Valuing retired treasures

A free lunch, estimate draw seniors to event

August 02, 2007|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,Sun reporter

They brought pitchers and paintings, candlestick holders and a clock that chimed pleasantly every 15 minutes or so.

And then they waited - anxiously - to see whether an appraiser from the PBS series Antiques Roadshow would pick up their precious possession to opine about.

"We are, ourselves, antiques, so we're always interested in old stuff," quipped Arthur Bushel, 86, of Owings Mills, who brought an old pocket watch that he inherited from an uncle who managed a department store in Germany.

Bushel was one of about 100 seniors who crowded into a dining room at the North Oaks retirement community yesterday for a free lunch and a chance to have their items appraised.

Organizers of the event hope that some of those attending will have been so impressed with the program that they contemplate moving to the Pikesville complex.

J. Michael Flanigan, a Baltimore appraiser who regularly appears on the Roadshow series, joked that he was "the bait" for yesterday's luncheon. He was swarmed from nearly the moment he came into the room, mostly by women eager to share their thoughts on the PBS program.

"Every Monday night, my girlfriend Irene calls me or I call her at a quarter to 8 and say, `OK, it's Roadshow time,'" 84-year-old Sylvia Goldscheider gushed to the appraiser. "That's my religion on Monday nights."

She expressed disappointment that she couldn't make it to the recent taping of the show in Baltimore because of her other religion. "The show was on a Saturday and I'm a Sabbath observer," Goldscheider scolded. "Don't do that anymore."

When he got down to the business of appraising the various vases, artwork and tchotchkes assembled before him, Flanigan mixed his assessments with a history lesson or two and the dash of humor typical of the television show.

He talked about an Austrian vase worth an estimated $50 to $75, explaining how the country of origin - and what might be inscribed on the bottom of an item - can tell an owner a lot about its age and worth. A pitcher that's labeled "Made in Occupied Japan" or "Made in West Germany," for instance, had to have been manufactured during a very narrow window of time, Flanigan said.

He advised audience members on how to determine whether a signed piece of art is a fake by checking online databases of artists' signatures and reading up on the type of art for which a particular person was known.

If someone is selling an oil painting purportedly made by an artist who specialized in watercolors, Flanigan said, "It's either very rare or very wrong."

And he discussed the tenets of antiques collecting.

Holding up a ceramic pot that he estimated was just over 100 years old, Flanigan said, "It has one big problem - and it's one of the things I'll stress over and over, especially with ceramics. Damage is death."

Pointing out a small hole in the decorative pot, he told the audience that the antiques business is one that "values virginity."

And the assignment of a dollars-and-cents value that so many people clamor for when it comes to Roadshow appraisals? While a pot like the one he examined might typically bring $50 to $100 at an online auction site such as eBay, Flanigan said, "with damage like that it would be worth more like $15 to $20."

The audience gasped.

"Happily, in our own lives, it doesn't work that way," he said, noting that human beings can break a lot of bones and "still be OK."

jennifer.mcmenamin@balt sun.com

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