Museum Road Show | Lessons in history, economics

jwilkinson@thestate.comJanuary 13, 2013 

When Dale Follin was a 16-year-old girl in North Carolina, she followed her father, artist Al Fincher, to an old covered bridge in rural Buncombe County near Asheville.

She remembers her father, an artist of some note in the Tar Heel State, set up his easel on a sand bar in the creek that flowed under the bridge, and carefully crafted the painting that has hung in her home ever since.

On Saturday, Follin, now 66 and living in Sumter with her husband, Richard, took that painting and two others to the S.C. State Museum’s Winter Museum Road Show to see what they might be worth. The answer from appraiser James Brannock: About $1,000 each.

“I would never sell them,” Follin said. “They have too much sentimental value. But I’ve never had them appraised and wanted to know what they were worth.”

The Follins were among about 300 people who filed through the State Museum on Saturday for the twice-yearly shows, held in January and July. It is the 13 year the museum has held the events, which are patterned after PBS’s popular Antique Road Show.

It works like this.

People bring the old painting, kewpie doll, Civil War sword, china terrine or ancient quilt and an appraiser give a little background on the items’ possible history, how things are valued in the antique and auction market and takes a stab at it potential value.

“People want to know if the $10 painting they bought at a yard sale is worth the $10 or maybe $10,000,” said Celeste Wszola, the museum’s public program manager.

On Saturday, there were experts there in pottery, textiles and dolls, fine arts, silver and estate jewelry, books, militaria, currency and coins and furniture and decorative arts. There was also a “generalist,” who could take on items that didn’t fit any of the categories.

The patrons pay $20 for the appraisal of one item, $40 for up to four. The appraisers receive a stipend and lunch. The museum raises much needed revenue for its general fund.

But there’s more to it than that. People also get a lesson on South Carolina history based on their own stuff.

“This helps fulfill our mission,” Wszola said. “We are the state’s museum and this gets people in the door.”

One of those people was Katrina Turner of Gilbert. She had purchased a Civil War era black powder musket as a high school graduation present for her son, Brenson, a gun enthusiast. She paid $1,800 for the musket and wanted to know if she got a good deal.

Weapons expert Dr. Jack Allen Meyer confirmed that she did, putting the price at $2,000. He also added some neat historical detail.

The weapon — an 1949-50 Flagg musket — was likely owned by a Confederate soldier, because his initials had been carved in the stock.

“A Union soldier wouldn’t have done that,” Meyer said. “He would have been chastised.”

Wszola said that the road show hasn’t uncovered any priceless items yet, but some through the years have been valued as high as $20,000.

“I’m still waiting on the million dollar item,” she said, “but it hasn’t come through.”

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