February 23, 2010

Bring me your old, your classic, your folk art Jesus

Antique appraisers draw  300 curiosity seekers to Birch Heights Sunday.

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Joy Johnson knew her husband's heirloom Swedish coffee pot was more than just a relic from the past. On Sunday, antique dealer Caroline French confirmed that the value of the copper bowl-shaped pot, which once kept the coffee hot while his ancestors hayed in the fields, was more than sentimental.
“It's a beautiful, 19th century piece,” said French, who estimated the antique pot would fetch at least enough for a couple of round-trip tickets to Stockholm.
“My husband's family said we could have the pot once we had a house with a fireplace, so we got a house with a fireplace, and then we got the pot,” said Johnson, now a resident of Birch Heights retirement home since her husband, Roland, passed on. “I don't have the house anymore, or a husband. But I still have the pot. And no, I won't be selling it. Not in my lifetime.”
Johnson was mostly curious about the antique she'd been harboring for years, and since Sunday's mini antique roadshow was free, she couldn't resist the chance to see what it was worth.
She was not alone. There were so many curiosity seekers that a shuttle bus ran non-stop for three hours from the retirement home to offsite parking at Parkland Medical Center. Although the public was invited for free appraisals, the event also doubled as a marketing tool.
David Burton, a manager at the retirement community which opened its doors just over a year ago on Kendall-Pond Road, said he wasn't surprised that the line of people drawn to the antique appraisal open house snaked through the lobby.
“We had a similar event at our location in North Carolina and it was mobbed, so I had a feeling we'd see the same thing here. New England has it's share of collectors,” said Burton.
Like Cindy Bakios, for one. She brought a sampling of items she and her man, Joe Vance, have been collecting for years from local flea markets and yard sales. She brought along her daughter, Jessica Boggiatto, who inherited her love of old stuff from her mom.
“This is just a sampling of our stuff. I have my dad's Gibson guitar and my great-grandfather's violin with me. Joe has a tapestry screen and my daughter has a book of prints. We also brought along some Ted Williams memorabilia and a painting from the 1700s,” said Bakios, who arrived a half hour early and still had to wait about an hour for an appraisal.
Chuck and Gail Hamblett of Londonderry love to search local yard sales for anything with military references. He brought one of his finds wrapped in a green bath towel as a makeshift sheath, an Indian Princess sword from the War of 1812, so called for its ornate handle featuring the head of a princess.
“I got this at a yard sale, and this one, too,” said Hamblett, unveiling another weapon, this one with some identifying etchings that, he said, indicated it was a Navy cutlass from the U.S.S. Kearsarge, perhaps used during the Civil War.
“I think I paid five bucks for it,” he said, with the smile of a guy who has spent some time Googling “antique military swords” on the Internet.
As the line continued to grow, Scott Ramsay, a live-in manager at the complex, gave up hope of having his own antique treasure appraised. He was busy making sure cookie trays were refilled and residents were comfortable during the three-hour open house.
“I didn't think it would be so busy, but at this rate, I won't have time. Wanna see it anyway?” he said without waiting for a response, walking down the hall to his room and returning a minute later with an interesting looking piece – and story to match.
“My great-grandfather ran a general store in Old Town, Maine. Back in the 1890s he turned the store over to his wife and went off to Alaska to prospect during the Gold Rush. He brought back this seal-skin kayak. You can see it's made of skin and bones – and carries with it the dust of ages,” said Ramsay, angling the flesh-tone model under a ceiling light and then puffing some air into one of the miniature seats to release a small dust cloud.
A group of four buddies, all with their own particular passion for old stuff, sat together waiting for appraisals. Ron Vance had an old box of metal toys he'd recently purchased at a barn sale. William Fulton held a glass paperweight he'd inherited from his grandmother, who was a secretary for someone in Washington D.C. during the 1930s. Scott DeFrancesco had a weathered tin horn which he found on a construction site in Derry.
“Looks like it's from Grover Cleveland's Presidential campaign, from the words on it,” said DeFrancesco, giving the tin horn a twirl between his fingers. “It's hard to read, but you can see it, right there.”
Gene Trombley of Derry had a framed portrait of Jesus. It was a wedding gift to his in-laws back in 1947, and whoever framed it used an old military poster as backing. Trombley was just curious what it might be worth. He also brought an old JFK tapestry that hung for years in his father's den.
“I'm not selling them. The Jesus picture, I consider it folk art, and just think there can't be another one like it out there,” he said.
After waiting for more than an hour and shifting from seat to seat in what felt a little like a game of non-musical chairs, the four friends had their moment with appraiser Stephen Cyr.
“Some people have brought in some surprisingly interesting things,” said Cyr, between customers. “Others, I've had to disillusion. I've had to tell them they can't retire in the immediate future.”
He spent some time evaluating Vance's old toy collection, telling Vance they were a good find, although they would have held more value if they'd been in mint condition.
“I'd say about $50 for each of these, and maybe $75 for this one,” said Cyr.
Folk Art Jesus was appraised by Cyr at $100. JFK had some issues.
“He said $60 for the tapestry. My dad was a heavy smoker, so there's smoke damage. And the corners also have some damage from the nails he used to hang it on the wall,” said Trombley. “Oh well. That's no big deal. I'm gonna have it cleaned and keep it forever anyway. I am sure my grandson will appreciate it someday, and by then, it might be worth 80 bucks.”

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