James Callear flipped back and forth between his laptop and a fat stack of books as he tried to assign a value to a set of Hull pottery for Bonnie Crabbs at an American Legion post in Westminster.
Crabbs was among dozens who brought their antiques to be appraised Saturday as part of a fundraiser for the Historical Society of Carroll County — and among those who went home pleasantly surprised.
Callear, who has an antiques business in Barnesville, narrowed down the pottery to a kind made between 1949 and 1950, figuring a yellow pottery basket might fetch $135 and two small candleholders as much as $225 each. And a black tea set from Taiwan she'd brought wrapped in a towel might go for $150, according to Callear.
"You're kidding," said Crabbs, who is from Westminster. "I didn't think it was anything."
The appraisal day is the historical society's biggest fundraiser, according to Jennifer Munch, one of the group's chairs, and a chance for people to get a dollar value for things whose worth might previously only have been sentimental.
"It does a great service for folks," Munch said.
Some visitors, who paid $20 to $35 for their items to get a once-over, had to wait to consult with the experts, lounging at tables set up in the Legion hall. Delicate objects sat wrapped in newspaper and old towels all around. Episodes of "Chesapeake Collectibles," a local version of the popular "Antiques Roadshow," played on a large television screen.
Jo Vance sat patiently with an unusual teapot placed in the center of the table in front of her. The pot, in the shape of an old woman whose nose formed a spout, had been a gift to her grandmother when she was young from a friend who had brought it over from Germany.
"We always called her the old lady," Vance said. "I've just always been curious to find out more about her."
After waiting more than an hour, Vance said she spoke with Todd Peenstra and Richard Lowry, who confirmed that the pot was German and probably made around 1870. The two experts disagreed on the value, but eventually settled on a compromise of $300, Vance said.
"It was confirmation of what I thought was right about her," Vance added.
Peenstra and Lowry had been working as a lively double act all afternoon, though each has his own business. The pair figured values for everything from paintings to glass vases, seeing the value in even the most unlikely objects.
For example, Terry Weant hauled in a landscape painting in a battered frame that he said was one of a pair that had hung in the basement of his family's home since it was built in 1961.
In Peenstra's eyes it looked to be — perhaps — the work of an itinerant artist and emblematic of the Americana art of the late 19th century. It might be worth a couple of hundred dollars, he said.
"You're kidding," said Weant's mother, Kyoko Weant, employing a phrase used a number of times Saturday. "I thought about $25!"
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