Kovel, Ralph 1920-2008 (Ralph M. Kovel, Ralph Mallory Kovel)

views updated

Kovel, Ralph 1920-2008 (Ralph M. Kovel, Ralph Mallory Kovel)


See index for CA sketch: Born August 20, 1920, in Milwaukee, WI; died of complications from a broken hip, August 28, 2008, in Cleveland, OH. Antiques expert, collector, business executive, educator, television personality, columnist, and author. Kovel not only made antiques his career, he made them his life. Kovel and his wife, Terry, published nearly one hundred guides for collectors and purveyors of antiques and other collectibles, but the catalogs and price lists represent only one facet of a life spent among artifacts and artworks great and small. Kovel's personal collection was enormous and ranged over a surprisingly wide range of specialties. He collected furniture and baseball cards, pottery and board games, as well as bottle caps, Barbie doll clothes, labels for canned goods (reportedly a collection of more than 10,000 items), and other products. Kovel's passion for collecting began in an antique shop in Bermuda during his honeymoon in 1950, and it began as a hobby. Kovel was a food broker, an executive in the food industry, an officer of the company that later became known as Sara Lee, and a president of U.S. Brands. In 1953 he published his first book, and it was not long before his hobby became his life work, almost all of it carried out in partnership with his wife. The couple wrote columns for syndication and for House Beautiful. They hosted award-winning television series and miniseries, and they appeared in television commercials. They contributed to many magazines, such as Family Circle and Town and Country, and published their own newsletters. Kovel also taught classes in decorative arts at the institution now known as Case Western Reserve University. He and his wife also created the Internet Web site Kovels.com. Kovel was generous with his knowledge and his advice, but he never parted with his enormous personal collection, except for the occasional gift to a friend. His publications provide clues to his apparently limitless interests in the areas of antiques and vernacular arts. In addition to the annual and biannual price lists, the books include Kovels' Guide to Selling, Buying, and Fixing Your Antiques and Collectibles (1995), The Label Made Me Buy It: From Aunt Jemima to Zonkers; The Best-Dressed Boxes, Bottles, and Cans from the Past (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' Bid, Buy, and Sell Online (2001), and Kovels' American Collectibles, 1900-2000 (2007).



Chicago Tribune, September 7, 2008, sec. 4, p. 6.

Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2008, p. B7.

New York Times, September 7, 2008, p. A24.