REEDSVILLE - Antiques appraiser Dr. Lori Verderame, appearing Saturday at the Juniata Valley Home and Garden Show in Reedsville, opened her first show of the day with a promise to the audience: "I will break some of your hearts today, and I will make some people very happy."
By the end of the day, after about 100 items were appraised during two shows and some private sessions, it appeared that most people were happy.
Probably the happiest person was the owner of a 5.5- to 6-carat aquamarine and diamond pendant that Dr. Lori said had an insurance value of $12,000. And perhaps the most heartbroken was the gentleman who paid $125 for an old sausage grinder at an estate auction that Dr. Lori valued at a mere $35.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Dr. Lori talks about a bride’s basket from the 1880s to 1900s during her appraisal show Saturday at the Juniata Valley Home and Garden Show at the Mifflin County Youth Park in Reedsville. The basket, appraised at $1,700, was used during the Victorian time period to collect money from guests at weddings for the newlyweds.
Fortunate appraisals weren't the only source of smiles, as Dr. Lori interjected plenty of jokes, witty sarcasm and good-natured ribbing throughout the fast-paced shows. The local audience knows Dr. Lori for her Art and Antiques column that appears on Saturdays in the Living section of The Sentinel, as well as her appearances on the Discovery Channel's "Auction Kings" on Thursday nights.
Dr. Lori holds a doctorate in art history from Penn State University, where she also taught the subject and worked at the Palmer Museum of Art. She's the author of 30 books and her column appears in 406 publications around the world. A certified fine art and antiques appraiser, Dr. Lori presents more than 150 events every year, appraising about 20,000 items each year.
Her education, her experience and the fact that she does not buy or sell antiques are the qualities that she believes makes her the expert to turn to "to tell you what you've got and tell you what it's worth."
She did just that on Saturday for the people who brought a wide assortment of items to the Youth Park in Reedsville.
"I do this in a classroom environment, so everyone can learn from it," Dr. Lori said as she instructed the people with items to be appraised to bring them to a table in front of the audience. One by one, she quickly examined each item and chatted with the owners about each of the items. Then she set the record straight for them, many times clarifying misconceptions about the objects and always attempting to explain the hows and whys of her conclusions.
Many of the people who brought items to be appraised hauled them out of their attics or removed them from walls or display shelves in their homes. Many items were family pieces, handed down through the generations to the point where the origin, use and worth of the objects were unknown by the owners.
Dr. Lori's appraisals were also peppered with advice about the care and handling of the artwork and antiques.
Take, for instance, the woman who brought in a painting that had belonged to her mother-in-law. It had been in the attic for many years and she was distressed over how dirty the painting was. But, Dr. Lori assured her that the painting really was not dirty and cleaning should not be attempted.
Another woman brought in a miniature blanket chest with a wobbly hinge. After Dr. Lori dated the piece to the 1840s, and valued it at $2,000, the owner asked if she should have the hinge repaired.
"Don't be overzealous about repairing," Dr. Lori said. "Leave it alone."
Keeping objects in the family raises their value, Dr. Lori said, adding that the three types of objects that should always remain in the family are works of original fine art, furniture and jewelry.
Hanging on to items just because they belonged to long gone family members appeared to pay off for many of the people at the shows.
For instance, a man brought in an object he described as an Asian pitcher that he said has been in his family for generations. Dr. Lori told him the item was, in fact, a Chinese ewer from 1715 to 1755, valued at $6,500.
Then there was the painting that a woman had received from a family member. "It's a nice painting, in a cheap frame," Dr. Lori said before revealing that it is the work of Letitia Hart, a late 19th century artist. She dated the painting at 1890, valued it at $4,000 and urged the owner to put it in a nicer frame.
A number of old toys proved to have more than sentimental value. An older man brought in a five-piece Marx train set that he had received for Christmas when he was 8 years old. The 1930s set represented the New York Central Line and, Dr. Lori said, was worth $4,200.
Another woman brought in a child-size John Deere tractor that her grandfather bought in the 1950s for $6. "I put a lot of miles on it," she told Dr. Lori, who then told her that the toy tractor was made in the 1930s and valued it at $2,300.
"The toy collectibles market is one of the most emotional markets," Dr. Lori said. The emotional aspect is what drives the prices up. But a sure way to drive the price down is to alter a piece, a lesson learned by a woman with a toy-size cast iron horse-drawn wagon that someone had repainted. The value before the paint job, Dr. Lori said, would have been $600, but since it was painted, the value decreased to $200.
"If you're not Picasso, don't paint it," Dr. Lori said, adding, "It happens to a lot of pieces like that."
Not all of the items brought to the shows were family heirlooms. Many people brought in objects they purchased at yard sales, estate auctions or found on the side of the road.
Mention yard sales and Dr. Lori's voice gets a little louder and her tone a little more intense. Her message in a nutshell: "Don't host a yard sale. You're selling the farm on your front lawn!"
Yard sales do attract ordinary folks looking for bargains, but they also draw experts from auction houses who are looking for items that the owners are not likely to recognize as valuable. So while buyers can get bargains, and sometimes astonishing deals, sellers may inadvertently let something go that is worth a whole lot more than they imagined.
That was true for the woman who bought a book at a yard sale for $2 that Dr. Lori valued at $1,500, and for the man who purchased a painting for $40 that Dr. Lori valued at $4,000, as well as the woman who purchased a standing easel with a paint box from the White Star Line for $25 at a yard sale that Dr. Lori valued at $700 for its rarity.
Auctions are another venue where collectors can find items that catch their eye, even if they don't know the value of the item they are purchasing.
For example, a gentleman bought a portrait of President Lincoln for $35 at an auction because, he said, he "just loved it." Dr. Lori told him the piece was by a lithographer named Carpenter, who was a premier 19th century printmaker. She valued the portrait at $3,500.
Dr. Lori has been conducting appraisal shows since 1998. Appraisals, she explained, are the opinion of an expert who does not have a financial interest in the object and are based on recent sales of similar items.
For more information, visit www.DrLoriV.com or follow Dr. Lori on Facebook.