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Old 10-25-2010, 12:46 PM
R. Dale Flick R. Dale Flick is offline
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,565
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*RE: Disbursement/Evaluation of collections*
Hi, Alan, John, Dan, Lexie & steamboating colleagues:
You ALL have brought up pertinent points on this thread along with others on the web that Tom Schiffer gave the 'kick start' to the other day. I knew Jim Swartzwelder fairly well in the years before his passing. Now-and-then he'd send a photo to me here and there which I still treasure today. It's a tough call when it comes to heirs of family collections. Yes, 'possession is 9/10ths of the law' and must be respected. TV shows like 'Antiques Road Show,' 'History Dectectives' etc. bring home to viewers what may be valuable in grandpa's collection. Many art museums hold open houses several times a year for people to bring in paintings or art objects for 'identification' but steer clear of any actual cash estimate to protect themselves for various legal reasons.

Some years back I received a call to "come and look over dad's" steamboat collection. I agreed to do 'identification' but hedged on doing appraisals as I'm no expert in that field. And so drove to look all over. The heir in question saw $$$ signs on the horizon. "Dad's photos, showboat posters worth about $6,000," I heard. I looked closer and closer noting something 'funny.' Faces hit the floor when I found that the many steamboat photos were copies purchased from Capt. Fred Way, Cincinnati Public Library and Capt. C.W. Stoll. "These copies...not originals nor are the showboat posters." Interesting photos for sure--but not the original plates. I did a hasty retreat.

My interest in old steamboat financial and business matters causes me to always look for paper documents, letters etc. Many of these dismissed by people not knowing what they are. Such documents were created 'within the experience' of the times and actually talk to one another in a dialogue. Freight bills, shipping contracts etc. contain far more interesting information than we often think. Many leading antique dealers/appraisers will take a collection on consignment for possible auction after investigating just what they have or don't have. There's the fun of it employing 'steamboat forensics.' That not recognized for actual worth--or just don't move at auction time--are often returned to the original owner. A real mind blower [Not steamboats in nature] was the terrific collection of Western art, Indians etc. owned by the late Cincinnatian Marge Schott, former majority owner of the CINCINNATI REDS. I roughly estimated seeing in one strong room some $12,000,000 in paintings + or -. Yet, thrown in a corner in dusty boxes was her collection of vintage B/W photos of the building/completion of the Panama Canal etc. [!]

Copyright (C) can be an issue in some cases. Mere 'ownership,' 'transfer of possession,' 'gift' or 'sale' doesn't always give the present possessor free Copyright. As Alan Bates wisely points out with steamboat photos, the cases usually never come to litigation due to many photos having been in the public domain or the Copyright not being renewed. A tempest in a teapot have you. Museums accepting collections aren't always obliged to display--or keep--such acquisitions. Getting access for research is always a problem due to institutions, libaries, archives etc. faced with budget crunches. Cost of photo copies also very high. A gentleman in Cincinnati recently presented a leading huge museum in New York a fine collection of materials etc. [I'm hedging here to protect him and myself on a public forum] only to learn recently the museum gleaned out certain pieces/items making available for sale/auction the remainder. More than one museum/institution has de-accessed portions of their collections to raise funds for other needs or to 'enrich' their current core collections. It happens all the time.

The U.S. Navy Dept. NEVER gives up rights to any memorabilia from old vessels even if in private hands. Recently a family innocently attempted to put for auction the set of silver from the officer's quarters on the battleship ARIZONA uncovered by a family member who was a diver following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. The Navy and Dept. of Interior swooped in immediately with the vintage damaged set of silver being politely taken out of consideration for auction. Chances are it may be returned to the government in the form of a 'donation' by purchase for preservation and future display. The silver from the ARIZONA was discovered in the ship's wreck while removing guns, armaments etc. desperately needed in the war effort. More on this in time if I hear.

R. Dale Flick
Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati
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