Separating treasure from trumpery

Antique dealer Martha Williams can thrill a customer or dash their hopes when they bring her their antiques for appraisal.

She much prefers the former, since sometimes what folks think is an antique is merely a reproduction.

"It kills me to have to hurt their feelings, because they're so crestfallen," she said. "They often bought it from a dealer. That should never happen."

On the other hand, sometimes people have something they don't realize is valuable.

That's what happened at the Genoa Antique Show and Sale appraisal clinic on Saturday and Sunday in the Genoa Town Hall. Appraisals were $5 per item, admission was $1.50 and proceeds benefit the Carson Valley Pops Orchestra.

"Most of the people today didn't realize what they had," she said. "So they were real pleased."

Williams has owned Antiques Plus in Genoa for 27 years and has been in the business all her life, with her mother starting out with a used-furniture store.

"She had used furniture, then as time progressed her used furniture became valuable," she said.

Furniture still is Williams' favorite antique, but her expertise has grown to include many items, all kinds of which were brought to the clinic Sunday.

Mary and Marvin Cox of Gardnerville brought in what they thought was a Seth Thomas clock that her grandparents brought from New York to Colorado in a covered wagon.

Her mom, Corrine Shepherd, 96, of Gardnerville always thought it was a Seth Thomas, but it turned out to be an Eclipse brand.

"It works, too," Mary Cox said. "It dings and it drives me crazy. You wind it up every seven days."

Though it wasn't the brand the Coxes thought, it still was worth between $300 to $350, Williams said.

John Adams and Carol Drummond brought an etching of a Scottish family on a beach, with the ship sailing away in the distance. She got it from her parents, who obtained it during World War II. Though they didn't know who the artist was, they found the work was worth several hundred dollars.

Beth and Jack Theuret brought in a pen-and-ink drawing of the San Xavier Mission as well as a Yei rug made by artists in the Two Gray Hills section of the Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona.

"It's a very dense, thin weave," Beth Theuret said. "Later they used heavy thread, because they charged by the pound. But this is older, done with the thinner thread."

Tom Wolfe of Minden makes his living buying the contents of abandoned storage lockers and said he often finds items of value.

The latest find included a Bible from 1752 in another language - he wasn't sure what the language was - with closure straps and brass fasteners complete.

"That was a great find," he said.

Williams said most Bibles don't have much value because the Bible is the most printed book in the world, but this one was worth about $150.

"Most aren't worth that much," she said. "Everyone has a Bible."

Wolfe also brought two watches, one silver and one gold, that he got in the same sale, with a combined value of about $300.

Not bad, he said, since he only paid about $30 or $40 for the locker's contents.

"I do that a lot," he said. "You get a lot of antiques. Sometimes you don't know what you've got, so it's good to find out."

-- Contact reporter Karen

Woodmansee at 881-7351 or


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