SINGAPORE: For more than three decades, Mr. Jamshed Fozdar kept a pair of small gold boxes in a safe in Singapore without ever removing them.
The 93-year-old man bought the boxes from a Vietnamese consort in 1956, while visiting him in his palace in the city of Hue. "At that time, we knew that they needed money and we wanted their friendship," Fozdar told CNA in his apartment in Selegie.
But like many old trinkets that are kept mainly because of sentimental value – or because people can't bear to put them in a barrel – Mr. Fozdar hasn't really seen the light of day since he moved to Singapore in 1987. He also doesn't know what the value is.
"We never thought about it because we never needed money," said Fozdar, who works as an engineer, wrote several books and lived in various parts of the world. "It's just something we have when we are interested in these things."
Charming boxes carved with Chinese zodiac signs – one carrying dragons chasing pearls and the other depicting rabbits chewing lettuce.
Now, Mr. Fozdar wants to sell it because "at the age of 93, only fools will keep it".
"Money can be used better than stored in a safe; it won't help anyone, "he said." You can donate it to children's charities in various parts of the world. "
Fozdar has sent the boxes to the HotLotz auction house for assessment, where the expert team will determine what they make, from which part of the history they came from and what the value is.
The process of getting a valued family heritage in hopes of selling it with cash is not unusual in Singapore, observers said.
In June, the BBC reported that a family in Scotland kept medieval chess pieces in drawers for more than 55 years without knowing what it was. The family grandfather had bought the work for £ 5 (S $ 9) in 1964.
When the family took the work to Sotheby's auction house in London, experts found that it was one of the Chess Lewis that had been lost for almost a thousand years. The discount was sold at Sotheby's auction for £ 735,000.
ANTIQUES IN SINGAPORE?
In Singapore, HotLotz installs around 10,000 items to auction in a year, ranging from porcelain items and fashion designers, to expensive jewelry and artwork. The auction house does 60 auction sales a year, with items sold at prices ranging from S $ 20 to S $ 20,000.
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HotLotz managing director Matthew Elton told CNA that Singapore has valuable antiques, given its history as a trading center.
"You already have a kind of rich local family that has grown through those times," he said in the storage room on Bukit Merah. "You have a large international community in Singapore; people come here to help build the country. "
But Elton said valuables were not limited to wealthy families, mainly because he saw articles that were cheaper to treat because they were better weather resistant – such as wood furniture and silver chips – were auctioned with a decent amount of money.
"You can have good taste and be poor, and only buy something good. Or you might have won something in bets, or sometimes people were paid in things, "he added. "I think most families have something in the closet somewhere, but they're not sure if it's worth the money."
EYE FOR ANTIQUE
If you are thinking of making it lucky with the dusty trinkets that you have kept for years, but don't know the value, Mr. Elton said that the first thing to note is the condition of the item.
Is it broken? Are there any missing bits? Has it been glued back? This might make it less valuable. "The quality of workmanship and material is often a big sign," he said.
The internet is another place to get more information about these items, with "all types of chat groups and forums around about people who have passion in a particular field". "They like people asking them," Elton said.
This can help determine the origin of the item: What is the history? Where does it come from? How long has it been stored?
"If it has been treated for years; if you have a little mythology in the family – it's a grandma's favorite vase – then it's always a good sign that it has age, "said Mr Elton.
While Elton described valuable "antiques" as items over 100 years old, he noted that goods in Singapore often come from newer years. But these "vintage" items may still have some value, he added.
SALES US $ 10 MILLION
If you still feel confident at this time, it's time to take it for assessment at the auction house.
In most large auction houses like Christie, the ratings are free. This often involves sending a high-resolution image of the item first, and if there is interest, bring it for the right assessment.
While the auction house will have a team of in-house experts and external specialists for assessment, the seller must also provide as complete evidence as possible. The auction house will then collect everything.
Upscale auction houses usually handle watches, jewelry, as well as Asian and Western art, and conduct direct and online auctions. Prices can reach US $ 3,000 to US $ 10 million.
On HotLotz, the numbers are not very tempting, but the assessment and auction procedures are mostly the same.
Like most auction houses, HotLotz will burden buyers and sellers 19.5 percent of the final selling price as premium and commission fees. This only happens when the item is sold.
The difference is that HotLotz has two types of auctions: One is targeted at the Singapore market, and one is for a global audience – usually for more valuable items. This system increases the likelihood of higher prices, Elton said.
"I would say that we are everything between Carousell and Christie," he added, noting that HotLotz will still reject "nothing of value" items, including mainstream brands, counterfeit products and electrical equipment.
However, Mr. Elton acknowledged the sentiment that auction houses were too luxurious for most people. "We try very hard to be really good and friendly, and honest and pragmatic with our suggestions," he said. "We don't want people to be like that, it's too good for me."
Even then, there are other places that sell vintage items with minimal value.
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Online markets such as Carousell and eBay are one example, although Elton said prospective buyers will always look for discounts at the asking price.
It would also be useful to examine some antique shops around Singapore, he said, but again warned that some people might only be interested in buying cheap.
Some dealers might try to question the authenticity of an item to get the lowest price, said Michael Poh, owner of Viewpoint Trading and Collectibles, a vintage shop in Chinatown.
"Even if it's authentic, they will say it's not worth much," he told the CNA at his musky shop filled with Coke bottles, wall clocks, and decorative plates.
Mr Poh, on the other hand, tried to run a serious business. He helps students with their school projects, builds relationships with customers, and tells them which items are fake.
He also got around 10 visits a week from people who tried to sell vintage items such as old biscuit packaging and branded bottle openers. The goods that were carried were never really valuable, so he didn't buy them for more than S $ 100, mainly because he needed to keep the business.
"It's easy to buy, but it's very difficult to sell," he said.
Mr. Poh has been in this business for more than two decades, so he will assess the value of these items based solely on their physical attributes: Does it feel heavy? Is the artwork intact? Is there an official logo from that time period?
He also did not ask the seller questions about the item, preferring to keep his strategy for himself before generating prices in minutes.
"It is very difficult to say whether there is value in these matters," he added, noting that there are usually cases of "willing sellers, willing buyers".
RUNNER AND WAREHOUSE
Back at the shop, an old and old man in tattered clothes appeared to sell Poh a first aid package from one of the early Army vehicles in Singapore. The metal case is rusty, and the inventory list on the inside of the lid has been peeled off.
Pak Poh was still studying the item for about a minute, and when the man suggested the price of S $ 50, he took out his wallet and only handed over the cash.
"S $ 50 is too high, but I bought it because I wanted him to come back to me," he said, noting that this "runner" had sold to him for a long time.
But most of Pak Poh's goods come from charred warehouses and recently sold private homes. These houses usually belong to deceased parents, and children will invite Mr. Poh to take whatever he wants with a little money.
Last year, Pak Poh combed a semi-detached house on Aljunied and bought vintage items worth S $ 3,000, including an old turntable in poor condition.
He paid around S $ 1,000 to renew the turntable and made him work again, and now he sits proudly outside his shop playing nostalgic songs from old tapes. For interested buyers, the initial price is S $ 2,500.
It is clear that some vintage items, although not rare, still have some value. In the case of Fozdar's gold boxes, which were determined to be from the Qing dynasty in late 19th century China, they had more than value.
The boxes, made of 20 carat gold and may be used to store jewelry, may be offered to couples during their marriage. Their design celebrates the year of dragons and rabbits.
These boxes are currently registered at the HotLotz international auction, and the offer will expire on July 28. Price forecasts? Anywhere between S $ 18,000 and S $ 22,000.