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By the Way: Antiques appraisals unfold local history


I’ve always loved PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow,” so when I heard the Riegelsville Public Library was doing a local version where experts would separate heirlooms from wannabes hanging around the house for years, I decided at the last minute to go but couldn’t find the antique I wanted to take.

But plenty of others were more prepared, and they carted their treasures into Riegelsville Borough Hall for the Sunday afternoon fundraiser.

Three members of the Pennsylvania Antiques Appraisers Association examined and spoke about everything from a Yugoslavian rocking chair made in the 1970s to a handful of old gold coins. Values: the rocker, rated “a nice sturdy chair”; the coins, if certified to be worth their weight in a specific high-value gold, perhaps as much as $7,000 each.

What appealed to me most, here, as on the network program, were the accompanying stories, lending personality and life to the inanimate objects and unfurling a bit of history.

One of the stars of the show was a salesman’s sample of an old iron stove complete with pots and pan, the entire set in mint condition, it was dated around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. Its owner said it had been a fifth birthday gift for her mother-in-law.

Value: About $500. The owner was so excited she dashed home and brought in another, but not quite so perfect. That was appraised at $450. And the happy owner confessed she had paid $25 for it at a flea market.

The appraisers included William D’Anjolell of Imagine Antiques and Appraisals, Newtown, who specializes in American and European ceramics, prints and ephemera; Dan Worden of the Silver Solution in Lambertville, American, English and Continental silver; and Ashley King of The Clock Trader in Quakertown, fine modern and antique clocks and music boxes.

Each gave thoughtful, individual responses to those bringing in antiques. Not everyone stayed for the full program, but those who did got a kind of fascinating study of human behavior in relation to antiques.

D’Anjolell started the sociological ball rolling by declaring, “Since the 1990s, values are down across the board,” an opinion often cited on “Antiques Roadshow” as well. He also pointed to generational changes in the market, claiming many millennials are more interested in the here and now and the future. “Kids don’t want dining room sets anymore,” he said, reflecting dinner parties at home are a thing of the past. “They care more about updated baths and kitchens,” he added.

Nevertheless, some old furniture is desirable. He was given a photo of a Hoosier cabinet, popular in kitchens in the early 1900s before built-in cabinets. It was in excellent condition and D’Anjolell set a price of $1,200.

When he was asked, “What’s hot right now?” he answered, “Movie posters from the 1920s and ‘30s,” Circus posters are also rare, but he warned no one wants posters of clowns. He said, “People fear clowns, and author Stephen King didn’t help that.” But when the next question was, “What will be the next hot thing, he said, “If I knew that…”

All in all, a wide array of antiques was appraised, with some interesting facts emerging. For example, Worden, the silver specialist, noted the English always dated their silver, while Americans did not.

King, the clock specialist, said cuckoo clocks from Germany’s Black Forest, so popular in this country in the 1950s, have not held their value. He appraised an old schoolhouse clock he said would have brought about $300 in the 1990s, would have a value of only $40 or $50 in today’s market.

A 1930s train set in mint condition would bring $500 to $700.

Hummel figurines, collected by so many, now are valued at about $6 or $7 each, but a Lady Diana bear from the 1970s could bring as much as $600.

I’m hoping the library will do this again next year. Estelle Bloom of Durham, who chaired the event, said, “Maybe.”

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