Anne Ruthling wasn’t sure if the two plaster statues were really worth much, or if there was any truth to the story she’d heard about their age.
“I bought these when I was living in Portugal,” she told Reid Dunavant, an antiques appraiser from Doyle New York, an auction house in New York City. “I used to go to this antiques place in the hills. They told me the statues were from the 1700s.”
CAREFULLY EXAMINING the small of the two pieces, a man with the Franciscan bowl haircut holding a small child, with a tiny piece of real rope fixed to the statue to make it more realistic, Dunavant knew he had to disappoint her.
“As far as the dating of these pieces, you were misled,” he told Ruthling. “In the 17th and 18th century, Santos figures were a little more provincial. The features on this piece in particular,” he said, pointing to the larger statue, “are more academic, which would lead me to think they were from the 19th century.”
The larger statue, a man with a book in his hand, was losing its original coat of paint, which also led him to believe the statue wasn’t 300 years old.
“If this statue were 300 years old, it would have several layers of paint on it, and this only has one,” he said.
Ruthling had brought her two statues to be inspected as part of an Appraisal Day at the Coldwell Banker office in McLean on Friday, part of an ongoing partnership between the real estate office and the auctioneers.
“If we get called into a house to sell antiques on behalf of an estate and the owner wants to sell the house, we try to refer them to a Coldwell Banker real estate agent,” Dunavant said. “Likewise, if they have a house they’re selling that has some antiques in it, they’ll refer the owner to us to help selling the items.”
Doyle New York has an office in Georgetown, where walk-in appointments for appraisals are held at least one Saturday every month. Eight times during the year, the company will go to a branch office in the Northern Virginia region to conduct open appraisals, he said.
“We have a jewelry and paintings specialist and I do furniture, silver, porcelain and general décor,” Dunavant said. “We have a whole battery of specialists we can call if we need to,” he said.
People will often bring in items they believe to be valuable, such as rare Barbies or Star Wars items, only to find out that they had been so widely produced it’s more of a collectable than an investment, he said.
“There are some collectibles that don’t have artistic merit,” he said. “There’s a high demand for Star Wars or Barbie things, but they have no real artistic value,” he said.
THE SAME goes for coins and stamps, he said. “There’s always that one in a billion find that’s rare and worth more,” he said. “If someone calls up our office in New York and says he’s got a huge collection, our coin person won’t bother, but if someone said they’ve got a set of seven coins, he’s out the door. The connoisseur ship of small collections shows the value.”
With the popularity of television shows like the “Antiques Roadshow,” more people are becoming aware of the treasures they may have tucked away in their homes, Dunavant said.
“We’ve been interested in treasure hunts since childhood,” he said. “We probably disappoint more people because of the small percentage of real treasures we find.”
Ruthling was told her Santos statues would probably be worth double their estimated value of between $300 and $500 each if she were in the Southwestern portion of the country, Dunavant said.
“The Internet makes collecting things an international market, so you might want to look into eBay or an auction house in New Mexico,” he told her.
“I’m surprised, I really thought they’d be worth more,” Ruthling said. “I’ve always loved them but a friend told me my new house was starting to look like a church from all the religious art I had, so I put them away.”
She was going to think about sending the statues to her brother-in-law in New Mexico, a well-known artist in the region.
Next in line were Roberto and Lilia Vazquez, who brought several small paintings, a wooden chalice and some jewelry to be examined.
“This chalice looks to be made of olive wood because it’s a little waxy,” Dunavant told them. “It looks like it’s from the 19th century.”
Lilia Vazquez showed a pair of teardrop-shaped earrings to Ann Limer Lange, a jewelry expert from Doyle New York.
“These are real diamonds in a very pretty setting,” Lange told them. “But these are synthetic rubies,” she said of the center stone in the earrings. “There’s nothing natural in there at all and the color’s a little too red.”
The earrings were valued at between $300 and $500.
They also brought a coral necklace and one made of large onyx and metallic beads, which Lange said she could not value because she was not familiar with the cultural significances of the jewelry to Guatemala, where the pieces originated.
“When you come from another country, the idea of what you have is different,” Roberto Vazquez said. “I’m not saying they’re not right, but in my mind, the value is different.”
“She said my necklace, she couldn’t value because she doesn’t know it,” Lilia Vazquez said.
“The necklace is from Guatemala, it’s made of onyx and silver and it’s called chachal, which is a type of art,” he said.
Sometimes it is the items tucked away, buried in an attic, that prove the most valuable, said Cynthia Klein, the fine art appraiser from Doyle New York on Friday.
“WE SEE a wide range of items in terms of prints and reproductions,” she said. “Artwork is very name-driven, the same with jewelry. People try to go by artists who have a track record” of having high selling prices, she said.
Jewelry appraiser Lange said she’s always looking forward to what she might find during an appraisal day.
“You never know what’s going to walk in,” she said. Recently, a woman brought in a diamond and ruby bracelet made by Cartier that she appraised for between $30,000 and $40,000.
“It sold for over $70,000 at auction,” she said. “The last time I was in Washington, a woman came in with a four-carat diamond ring and another came in with a lot of diamond jewelry. It’s unpredictable,” she said.
Appraising jewelry is different from artwork or home décor, she said, because there’s often an emotional attachment that prevents the owner from wanting to sell the piece.
“For most people, it’s more about the sentimental value than the dollar value,” she said.
“Services like this fit a lot of our clientele,” said John Thorpe, branch vice president for Coldwell Banker in McLean.
“We sell half of the million-dollar-plus homes in America so this is a way to provide a service to our customers,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement, it’s a fun thing to do.”
The next open appraisal will be held on Saturday, May 7 at Doyle New York’s office at 1211 Potomac St. N.W. in Georgetown. An appointment-only date of May 6 will be held at the Coldwell Banker Previews Mid-Atlantic office in Leesburg.