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Home » ARTS AND CULTURE in RI » RHODE ISLAND (all topics) » How Much is Your “Attic Heirloom” Worth?
Accredited appraiser Richard Conti identifies for Maria Saracen some of the characteristics that determine a rug’s value
How Much is Your “Attic Heirloom” Worth?

The Rhode Island PBS Antiques Discovery & Appraisal Show

By Mark B. Oliver | January 23, 2012

Have you ever wondered how much that “attic heirloom” of yours might be worth?

You know, that curio that’s been in your family for generations? Or maybe it’s a flea market find that caught your eye and you just had to have?

Many of us have at least one object with an interesting history. Sometimes we know what that history is, and sometimes we can only speculate based on the category of collectible. Most often, of course, we keep an object around simply for its personal appeal or sentimental value, even if we’re not sure of its true dollar value.

How would you react if an appraiser told you that item really is a treasure?

Fans of public television’s British and American traveling antiques shows agree that some of the best, most exciting moments are when valuable treasures are unexpectedly discovered.

New Englanders are invited to experience one of those moments of discovery for themselves at the upcoming Rhode Island PBS Antiques Discovery & Appraisal Show in February, 2012.

This first event of its kind for the public television station, the Rhode Island PBS Antiques Discovery & Appraisal Show provides a special opportunity for the public to bring an object of unknown or uncertain value to an accredited appraiser for a written appraisal. Those two features – written appraisal by accredited appraisers – distinguish the Antiques Discovery & Appraisal Show from other antiques appraisal events.

One of the participating accredited appraisers is Richard Conti of Conti Appraisal Service in Attleboro, MA. Conti is accredited by the National Auctioneers Association, National Association of Professional Appraisers, and the American Society of Appraisers.

(L)-(R) Richard Conti, and Steven Fusco, appraise the value of an original Maxwell Mays watercolor, with Brian Scott-Smith

“Rhode Island is literally a treasure trove of original works of art and furnishings created by masters of their craft,” said Conti. “There are the familiar names – Townsend and Goddard furniture of Newport, Gorham silver of Providence, the distinctive painting styles of Gilbert Stuart, George Hayes, and Maxwell Mays – all with strong roots in Rhode Island. There are also lesser known names who crafted beautiful works of art that are recognized by a signature style or shape. These, too, have become valuable and highly collectable through time.”

As a personal and real property appraiser and auctioneer for more than twenty years in New England, Conti has witnessed countless expressions of shock-turned-joy in his career.

He recounts the story of a man who requested his services settling the estate of the man’s recently deceased elderly aunt.

“I walked into the home and saw a painting on the dining room wall over the buffet. ‘That’s been hanging there since I was a boy,’ the 50-something year old client told me. The painting was an original oil on canvas signed by Guy Wiggins. It was dusty, but worth between $35,000 and $40,000.”

Needless to say, Conti’s client was astonished.

“I see this all the time. A piece of furniture or a painting that has been part of everyday family life – and virtually ignored for decades – is actually a valuable antique, hidden in plain sight,” Conti said.

Charles Logue (L) discovers that his ukulele – found discarded on a junk heap – is actually worth $650 in an appraisal by Richard Conti (C) and Steven Fusco (R)

Even what was considered ‘costume jewelry’ in its day – pieces manufactured in Rhode Island by Monet, Coro, Trifari – demonstrate a type of American craft and artistry that has appreciated over time and become collector’s items, according to Conti.

“Masterful pieces created in Rhode Island over the centuries can be found all over the world,” Conti said, “but there are still many originals right here in New England. Some objects never left, while others have made their way back home.”

During the Antiques Discovery & Appraisal Show, if appraisers determine an item really is a treasure, the owners could see their story told on television.

Throughout the day, and while folks are in line for their written appraisals, accredited appraisers will be mingling in the crowd, searching for “hidden” treasures.

Whether discoveries are made in line or in the formal appraisal area, TV producer and show host Brian Scott-Smith will be there with the WSBE camera crew to capture the moment.

Those stories will be edited together with additional footage, to create a television special that will air on WSBE’s two channels: Rhode Island PBS and Learn.


The Rhode Island PBS Antiques Discovery & Appraisal Show will be held at:

The Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick Airport Hotel

801 Greenwich Avenue, Warwick, RI 02886


Saturday, February 18, 2012, from 9AM to 4PM.

For more information, visit www.ripbs.org/antiques.

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