Antiques and Your Home: Great Stories Accompany Great Antiques

by Dr. Lori

Many people attend my appraisal events with family heirlooms or flea market finds; but there are some audience members that just like to watch the show. While my appraisal style is unlike anything you’ve seen in the antiques world, my audience likes to hear about history and partake in my rapid fire, informative, funny, and totally unscripted events.

Here are some of the stories that I recall from the latest round of touring the country presenting Dr. Lori’s Antiques Appraisal Comedy Show. Some objects are worth big bucks and other objects have big stories to tell. From locales far and wide, these are America’s stories. Read on.

Estero, FL: A woman named Beverly brought in a $6,000 sterling silver gravy boat made by the esteemed designer Georg Jensen. She said she didn’t care much for her mother in law who gave it to her, but she sure liked her gravy.

Denver, CO: A guy named Jeff who said he’d rather eat mud than go to a yard sale bought an 1850s era quilt from a yard sale for $20 and brought it to me for an evaluation. It was an Amish-made Rose of Sharon pattern textile worth $8,500.

Seattle, WA: A waiter named Kelly served a big table of diners and did not receive a tip. Instead, the diners left a small bag on the table with a Native American turquoise and silver squash blossom necklace. After a month of waiting for the owners to return to the restaurant to pick up the necklace, the owner told Kelly that the necklace was his tip. It was worth $5,000.

Tulsa, OK: I was rendered speechless–a first for me–when I saw an amazing Albrecht Durer print among the objects for me to appraise. I got very, very quiet when I realized that an audience member had brought in an authentic Durer work of art dating to the 1500s. It was a magnificent piece of Renaissance art produced by the artist best known as the “German Leonardo.” The lovely owner told me that it was a gift from her deceased friend who collected old master prints. And, a masterpiece it was–worth $60,000-$75,000.

Portland, OR: While cleaning out her aunt’s house, Cathy discovered a Walt Disney animation cel from the 1940s. Appraised value: $9,000.

St. Louis, MO: Seven year old Corinne wanted me to appraise her cell phone to see if her mother loved her or her nine year old sister more…  Truth be told, they both had a better cell phone than I did.

Mt. Carmel, PA: A woman showed me her circa 1920s platinum, diamond, and sapphire ring that was an anniversary gift from her husband. She said that her husband got it from “Blackie at the pool hall.” That Art Deco piece of pool hall jewelry was worth $25,000.

Washington, DC: A gentleman who made it clear that he was not a tea drinker brought me an 18th Century French-made sterling silver samovar produced for the Russian court of Catherine the Great. It was worth $15,000.

State College, PA: A gentleman in his 90s whose family had links to the Plimoth colony brought a teapot that came over on the Mayflower. With significant information and the documentation to prove it, the silver teapot was worth $150,000.

Houston, TX: A lawyer named Ray and his wife Robin were having a heated discussion over a beat-up upholstered chair that Ray bought at a yard sale. He wanted to try a new hobby, furniture re-upholstery, so he had stored the chair in their garage in anticipation of starting the project. Robin, fed up with the situation that left her car outside, told him to start the re-upholstery project or trash the chair. So, Ray started ripping off the old upholstery only to find two pieces of cardboard inside the back of the chair with a work of art sandwiched in between them. The work of art was brought to me for evaluation. It was a French Impressionist drawing by Edgar Degas depicting ballet dancers worth $100,000.

Bloomsburg, PA: I will never forget the man who yelled at me when I told him that his glass Ball canning jar was not rare. It was marked 1858 on the side. The owner believed it was the first one ever made—it wasn’t! Value: $8.

Seattle, WA: Mai Lin brought me a French Impressionist watercolor by the artist, Eugene Boudin that her father got in payment of a debt. He ran a dry goods shop in Hong Kong during World War II. The watercolor was left to him in exchange for a payment. The piece was valued at $17,500—there aren’t enough dry goods on earth to make that a fair deal.

Hazelton, PA: A couple in their 80s brought an American Impressionist landscape painting to one of my events. While waiting for the event to begin, they were approached by two young men who offered to buy the painting from them on the spot. They offered the couple $8,000 for the painting and urged them not to have me appraise it. They rejected the offer. I appraised it and it was worth $100,000. Sometimes you don’t want to take the first offer you hear.

Tulsa, OK:As a Connecticut native, I couldn’t resist wearing–with the owner’s permission–a real western sheriff’s badge. A woman brought in a US Marshal’s gold sheriff’s badge from the Oklahoma territory, circa 1906-07. It was worth $1,000. It’s not too often that you see one of those in New Haven!

Trenton, NJ: I coaxed a guy named Dan into wearing the strand of pearls that he bought at a Goodwill Thrift Store for $15 and brought in for an appraisal. When I explained that he had a purchased an opera length strand of hand knotted 6 millimeter Mikkimoto cultured pearls dating back to the 1950s worth $2,500 bucks, he ran up to my stage to model them for the audience.

