DanvilleSanRamon.com

Column - May 18, 2007

Diablo Views: What's it worth? Find out this weekend

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Sabrina's teacher was surprised to hear the 8-year-old say her grandma was an antique stealer. Grandmother Anita Venezia was surprised, too; she had carefully made the distinction that she is an "antiques dealer" rather than an "antique dealer," which would mean a really, really old dealer.

Anita has been in the business a long time but is certainly no antique. She will be one of the five appraisers from noon to 4 p.m. this Sunday, May 20, at the Blackhawk Museum Guild's fourth annual Antiques Appraisal Event at the Blackhawk Museum. Appraisals will be done "road show" style, where the experts make verbal evaluations on the spot for folks who bring in objects such as furniture, art, coins, jewelry, porcelain, silver or other collectibles.

"Very few things come my way that I haven't seen before," said Anita.

She was appraising at a road show type event once when someone brought in a piece of jewelry that she discovered was a 19th-century Russian Carl Faberge $8,000 treasure. "It was very exciting," she recalled. At another event, a table lamp turned out to be a Tiffany masterpiece valued at six figures.

On the other hand, Anita said people sometimes bring her objects that have been in the family and are beautiful but aren't worth anything. "I will say they have no market value but because they are a family heirloom, they are priceless," she said.

Anita had been dealing in antiques for many years already when she decided in 1987 to pursue formal education in appraisal, taking the intensive ISA Core Course University of Maryland. She owned Venezia Antiques in Los Gatos from 1987 to 2005, commuting there after she moved to Danville in 1999. She also taught "How to Shop Antiques like a Pro" at community colleges, and wrote a column, "Antiquing with Anita."

"I absolutely adore the work I do," Anita said. "I meet wonderful people, and I see marvelous things."

She noted that many objects, such as Persian carpets or books, become more valuable with age; and being in good condition is essential. Rarity also adds value. For example, period high-end Chinese items were valued highly when China was closed to the West for many years, but when it opened in the 1970s, the market became flooded, she said.

Appraisals may be done for retail replacement value, such as for insurance purposes, she explained, or to determine the fair market value, for estate taxes or if the owner wishes to sell. A formal appraisal may be five to 10 pages, detailing the research. At the road show Sunday, the appraisers will have computers to do some research on the spot, but if people bring important pieces, they will be advised to get a formal appraisal document.

Anita said the current trend is to buy and sell on eBay, something she would never do. Such sales can never be used as benchmarks, she noted, because the bidding war can make the price exceed the intrinsic value. She said there are legitimate sites for antiques and collectibles, such as Christie's and Sotheby's, that have solid comparables.

Experts contributing their services Sunday include Marcia Harmon, owner of Cottage Jewel in Danville, who will appraise vintage and Victorian jewelry, purses and collectibles; Joseph Silva, who specializes in historical documents, 19th century photographs, rare coins and Civil War memorabilia; Ed Barton, an expert of Native American Indian baskets and pottery; and Julia and Analee Hoit, who will appraise furniture, sterling silver and contemporary art. Anita will handle the art, sculpture, silver, pottery, textiles, furniture, porcelains and general personal property.

The verbal appraisals will be a $15 donation per item, which goes toward the guild's Children's Education and Transportation Fund to bus students from other areas to visit the museum. So look around your house and see if there is anything you'd like appraised. It also should be fun to see the other people and their items. Last year at the Blackhawk event, a man brought in a basket his family kept in the family room to hold magazines they tossed in; he learned the Native American Indian basket was worth $9,000. He left the event smiling broadly - and saying he now would treat the basket with more respect.

-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.

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