Personal Property Appraiser Gets Rare Glimpse Into World of Fine Art and Antiques

As CEO and founder of Manzi Personal Property Appraisers, David Manzi has seen fine artwork and rare antiques that would make any museum curator envious, but these coveted items are part of private collections that only a privileged few, like Mancini, will likely ever have the privilege to view in the flesh.

Take for instance , the Turkish shoeshine kit, which dates back to circa 1900 and was part of a collection Manzi recently appraised on Beacon Hill. Made of teak and repousse brass work, this highly ornate piece has side compartments and a footrest.

While Manzi ultimately appraised the item at only about $500, he said that figure doesn’t adequately covey the piece’s scarcity and uniqueness.

“I’d never seen anything like it,” said Manzi. “I’d seen older Moroccan shoeshine kits, and more contemporary Turkish pieces, but nothing like this.”

And the stories behind these items are often equally impressive.

The kit’s current owner, a Beacon Hill resident, was getting his shoes shined in  Istanbul about 40 or 50 years ago, said Manzi, when he struck up a conversation with the shoe-shine man and complimented him on the piece. The shoe-shine man told him told the Hill resident to come back at the end of the day, and that the piece would be his – a promise that he later made good on.

A native of Somerville, Manzi served in the U.S. Marines before earning an undergraduate degree in American History from Cambridge College. “I always had a keen eye for and interest in fine art, decorative art, furniture, and antiques,” he recalls.

Manzi would later earn an MBA in business from Cambridge College before  beginning his career in insurance loss valuations and comparable replacement value appraisal research more than 20 years ago. He had a long stint working for Trefler’s, last serving as president of the Newton-based company from 2013-2019. While Manzi didn’t do appraisals then, he’d still offer comparable values for the items that passed through Trefler’s studios.

Then in April of this year, Manzi opened the business that bears his name, Manzi Personal Property Appraisers, located at 20 Park Plaza, Suite 483, in the Back Bay.

His business operates throughout New England, offering accurate “free market value” and “replacement value” (pre- and post-damage) for buying, selling, insuring, collecting and donating works of art.

Manzi reminds collectors that appraising their valuables is prudent for several essential reasons, including for the purposes of authentication, valuation, documentation, compilation, and organization.

Around June, Manzi appraised another collection, which included a work by a renowned artist he knew, but whose name he couldn’t immediately place.

“I was surprised to see it and couldn’t think of the artist’s name off the top of my head, but I knew it was something special,” said Manzi.

The piece in question was “Untitled B., a 1966 signed, limited-edition lithograph on paper by Philip Guston.

“It’s an interesting piece by one of the greatest artists of the last century,” said Manzi.

Guston, who was born in Montreal and raised in Los Angeles, was a founding member of the New York School movement of the mid-20th century, as well as a friend of Jackson Pollock’s.

As for the value of the piece Manzi appraised, he put in the $10,000-$15,000 range, and while Manzi had seen Manzi’s work in person before, it was only in museums and not held by an individual.

The same collection also included a chair with angled back rests and soft black leather seats designed by the venerable and highly prolific furniture maker, Hans J. Wegner.

Wegner helped change the course of design history in the 1950s and ‘60s, said Manzi, who added that Vice President Richard Nixon and Sen. John F. Kennedy were seated on Wegner chairs during the first nationally televised Presidential debate in 1960.

Again, Manzi had previously only seen Wegner furniture in museums and never in a privately held collection. He appraised a set of nine Wegner chairs at around $13,500.

In all, this collection comprises between 50 and 60 pieces – both art and furniture – and while Manzi said it’s difficult to put a valuation on the lot, he estimates it would probably be somewhere in the range of $150,000 to $175,000.

 This tally also doesn’t include the Picasso found in the collection, however, since Manzi said he is still trying to authenticate that piece.

As for current trends he’s seeing, Manzi said brown furniture – something which is “unique to the character of Beacon Hill and Boston in general” – isn’t very popular presently, with people instead largely opting for more contemporary, modern pieces that are replaceable furniture that can be at places like Jordan’s and IKEA.

To learn more about Manzi Personal Property Appraisers, visit, email David Manzi at [email protected], or call 617-948-2577.

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