Living Columns & Blogs

Events find treasure among trash

At more than 150 events each year called “Dr. Lori’s Antiques Appraisal Comedy Show,” I appraise audience members’ heirlooms and antiques. I mostly talk about history and values. Nothing is vetted beforehand, as I appraise and authenticate objects on the spot.

I don’t know what object is going to be put in front of me at any of my appearances. I appraise and educate using years of experience in museums, universities, a doctorate in art and antiques history and all of the experience that I glean from what happens with regular folks out in the field. I tell it like it is — if it is a piece of junk, I say it’s junk. If it is fantastic, I get just as excited as the owner.

Over the years, my appraisal events have surprised my audiences and me. Recently at my event in Pittsburgh, I spotted a rare French Impressionist painting by Eugene Boudin, a mentor to Claude Monet, that was purchased at auction in a box lot for $5.

The painting was first brought to another appraiser who didn’t know what it was and then it was presented to me in front of my live audience. I told the owner seated in my audience that he had a rare French painting from the 1870s worth $150,000. I’ve discovered a multimillion dollar trinket belonging to Napoleon, a moon boot that went into space on Apollo 13 with astronaut Jim Lovell and George Washington’s 1775 wallet, among other historical artifacts at my events over the years.

During my appraisal events, I have discovered some treasures among the trash. People have brought me objects including silver candle sticks, sports memorabilia, signed NASA log books, rocking chairs, table top music boxes, jewelry and oil paintings.

An original Walt Disney animation cel depicting Jiminy Cricket from original 1940s classic movie “Pinocchio” was a showstopper. The animation art piece was worth $15,000 based on the market where similar pieces have sold. The owner said it was just always on the wall of her childhood home.

An audience member brought me a cast-metal sculpture of a female figure that was signed and numbered by the artist. She had purchased it at a yard sale for a few dollars and when I told her it was a famous work by a well-known artist worth $5,000, she asked me if I was sure ... about 50 times. After I reminded her how many books I’ve written on sculpture and how many objects I appraise every year — about 20,000 — she realized that yes, I was sure.

Another audience member was thrilled to hear that she had a characteristic Art Deco work of art by Louis Icart worth $3,000. There was also a nice guy, who works cleaning out houses, and we agreed that people throw away good stuff. I appraised his sterling silver Tiffany bowl found in a dumpster at $500 and a 1950s Patek Phillippe wristwatch pulled from the trash worth $1,000.

A fan of History channel’s “The Curse of Oak Island” told me that he was just as happy to meet me in person because he loves the history that I share on the hit TV show. He was also happy to find out that his 19th-century Japanese woodblock print brought back from World War II was worth $2,000. And a woman knew it wasn’t child’s play when I appraised her early 20th-century German wooden toy circus with numerous animals in perfect condition for $1,500.

I’m also happy with the continued interest in antiques among millennials and other young people like an 11-year-old who was doing a school project to research whether her mom’s Beanie Baby was “a fake or worth a fortune.” She came to my event to interview me for her school project. She told me that she really enjoyed learning about history at the appraisal event and to see everyone else’s antiques.

So many millennials and newlywed couples bring me objects to appraise and identify. Many 20- and 30-year-olds are interested in vintage design, chic interiors, repurposing projects, vintage object and antique collecting. Many young couples participated in my appraisal shows to find out what to buy at yard sales, how to spot a valuable antique or family heirloom, how to get an item of high quality and usefulness, to decide whether they should repurpose an old piece, what to ask grandma to hand down and how to sell for top dollar using my tips at Join me at an event near you soon.

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.