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Appraiser unlocks the mysteries

March 15, 2011

Grocery bags and cardboard boxes were packed with family heirlooms and collectibles, then carefully toted to the Brookfield Public Library on Friday in a search for answers.

Barbara Eash, a certified antiques appraiser, spent four hours combing over the dusty treasures with a magnifying glass and assessing their values during the antique appraisal fair.

"These are not things people just bought yesterday at a flea market. These are uncirculated family treasures," Eash said. "The bottom line is they want to know if it's worth any money. Even if it's not, they usually still love it just the same."

For Eash, it's not about the monetary value. The stories behind the diverse pieces fuel her passion.

"It's about the history of things and people appreciating that history," she said.

Making out

Diane Peebles brought an antique flower-print lampshade she found in the attic of a home she had purchased, and learned it was made in the 1860s.

Coupled with a wire lamp base that was made in 1895, the set was valued at nearly $1,000.

"It's so much fun to find out," she said. "Now we're going to have it restored."

Ruth Brostowitz carried in a framed painting that was given to her parents as a wedding gift in the 1940s.

Although Brostowitz learned the piece had little monetary value, she still left happy.

"The beauty of today is knowing if it's trash or treasure. I don't think anybody in this day and age wants to throw something out and then learn it's worth $300 or $400," she said.

Among the most valuable pieces Eash saw Friday was hand-painted porcelain jewelry from the 1860s valued at $900.

Perfecting the craft

Eash can trace her interest in antiques back to her childhood. Crafting her appraisal skills, however, has been a decades-long work in progress.

Today, she can tell by the weight, color and markings on an old toy if it's an antique, or just really old.

"It's an ongoing process," she said. "You have to know if new facts have arisen, so you always have to go back and recheck."

To help, Eash has thousands of reference books and an extensive network of appraisers with varying areas of expertise to draw upon.

The best part of Eash's job, she said, also adds difficulty: You never know what you're going to get.

The thrill of the hunt keeps it exciting.

"You'd be lucky to love your job half as much as I love mine," she said.

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