Getting the Measure of Treasure: Enthusiasts, Appraisers Convene for Annual Oxbow Antique Event
Maggie Miller of Lyme stands waiting to have items appraised yesterday during the Antique Appraisal Fair at Oxbow Union High School in Bradford, Vt. The event raises money for a scholarship fund. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
An appraiser evaluates a vintage lamp. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
John Hooker, of Newbury, Vt., examines a picture book during the Antique Appraisal Fair at Oxbow High School in Bradford, Vt., yesterday. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
A portrait of William Corruth, who died in 1877. Corruth lived in Groton, Vt., and Newbury, and is the great-great-great-grandfather of Priscilla Power, of Lyme. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Maggie Miller of Lyme, listens as Wendy Hynes appraises her set of silverware, sent to her by her husband years ago from Japan, during the Antique Appraisal Fair. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Bradford — Advertised as being “loosely patterned” after Antiques Roadshow, the Antiques Appraisal Fair at Oxbow Union High School yesterday had all the ambiance of the popular public television show, albeit on an Upper Valley scale.
A steady trickle of attendees yesterday afternoon milled about the high school cafeteria with luggage, tote bags and items tucked under their arms. Some sat in chairs while others huddled around five desks with local appraisers whose combined expertise ran the gamut from furniture to folk art.
It was the 15th go-around for the annual spring fundraiser, which charges $4 apiece for appraisals and funnels the proceeds to the Oxbow Community Scholarship for Excellence, which encourages post-graduate education.
One of the tables set up yesterday was run by Chuck Eaton, an appraiser based out of Fairlee who specializes in early American furniture, ironware, Shaker items and pottery.
As Orford Resident David Smith sat in one of the fold-out chairs and unwrapped a functioning cannon about the size of a tennis shoe, Eaton beamed, belting over to neighboring appraiser Uriah Wallace, “We’ve got artillery!”
The artillery, according to Eaton, was a functioning .50 caliber “hand cannon” from around the time of the Mexican-American War in the 1840s. He said it was likely used for parades, not warfare, and could have been attached to a carriage. He valued the piece at around $100.
Smith, who tears down old houses for work, said that the cannon passed down in his family, along with another hand-me-down — a buckle from a military uniform also from the mid-1800s that was valued at the same price. Smith also had with him two items that he had come across at various work sites: a Civil War-era bayonet uncovered at house in Rumney and a Revolutionary War-era handwritten letter from Grafton.
“Occasionally, we find a little trinket here and there if we’re looking,” said Smith, who attended the annual event for the first time yesterday. He described the scene as “interesting.”
“I think I’d rather have come to something like this than (Antiques Roadshow) because the Roadshow is so big and overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve got hundreds of things. If I had $1,000 to spend I could come in here at $4 a night and have them go through all the stuff I have.”
Several in attendance yesterday expressed satisfaction with helping in what they termed to be a good cause: Oxbow Community Scholarship for Excellence, which is based off a points system that rewards good grades, community service and other factors.
Dan Lemay, who helped organize the fair yesterday and teaches math at the high school, said that about half of the students at Oxbow participate, and they get a check in the mail if they end up at a post-graduate school, “whether it’s cosmetology school or Harvard.”
The fair yesterday was a familiar scene for John Hooker — a 91-year-old native of Newbury, Vt., who can trace his passion for collectibles back to 1933, when he sent in Ivory soap coupons and a few pennies for a pamphlet of stamps. Hooker said in his “10-plus” years working the antiques fair, the items that stand out the most were from a collection belonging to Eddie Rickenbacker, a famed World War I fighter ace.
“Papers, letters, photographs ... museum-quality stuff,” said Hooker, who said his expertise lies in books, stamps and ephemera.
Diane Clay Osgood, of Thetford, approached Hooker’s table with a variety of items, some worth more than others. Osgood brought with her a 1931 “Kitchen Kalender” bearing the name of the old North Thetford general store, which Osgood said used to be where the post office is located now. The calendar went by week-long chunks, with a perforated lower section featuring a checklist for ingredients.
“Presented for your convenience by Otis D. Bard,” the calendar read. “Your store, North Thetford, Vt.”
Hooker took a look at the calendar.
“Well,” he said, followed by a very brief pause. “Up to a hundred bucks or so, my dear.”
Osgood said she has heard about the fair for years, but she decided to check it out for the first time yesterday, and found it to be a “really neat experience.” She had several items with her, including a small child’s safe made of iron, patented in 1886. She said most of the antiques came from the Clays, a family lineage in which she took pride.
“I’m very fortunate to have had my parents saved what they’ve saved to pass on down,” she said.
Ben Conarck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3213.