confused Marines raided Al-Jazeera headquarters Monday and captured leader Mohammed Abouzeid. "Al-Jazeera has ties to virtually every country in the Arab world, and this guy was the key to their whole operation," Lt. Warren Withers said. "Nothing went through the Al-Jazeera communications array without his go-ahead." Pentagon officials praised the soldiers for their "courageous and swift action," but noted they would have preferred that the Marines captured someone hostile to the U.S. instead.

Homeless People Shouldn't Make You Feel Sad Like That

I realize not everybody can make mid-six figures like my husband. But just because you're not as fortunate as others, that doesn't give you the right to go around depressing people. That's my problem with the homeless: They spend all their time shuffling around in their tattered, smelly clothes, making you feel awful about having a nice home and job. Well, I don't think they should make you feel sad like that.

Who Do I Have To Blow To Win The Bancroft Prize In American History?

For the past seven years, I have devoted myself wholly to the task of studying the life of William Howard Taft, becoming, in the process, the world's foremost authority on our 27th president. I have delved deeply into both his personal and political history, tracing his journey from a hardscrabble Ohio boyhood to the highest office in the land.
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Antique Dealer Sick Of Appraising Smurf Collections

DULUTH, MN—Milton Jarry, an antique dealer with 29 years of experience buying and selling rare collectibles and furnishings, announced Monday that he is sick of estimating the value of Smurf collections and other "piles of pop-culture detritus."

Jarry begrudgingly appraises yet another collection of Smurfs.

"If one more person brings in a 'rare' figurine of Smurfette in a jogging suit, I'm going to set it on fire," said Jarry, owner of The Finer Things, a Cortland Avenue antique shop. "That goes double for Brainy Smurf ceramic piggy banks."

Created by Dutch cartoonist Peyo in the early 1960s, the Smurfs made their U.S. debut on NBC in 1981. The animated series chronicled the adventures of a band of tiny blue dwarves that lived in the mushroom cottages of Smurf Village with their 542-year-old leader Papa Smurf, Jarry begrudgingly explained.

The hit series spawned a host of spin-off merchandise, including Smurf toys, jewelry, curtains, and kitchenware—all of which has made its way into Jarry's shop at some point.

"A 17-year-old cereal bowl featuring a bunch of silly blue creatures does not constitute an antique," said Jarry, whose areas of expertise include antique European and Russian chandeliers, wall fixtures, and classic reproductions of 18th-century candelabras. "Neither, for that matter, does a 1986 ALF pillowcase."

Though he considers himself an expert on many types of antiques, Jarry's true passion is the work of the New York lighting and metalwork firm E.F. Caldwell & Co.

"Two years ago, during a trip to Washington D.C., I went to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Design and spent a full day just with their collection of E.F. Caldwell lighting fixtures," Jarry said. "I also was lucky enough to see the Strater collection of Swiss enameled glass, 19th-century French block-printed wallpaper, 20th-century Soviet propaganda porcelains..."

Jarry's reverie was then interrupted by a customer wishing to be directed to the McDonaldland character glasses.

Jarry said he dreams of one day running a store that deals exclusively in E.F. Caldwell sconces, table lamps, and chandeliers, along with those of other celebrated firms like Sterling Bronze Co., Bradley & Hubbard, and Murano. Unfortunately, the antique market in Duluth is not large enough to support such specialization. To ensure his store's profitability, Jarry has been forced to offer more in-demand collectibles, such as Star Wars action figures, Schlitz beer signs from the '70s, and Welcome Back, Kotter TV tray tables.

As an added incentive for customers to come to his store, Jarry offers free appraisals.

"This morning alone, I appraised a Dukes Of Hazzard lunch box, a UM-Duluth edition Monopoly game from 1996, some Jaws 2 trading cards, and a smiley-face pillow that the owner found in her basement and thought looked 'pretty old,'" Jarry said. "Why do I put up with this?"

Some of the so-called "collector's items" that await Jarry's valuation.

Ever since the debut of the PBS series Antiques Roadshow, Jarry has seen a rise in the number of people hoping to make a fortune selling antiques. A recent customer was disappointed with the $3 valuation he gave a 1999 reproduction of a 1976 Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox, a price Jarry said was "on the generous side."

Renee Knight, 34, owner of the lunchbox, questioned Jarry's appraisal.

"I saw a metal lunch box on eBay go for $60, and all it had on it was a picture of a horse," Knight said. "Frankly, I don't think he knows what he's talking about. Or maybe he was lying so I'd sell it to him for next to nothing."

Knight said she frequently browses The Finer Things for "cute Christmas and Halloween decorations" or items for her sister's extensive Garfield collection.

"The prices here are a lot higher than at Goodwill, but sometimes I see something I just have to get," Knight said. "I'll warn you, though: Don't even go to the back of the store. I once saw a cute little lamp and was going to buy it until I realized it was $1,200, not $12."

The lamp, a numbered Tiffany accent lamp with gold Favrile shade, remains unsold.

"Most of the people who come in here expect I'll see the junk they scraped out of their basement toy boxes and start salivating," Jarry said. "They're disappointed if I don't say, 'I can't believe my luck in getting to hold in my very own hands an actual Skipper doll from 1978!'"

Jarry, who holds masters degrees in history and art, said the antique business isn't what it was when he started. Though he occasionally speaks with respected peers when attending a convention or trade show, his everyday interactions as an independent dealer in a mid-sized city are less-than thrilling.

"I'm in here six days a week, and all anyone asks me is if I know the name of Smurf arch-nemesis Gargamel's little black cat," Jarry said. "Why doesn't anyone ask me about 17th- and 18th-century Delftware metalwork? Or pre-Federal American-period furniture? Or even a simple question about Depression glass or old maps or decorative brass door knobs? By the way, it's Azrael."

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