1953 Hughie Lee-Smith Watercolors

Value (2013) | $20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction
Watch  

GUEST:
I was looking for some proper fine original art when I opened my first architectural office in 1957. I went to the office of a very high-performance artist, Robert Kidd, and I couldn't afford any of his works. These really caught my eye. They're onion skin watercolors.

APPRAISER:
Right.

GUEST:
And I had to have them. It was the best I could buy for the money I had to spend.

APPRAISER:
So each of these is an original watercolor on paper. You know the artist, Hughie Lee-Smith. He was born in 1915, died in 1999. Born in Florida, briefly studied in Cleveland, also studied in Detroit, but really a favorite son of Detroit. He was and still is quite revered. I know he had an association with the Detroit Artists Market. He first exhibited in the city in 1947. He's only the second African-American artist to be elected as an associate member of the prestigious National Academy of Design. His artworks have become in greater demand. The market in general for the African-American artists, which you could argue 20, 30 years ago was very much underappreciated, has really come into its own. He is particularly interesting because he's sort of part of a larger social realist movement, artists who depict those who are socially underprivileged, the plight of people who are in poverty, issues associated with race, and you certainly see that, but he's also got a little bit of a strange undercurrent of surrealism, a little bit of brooding, almost a feel of disquiet in his works. These are both signed and dated. His style evolved, as is the case with many artists, and when he got into the '70s and '80s, he got into a lot more surrealism, paintings with very desolate figures, some of the same themes, but a little bit more sort of charged. The '40s and the '50s, while early in his career, represent the time period that people most like to collect of his works. Do you have any idea what these are worth in today's market?

GUEST:
I would have no idea, but I know it will be probably dramatically more than $100 for the two of them.

APPRAISER:
In today's market, you're probably talking about auction estimates for each one of about $10,000 to $15,000. It's quite a bit.

GUEST:
I think that's fantastic.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Freeman's Auctioneers
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2013)
$20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction
Event
Detroit, MI (June 01, 2013)
Period
20th Century
Form
Painting
Material
Watercolor

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.