By Melissa McKenzie
Whether purchased for a steal at an estate sale, or handed down from generation to generation as a family heirloom, hidden gems, either on display or tucked away in an attic or drawer, are valuable to someone. And, every so often, that perceived value turns into measurable worth.
Now in its eleventh year, the popular Harris Lass Antiques Show and Tell Luncheon gives antiques lovers the opportunity to bring in one of their prized possessions for appraisal by three of the Bay Area’s most knowledgeable antiques appraisers - Steve Yvaska, a teacher and reporter for the Mercury News; Craig Trimball of Antiques Colony on San Carlos in San Jose and Gracie Garcia of Gilroy Antiques on Monterey Avenue.
While most items at the July 10 event were appraised for a modest value, there were a few surprises in store. One of the most interesting was Carol Adams’ item - a simple, red bangle.
When Adams’ friend forgot to bring something from home, she pulled off her bracelet and placed it on the appraisal table, thinking it would be a fun item to get looked at. Little did she know she would be surprised by what she heard.
“Somebody brought in a beautiful, red, Bakelite bangle,” said Trimball. “We were talking about art deco and these Bakelite bangles are made from the 20s and 30s up into about the 40s and 50s. Bakelite is one of those neat elements and it’s one of those precursors to modern day plastic.” Trimball then explained the properties of Bakelite before dropping the bomb. “Red is the most desirable color,” he said, “red and black. If it had some carving on it, you’d be looking up to the $300 range, but a simple bangle like this with not a whole lot of design and style is going to sell at a retail store from $75 to 100 and a quarter.”
Although Adams already knew a bit about the value of material, the appraisal was an eye-opener. “I was curious to know about how much it was worth because I bought several of them,” said Adams. “I paid a good amount of money for them - what I thought was a good amount of money for them, but nothing like what he said it was worth … I wear them all the time and I love them … it’s surprising to me.”
Adams may have received a surprise, but Gloria Luna was truly astonished and amazed by the value of her item - what may be a first edition of Antoine de Saint-Exuprey’s The Little Prince. Luna, who takes Yvaska’s classes, purchased the book at an estate sale for “no more than $2.50,” and thought the show and tell would be a good opportunity to have the book appraised. She had no idea the book that had been sitting on her bookshelf would have any real value - and initially, neither did Trimball.
“I kind of glanced over it and didn’t think much about it because there are so many of them that were made,” said Trimball. “But, when I opened the book, this particular one is dated 1943. So, this could possibly be a first edition … If it is a first edition … they’re listed for $25,000. Having said that, there was a limited run … but [if it’s a later edition of the same year], those particular books are listed in the $1,000 to $3,000 range. So, it could be worth something really, really good. You need to take this to an expert and have them take a look at it.”
“If it’s true, [it’s] exciting,” said Luna. “I just thought ‘no,’ and I didn’t realize that it was the first print - that was a shocker for me … but he knows, so it was exciting.”
The Harris-Lass Museum House is at 1889 Market St. in Santa Clara. Visit www.harrislass.org for more information.