Appraise-worthy effort

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Just how valuable are family heirlooms?

It depends on how one defines value.

Appraisers from Ivey-Selkirk Auctioneers of Clayton, Mo., examined treasures Cape Girardeau residents brought to the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center Saturday. The appraisers could determine the history of some items. They could estimate what the items would bring at auction or sale.

But only the owners of the items could say how valuable they are to them.

Sterling Cossaboom of Cape Girardeau brought with him an 80-year-old gold-plated trumpet with floral engraving and showed it to appraiser Terry Beye, who told Cossaboom what he thinks it would fetch in an auction. It's worth more than that to Cossaboom, a professional musician and professor at Southeast Missouri State University. The Conn Victorian trumpet had been his father's.

"My father died when I was 3," Cossaboom said. "I have no memories of him playing the horn. I remember as a child I would open the drawer where my mother kept it and would look at it and say I want to learn to play that."

Cossaboom said the trumpet still has great sound, and he hopes maybe some day one of his granddaughters will take an interest in it.

Victorian jewelry

Barbara Calvin of Cape Girardeau has some jewelry she plans to leave to her daughter. She inherited two gold-plated Victorian bracelets in the shape of coiled snakes and a locket with a pocket so deep it may have held more than a photo. A lock of hair perhaps; maybe even smelling salts, said appraiser Maury Humphries.

While not exactly fine precious jewelry, Victorian pieces in good condition are increasing in value to collectors. The snakes' eyes on Calvin's bracelets aren't real precious stones, she said, but the matched bracelets are in good condition and are worth more than one might think costume jewelry would be worth.

Calvin inherited them from her mother, who inherited them from her own mother. They date back to between 1840 and 1870. The locket isn't quite as old nor is it worth as much on the market.

Calvin said she never wore the bracelets.

"I don't like snakes," she said.

Malcolm Ivey, owner of Ivey-Selkirk, said most of the items people brought in weren't eye-poppingly valuable, but some pieces were interesting. Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Humphries said mostly demand determines value.

"It depends on how much the people want something," she said.

Susan Kime, who appraises paintings and prints, said she was interested to see a lithograph by Grant Wood that someone brought in. What makes it special is that Wood had signed it for a nurse who had tended him during an illness. He gave it to her as a thank-you gift, and now her daughter has it.

"She would never sell it," Kime said. "It was probably the most interesting piece I saw."

Valuable books as decor

Danuta Krol, a native of Poland, examined some books Adelaide Parsons of Cape Girardeau brought in. Parsons' father-in-law left boxes of old books, some leather bound, to his children. Krol found one with original lithography in it. The two women discussed how different people value books. Parsons said she was intrigued to learn that some old original editions may not ever be opened and read; they're used as decor in some homes or offices.

"But there are collectors who buy them because they love books," Krol said.

Parsons said she respected the history associated with the books but wasn't sure what to do with them. Krol advised her to try to find someone who would appreciate them.

Ivey-Selkirk has been in business in the St. Louis area since 1830, when it was opened as Selkirk Galleries. Ivey bought the company two years ago after working for Phillip Selkirk for 13 years, working his way up to a management position. Ivey-Selkirk sells items only through auction.

EBay has not hurt his business; it may have helped it by offering people an alternative way to sell their items, he said. It has also made people aware of the auction process, and in some instances, it is a good vehicle to sell items that his company otherwise wouldn't be able to sell.

The Historical Commission of Cape Girardeau County offered the appraisal as a fund raiser to support the Glenn House. Participants could buy as many as two tickets to have something appraised; about 150 people bought 200 tickets for the event Saturday.

335-6611, extension 160

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