Appraising values, raising revenue for Hospice

January 23, 2003|by MEG H. PARTINGTON

Bill Bowen has enough baseball memorabilia to fill a museum in his house, but he never gets tired of looking at more.

As an appraiser for Hospice of the Panhandle Inc.'s third annual antique appraisal fair this weekend, he also gets to tell visitors the value of their treasures.

"Most of them are very anxious to find out what it's worth," said Bowen, who also volunteered to provide verbal appraisals of baseball memorabilia at the two previous fairs.


"Last year, people brought some really incredible stuff," said Bowen, a program manager at the Coast Guard operations systems center in Martinsburg, W.Va., who with his wife, Monica, owns Bunker Hill (W.Va.) Antique Mall.

Among the eye-poppers was a red- and blue-stitched baseball that a man found in his attic. It was signed by former New York Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson, who was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936, and John McGraw, former general manager of the Giants.

Bowen estimated the ball was worth $15,000 because balls signed by Mathewson are rare, and the ball was in prime condition because it had not been exposed to sunlight.

Other memorable items he viewed were a uniform that may have been Hack Wilson's last during his tenure with the Chicago Cubs, and a 1938 baseball signed by the whole New York Yankees roster, including Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig.

The approximately $3,500 appraisal Bowen gave the Yankees ball disappointed its owner, but he assured him,

"It's an incredible baseball."

Bowen grew up in New York City in the late 1940s and early '50s, what he called the "golden age of baseball." When his son started collecting baseball cards in the 1980s, he "caught the bug" again, gathering cards, statues and other memorabilia, which now fill his home.

"I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination," Bowen said, but he uses several books, as well as his own knowledge as a student of the game, to help him assess an item's value.

Bowen is among the approximately 10 appraisers scheduled to be at the antique appraisal fair Saturday, Jan. 25, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Volunteer Fire Department. Verbal appraisals will be given on books and primitives, glassware, pottery and dishes, guns, toys, dolls, coins, musical instruments, and military and baseball memorabilia.

In past years, the event has drawn a few hundred people, said Kathie Campbell, marketing and development director for Hospice of the Panhandle in Martinsburg.

The first year, the fair competed with snow and the presidential inauguration but still made about $4,000 for Hospice, Campbell said. Last year's event raised $5,700 and Campbell hopes this year will bring in $6,500 to $7,000, all of which will go to Hospice of the Panhandle.

The cost is $10 per appraisal or three appraisals for $25. All appraisals are verbal, and there is no limit to the number of items that can be brought.

Dr. Gene Comstock of Winchester, Va., a retired dentist, will return to the fair this year to appraise pottery.

A ceramic artist, Comstock is the author of "The Pottery of the Shenandoah Valley Region," a project he started in 1976 that was published in 1994.

"I lived and breathed and ate Shenandoah pottery," Comstock said of the time he spent researching the wares of the Shenandoah Valley, including Chambersburg, Pa., Frederick, Md., and the Eastern Panhandle and Romney in West Virginia.

"There aren't a lot of valuable pieces," said Comstock, a former member of the American Society of Appraisers. Despite that fact, he said most of the people who have sought his appraisals are pleasantly surprised at the value of their pieces.

Comstock said he is happy to donate his time to help raise money for Hospice.

"I'm always happy to do it because it's such a great organization," Comstock said.

If you go . . .

Antique appraisal fair to benefit Hospice of the Panhandle Inc.

Saturday, Jan. 25

11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department

W.Va. 45

Shepherdstown, W.Va.

$10 per appraisal or three appraisals for $25. All appraisals are verbal.

Lunch will be available, and a bake sale will be held.

For information, call 1-304-264-0406 or 1-800-345-6538.

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