Rags or riches?
By EILEEN SCHULTE
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001
In June 1999, Pat France hauled a 7-foot-long Victorian embroidery sampler and a hand-painted plaque encrusted with crosses and jewels to PBS's Antiques Roadshow when it made a stop in Tampa.
She said it was "not the kind of experience I want to repeat."
As the owner of Victoria's Parlour Antiques in Belleair Bluffs, France wasn't your typical participant. She can be considered an expert herself, and she does her own appraisals at smaller appraisal fairs.
So she knew when she had gotten the shaft.
One of the TV guys said her plaque was worth between $1,400 and $1,500, France said.
"Another guy said, "There's not much interest in religious stuff. Maybe she could knock the cross off,' " remembered France, laughing.
France said she was "really disappointed," not because her antiques weren't worth a pile of money, but because the TV experts were rushed, tired and didn't seem to pay attention to what they were doing.
She promises to do better when she is an antiques expert at the second annual Antique Appraisals at Heritage Village Saturday.
Nine experts, including France, will appraise pre-1950s dolls, glass, dishes, books, gems, clocks, paintings, china, Indian artifacts, guns, jewelry and even armor. And they will even attempt to appraise the value of furniture by looking at photos of the pieces.
France's specialty is oriental rugs, paintings and costume and genuine jewelry.
Verbal appraisals cost $5 for each item, or $12 for three items. Proceeds will benefit the the Pinellas County Historical Society.
"Last year we had 1,000 people. We had to turn people away," said Jody Stanley, a representative of the Pinellas County Historical Society which is producing the event. "That's the reason we had to limit people to three items."
For experts, judging the value of an antique is kind of like a physician diagnosing an illness. It takes knowledge, experience and research.
It's not an exact science. The estimated value of a piece can be lower if it is being sold at an estate sale, higher if it's being appraised for insurance purposes, France said.
"We always look at price guides," said France, who has owned her business for 16 years. "There are several different guides you can use. . . . I bring the books with me as well as art reference books."
Some of the books can tell her what a similar antique has sold for in the past.
"It's like a challenge for my brain," France said. "And sometimes it's like, "I'm sorry, I don't know.' Last year, we had an Oriental set of little pots. No one could figure out what their purpose was. It was like, take a picture and send it to the Smithsonian."
She said she likes to do the appraisal events because she likes to "point people in the right direction," giving them the history of the piece to the best of her ability. But some people may be in it for the money.
Last year, someone brought in an ivory sculpture, sure it would be worth $100,000 or more. The owner was not pleased to learn the piece was a fake worth about $50.
"It was a reconstituted, molded piece," she said. "You hate to tell someone it's not real."
She didn't have to tell that to a person who brought in a Russian bronze sculpture, a beautiful Cossack soldier worth between $3,000 and $5,000.
The owners knew it was a nice piece, France said, "but they didn't know it was (by) a listed artist."
She calls appraising a fun thing to do, and is closing down her shop Saturday to do it.
She asks that people bring in items that are at least 100 years old. Last year, someone brought in a 20-year-old item, something France considers a collectible, not an antique.
Stanley said she arranged to have nine appraisers instead of six this year to handle the crowds, which she expects to be large.
"Everybody loves Antiques Roadshow," she said. "This is a smaller version of it."
If you go
The Pinellas County Historical Society's Antique Appraisals will be at Heritage Village from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Heritage Village, 11909 125th St. N, Largo. Experts will look at clocks, china, paintings, pre-1950s dolls, guns, armor, jewelry (real and costume), Indian artifacts and even photos of furniture. The cost is $5 per antique, or $12 for three antiques (limit three items). Proceeds benefit the Pinellas County Historical Society.
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