Learn the worth of your old stuff, courtesy of St. Helena Community

Written by on July 30, 2014 in Neighborhood News - No comments
Todd Peenstra appraises an item at Dundalk Antiques Appraisal Day. - Photo courtesy of Shirley Gregory

Todd Peenstra appraises an item at Dundalk Antiques Appraisal Day. – Photo courtesy of Shirley Gregory

Before you let your father toss that “ugly” tugboat painting, you might want to take it to Dundalk Antiques Appraisal Day, an event to benefit the St. Helena Community Association, this Saturday at the St. Helena Community Building, 6509 Colgate Ave.

A few years ago, somebody did nearly let their father throw out a tugboat painting. It’s a good thing they didn’t, because the painting—done at the beginning of the 20th Century by a Baltimore artist—turned out to be worth $20,000.

One year, someone brought in a thank-you letter from Elvis Presley—apparently actually written and signed by Presley himself—for joining his fan club. It was worth $500.

Another time, a man brought in a huge granite wheel (“It must have weighed 300 pounds,” said Gregory), used for sharpening metal tools 100 or so years ago. It was worth $5,000.

On Saturday, Aug. 2, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., five professional appraisers will tell you the worth of old items like these that you may have lying around the house. The cost is $20 to appraise the first item; $10 for the second item; the third is free.

Todd Peenstra, an antiques appraiser based in Annapolis who will be in attendance, said that the event is “just like a treasure hunt.”.

According to Peenstra, there are three criteria that contribute to an object’s monetary value—it has to be beautiful, it has to be rare, and—most importantly—there must be demand for the object.

“There have to be people that want to have the item,” he said.

Peenstra added that the quality of an object can have great effect on its demand. Cut glass, for example, is not in high demand at the moment, “but if someone brings me the best piece of cut glass, there’s gong to be someone to buy it. People want to buy the best.”

As for beauty, Peenstra acknowledged that it’s a subjective quality. An antique firearm could be repellant to one person and beautiful to a gun collector, he said.

Shirley Gregory, president of the St. Helena Community Association, said that this will be her group’s fifth year holding the Antiques Appraisal Day. She got the idea, she said, from the Historical Society of Carroll County, which also holds an appraisal day. Gregory said that a representative from the society agreed to help her set up a similar event in Dundalk, which is too far from Carroll County to be any competition.

Appraisals will be given verbally.

“It’s to find out if what you have is worth anything,” said Gregory. “We all probably have something lying around the house that belonged to our grandparents or great grandparents.”

A verbal appraisal can be an effective bargaining chip if the owner of an object wishes to sell it.

“I know it’s worth $500; at least give me $400,” said Gregory. 
For the purpose of insuring an object, a written appraisal would be required.

Peenstra noted that an appraisal may vary, depending on the purpose.

“I’m going to be conservative with a selling number and aggressive with an insurance number,” commented Peenstra.

He noted that at events like this Saturday’s, part of his job is managing expectations.

“I want people to have practical advice,” he said. “I’d rather give them a number that’s a little low and have them get more for the object.”

It was an odd path that led Peenstra to antiques appraising. Graduating from the University of Mississippi with a degree in English and history, he went to work selling insurance.

“I hated it,” he said.

But Peenstra hit it off with one man to whom he sold homeowners insurance, and he was invited to join him in his burgeoning antiques business. Today, Peenstra’s former employer “sell’s Monets for millions of dollars” in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Peenstra moved to Annapolis about 8 years ago, because he was “tired of going to the same place every day.”

He said that the on-the-job training he received in New Orleans was invaluable.

“What a Meissin [German porcelain manufacturer] pot from 1890 is worth? Nobody teaches you that—you’ve got to learn on the job,” he said.

For more information on Dundalk Antiques Appraisal Day, email antiqueday@yahoo.com, visit SaintHelena.co.nr, or contact Gregory at 410-633-6077.

by Erik Zygmont

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