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Historical Society to hold annual Antiques and Appraisals Day

Old baby dolls, an antique clock, quilts that have been passed down through the family — these are items that might be stored away and forgotten in an attic, basement or storage closet.

If you've ever wondered what they might be worth, here is an opportunity to learn more.

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On Saturday, Sept. 10, the Historical Society of Carroll County, or HSCC, will hold its 16th Antiques and Appraisals Day at the South Carroll Swim Club, at 1900 W. Liberty Road in Winfield, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year there is a new twist with the addition of collectibles.

With nine appraisers on board, HSCC offers experts in varied areas. At past events they've appraised a plethora of items, including quilts and Oriental rugs, fine arts, military items, dolls, furniture, Civil War artifacts, musical instruments, toys, glassware, coins, ceramics and jewelry. This year, collectible plates, sports memorabilia, comic books and more have been added to the mix.

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Westminster resident Tom Gordon Jr. has been working with antiques since 1974. This is his second year as an appraiser at the event.

"I've been interested in antiques since I was 6 years old," Gordon said. "I am the fourth generation of five to collect. My great uncle started collecting in 1900 and collected until his death in 1958. He had a huge collection of autographs and coins."

Gordon said his uncle died when he was 8 years old but his father, who carried tales of his uncle's adventures, was a collector, too.

"I traveled with my dad for 55 years," Gordon said of their antique forays. "My great uncle, when he started in 1900 personally knew people like John Singleton Mosby, known as the gray ghost, and John Surratt, who was involved with the Lincoln conspiracy. As a boy, my uncle was saved from drowning by Theodore Roosevelt, and he wrote letters back and forth to him. Roosevelt said he couldn't understand why anyone would want his autograph."

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With his upbringing in antiques, it was not a surprise when Gordon opened his own antiques shop on Main Street in Westminster, a shop that remained open from 1974 to 1985. After closing the shop he went on the road, doing up to 26 antiques shows a year.

Gordon, who now sits on the HSCC's collections board and marketing committee, said appraisers saw more than 100 items last year, despite a rainy day.

"Wonderful things came in last year, including a Winchester rifle that belonged to Buffalo Bill," Gordon said. "The gun was engraved — a wonderful piece."

Each appraiser scheduled specializes in a specific area. People who attend are assigned to the best appraiser for their item.

"I specialize in historical Americana ephemera," Gordon said. "That is a material that is many times used for something and then thrown away — like letters or early newspapers. I also deal and appraise military material, from World War II back to the revolutionary war, and political campaign items."

Appraiser Nancy Gibson, of Germantown, specializes in textiles.

"I was the textile curator for the DAR [Daughters of American Revolution] Museum in downtown [Washington] D.C. [for 20 years], in charge of about 30 period rooms," Gibson said. "For 12 of those 20 years I did workshops where people brought in textiles for me to identify. I couldn't assign a value because when you are in museum work you are not allowed to do that. I saw hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of objects over their years. Now I am able to share the monetary value."

Gibson, co-author of "A Maryland Album: Quilt-Making Traditions 1634-1934," said that in her past five or six years as an appraiser for this event she has seen some of the quilts from her book come in for appraisals, with the reference number they were assigned sewn into the quilt's edge.

Gibson is also a dealer of vintage and modern antiques.

"I've become an expert in designer handbags, especially vintage ones over the last five years," she said. "You never know what you are going to see."

Gibson said a piece of framed needlework from a past event sticks in her mind.

"It's one of the things I have never forgotten because it was so unusual. It was Indian, made in India. It was embroidered with gold metal thread on black — a picture of a peacock. It was the most exquisite piece of needlework I had ever seen."

Gibson said the person bringing the needlework to be appraised said it had been acquired in the 1930s, made by someone who went to the Royal British Needlework School.

According to Gibson, the monetary value of something often has nothing to do with the true value. It is about the family connection.

"They might not necessarily have a monetary value, but they have a value in that family," she said.

Gordon agreed.

"People look at things with the money value in mind. But something that doesn't have a high monetary value might have another kind of value. Like a collection of newspaper clippings from, say, Manchester from the 1800s would have a great value to me. Someone showed me a scrapbook of this, printed by a newspaper that is now defunct. The collection went into the social history, what the town was like in that era and how the center of activity was at a doctor's house in town. There were clippings of a big fire that took place. I consider that sort of thing to have real value."

Over the years, Westminster resident Maryl Harshey said she has taken several items to be appraised.

"My husband's grandfather collected antique autographs from back into the 1800s," she said. "Last year I took a big framed picture with about 10 or 15 autographs."

The frame contained signatures of Patrick Henry, Lafayette, John Hancock, Henry Clay and George Washington.

"Henry Clay's was from 1803," Harshey said. "Daniel Webster's is on the back of an envelope. George Washington's was on the back of a check. The appraiser couldn't give us any price, but he told us where we could take it, a person in Dallas, Texas. I appreciated that he told us the truth."

Harshey said the picture, along with other items they have, will not be sold. They will be passed down to her children.

"The appraisers all do a good job," she said. "There was all kinds of things there — pottery and small clocks, some early American items — a very nice cross-section."

Lynette Brewer, of Westminster, said she has also taken many items to be appraised over the years. She works at the event each year, filming for the local television station, Channel 19.

"I've been very pleased with the appraisals I have gotten. It is fun to see all the different appraisers lined up at their tables. All sorts of things come through the door and there is always at least one item that simply blows us away. I remember seeing this beautiful framed artwork one year. We were amazed when we found out it was worth thousands of dollars."

The fee for appraisals at this event is $20 for one item, $30 for two items or $35 for three items. No preregistration is required.

"This is such a great opportunity," Gibson said. "It is expensive to get a certified appraiser — usually more than $100 — so here you have a chance with a reasonable price and you can bring multiple items."

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According to the HSCC website at www.hsccmd.org, this event helps fund preservation of their historic buildings, care for a collection of local historical artifacts, documents and photographs, help for those researching their own history, and more.

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For more information, call HSCC at 410-848-6494.

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