Art & Antiques: Fielding your antiques questions

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I share advice about art, antiques, and the appraisal of personal property in this column and at my public events hosted worldwide. Here are a few questions from the field.

Question: What is the best way to find that valuable antique? When I’m shopping in an antique store, at a yard sale or cleaning out my attic, are the oldest pieces the most valuable?

Answer: Just because something is old doesn’t mean it is automatically valuable. I have junk, you have junk, my grandmother had junk sometimes it is just older junk! Age is not an automatic value indicator.

Question: I’m researching online and I can’t find the markings that are on the bottom of my ceramic vase. The numbers show the date “1910.” Is that the date that the piece was made?

Answer: Don’t waste money buying all those books which list pottery marks. If you have a ceramic or piece of pottery with a number on it that resembles a date, that number is usually not a date. Often, that four digit number is a model, inventory, or mold number identifying the form of your piece to the manufacturer or mold maker.

Question: My five year-old son decided to act like Picasso and used his crayons on the back of my grandmother’s wooden desk chair that she passed down to me. Should I refinish it?

Answer: Don’t trash it and don’t refinish it just yet! Try to maintain the original finish of an antique wooden piece of furniture as it impacts value. Before you make a decision to trash it or to restore it, get an appraisal of the value of the piece. You want to know if it is worth investing money in restoring the piece.

Be sure to keep your antiques away from sunlight, active pets, water, and aspiring young artists!

Question: I want to sell my unwanted stuff online, but I’ve never sold anything online before. How can I avoid getting ripped off?

Answer: Don’t publicize the physical address where the antique object that you are selling is located. Don’t connect your work address or home address to your online selling information. Buy a post office box and do all the correspondence from that address. I hear the stories from people at my antiques appraisal shows where thieves target homes from an address posted online.

Question: My mother-in-law wants to give me her wedding China, but I don’t like it. Do you think I should keep it? Do you think it has any value?

Answer: First, is it going to kill you to accept the china set to help keep family peace? Don’t simply ignore an item’s value just because you don’t like it. Across the nation at my antique appraisal shows, I advise my audiences to set taste aside ... Ugly is your first clue to value! Get it appraised and then make a decision about it.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on the Discovery’s “Auction Kings.” To join in Dr. Lori’s appraisal events, visit www.DrLoriV.com, www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori, or call (888) 431-1010.

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