In 1970, one of Barbara Bonnell's favorite art galleries purchased a set of 12 framed, antique lithographs — one for each month of the year — for a client who, as it turned out, didn't want them after all.
The gallery called Bonnell, then of Guilford, to see if she would be interested in buying them. She and her husband, Robert Bonnell Jr., paid $2,500 for the set, which dates to 1802.
On Wednesday, Bonnell, 82, now a resident of Roland Park Place and chair of its residents' association, brought the August lithograph, of a woman and her child, downstairs to the dining room to get it appraised at a "treasure hunting" event sponsored by the retirement community and modeled after "Antiques Roadshow" on TV.
Bonnell guessed that the set, made in Paris, France, would be worth about $3,000 now. She was wrong.
"I really like this," art and antiques expert Todd Peenstra, of Annapolis-based Peenstra Antiques Appraisals, told an audience of 25 seniors. He explained that the lithograph looked like the genuine article, made of rags beaten to a pulp and fashioned into "woven" paper of the day. He also said it is rare to see an intact set, and that the only downside was that the lithograph market isn't as strong as it once was.
Then, he asked three people in the audience to guess how much the set was worth. One guessed $3,000, another $5,000, and a third thought it was only worth $1,000. They were all wrong, too.
"12,500," Peenstra announced.
"Woooooo," said Bonnell.
"Security!" quipped Steve Gouterman, a jewelry appraiser from NovaGold LLC, in northern Virginia.
The event, a first for Roland Park Place, was mostly just for fun, but there's a serious side, too, as seniors downsize or leave their valuables to their children, as the Bonnells are planning to do.
"We're always looking for good ideas for the residents," said spokeswoman Bridget Forney Deise. "This seemed like a good fit."
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Resident Mary Delbanco wanted an appraisal of a necklace that her husband bought for her in 1950.
"It's been in my family ever since," she said.
But although the necklace had sentimental value, it did not have much monetary value. Gouterman appraised it at $40 to $50.
Resident Felicity Pocock, originally of England, fared better. Her great-great-grandmother's mahogany "traveling sewing kit," made in India with ivory insets and a secret drawer, would fetch $3,500, said Peenstra.
And a bracelet that Pocock brought to the event is worth $2,500, said Gouterman.
Deise said Roland Park Place will probably offer the event again. She said it's worth residents' while to get the appraisals, if for no other reason than "for the cool factor."
Bonnell was speechless when asked how she felt about the appraisal. She simply chuckled and crossed her fingers.