Old and unusual come to museum

October 08, 2000

Old and unusual come to museum


photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT/ staff photographer

Old and unusual at museumEsther Wolfkill Smith had always treasured the toy Singer sewing machine her father bought her during the 1930s when she was a teenager.


On Sunday, Smith of Greencastle, Pa., got a chance to see how others valued her miniature machine during the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts' annual antiques appraisal.

Smith brought the 70-year-old sewing machine in its original carrying case, which was designed to resemble a suitcase complete with pseudo-TWA and United Airlines stickers.


The 8-inch cast steel sewing machine was made to clamp down to a table and still operates, said appraiser James Adams of York, Pa.

"It's as good as the day it was made," he said.

More familiar with furniture, Adams said his hunch was that the sewing machine would sell for $175 to $259 at auction.

Smith said she remembers making dresses and other clothes with the sewing machine as a youth before selling it for $10.

Her family later bought it back and gave it to her as a Christmas gift in the 1970s, she said.

Although the event didn't start until 1:30 p.m., people came as early as 11 a.m., weighed down by bags and boxes of their newly found treasures or time-honored heirlooms, said museum director Jean Woods.

About 90 people paid either an $8 or $10 fee to get a verbal appraisal of their items.

She said the money from the event will be used to fund the museum's permanent collection.

In addition to Adams, the appraisers included Richard F. Driscoll, paintings, prints, ceramics and silver; Eleanor Lakin, folk art and dolls; Ed Flanagan, American furniture, Don Stoops, firearms and military items; and Thomas C. Newcomer, jewelry.

"We had someone for each area in order to have a more accurate appraisal," Woods said.

Woods said Smith's tiny sewing machine was one of the more unusual items to appear during the appraisal, along with a Rosewood candle holder and Chinese funeral urn. People also brought numerous paintings, engravings, bronzes, chairs, vases and quilts, she said.

Michelle Baluch said she traveled from Shepherdstown, W.Va., to find out more about her china doll she named "Lilly" after her aunt who had given it to her when she was 10 years old.

Placing the doll on a table in front of her, appraiser Eleanor Lakin gently examined the doll's creamy white arms and legs. She looked at Lilly's delicate face, noting that that her makeup was still fresh but her wig had become detached.

The doll's red velvet dress was deemed new and its trim inappropriate and Lakin told Baluch that a history of the doll that was written by a relative was inaccurate.

Lakin, of Boonsboro, said the Victorian doll was from the 1860s and valued at $250 to $300. She said it was made by the German toy company, Biedermier.

"It's a nice doll. You should keep it in the family," Lakin said.

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