Appraisal Fest Continues: Free Downsizing Workshop Saturday, Sept. 16

By Laura Jackson Roberts

Every year in September, Oglebay Institute hosts its annual Appraisal Fest. It’s a time for digging deep into boxes and basements, attics and antiques. I’m no stranger to clutter. In fact, I think many of us have a touch of hoarder in us when it comes to family heirlooms. But what are those old silver spoons worth? How much could you sell that hand-sewn quilt for? And did that clock really come over on a boat from Germany in 1850?

Tim Luke and Greg Strahm can answer these questions. They’re The Appraisal Guys. Tim appeared on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow and Cash in the Attic, and together they own TreasureQuest Appraisal Group. If you’ve found something in your house, they’re the guys who can give you the skinny.
Cash in the Attic?

Last year, I got a chance to dig into my own attic and visit The Appraisal Guys at their Cabela’s appraisal event. You can read about how I brought several old toys to Tim, and how the little metal train would have been worth $500 if my son hadn’t ripped the wheels off as a toddler. (As it is today, it won’t fetch more than $50.) This year, however, I got the chance to be on the other side of the table, to be the Appraiser’s Apprentice and sit between Tim and Greg to watch the process through their eyes. This year, it was a very different experience.

On Saturday, September 9, people wheeled in their items in carts and wagons. The moment when an item arrived, hidden beneath in a moving blanket or bubble wrap, thrilled me. We saw paintings and rings. We saw quilts and vases. Early in the day, Tim inspected Wheeling resident Ginger Aulick’s stuffed doll from the Gasoline Alley comic strip. He told her where and when the doll was made and a little bit about its composition. On my other side, Greg appraised an ice chest made in Wheeling by House & Herrmann, a popular department store that burned down in 1917 in one of the city’s most destructive fires. The chest was ornately carved and lined with zinc. Its owner, Tammy Gasaway of Martins Ferry, had been moving it around the house for years. Though it didn’t turn out to be a million-dollar find, the piece meant something to her, and therein lay its real value.

Strange Finds

Tim’s favorite item came to the event wound tightly in bubble wrap. As Wheeling residents Robert and Deborah Troeger rolled it in on a dolly, we noticed a long metal rod protruding from the top of the item. Bit by bit, the bubble wrap came off, revealing an angry face, an ornate costume and, eventually, the body of an enormous theater puppet holding a shield.

“This is Sid,” they said. “He was a gift for our son from an antique dealer.”

Tim was fascinated. He determined that “Sid” was a Continental Blackamoor rod puppet, likely of Sicilian origin, circa 1890. It would have been used in a theater, and handlers used the rod to make it move or dance. Tim got a photo with Sid and the Troegers.

From Joy to Disappointment

Still, not everyone came away smiling. Though it doesn’t happen often, occasionally Tim and Greg encounter a visitor who doesn’t like their valuation. Many people have been told by family that their item is valuable, or that it’s older than it is. Sometimes they’ve done their own research and come up with a different value. Such was the case at Cabela’s on Saturday when a visitor wasn’t satisfied with their appraisal and gave Greg a hard time. He wasn’t phased. Clearly, it wasn’t his first encounter with a disappointed treasure hunter. I asked Greg how often that sort of thing happens.

When Your Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff?

“You’ll have that sometimes,” he said and went on to explain that people bring in their items for different reasons. Many people are just curious about a piece, while others hope to make a sale. And while eBay has made it easier to sell such items, it’s also saturated the market. Anybody can be an auctioneer, these days.

Additionally, Greg and Tim have noticed a trend with antiques: a generational bottleneck of stuff. My generation—the Gen X’ers—stands to inherit the china, glassware, and antiques our parents have so lovingly collected or inherited from their own parents. The problem? We don’t really want them. Yes, I love my great-grandfather’s clock and will always treasure it. But that German painting? That creepy clown doll? That thing I call simply “the weird green dish?” Nah. What would I do with this stuff? Younger generations have begun to appreciate a minimalistic lifestyle and a de-cluttered existence. Some even build tiny houses.

So, what’s a baby boomer to do when the kids and grandkids show no interest in the family collection?

Deal With Your Stuff

Tim and Greg can help. They spend most of September in Wheeling each year for AppraisalFest, and for the rest of the month will be hosting helpful events, including a free Downsizing Workshop on Saturday, September 16. And while it may sound like an intervention, it’s designed to help people get started with their stuff.

“We give them steps on what you need to do,” Tim said. “First of all, we have the conversation.” Downsizing means thinking about why you’re holding onto things, what they might mean to you, and whether you value the item itself or simply the memory it represents. Such things may feel overwhelming, so the guys will be talking participants through it.

“A lot of it is being able to give people the information so that they know how to begin or what to begin,” Greg said. The workshop will include helpful tips and decluttering tricks as well as how to deal with stuff, whether it’s a via sale or a donation. Tim and Luke will be joined by a panel of experts including Charlotte Pyle, auctioneer at Joe R. Pyle Complete Auction & Realty Service, Joshua Rogers, estate attorney, and Anne Koegler, elder advocate and resource coordinator.

Meet the Appraisal Guys

If the thought of downsizing worries you, you can spend the prior evening getting to know The Appraisal Guys at HAMMERED, a social hour and auction that benefits the Mansion Museum. You’ll find like-minded people there who share an appreciation for antiques, collectibles, and amazing finds. At the auction, you can bid on an exclusive collection of wines, jewelry, accessories, fine foods, gift baskets, dining experiences, resort packages and more.

Appraisal Fest 2017 continues Saturday, September 23 with an Opera Brunch at the Mansion Museum. Brunch will be prepared by Chef Greg Strahm while attendees hear selections performed by Pittsburgh Opera artists. This will be your last chance to visit with The Guys until they return next September.

In between social events, Tim and Luke will be conducting in-home appraisals. Last year, my family enjoyed our visit to the Cabela’s appraisal event so much that we scheduled a home visit. We broke out the fine china, the fancy glassware, and the horsehair chairs. We had high hopes for a wooden mallard until its head fell off in Greg’s hands. If you have a house full of treasures, Oglebay Institute will send the guys over, though you may want to hide the decapitated duck decoys in the closet.