German POW Folk Art Signs, ca. 1944
During World War II, my father was stationed at a prisoner-of-war camp in Como, Mississippi. And these are representative of that period of time when the German prisoners were at Camp Como. At the camp, they organized the prisoners according to whatever area of Germany that they came from. And the prisoners were allowed to make signs. At the end of World War II, when the camp was being closed, my father and the... what would probably be the private in Germany were closing up the camp, and the private said, "These really are nice. "I'd hate to see them destroyed. You really should take them." So I have about 20 to 24 of them, and these are representative of it. So they were organized by region.
So we have here is Weser, we have Oder, and the Elbe regions.
And a lot of folks don't realize that there were close to half a million German and other POWs in the United States during the war. There were camps almost in every state of the country. Many of them were in the south because of the issues with heating the camps. It was easier to just have them in the warmer climates. Now, the tradition for POWs to be making things in prison camps dates back to the Napoleonic era, when Napoleonic prisoners would make things out of sheep bone and things like that, and trade for favors. And it continued from World War I and World War II, and most often you see them making things like souvenir boxes or plaques or paintings and things like that. These were on posts. If we turn this one around, we can see the shadow of this one that would have been on a post. The others have indications that they were also on a post. This one even has a pen inscription, a lieutenant's name and a date of 1945. That might actually have been put on maybe towards the end afterwards as an indicator of who made it, because it's unclear if that would have survived being outside for so long. But either way, it helps us put it into context. So now, these things transcend really POW artwork or folk art that would have been made for trade and become a physical part of the camp. And they do kind of cross the worlds between folk art and military collectors.
Look how whimsical they are and how detailed they are. Here's the Pied Piper. They're really quite beautiful.
Right, and the little mice down below.
So charming to see the mice down here. Did your father ever have photographs taken of the camp?
Yes, we have eight-millimeter films.
Can you see the signs in the film?
We can see the signs, and I was down there too. I mean, the whole family was down there, so I remember the signs and I remember the camp.
That's very important, to put these into context. To have period photos of the signs in situ would just add to the value and make them a complete unit. While I've seen many, many POW things, these really would be, like, at the top of the market. I would suggest that in an insurance or in a retail environment, these would be easily $1,000 apiece, and maybe even a little bit more for some of the ones that have more detail.
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.
Broadway's Best on PBS
Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles; One Man, Two Guvnors; Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn, and Lea Salonga in Concert.