On any given day there are 2,000+ items on ebay from the World’s Columbian Expo–books, cards, tickets, medals, jewelry, paperweights and so on. On rare occasions we see a major piece of furniture or structure. In June, I spotted two such items, but if you’re interested, better check your PayPal balance. The photo here is an electric street lamp from the fair and was offered for $18,000. When I went back to check on it, the listing was gone. I suppose someone with deep pockets and a large exhibit space may have purchased it; or more likely, there were no buyers and the listing expired.
As if the lampost wasn’t rare enough to cause folks to take a second look, these amazing carved pillars were also listed in June. The lot consisted of eight 11-foot tall carved pillars for a total ebay asking price of $26,000. If someone just happened to be in the market for some architectural structural components for a house or store, what a great–and expensive–addition to a modern structure.
We can’t attest to the provenance but I believe one could certainly compare the carved pillars to photos of the Ceylon Building. And at just a glance, the lamp post being offered looks exactly like the ones on the street in the center of the Midway in our new book.
Since my budget and space are a tad more limited than these items would require, I’m sticking to my folding chair from Old Vienna’s courtyard restaurant as my piece of vintage WCE furniture in my office; it fits a tad better than a light pole or an eleven-foot carved wooden support.
It should go without saying that not every “genuine” item from the World’s Columbian Expo is, in fact, from our favorite fair. We have seen a variety of signs and large items with absolutely no provenance and no corroborating evidence in photos offered on ebay and elsewhere. Souvenirs aside, one of the toughest tasks in verifying authenticity is with non-souvenir items sold or allegedly sold on the Midway or the main grounds–oriental rugs, silks, carvings, etc. They may well be a Samoan or Turkish item made in 1893 at the fair….or they may be a genuine item made in 1891 or 1895…or they just may not be genuine at all. Too often the only provenance is a verbal or hand-written note from somone’s great grandmother. If that’s enough to satisfy you to acquire a vintage piece for your home, great: But you’ll never recoup your investment when it comes time to sell unless you have some solid provenance. And you don’t want to leave it to your kids or grandkids with nothing but a story about its origin.