The King Of Collectibles Rates Your ‘Trash Or Treasure’

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Westbury resident Steve Fleming (left, seated) sits back as Eddie Costello looks over his vintage samurai sword and estimates its worth.

So, you’ve been eyeing your old comic book collection with the foil-embossed variant covers and the box of vintage G.I. Joe figures—including the exclusive mail-away Cobra Commander—and wondering how much they’d all get you on the open market. After all, collectibles are big business these days, but before you run out with your antique vase or vintage baseball cards and demand top dollar—or are suckered by a dishonest buyer and offered a pittance—there’s one man you should consider talking to get the real deal on what your prized possessions may really be worth.

Eddie Costello of Massapequa Park has been appraising items for over 50 years, and to hear him tell it at his recent “Trash or Treasure” event at the Westbury Library—part of a series he conducts across Long Island where he looks over your goods and determines if they’re fortune or flop—there’s no one in the business better than he is.

“I’m 83 years old, and in this time I’ve done it all…I’ve done restoration, I’ve curated three museums,” he said. “I can come to your home and I can appraise anything…I’m the only person on Long Island who can do this. I can look at your car, your sword, your painting, and tell you what its worth, and I bet you I come within 10 percent every single time. That stuff talks to me.”

Possessing a doctorate in history, Costello is both a student and a master of what does and doesn’t make a thing valuable. By the hard and fast rules of collecting, he noted that the status of a true antique can only be confirmed if the item was made 100 years before 1930; this is due to the fact that the era in question was before the Industrial Revolution, when things were made by hand.

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Johnny Coban of West Hempstead is a regular at Costello’s events, and shows off a old Shirley Temple embroidery set that he hopes to have appraised. (Photos by Chris Boyle)

“If it’s beautiful, and made by hand, then it’s valuable,” he said. “So, if you’re at a garage sale and you find something that’s beautiful and made by hand, which is more important than the date it was made, you might want to buy it. You can’t go wrong.”

The “Trash or Treasure” event was heavily attended by a number of people lugging their valuables to be subjected to Costello’s judgment. Westbury resident Steve Fleming came brandishing a beautiful, highly-detailed samurai sword. However, his intention wasn’t to use it according to the code of Bushido, but to see if Costello would work his magic and estimate its worth.

“I think the sword is from World War II…my brother-in-law wanted it out of his house because he didn’t want his three kids near it,” he said. “He got it from his father…I don’t know if he served in the war, but he’s about the right age to have done so.”

After giving the impressive weapon a solid look-see, Costello confirmed both its approximate age and value; both of which were greater than its owner had originally estimated.

“This sword is more likely from World War I…one way you can tell is by the scabbard, which is made from steel. Newer sword scabbards would be made with leather,” he said. “I never buy or sell, only appraise, but if I was a buyer, I’d probably offer you $500, which is low compared with its actual worth, just to get it from you so I could sell it for a great deal more. This is a very dishonest business. Remember that most buyers will only offer you about 10 percent and that sword is worth a lot of money.”

Johnny Coban of West Hempstead is a vintage and antique collector and seller who has dealt with Costello many times in the past, and has come to rely on his mastery of determining the worth of just about anything and everything he touches.

“Eddie is a great source of education for learning about what’s popular, the history of antiques and collectibles,” he said. “Plus, he’s very funny…he’s amazing. And even if I only learn one thing coming here today, it’s totally worth it.”

To contact Eddie Costello, email him as edtique@aol.com.

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