Ralph and Terry Kovel embarked on their career as antiquing gurus while trying to furnish their first apartment on a budget, according to a newspaper bio. "Neither of us was trained in art, antiques or writing," Terry remembers. "We came from nowheresville as far as the experts were concerned. Maybe that's why we can write what we write, because we think like beginners and write in plain language."
They published their first guide, the Dictionary of Marks: Pottery and Porcelain in 1953. The first edition of Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles, published in 1968, was the first commercially published book to be sold in bookstores that was written and printed on a computer.
Since then, the Kovels have steadily expanded their reach as foremost authorities on old stuff of all kinds. The Kovels have been on television since their 1969 public-television series Know Your Antiques. Their current television program, the award-winning Flea Market Finds with the Kovels, begans its second season on HGTV (Home and Garden Television) in the fall of 2002. They also have a syndicated newspaper column.
Since 1974 the Kovels have published a national subscription-only newsletter, Kovels on Antiques and Collectibles, which has more than 150,000 subscribers in the United States and Canada.
The Kovels are obsessive collectors, and they still make room for new "finds" in their antiques-filled home in Ohio. Their most recent purchase: an 1880s shoeshine stand. They still haven't figured out where they'll put that one. The Kovels home also includes an library filled with 18,000 books about antiques, although they do find time for other types of reading -- Ralph tends to read business-related books, while Terry especially enjoys murder mysteries.
(Ralph and Terry Kovel)
Good to Know
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Ralph and Terry Kovel ("Kovel" rhymes with "Oh Hell!") have collected and worked together throughout their 50-plus-year marriage -- Yes, and they are still married! They have two married children and three granddaughters, all of whom live in 1950s houses.
Terry taught math at a boys' school. Ralph has been in the food business as a manufacturer and executive for years, which explains the 1890s country store in their basement.
The Kovels' strangest claim to fame: They once were offered as shopping companions as part of a prize on a Publishers Clearinghouse contest. They were the subject of a question on the TV game show Jeopardy, cited as experts on an episode of the TV series Northern Exposure, and mentioned in a murder mystery by Elmore Leonard.
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In the summer of 2004, we asked authors featured in Meet the Writers to give us a list of their all-time favorite summer reads, and tell us what makes them just right for the season. Here's what Ralph and Terry Kovel had to say:
A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair by Jonathan Gash -- We love the stories of Lovejoy, the antiques dealer detective! This is one of the most recent in Gash's series of mysteries solved by this antiques dealer with a gift for telling truth from lies, the genuine from fake.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown -- We like mysteries, we like art, and we had to read it to join in the discussions at the water cooler.
The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel -- Somehow we missed this one until it got to paperback. We've been fascinated by the research and detail in all of the Earth's Children series that began with The Clan of the Cave Bear.
Quirky Gardens by Jennifer Isaacs -- Whimsy in the garden. Gnomes, seashell mosaics, teapot trees, shrines to pets and much more are featured in fanciful gardens from around the world. An inspiration for our own strange garden.
The Light of the Home: An Intimate View of the Lives of Women in Victorian America by Harvey Green -- A glimpse of daily life one hundred years ago and the way women cooked, cleaned, and cared for the family.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith -- The first in a series of light, charming books about Precious Ramotswe, a wise woman with common sense who sets up a detective agency in her hometown in Botswana.
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand -- The tale of the horse that was the wonder of the racing world in the late 1930s. A fast-paced story that was made into an award-winning movie.
John Adams by David McCullough -- Don't let the length -- 600+ pages -- keep you from reading this biography. McCullough paints a picture of America during the Revolution and the early days of the Republic, and the men (Adams, Jefferson, Franklin) and women (Abigail Adams and others) who played major roles in the history of our country.
The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson -- A collection of witty essays about the development of the English language from the days of the Anglo-Saxons to today.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams -- Earthling Arthur Dent and his alien pal Ford Prefect escape Earth moments before its destruction. They travel the galaxy in this very funny piece of science fiction that's sure to entertain even those of us who don't usually pick up a sci-fi book.
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|Ralph and Terry Kovel Home
Good to Know
|Dictionary of Marks: Pottery and Porcelain, 1953|
|Directory of American Silver, Pewter and Silver Plate, 1958|
|American Country Furniture 1780-1875, 1963|
|Kovels' Know Your Antiques, 1967|
|The Kovels' Collector's Guide to American Art Pottery, 1974|
|The Kovel Collector's Guide to Limited Editions, 1974|
|Kovels Organizer for the Collector, 1978|
|The Kovels' Illustrated Price Guide to Royal Doulton, 1980|
|Kovels' Know Your Collectibles, 1981|
|The Kovels' Collectors' Source Book, 1983|
|Kovels' New Dictionary of Marks, 1985|
|Kovels' Advertising Collectibles Price List : For the 1989 Market, 1986|
|Kovels' Guide to Selling Your Antiques and Collectibes; Updated Ed., 1987|
|Kovels' American Silver Marks, 1989|
|Kovels' Antiques and Collectibles Fix-It Source Book, 1990|
|Kovels' American Art Pottery: The Collector's Guide to Makers, Marks, and Factory Histories, 1993|
|Kovels' Dictionary of Marks: Pottery and Porcelain/1650-1850, 1995|
|Kovel's Guide to Selling, Buying, and Fixing Your Antiques and Collectibles, 1995|
|Kovels' Quick Tips, 1995|
|Label Made Me Buy It, 1998|
|Kovels' Yellow Pages: A Collector's Directory of Names, Addresses, Telephone and Fax Numbers, E-Mail and Internet Addresses to Make Selling, Fixing, and Pricing Your Antiques and Collectibles Easy, 1999|
|Kovels' Depression Glass and Dinnerware Price List, 2001|
|Kovels' Bid, Buy and Sell Online: Basic Auction Information and Tricks of the Trade, 2001|
|Kovels' Bottles Price List, 2002|
|Kovels' Antiques and Collectibles Price List, 2002|
|Kovels' Yellow Pages: A Resource Guide for Collectors, 2003|
|Kovels' American Antiques, 1750 to 1900, 2004|
|Kovels' Depression Glass and Dinnerware Price List, 2004|
|Kovels' Advertising Collectibles Price List, 2005|
|Kovels' Antiques and Collectibles Price List, 2005|