Age, condition and origin help determine an antique's value

June 10, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

An antique's origin, or provenance, often is among the most important information needed to provide the most accurate appraisal, experts said. The pen that Abraham Lincoln held to write the Gettysburg Address, for example, would be worth much more than an identical pen from the same time period, according to information from the "Antiques Roadshow" Web site at

Local doll and toy appraiser Linda Caricofe said knowing where a customer got an item helps her distinguish reproductions from originals - an increasingly difficult task due to the number of new dolls and toys being made from original molds. The most valuable vintage dolls are those in excellent condition wearing their original attire. The original box isn't as important as many people believe, Caricofe said.

"I think that's something that's been overrated over the years. It's the outfit that really does it," she said. "In my opinion, the greatest thing about having a doll is to be able to pose the doll with an item, like putting Madame Alexander's 'Cissy' at a dressing table."


Caricofe said she relies upon reference books to help give the best appraisals, especially for "complicated" collectibles such as Barbie dolls.

Jewelry appraiser Betty Bachtell of Hagerstown likes to hear about previous appraisals because they "can give you a base to really give a fair price," she said. Her appraisal technique includes using a diamond tester to rate quality and an acid test to determine gold's karat. Gold-plated and costume jewelry are rarely worth as much as authentic antique jewelry, Bachtell said.

Pottery expert Judy Pomroy said she depends mainly upon her more than 20 years of experience to provide appraisals. She examines such factors as a piece's clay color, weight and pattern to gauge its value, she said.

"Most pieces you can tell just by looking, even if they're not signed," said Pomroy of St. Thomas, Pa.

Book and paper appraiser Bill McKenzie of Hagerstown, a longtime antiques dealer, said he also can estimate worth without much assistance from reference materials. He said the most valuable vintage comic books are those in fine to mint condition - which means they haven't been thumbed through repeatedly over the years, and they've been kept in acid-free bags for protection.

The Antiques Web pages on at offer a variety of helpful information about the hobby. The site also suggests online resources to help determine the value of your antiques and collectibles, including:

  • Antique Clocks Identification and Price Guide,

  • Antiques Appraised,

  • Artprice Indicator,

  • Guide to Rare and Old Book Values,

  • Price Guides,

  • Collectibles Price Guide Index,

  • Dolls Price Guide,

  • Frankoma Pottery Price Guides,

  • Kovels' Online Price Guide,

  • Old and Antique Map Price Guide,
The Herald-Mail Articles