American School Portrait, ca. 1820

Value (2012) | $3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
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GUEST:
I'm here to get this picture appraised.

APPRAISER:
Tell me how you found this picture.

GUEST:
Well, I didn't find it. My mother did in the dump. She had to climb into the bin to get it.

APPRAISER:
Well, you have an early American 19th-century picture. And that means it probably was made about 1820 to 1830. I was fascinated by your story about the dump and finding something, because usually people come into the ROADSHOW and they don't know what they have, but it's been in the family. But you actually found this piece, right?

GUEST:
Yeah. Or sometimes they find it from flea markets and stuff like that.

APPRAISER:
Do you go to a lot of flea markets?

GUEST:
Yeah, and my mom does, me and my mom.

APPRAISER:
Is that a hobby of yours?

GUEST:
No, not really. We don't really go to that much flea markets. We like to go to the thrift store instead.

APPRAISER:
Oh, the thrift stores.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
Right. Most portraits that come in to the ROADSHOW or into auction houses or dealers, people know who painted it, and they're signed by the artist. But we don't have that help here, do we? There's no signature, is there? So how do you think we'd identify the age of this picture?

GUEST:
Well, you would look at, like, the back, and the detail of it, and the way the person dressed, and the couch that she's sitting on, and the jewelry she has.

APPRAISER:
That's exactly right. In fact, that's exactly the way appraisers value and date things.

GUEST:
I know, because I watch this show all the time.

APPRIASER: And in fact this woman is wearing this dark dress, and she's sitting on this sofa. That's the back rail of a sofa right there. And that sofa has a mahogany scrolled crest, and those are sofas that were made probably about 1820. You can actually date the picture by the furniture and her jewelry, her hairstyle here. And you know what she's wearing right here?

GUEST:
No.

APPRAISER:
That's a comb. Underneath that there's a tortoise shell comb that she's put in her hair. And even with that little bit of information, we know that this is an American portrait, this is before they had cameras, as you know, so if you wanted a picture of your...

GUEST:
You had to have it painted.

APPRAISER:
You had to have them painted.

GUEST:
I think she wasn't really that rich, because usually the rich people would have all this jewelry on them.

APPRAISER:
Right. She may have been a middle-class citizen. But she's great, and she has great poise, and even though we don't know who painted this picture, and given the condition that she's in, she needs a little bit of work and restoration, she probably would bring $2,000 to $3,000 at auction.

GUEST:
Wow. That's a lot of money. I thought it was worth, like, $100, $150.

APPRAISER:
Well, it is a lot of money, and it's a great find. And keep looking for those antiques.

GUEST:
I will.

Appraisal Details

Update (2012)
$3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
Appraised value (1998)
$2,000 Auction$3,000 Auction
Event
Hartford, CT (August 22, 1998)
Period
19th Century
Form
Portrait
Material
Oil

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.

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