Antique appraisal discovers treasure, trash


By Josh Bashara

“Hmmm,” an appraiser said, peering intently over the tacky ornament I grabbed from my fireplace mantle only moments before I left home.

“This is pretty crude,” he continued, his partner peering over his shoulder at the ivory-carved statuette of a fish that I had brought.

“Don’t try to sell this,” the appraiser’s partner told me. “It’s from an endangered species.”

Rodney Crawford and Joella Cohen of Omaha Auction Center Ltd. had just told me my ivory fish-statue thing was worthless.

Summed up as a “souvenir,” they informed me that not only was ivory illegal to sell but the carving was amateurish at best.

Taking my fish thingy back, I thanked Crawford and Cohen and decided I should have brought some old Star Wars action figures instead.

This was the scene at the Durham Western Heritage Museum’s first annual Antique Appraisal, also loosely dubbed “Omaha’s Own Antique Roadshow.”

Hosted by the museum, the antique show gave the public a chance to bring in everything from paintings to pots to find out whether they owned trash or treasure.

The event drew about 500 people by noon, according to Cris Hedgpeth, general chairwoman of the antique appraisal.

“This morning, people were lined up halfway down the museum,” she said. “It was very amazing.”

The show had a surprisingly high energy vibe considering almost everyone there was over 40 years old. Nine different booths were set up to handle all the different types of antiques people brought in.

The appraisers volunteered their services to benefit the show. Proceeds went to the Durham Western Heritage Museum’s education department, which helps fund scholarships for students to come and visit from all across the city.

Admission was $10 per person, which included the appraisal of one item. Following a cue from the popular Antique Roadshow on television, people dug out old china, pottery, books, toys, clocks, coins and little knickknacks, like my own little fish thingy.

Unfortunately, many people at the show shared my letdown.

Amanda Lynch of Jackson Street Booksellers, an appraiser handling all the old books people brought in, said many people were surprised their items had no monetary value.

While passing through an eclectic crowd of people ranging in age from their 30s to 80s, it wasn’t difficult to see the disappointment on their faces after they were told their valuables really weren’t that valuable.

However, those who were fortunate really lucked out.

Down at the jewelry booth, Susan Jacques of Borsheim’s told a story of a woman who brought in a watch that her grandfather had found years ago on the streets of Chicago. The woman had no idea what the value of the watch was, which Jacques told her was around $4,500.

Hedgpeth said some visitors received quite a surprise.

“We had one woman bring in a painting that was valued at $55,000,” she said. “It’s been fun to watch some of the smiles come out.”


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