Good Life

Art & antiques: Buying tips for New Year’s travelers

Travelers in Russia might want to shop for nesting dolls to take home as collectibles or souvenirs.
Travelers in Russia might want to shop for nesting dolls to take home as collectibles or souvenirs. The Associated Press

As the new year commences, many of us find ourselves taking to the skies or roads on trips for business and pleasure. At this busy time of the year, many people find themselves hustling and bustling to new locales for work or play. As an expert appraiser, people often ask me what items are worth at locations around the world. When I travel — and I travel a lot — I often meet people who ask me what is a good buy or how to spot a bargain.

When collectors travel to various parts of the world, here are some of the collectible items that you may want to shop for in some famed yet fabulous far-off locales:

Australia: Coral jewelry

Caribbean islands: Giant seashells, woven handbags

China: Paintings

Costa Rica: Coffee, handmade wooden crafts

Denmark: Handmade wood objects

Finland: Wool clothing

Germany: Contemporary art, knives

Greece: Pottery

Guatemala: Santos sculptures

Italy: Leather goods and fashion accessories

Japan: Knives and swords

Mexico: Silver, terracotta pottery

Middle East: Gemstones

New Zealand: Wool sweaters

Panama: Hats

Turkey: Linens, tiles

Puerto Rico: Mahogany furniture

Russia: Matroyskas or nesting dolls

South Pacific islands: Basketry, black pearls

Spain: Lladro figurines

Of course, this list is not all inclusive, but it gives travelers a good starting point about what types of objects may be good buys in certain places. While the unique qualities of objects found in far-off lands are interesting, be prepared to shop wisely while on vacation or traveling. Negotiate with cash when you can, be knowledgeable about exchange rates, and be sure to fully understand the shipping and return policies. Remember that in many tourist areas and big cities, the prices are inflated in an effort to attract buyers. Stick to your budget and compare prices from shop to shop whenever you can. No matter where you travel, remember that quality equals value.

Wherever you shop — at home or abroad — negotiate politely and consider the artisan and the locale when shopping for handmade items. The allure of handmade items is the fact that they demonstrate a special talent and help you to recall a special trip as a keepsake or souvenir. Some of my most favorite collectibles from my travels are those handmade items that I bought directly from the artisan or those objects that I bought after an exchange with a shop owner or other local resident. I remember clearly the time I watched as a talented Romanian woman crocheted a tablecloth in Bucharest that I now use in my sun room; how I tried to break the language barrier with a nun at the Vatican gift shop while I shopped for silver rosary beads blessed by the Pope for my mother; and I remember when a local man drew me a map of the local roads so I could find the sculpture studio of a Santos carver in Guatemala. Happy hunting!

Lori Verderame is an antiques appraiser, nationally syndicated columnist and author, and award-winning TV personality with a doctorate in the field. She presents antique appraisal events, keynote speeches and lectures to worldwide audiences. Visit Follow her on DoctorLori or call 888-431-1010.