Story and Photography By Carolyn Bowers

Are your antiques and auction finds valuable? Find out at this popular fundraiser in Southport.

How much is it worth?

That is the question on everyone’s mind as they line up with their prized possessions at the annual P.E.O. Antique Appraisal Fair. As they meet with one of several antiques experts, some will be excited to find out they are suddenly rich, while others will learn something about the history and age of their treasures.

At the 2013 event, Virginia Lauzon was delighted to find out from appraiser Robert Brown of Northrop Antiques Mall that her “School Days” series of lithographs by Norman Rockwell are worth from $3,000 to $5,000 each. She has no intention of selling any of them. “I just wanted to know what they are worth,” she says.

The 2014 event will be held on Sunday, February 23 from 1 to 4 pm at the Southport Community Center. The doors will open at 12:30 pm to purchase tickets. The cost is $7 for one item or $20 for three items, and all of the proceeds from this fundraiser will go toward college scholarships, educational loans and financial assistance for women to further their education.

All items must be hand-carried — no 19th-century armoires, please.

Eleven certified antique appraisers, both specialists and generalists, will be on hand to give participants their opinions about the value of their items.

Debbie Bjorkman brought an interesting item to the 2013 event — a very thick, exquisitely carved bamboo stick her great-grandfather had brought from China. Evidently, he never told her about the stick, so she had no idea what it was. Upon appraisal, Brown admitted that he wasn’t too sure what it was either, but he conjectured that it could be a Samurai warrior stick.

“It’s spectacular,” Brown said. “Certainly the most interesting piece I have seen. He thought it would be worth in the range of $300 to $500.

Imagine Brenda Capestrain’s surprise when she found out the Italian Marano glass vase that she had previously purchased for $70 at an auction was more likely to be worth $1,500.

Mary Ann Pittman brought in her grandmother’s “piano baby” figurine, so named because the dolls were used to hold down the shawl that draped a piano in the well-decorated Victorian parlors of the 1800s. Pittman’s piano baby was appraised at $200 to $300.

Kevin Young had two entries. One was a painting of a British red coat; however, the gentleman in the painting could not be identified, which appreciably reduced the appraised value. Nevertheless, his wife had bought it at an auction for $200, and Dave Henderson of Azio Media appraised it at $500. Not a bad profit margin there!

Young’s other treasure was certainly the most unusual item of the day: a 15-inch bronze statue of a pregnant, praying nun! Young said, “That’s why she’s praying; she’s pregnant.” Admittedly, she looks pregnant, but a more charitable and probably more accurate explanation would be that she simply has a disproportionately large tummy. We will leave the reason for that to the viewer to decide. In any case, Henderson pegged the piece as being from the 1920s and put a value of $1,000 on it.

Another big winner of the day from a profit standpoint was Nancy Bosserman. Her sister gave her a walking stick that she had purchased in an antique shop near Somerset, Pa., for $25. Carol Mahoney from Northrop Antiques Mall said it dated from around 1799 and was worth more like $800 to $1,200. No one thought to ask Nancy if she planned on splitting the profit with her sister!

People are already searching through their attics, china cabinets, bookcases and jewelry boxes to find something that they will take to this year’s event.

Paula Jackson has the original version of Sanford Bennett’s classic “Old Age; Its Cause and Prevention,” published in 1912. The book has been reprinted several times, and recent editions are still selling on . Bennett’s research is on himself. The story goes that, at age 50, he was a sickly old man with numerous health issues and complaints. So he devised a series of exercises, all of which are to be done in bed. By age 72, Bennett was a healthy man with an enviable physique, no sagging skin and excellent muscle tone. The book contains several photographs of Bennett and shows the correct positions for each of his recommended exercises. Obviously, Paula isn’t about to give up a book with that much useful information, particularly the part about trading workouts at a gym for stretching in bed! But she would like to find out how much this first edition of a classic might be worth.

Judy Bowers’ great uncle was a rug importer in China in the early 1900s. He gave his sister, Judy’s grandmother, a set of Japanese carved ivory figurines, known as netsuke. Family folklore has it that her great uncle traded one of his rugs for the set. Now that Judy has inherited them, she is curious to know if he made a good deal or if he got taken.

Lyn Mangiapane will be bringing two items to be appraised. One is a painting by the renowned artist and illustrator Grant Reynard, with whom her mother painted in Leonia, NJ. She has a couple of his works, but the one she has selected to bring this time is a watercolor of a boatyard in Edgewater, NJ, looking across the Hudson River to the George Washington Bridge. The other item is an exquisite pin. “I remember my grandmother wearing it all the time,” Lyn says. “And I wore it as a necklace to my high school senior prom.” Obviously there is too much sentiment here for Lyn to ever consider selling it, but she is curious to know what it would be worth.

If you wonder what your inherited treasures or auction finds are worth, you can bring them to the P.E.O. Antique Appraisal Fair at the Southport Community Center on February 23 and get advice from the experts.

As one of the appraisers said at last year’s fair, “The item you least expect to have any value is often the thing that is worth the most.” And then he recalled the time a couple of years ago when a gentleman brought in a rifle from the early 1900s that was still in working condition. It was packed in the original cardboard box, which shed all over the floor, much to the consternation of the P.E.O.’s clean-up crew. The appraiser said, “I told the guy the box was worth more than the gun. He couldn’t believe it, but it was true.”

What: P.E.O. Antique Appraisal Fair
When: Sunday, February 23, 1 to 4 pm
Where: Southport Community Center, 223 E. Bay St., Southport
Cost: $7 for one item, $20 for three items
Information: (910) 253-8853;