Dear Readers for Feb. 19, 2009

It’s been three weeks since the Second Annual Kiwanis Club Antique Appraisal Fair, and I’m still thinking about it. It wasn’t an earth-shattering event or a profound, life-changing one, but there is something good about a weekend event that still makes you smile three weeks later.

The appraisal fair was a fund raiser for the Alcoa and Foothills Kiwanis and the Heritage and Alcoa Key Clubs. That’s reason enough to smile a little, I guess, because those groups do good work and supporting them is a happy thought. The fair was simple -- four to five appraisers set up their tables, lined them with their books, and folks could bring in their treasures and their oddities, and the appraisers would give them an idea of just what they had. Normally things like appraisals are expensive, so the ticket price of $10 for two items plus $5 for each additional item was a bargain.

My friend Joe Rosson was the guest speaker and one of the appraisers. That was another reason to smile, because I love Joe, and I’ve missed him since my News Sentinel days. I used to have the pleasure of editing Joe’s antique column for the features section, and we became friends. Seeing Joe again was great, and he did a great presentation on Friday night to open the Kiwanis fair.

I took some things to be appraised -- a couple of pieces of jewelry and an old pottery salt box that had belonged to my great-grandmother. I got pretty good news on all. Nothing tilted the “junk” meter and everything I took had some monetary value as well as the intrinsic value it had for me.

That, too, is a reason to smile.

But the main vision that keeps floating through my mind whenever I think about the appraisal fair was the collection of people and their “things.” My true nature came out as I covered the fair for Blount Today on Friday and again on Saturday. I’m a reporter at heart, and I wanted to hear everything that was going on.

Truthfully, I had other places to be on Friday. It was suppose to be a quick couple of pictures -- in and out -- with a promise to my Kiwanis friends that I would return on Saturday. Art Walk was going on, one of my co-workers was having a party, my favorite artist was at Boyd Thomas and I hadn’t had any uninterrupted time with my husband in days.

But the scene unfolding in front of me at the library was just fascinating, and I stayed. Men and women with statues folded in old quilts, clocks that looked too heavy to lift, paintings that might flake off a layer of paint at the touch just kept coming in, their owners sitting and waiting patiently for one of the experts to take a look at what they had.

I knew that every item being brought in had a story. Maybe it was like my salt box, a piece that once sat on the kitchen counter at my great-grandmother’s house and is the only thing I have that belonged to her. I learned it was made in Ohio, after 1900 and before 1920. The value ranged from $450 to $600. Would I sell it for that? Not unless my children were starving.

Other stories were of found treasures, like the print worth several hundred dollars that the gentleman had bought for $4 at a garage sale. There were some that had everyone whispering at the price the appraisers said the item might bring.

But the best thing -- the most smiley thing -- about the evening, was just eavesdropping on the quiet conversations or starting up a few of my own. Sometimes the owner knew a little about the ring or the painting or the figurine. Sometimes they knew a lot. Sometimes they knew nothing. But each piece meant something to the person who brought it. Perhaps it was a sentimental family attachment. Maybe it was a “treasure hunt” hope that this found or cheaply purchased item would be an original something worth millions.

More often than not, it was just an oddity, something that caught someone’s eye, either at grandma’s house or at a yard sale.

It was such a fun event. For the amount of work on my plate that weekend, I know I stayed too long that Friday and too long again the next day.

Or maybe I didn’t. A three-week smile would certainly bring a high appraisal.

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