A Collecting Milestone – Or Not?

I passed a collecting milestone recently, and still have mixed emotions about it.

In 1986, after moving from Iowa City to North Carolina, I discovered the Asheville silversmith William Waldo Dodge (1895-1971), who produced an array of sterling silver pieces in the Arts and Crafts style from 1924 until World War II. My first piece came from a dealer in Raleigh and turned out to be a major find:  a sterling silver water pitcher with a carved wood handle (visible in his hands above).

The discovery sent me on a thirty-year quest for every example of Dodge silver I could find. I scoured antiques shops, auctions and shows, I placed ads in Silver magazine, I mailed flyers to people in Asheville, I wrote a book, I loaned pieces to exhibitions, and I begged dealers to alert me to any examples they encountered.

And it worked.

Before long my Dodge collection nearly filled my Stickley china cabinet. Along with my first water pitcher I accumulated some sterling silver bowls, trays, flatware, creamers, sugar bowls and sugar tongs.

And then, a few weeks ago, I spotted in a Sotheby’s auction preview two Dodge pieces I did not have, one being a long sterling silver ladle. I studied them carefully online, registered to bid, and waited. When the day came I eagerly sat in front of my computer and watched the auction proceed on my screen. When the pair of Dodge pieces came up for bidding, I decided to let the floor bidders start, which they did at the low end of the modest estimate. Two bidders ran the price for the pair up to nine hundred dollars, still what I considered to be a fair price for these two particular pieces of heavy Dodge silver. I poised my finger over my keyboard and prepared to click my first bid.

And then, something happened.

Actually, nothing happened.

I did not bid.

The auctioneer on my computer screen seemed to be looking right at me, as he lifted his hammer and warned he was about to close the bidding. Still, I did nothing. The hammer fell, I leaned back in my chair, and I thought about what had just happened.

It has been a two weeks now, and I’m still thinking about it, but I have not felt a single pang of regret. Rest assured, there was nothing wrong with either the pieces or the price. But at that critical moment, instead of beating faster, my heart slowed. The emotional rush I had experienced so many times before simply never came. Instead, I looked at the gleaming pieces of silver in my office, just as I am doing right now, and I said to myself, “Enough is enough.”


But – did I tell you about this great Biltmore Industries’ bowl I just heard about  . . . ?

Until next Monday,

Once a collector, always a collector.