Roanoke, VA: I told a nice guy who just wanted to keep an old crock that sat at the top of his grandmother’s staircase that some sentimental objects are worth cash. While he acquired the oversized crock from his late grandmother for sentimental reasons, he soon  found out that it was the perfect size for putting his beer on ice. The early 1900s crock featured a cobalt blue flower on the side. The owner nearly fell off my stage when I told him that it was worth $5,000. He said that he was heading home to break the news to his football buddies that they need to chip in for a new beer cooler.  

Hazelton, PA: Nick, a regular at my appraisal events, brought an American flag for me to appraise. His flag showing the dates 1776/1876 had been in his family for years and was flown over the streets of Philly during the 1876 World’s Fair (Centennial Expo) parade. Today, that handmade flag is worth $20,000. Nick’s flag was not only old but glorious, too.

Lancaster, PA: Five-year old Carlie brought me a Lewis and Clark peace medal like those that the Jefferson administration gave to the Native Americans as Lewis and Clark explored the western territories. It was discovered when she was sifting through her grandfather’s button jar. It was worth $5,000.

Knoxville, TN: A woman purchased a box lot that included a metal badge from the early 1800s. Engraved on the badge was a statement that read: “Coachman is allowed in the city of Charleston, SC at any hour with the coach.” This was an unusual object even for this city which was known to be at the center of the slave trade. It was worth $400.

Akron, OH: An 80 year old woman was accompanied by her adult daughter and one of the family’s many Currier & Ives prints. The daughter wanted me to tell her mother to stop letting perfect strangers into the house where she lives alone to see her prints. Mom promised to stop the dangerous practice after I appraised just one of the original 19th Century American prints for $18,000.

Kansas City, MO: A woman named Joan purchased an ugly drawing of an eagle with a Picasso signature on it that she thought was a print at an estate sale for $2.50. It wasn’t a print but rather an original Picasso drawing worth $50,000.

Baltimore, MD: A US Airways flight attendant brought an old radio with Disney characters (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) on it from the 1940s in fair condition. Another one just like it had sold for $11,500 in excellent condition. I told Laura that her Disney collectible is worth $5,000-$6,500.

Anderson, SC: A first edition, signed copy of Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell with the original book jacket was purchased by Bob at a book fair about 10 years ago. When he brought it to me for an appraisal, I told him that he made a good return on his $200 investment. That book is worth $50,000.

Louisville, KY: A 30-something guy named Paul was supported his grandmother and his extended family when grandma’s house went into foreclosure. He took the weathervane off of the barn on the property that was in deep financial trouble and brought it to me. The copper weathervane was worth $15,000 and would help get the family back on their feet again.

Indianapolis, IN: A newlywed couple brought in a Gibson banjo that was found in the attic of the new house they purchased from their grandfather. Disappointed that the instrument wasn’t a guitar, I explained that banjos were actually more popular than guitars in the early 1900s. The banjo by the famous maker was worth $1,500 which was just enough to fund their honeymoon.

Ft. Myers, FL: A woman paid $1 at a yard sale for a drawing by the court artist to Louis XV, Francoise Boucher of an angel. Betty brought it to my appraisal event in southwest Florida and I told her it was authentic and worth $40,000.

Akron, OH: A very smelly old sock monkey was purchased at an estate sale. If you can smell it, you can’t sell it. Value:  Smelly!

Lubbock, TX: A collection of rare autographs from the 1930s-50s owned by a man named William that were collected by a policeman who worked near the Polo Grounds in New York. The officer would just leave a blank autograph book near the locker room exit and when the New York Yankee players and members of the opposing team left the ball field, they would be asked to sign the book. Value of the hundreds of autographs by the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto and others was $5,000.

Glastonbury, CT: An original campaign button from George Washington’s campaign in the form of a car coat button. The piece was dug up from the ground while its owner was doing some light gardening. He dug up an object from the Revolutionary war period worth $2,200.

Omaha, NE: A gentleman had an early 1800s good luck charm that had a provenance linking it to Napoleon Bonaparte. It was a jewel encrusted object in the form of a crystal sphinx that was like the one painted in a portrait of the French Emperor. The owner, a golf pro, got the object on a trade for a set of golf clubs.

Lynchburg, VA: A man brought in one of the oldest objects that I’ve appraised in a long time: a portrait bust from ancient Rome that his parents handed down to him. He knew it was valuable but didn’t know how valuable. It had been in his family for quite some time, dating back generations. Value: $25,000.

Virginia Beach, VA: A few members of one military family struggle to bring their object to my event. It takes three big guys to lift it. Why? Because the object they want me to appraise is a giant piece covered in graffiti of the Berlin Wall…

I can safely say at a rate of 20,000 objects a year for nearly two decades appraising people’s stuff, I have seen it all. The stories are just as fabulous and the people and the objects that accompany them.

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