Janesville31.3°

Antiques appraisal serves as fundraiser for Milton library

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
January 31, 2012
— A jade tiger.

A raisin de-seeder.


A pigtailed Hummel figurine that might not have been real Hummel.


Antiques expert Mark Moran took on Rock County's most eclectic and quirky curios Monday at Milton City Hall armed with nothing but a few reference books, a magnifying glass and an iPad.


Moran, an Iola native and guest appraiser on PBS's "Antiques Roadshow," has written and edited dozens of books and guides on antiques and collectibles. He has been touring the Midwest for a year, appraising antiques during events at local libraries and historical societies.


Monday's event the city council chambers was part of a fundraiser for the Milton Public Library. Moran didn't know ahead of time what items people would bring him.


One he heard coming a mile away.


"Jingle bells!" someone in the crowd of 50 whispered as Rita Buchholz of Milton jingled toward Moran's desk with a cardboard box.


Buchholz pulled from the box a large leather strap of sleigh bells. Beaming ear-to-ear, she explained that her father, who people considered "the local junkman" of Lancaster, had bought them when she was a child.


Moran told Buchholz the bells are circa 1920, handmade by a German whitesmith. He pointed to some green tarnish on a few of the bells. He explained it was caused by moisture from the leather, but that it actually added character to the bells.


"It's not hurting it. It's really causing a patina," Moran said.


He said all that the bells needed was some saddle soap to liven up the leather strap. He appraised the bells at $200.


It was clear Buchholz was not concerned about the bells' value.


"I just have such great memories of all the things my father used to bring home," she said.


Some of the items were random finds. For instance, Pam Garelli showed Moran a wooden wine stopper carved in the shape of a jovial-looking boy perched on a wine barrel.


Moran told Garelli the stopper was a common item made in Germany in the 1930s, and Moran appraised it at $15. Garelli said she'd found the relic stuffed in a crawlspace in her home while she was tearing out a wall in 1998.


There were surprises, too. Anne Corey of Milton brought in a French mantel clock made of pot metal. Moran said he had seen other clocks like it, but he didn't recognize the maker. He searched for a listing on his iPad and hit on 1,115 online auction results. Most booked for about $500.


"Heavens to Betsy," he said.


Some weren't so lucky. Milton resident Lowell Lamont brought in a circa-1895 box camera made of leather and lustrous rosewood. It had all its original working parts, and Lamont said he hoped to hear it was worth hundreds of dollars.


Moran said the camera was in exceptional shape, but he indicated Japanese buyers had flooded the marked for antique cameras in the late 1990s. He said the camera now books for about $80.


"Huh … OK," Lamont said.


Moran touched on the declining market for some antiques. He said mass-produced "faux antiques" sold at box stores are a huge reason for the decline in antique values.


"If someone wants a look and is not concerned with the age or the maker, they just want something that looks good, they go to Pottery Barn or Pier One, or a million places online," Moran said. "A couple of clicks and you've got it. That's the single thing that's hurt the antique business the most."


Still, Moran noted that what people value continues to evolve as the years pass. He pointed to a Sesame Street toy house someone brought in. The item was manufactured in the 1970s—just old enough for nostalgia.


And while the toy only booked at $40, Moran offered hope—or at least a bit of philosophy.


"Once upon a time, everything was pop culture," he said.



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