The Antiques Roadshow Experience
This past Saturday was the Antiques Roadshow event in Atlantic City, NJ and I invited a friend of mine whom I knew had some items that he had wanted appraised for quite some time. I requested a press pass so that I could have less restrictions on where I could take photographs so that I could share more of the feel of the experience here on Rare Victorian.
I selected a 10:00 slot to stop by the press desk to get my lanyard and my escort. Yes, I had a personal escort for the complete duration of my day there. I’m not sure if I should be honored or offended, but it proved to be advantageous to have someone with us that knew a lot more than we about the goings on within the Roadshow.
We were whisked straight to triage, where a small team of experts hands out tickets for the specialized lines where the actual appraisals occur. This bypass of the triage line proved to be our best perk, saving us probably 90-120 minutes waiting in that line.
After receiving tickets at the triage desk for the “Arms & Militaria”, “Paintings”, and “Asian Art” lines, we headed to the appraisal lines. Chris and I opted to visit each line together so that we could both be there while each of us had our items appraised.
The first line was the Asian Art line to get Chris’ statue appraised. Chris believed it to be a depiction of Parvati, a Hindu goddess and about 2,000 years old. We were going to finally get another opinion on that.
We waited approximately 25 minutes in line for the table where there were three Asian items appraisers. We were directed to James Callahan who looked it over and provided a possible region of India for it’s origin and a 2,000 year estimate for age and an $8-9,000 evaluation.
This was where I learned that a lot of the Roadshow Appraisals are done off-the-cuff by the appraisers, usually with nothing other than their noggin. There is no meaningful quantity of research material at their immediate fingertips (at the tables) and it appears that only some of the tables have a computer for Googling (namely, the paintings table). There is apparently some quantity of research material available outside in a truck, but apparently that is utilized if needed when preparing for a video shoot for a TV segment, when necessary.
After Asian Arts we headed to the “Arms & Militaria” table for an appraisal on a painting that I own. It is a depiction of General Sherman on his favorite horse on the Civil War battlefield painted by Newbold Trotter. I bought it at Cowan’s a few years ago and they listed it as a 1930-ish copy of the “original” painting. I disagree with Cowan’s on that particular point. The rear label (and the front signature) has the artist’s own handwriting (I have 3 of his other paintings to know) – not something possible to produce in 1930 since he’d been dead 32 years by then. He’s not a notable enough painter that someone would try to copy the painting and go to the trouble of writing the rear label in his handwriting. Trotter nearly always marks the rear of his paintings with a catalog code (usually a “#” and three letters), a title and/or description and his name and date as this one does. Also, the rear label has an 1880 date on it.
I live in a house his son Spencer built in 1886, he lost it to the bank in 1887, and Newbold’s wife (Spencer’s mother) bought it back from the bank in 1900. The son eventually inherited the house he had built after his mother died in 1924. Since their father/husband was a painter of note, I thought it would be great to have his paintings in the house and now own 4 originals.
It’s easy to research the market for a painter that has some auction history. I knew that Newbold generally painted landscapes and animals and Western scenes but I’d never heard of him painting people, let alone famous people. This made it hard to find comparative prices.
What added to the dilemma of researching the market for this particular painting was that it was accompanied by a typewritten letter from Sherman’s son “P.T.” to another Sherman relative, Arthur, speaking about the painting, saying it was a “historical painting made under the direction of my father and you may be interested to have it”. So the painting was in the Sherman family and probably originally owned by the General himself.
I also have an obituary of Newbold Trotter talking about the relationship between Trotter and General Sherman and how he paid him $3,000 for a painting to be done of his horse based on an old photograph (which this painting is).
This all adds up to a difficult, one-off appraisal situation for a non-expert such as me.
Rafael Eledge was my appraiser for this particular painting at the Arts & Militaria table. Rafael is one of the nation’s leading experts in Civil War militaria, but an oil painting is not a cannon or a projectile, so he sought some additional opinions at the paintings table. I was glad that I’d be getting the distillation of multiple opinions and the consensus was that it could be worth $15-$20,000 since it is “one of a kind”. It bothers me that this value is significantly over the maximum ever paid for a Trotter painting. I think it is indeed a special painting but is it his most valuable ever?
Stay tuned for part II, but in the meantime, I’ll share the photos from our trip. Click on the image below.