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First Appraisal Fair is big success

by Joyce Hollister

A few surprises, a few disappointments, but plenty of excitement were on tap at the Carson Valley Historical Society’s first Appraisal Fair.

For the owner of an Indian basket, it was a red-letter day – a basket he had been using as an umbrella stand turned out to be worth upward of $25,000.

“That was a very pleasant surprise,” said Jerome Evans, who appraised antique and contemporary art of the native peoples of Oceania, Africa and North and South America.

“I saw some nice baskets and some nice Navajo rugs today,” Evans added. “It’s been fun to talk to people about how things have been in their family.”

For Rosemarie Middendorf of Gardnerville, the day was a bit disappointing. She found out that the Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls that she had had since she was 8 years old are worth perhaps $150 to $200 for the pair.

Though the dolls were in excellent condition – they had never been played with – no one is interested in Mickey Mouse these days, she said. Middendorf decided to return them to their box and put it back on the shelf.

Fred Holabird of “Fred Holabird’s Americana” appraised a rare Nevada gold nugget at about $25,000 to $30,000.

“It’s very rare to see a nugget that size found in Nevada,” he said.

Holabird also appraised a rare slot machine worth about $2,500, and two authentic presidential signatures, those of Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Often, he said, so-called presidential signatures tend to be forgeries.

Liz and Knox Johnson took along a pair of jugs used to display cut flowers. One had belonged to Knox’s mother, a silverplated Victorian pot worth about $125, and the other was a German painted tin pot with pewter trim dating from the 1870s or ’80s that Liz had bought in a shop at the Lake.

“I was always a little curious about it,” Liz said. For Knox and Liz, it wasn’t the value they were interested in so much learning as where and when the pots were made.

Though everyone dreams of finding a treasure worth thousands of dollars in the closet, the majority of people at the fair simply wanted to find out more about their family heirlooms or garage sale finds.

Peter Bergna, Western Regional Representative for Butterfield and Butterfield at Incline Village, praised the people who go to garage sales and pick up objects that he says are worth saving.

“You’re preserving history by going to garage sales and flea markets and buying something and preserving it,” he said. “When I came down here, I stopped at two garage sales myself.”

Taryn Miller grew up in Carson Valley. She is an expert in fine jewelry and offers her knowledge at appraisal fairs between five and 10 times a year. When she worked for Butterfield and Butterfield and other large auction houses, she appeared regularly on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.

“It’s been a blast,” Miller said of coming to her hometown to do an appraisal event. “It’s been nice to have people come in and see if they can find out what they have.”

The historical society is seriously considering offering another fair next year.

“I’m really happy considering it was the first time,” said Grace Bower, the fair committee chairperson. “The volunteers had a good time. There were a couple little bugs for never having done it before, but I think it went well.”

The 12 professional appraisers offered their services for free, and some 240 people took their precious items to be appraised, raising $5,400 for the historical society.

“I was very pleased,” society President Marlena Hellwinkel said. “It ran very smoothly only because the committed worked so hard in preparing for the event.

“We can’t begin to thank our volunteer appraisers enough for their assistance. And, of course, we thank the community for coming to our Appraisal Fair.”

Most items to be appraised were in the category of decorative arts. Next year, according to Bower, more experts in the fields of decorative arts as well as furniture and paintings will be added to take care of the crowds.