Awards bolster egos, but rarely inflate wallets

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today's antiques.scott davisFrom the time we were young, nothing made us feel prouder or more motivated than when we received an award. For children, it starts out with earning a merit badge as a Scout or a ribbon for winning an athletic event, science project competition or for growing the largest pumpkin at the country fair.

Later in life, most of us have received an award of some sort for excellence in business, exceptional community service or for any number of other achievements. While those awards usually start out being displayed in a place of distinction in the winner’s home or office, most of them get relegated to a closet, basement or attic over time.

Awards come in many forms, including pins, badges, ribbons, plaques, certificates, trophies, pens, vases, timepieces and sculptures. Today, certain examples in those categories can be sought after by collectors. However, the important word is “certain.” With relatively few collectors of awards out there and awards of one sort or another in virtually every home in America, the laws of supply and demand are always working against you. In order for an award to find a buyer, it has to be the best of the best.

Factors taken into consideration when an award is appraised include age, material, design, size, rarity, difficulty of earning, popularity of subject, prestige of the maker and fame of the recipient.  Thus, a turn-of-the-century Tiffany sterling loving cup trophy for a prestigious horse race might be worth in excess of $50,000, and a simple certificate awarded to an important military general to commemorate a successful campaign could be worth even more. On the other hand, your cousin Bob’s 3-foot tall high school football trophy is likely worth very little to nothing unless it has a really great look or is purchased inexpensively by someone who appreciates the ironic “old-school” humor of it.

If you have a famous ancestor, a family member who received awards made of gold or silver, or if your award pertains to a subject that you think is popular — car racing, acting or professional sports, for example — make sure to have the item looked at by a qualified antiques dealer.  It just may turn out that you’re the biggest winner of all.

Scott Davis operates Rhode Island Antiques Mall, 345 Fountain St., Pawtucket. Contact him at (401) 475-3400 or

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