Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Forks in the road

The U.S. Postal Service may be failing but it has been good to Howard and me.

I received the Leonard Pennario autographed program I sent away for. Well, I have not opened it yet because when Howard handed it to me I was in my bathrobe with wet hair and I did not want to smudge it.

Howard received three pieces of silver that are the work of Hiram Hotchkiss!

What, you have not heard of Hiram Hotchkiss?

He was the jeweler from Connecticut who was the first known occupant of Big Blue. We know that from Father Dunn's book "Delaware Avenue Mansions and Families."

He is not to be confused with Thomas Hiram Hotchkiss, the representational artist of the Hudson River School.

here is a Mountain Landscape painted by Thomas Hiram Hotchkiss in 1856.

Wow, Thomas Hiram Hotchkiss (1834-1869) was pretty talented!

And died pretty young. He had tuberculosis.

That is not the Hiram Hotchkiss who lived in Big Blue.

Nor is it this Hiram Hotchkiss who seems to have been involved in Lewiston and Niagara area affairs, as well as the peppermint trade.

This seems to be the Hiram Hotchkiss we are looking for.

And again, success!. We have found our man.

With which:

A couple of weeks ago Howard was contacted by a gentleman in Hawaii who had come across these three forks. They are engraved on the underside with the inscription: "H. Hotchkiss." This I have seen with my own eyes! And it also says, "Patented 1860." Hiram Hotchkiss lived in the house in the 1860s.

The owner of these forks offered to sell them to Howard for just the price of the silver. It came up to I forget what. Howard told me a little while ago what silver was going for per ounce and I cannot remember that either. What can I say? It has been a long day.

Speaking of which, it has been a long 150 years for these forks.

Who knows where they have been?

Who knows who ate what with them?

They have an inscription "S" on the front which makes us wonder if they were monogrammed for a family whose name began with an "S." They are very beautiful and graceful.

Tonight Howard and I ate dinner with the forks. We ate beans and greens and sausage with parmesan cheese over pasta.

A very un-fancy dinner with fancy forks! But I did not know they were coming.

Next time I will have to make something elaborate.

At Big Blue!

Editor's Note:
Here is the original message I received several days ago about the Hotchkiss forks.

Dear Howard Goldman,


I stumbled upon your interesting blogs and the story of how you came to be the current owners of 153 Delaware after searching online for information about the nineteenth century Buffalo jeweler Hiram Hotchkiss.

I live in Hilo, Hawaii, where I run a hot tub and spa business called Big Island Spa Source (www.bigislandspa.com) Since you are an entrepreneur, Howard, you may be interested to know that we have developed and are selling a solar hot tub heating system here in the islands. It is not detailed on our website, as we are trying to protect and trademark it at the moment. It was written up in Hana Hou, the inflight magazine for Hawaiian Airlines last month.

My wife and I enjoy going to yard sales and estate sales on the weekend, usually loking for old LP records. We also keep our eyes peeled for sterling silver, and purchase that if it is priced far enough below current spot silver prices.

Recently, we found three coin silver forks stamped "H.Hotchkiss" on the back. Although they came from a sort of open air antique store, and they were not giving them away, they were priced below their value because they were not stamped "sterling". It took me a while to I.D. the maker, but I finally figured out that these were made in Buffalo by the jeweler and silversmith Hiram Hotchkiss. There is not a ton of information about him readily available on the internet, but I did find the address of his shop in Buffalo, and that is the very building you now own.

Although I like the forks, and knew that had value just from the silver in them which should continue to appreciate, I had always planned to resell them. I made some inquiries with East Coast antique dealers who specialize in coin silver. The few people I spoke with were not familiar enough with H. Hotchkiss stuff to want to make me an offer without seeing them. Living on the Big Island of Hawaii, I can't just hop in the car and take them around to show.

I wondered if you might be interested in purchasing them. They certainly seem to belong with your house, and you probably know more about Hiram Hotchkiss by now than almost anyone. I am sure that you have done your own research about him and have collected information about him from people in the Buffalo area.

Each fork weighs 50 grams. Being coin silver, which is 90% pure, they contain 4.3 troy ounces total of actual silver. I would be happy to sell them for their current melt value, which is $135.00 for the three. Of course I could sell them to a scrapper, but that would be a shame, especially since Hiram Hotchkiss silverware seems fairly rare and regionalized. Undoubtedly, their value as antiques is more than their silver value, but they are sure to go up in value as silver goes back up.

If this offer is at all interesting to you, feel free to write back or contact me through my business. To provide assurance that this is not a scam, we can run the transaction through an Ebay auction. I am also willing to ship the forks to you before receiving payment.

I buy and sell random things as a hobby, outside of my real work as a hot tub dealer. In addition to the small amount of money this generates, I get a lot of satisfaction out of making connections and matching things with people at a good price. i tell my wife that there is "someone for every thing" . I think these forks were (almost literally ) made for you, and they are an investment you can enjoy.

Let me know what you think. I'll send more pictures upon request.


Lars Carlson
Hilo, Hawaii

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