Expert appraisers solve mysteries, á la ‘Antiques Roadshow’For more than twenty years, Dan Sershon of Northland Estate Services has been volunteering his time to the St. Louis County Historical Society so members of the community can bring their family heirlooms, antique store finds, and old stuff to the attention of his expert appraiser’s eye.
By: Esther Piszczek, For the Budgeteer News
For more than twenty years, Dan Sershon of Northland Estate Services has been volunteering his time to the St. Louis County Historical Society so members of the community can bring their family heirlooms, antique store finds, and old stuff to the attention of his expert appraiser’s eye.
On Wednesday, Jan. 16, Sershon, along with appraiser Denny Mager, will be available to appraise your valued antiquity at the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center in the exhibit hallway from noon to 3:00 p.m.
“It is open to whatever people want to bring. They should not be intimidated. Bring whatever you want,” advises Mager.
On the third Wednesday of each month, 12 to 60 people bring up to two antique treasures and patiently wait their turn as Sershon and Mager, who have between them about eighty years of antique appraisal experience, evaluate, discuss, and verbally appraise each item.
A true antique, by definition, is an object made by man more than 100 years ago. However, Sershon and Mager also evaluate collectibles, which are objects of value that are less than 100 years old.
Each item presented on January 16 will be evaluated to determine what it is and how it functions, when, where and by whom it was made, and what it is worth.
If the appraisers are unable to make a complete determination, they will share the information they have and refer the owner to another appraiser who has more specialized knowledge.
“We have a very vast knowledge, but sometimes there are things that need to be researched further, and we give information where people can learn more,” says Mager.
According to Julie Bolos, manager of administrative services for the St. Louis Historical Society, antique appraisal falls under the education arm of the historical society’s mission.
“People are learning about their own personal history that they hold in their hands. The Society’s mission is to preserve history and educate people about it, and this appraisal program fits into the educational component of our mission. We are happy to do it, and it’s very well received by the community.”
When community members arrive at the Depot on appraisal day, they will sign in, and will be called to speak with Mager and Sershon in order of arrival. Light refreshments will be served.
“It is entertaining for the audience. I think some of the people just enjoy watching to see what somebody brings,” notes Mager, who has been assisting Sershon for the past several years.
Through the years, Sershon and Mager have appraised a wide variety of items, and both experts hold certificates in antique appraisal. Sershon specializes in glassware and 18th-century furniture, while Mager enjoys evaluating timepieces, musical instruments, sporting goods, lamps, and coin-operated machines.
“If something is really big, bring pictures,” advises Mager.
Although Sershon recalls evaluating a piece of jewelry for $10,000 to $20,000, “a lot of what we see is not of real value, but a keepsake and nostalgic for the family.”
Mager notes that appraisals are just an estimate of an object’s value. “It does not mean they will get that much, they might get more, they might get less.”
Some items are historically significant. Sershon recounted how a man brought in a pencil sketch. Artist Eastman Johnson, an American painter and cofounder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, drew the sketch. The drawing had gone missing when the Historical Society took over the art collection in the 1920s.
According to Sershon, “The Society had a pencil drawing, a self-portrait, of Eastman Johnson in his cabin during the winter, but the drawing showed only half of the cabin. The reacquired drawing showed the other half of the cabin, which completed the picture.” The Historical Society acquired the second drawing following the appraisal.
For Sershon, “It is always a delight to see something we’ve never seen before because it affords an opportunity to research the piece and discover its form, function and value. Most of the time it’s an educational experience.”
“The appraisers volunteer their time; without that, we wouldn’t be able to provide the service to the community,” says Bolos.