Appalachian Dulcimer, ca. 1880

Value (2013) | $3,000 Retail$5,000 Retail

Well, this was always a wall hanging at my grandmother's house. The story I was always told is my great-great-grandmother, Granny Smith, used to sit on the porch and play the dulcimer and chew chewing tobacco. So you just get that Appalachian image. And I always wondered if it was true. Because as it is, it doesn't look like much of an instrument.

Where did Granny Smith live?

Southern West Virginia, Monroe County.

We see a lot of violins, cellos, horns, clarinets. Rarely do we see a piece like this that is so indigenous to the culture and the place where we're at. This is a classic piece of American folk art work. It's an Appalachian dulcimer, and it has all the accouterments of what we're going to expect from a musical instrument made by hand, by a craftsman who's not necessarily trained in instrument making. It was interesting you said there's a West Virginia connection because that's the first place I wanted to go with this. The sides, the top, the neck and, I believe, even the head here are chestnut, which is indigenous to West Virginia. I think half the split rail fences are of chestnut there. Folk art crafts people, they see something in the real world, they see a real instrument, then they go home and they reproduce it. And this craftsman here wanted to make F holes like on a violin. And what he's done is he's used an auger and he's drilled this sort of S-F shape. It's wonderfully ingenious. And what I really loved was the head. He's thinking of a violin, he's thinking of a scroll. And he sort of gets this almost creature-like curve up here. It's a great, great piece. Found materials, putting materials together. The back is very interesting because I think it's a drawer bottom from an old cabinet. And you can see the rippling lines here from a planer. I'm dating this around 1880. It's rare to find these where they are this early. And they're pre-folk revival that Jean Ritchie made so famous. You could string it up and use it today. It's extremely deep for a mountain dulcimer. It's going to sound terrific.


Yeah, it really will. This is a rare early piece. I think the market for it is very thinly focused to an institution. For retail I would value it between the $3,000 and $5,000 range.

Wow. (chuckles) Wow. I never expected that.

Appraisal Details

New York, NY
Appraised value (2013)
$3,000 Retail$5,000 Retail
Richmond, VA (August 17, 2013)
Cherry , Wood

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.