Antique appraisals: Appraiser gives brief opinions on value of items brought to session in Mount Pleasant

Piattoni, an appraiser on the PBS series 'Antiques Roadshow,' looks over items before starting his presentation at Somerby of Mount Pleasant on March 31.

Robert Lovinger's late wife, Sophie, just had to have a set of what appeared to be original apostle spoons for sale in a nearby antiques store. It was 1965 and the Lovingers were poor graduate students attending New York University.

Lovinger said they didn't really have the money but Sophie bought them anyway. She thought they might be worth something some day.

Lovinger of James Island laid them on a table among turn-of-the-century dishes, hundred-year-old paintings, antique toys and banks, gifts from grandmothers and cousins and bargains from thrift stores.

All had been brought by area residents for an appraisal session held at Somerby of Mount Pleasant on March 31.

Gary Piattoni of Decorative Arts, a fine-art and antiques appraisal and consulting company, who has appeared on the PBS series "Antiques Roadshow," spent four hours March 31 briefly appraising each item.

Piattoni, based in Evanston, Ill., said he's been interested in antiques since he was a child. He said before the afternoon session, "A lot of people specialize in something. I'm a generalist. I know a little about a lot of things."

Before appraising, Piattoni explained to the audience of about 100 how the PBS show works.

The show sets up at a location on a Saturday and 70 appraisers spend the entire day examining items.

When producers believe they have something fit for the show, the item's owner is asked if they would agree to have their reaction to the item's value recorded on camera.

They are whisked away to have makeup applied and are told not to talk to anyone about their item because the show wants to capture their initial reaction to the item's value.

They might say, "Yes! I can retire now," Piattoni said.

Before pricing any items, Piattoni said he couldn't give a true appraisal in such a short amount of time but he could offer his opinion.

Some hoped they had a treasure. Sandy Ellette and Ann McGinnis brought some old things, including a stuffed dog toy for fun and said they were fans of the show.

Piattoni said the small stuffed dog was very cute and probably wouldn't be worth much more than $35 without knowing more about it.

"The good news is it's priceless to you," Piattoni said.

Many people in the audience nodded in agreement when Piattoni told them what they could expect. Most of them had heard similar opinions before.

The most valuable item of the afternoon in terms of dollars was probably a Revolutionary War-era sword. Grange Walters of Charleston said it had been passed down through her family and was told that it was a Toledo sword, originally a gift from George Washington to Maj. Cadwallader Jones during the American Revolution.

The sword had been engraved with the phrase "Draw me not without cause. Sheathe me not without honor" in Spanish.

Piattoni said without any real proof, what Walters had was a sword worth $7,000 to $10,000, but if she could really tie down the story, someone might pay as much as $30,000.

Piattoni said Sophie's spoons would bring far less.

They weren't true apostle spoons but were replicas made in the 19th century. Their maximum value was probably less than $100.

Lovinger said Piattoni's assessment was similar to an evaluation he'd been given in the past.

He wrapped the spoons and tucked them inside a blue pouch.

"I'm going to put them back in the safe deposit box," Lovinger said.

Reach Jessica Miller at 937-5921.