Treasure: Carving’s material a mystery no longer

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Almost four decades have passed since Frederick Lawrence (aka “Larry”) Kahle picked up a carving in Tokyo. That’s a long time to wonder about something, but Kahle says he has known little about the souvenir since he purchased it all those years ago. He remembers buying from a reputable antique dealer in Japan for approximately $2,500.

“I believe it is malachite,” he wrote in an email to the column asking for an appraisal. “It is 15 inches in length, five inches wide and 7 1/2 inches high, weighing 35 pounds. This is not including the carved wooden base. I have no idea as to its origin.”

Fortunately for him, the experts at DuMouchelles Auction House and Gallery, where he brought it in recently as part of a Trash or Treasure appraisal session, did. Appraiser Jim Flannery took a closer look at Kahle’s piece and filled him in on what he could about the item which Kahle says he first thought was an elephant but later decided was probably a rhinoceros.

Flannery agreed, although he disputed the material. “I took a really good look at this, as did Bob DuMouchelle and the first thing that we think is that it’s just not malachite,” he told him. “We believe this is a jadeite piece and that it’s probably originally from Burma and may have been imported into Japan at some point before you purchased it.”

As for the age of the piece, he thought it probably dated to the 1940s or 1950s but not much earlier. “It’s not particularly old but it is very nicely done,” he told Kahle, praising the quality of its workmanship. “It’s well done, especially around the legs and shoulders, and is the largest of its type that I have seen.”

Flannery says that the antiques and collectibles market goes up and down, and that right now the item’s auction value would unfortunately probably be less than what he paid all those years ago. He said he’d start the low estimate at about $800 but would expect it to sell for more than that. “Auction value is more of a wholesale price, not retail, but this is the kind of piece where we really don’t know what it would bring, it could go up to $1,500 or more if the right person was interested. Auction values are always conservative and if I were appraising this for insurance value I’d put it at $3,000. Obviously at auction we never discourage anyone from raising the price well over the estimate.”

He also identified the base as teak, which was a common material used at the time and in the country of origin.

“It’s a very attractive piece and if you were to put it at auction, you could do well, but it’s really hard to anticipate,” he told him. Kahle says he always thought the piece was interesting but he’s trying to decide what to do next. “It just caught my eye all those years ago. Now I’m trying to decide if I should sell it or give it away.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About This Item

Item : Jadeite sculpture

Owner : Frederick “Larry” Kahle

Appraised by : Jim Flannery, DuMouchelles

Estimated value : $800-$1,500 and up at auction