Open Forum: Art, antiques . . .

Posted: May 11, 2013

Carry-on luggage, springtime weather, Discovery Channel fans, NASCAR great Bill Elliott, best mobile seat in the parade (on the back of a Mustang convertible), country music “Idol” Scotty McCreery, cornhole games, military heroes, Jep Robertson’s beard, the Clydesdales, warm and welcoming community, really cool antiques . . .

This list sums up my weekend at the 86th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.

I so enjoyed my time in Winchester. In addition to Scotty and the folks from “Duck Dynasty,” I am such a big sports fan that I was really star-struck when I met Bill at the Grand Marshal’s Reception.

Later in the weekend, I laughed a lot with Discovery Channel fans at the Grand Feature Parade and at my antiques appraisal show. I present my show more than 150 times every year — it’s a funny, fact-filled, and frank look at art, antiques and collectibles.

I started my Antiques Appraisal Comedy Tour in 1998 in an attempt to educate the public about their heirlooms and flea-market finds. I was prompted to take my knowledge to the streets after meeting an elderly woman who had been taken advantage of by an unscrupulous appraiser — he had given her only $50 for a historic document worth $50,000. He knew what he was buying; she didn’t know what she was selling. I never thought I could “save the world” talking about antiques, but I didn’t want anyone else losing out on a family heirloom like that woman had.

So, I quit my university teaching job, left the world of major museums, and have been on the road ever since.

In Winchester, just like other places, I discussed the art, antiques, and collectibles brought to “The Bloom.” I broke a heart or two and I made some people very, very happy by teaching them how to recognize a valuable antique.

I appraised Staffordshire ceramic dogs and highlighted the highly recognizable color of the quality clay from England. I appraised a painting that dated back to the early 1800s and showed the audience how they could tell if a painting were painted by a European or by an American just by looking at one area on the back.

I appraised a temple rubbing from Thailand on paper and pointed out how the paper fibers will reveal the age of the work. I appraised a piece of Native American pueblo pottery showing the audience its characteristic black-on-black design traits. And, I even appraised Bing Crosby’s hat!

While I always remember the fans who attend my events like Dillion who proved to me that he was a shrewd negotiator when he bargained for some antique ammo at a yard sale, or Barbara, who didn’t mind that her antique-shop purchase wasn’t all that valuable because she had fun learning about her picture of cherubs anyway.

Robert brought a very valuable and quite rare (an attribute which helps make it valuable) piece of scrimshaw in the shape of a powder horn to my appraisal show. The powder horn was decorated by hand by a sailor on the “Sally Anne,” an early 18th century ship. I told Robert that similar pieces have sold for $15,000 to $20,000 on the retail market. Apple Blossom or not, Robert had a good day.

Antiques aside, I learned that “The Bloom” is about more than celebrities, parades, and apples. It’s about welcoming spring and celebrating the community.

And, in that spirit, one antique took center stage at my appraisal event. It was a beautiful, Scottish tea caddy dating back to the 18th century. Secured with a lock since tea was a premium commodity, the carved wooden caddy was in fine condition and was worth $4,000 to $6,000.

The owner, Jim, and his wife could not have brought a more fitting antique to my appraisal show at the festival. Why was this tea caddy so special? It was an apple!

Dr. Lori, the expert appraiser on the hit TV show “Auction Kings,” was a special guest at the 86th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.