1835 James Forbes ”Oriental Memoirs“

Value (2008) | $5,000 Retail

GUEST:
I bought it from an estate sale in Pasadena about 35 years ago, and this is James Forbes' book that we bought at the auction.

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
I think I paid $150 or $200 for it.

APPRAISER:
Well, as you can see from the title, it's illustrations to the Oriental Memoirs of James Forbes. Now, James Forbes joined the East India Company in 1765 and went to India. While he was in India, for the next... basically 30 years, he produced over 52,000 pages of manuscript notes on the life and the wildlife and the flora and fauna of Indian lifestyles. And what's particularly famous about the book are its illustrations of the wildlife in India at the time. And I'm going to show you a couple of the plates, beautifully engraved and beautifully hand-colored. There's a certain charm to the plates in that they're not exact depictions. They're as much artistic as realistic. Here's one where you can really see the coloring. You can see almost how it reflects in the light. That's a very beautifully done job of hand coloring of this depiction of one of the plants that he would have seen in India. And here's one of my favorites. It depicts a bird and a frog. This is a kingfisher, which, of course, is a very famous bird in India, and also a singular frog, off the coast of Malibar. And you can see that his depictions are a little bit fanciful, and that's one of the reasons that the books are so sought after. You also brought the text volume. Now, it's a little bit unusual, actually, to be able to find the text volumes and the atlas volumes together. A lot of times they were separated.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
And even though the book is very famous for the color illustrations and the engravings inside, it's the memoirs, the text volumes, that record most of his observations on Indian life. He was actually one of the first Englishmen to depict the Taj Mahal, so these are his travels throughout India. And this is one of the best descriptions of 18th-century India that we have today. Now, you said you paid $150, $200?

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Well, today, I would estimate, for all three volumes-- the text and this lovely colorplate atlas volume-- in this sort of condition, retail it should easily be $5,000.

GUEST:
Beautiful.

APPRAISER:
So that's a good investment.

GUEST:
That's a great investment.

APPRAISER:
It's one of my favorite colorplate books, and I thank you very much for bringing it.

GUEST:
Well, thank you.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Sotheby's
New York, New York
Appraised value (2008)
$5,000 Retail
Event
Palm Springs, CA (June 07, 2008)
Period
19th Century
Material
Paper

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.