Tessa Bankston has been going to estate sales for decades, picking up items here and there that strike her fancy. She never spends more than $25, so she didn’t expect the dusty painting of the sea and sky she bought years ago to be worth as much as $7,000.
Bankston was among those who hauled in family heirlooms, garage sale finds and historic artifacts to be appraised by specialists at the 15th annual Attic Treasures and Collectibles event at the East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library on Saturday. The event usually draws about 350 people — some hoping to find out they own an expensive item and others simply wanting to know more about things that relatives have passed down to them.
Bankston’s painting, dated 1967 in faded white paint, is the work of Peter Ellenshaw, an English artist who did design work for Disney films in the mid-20th century. Bankston had done some research that led her to think the piece might be a print, but after learning at the library event that it is an original oil painting, she said she plans to have it restored by a professional.
“I was surprised,” she said. “I was happy when they said it was an oil. We just didn’t know. If it would have been just a print, it would be worth about $2,000.”
Appraisers were set up around a meeting room with tables dedicated to an array of categories, including dolls, jewelry, artwork, linens, books and stamps. The experts, who carefully examined every piece with magnifying glasses and other tools, couldn’t always offer an estimate of value but usually could tell the person a few facts they didn’t know before.
Jack and Ann Hood, who own a jewelry store on Florida Boulevard, have volunteered at this antique show for several years to examine necklaces, rings, brooches and all the other trinkets people dig out of their jewelry boxes at home. Many of those things are unremarkable. Antique jewelry, for example, is often fake, Jack Hood said.
But every once in a while, something rare, valuable or otherwise interesting surfaces. A couple of times, attendees of the antique show have even brought jewelry that Hood himself designed and sold.
“We see it all,” he said.
A few tables over, Louise Nichols was inspecting a set of two turquoise-colored bowls Richard Dingler bought in Macau while he was working in nearby Hong Kong. He uses one of them to hold his keys.
Nichols said the bowls appear to be a husband and wife set made about 400 years ago in Asia. On the inside of each bowl, a Chinese character is drawn, indicating when it was made.
Depending on their age, the bowls could go for between $15,000 and $20,000, Nichols said.
Not everyone was so lucky, but many people at the show were not looking for big money anyway.
Jerry Harrell had Nichols inspect a clock made of rose bronze and wood that his father, who worked for the state, got when the Capitol was redecorated in the 1970s. The clock was an original piece in the new Capitol building when it first opened in the 1930s, he said.
Although Harrell’s father had varnished the clock and outfitted it with a new motor, Nichols said it’s probably still worth several hundred dollars because it hung in the Capitol during the Huey P. Long era.
“I would never sell it,” Harrell said, noting the sentimental value of the clock.
Robin Paulos brought a sword that belonged to her father, who was a Civil War buff. Within minutes, appraiser Danny Brown found the initials “HKC” near the handle, showing it had been inspected by an officer and used in the U.S. military.
Some quick online research revealed that “HKC” was Henry Knox Craig, a colonel of ordnance in the U.S. Army who retired in 1863 — meaning Paulos’ sword was likely made before the Civil War, Brown said.
The sword had apparently been broken and then sharpened, bringing its value to about $500, Brown said. Still, Paulos was satisfied.
“I didn’t know that information they were able to find so fast,” she said. “I wish I had got the backstory before my dad passed away.”
Eric Nail recruited two friends to help carry in some vases that his wife inherited after her family closed their antique shop in San Francisco.
Nichols, the appraiser, said the vases appeared to be from the mid-1800s. One was made of green Vaseline glass, a smooth, opaque material that was once popular. Nichols said it could sell for about $25 today.
Though the vase turned out to not be very valuable, Nail said coming to the event was still worth it.
“Even if it’s worth only $10,” Nail said, “at least we know the background.”