Greensburg residents can get assessments at historical society's Antiques Appraisal Day

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 8:02 p.m.

The answer to the question about whether those old keepsakes really are worth keeping can be found at Antiques Appraisal Day, courtesy of the Westmoreland County Historical Society.

The event will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. March 7.

Antique dealer and estate appraiser John Mickinak will provide verbal assessments on a variety of items, including toys, artwork, furniture, tools or any other keepsakes someone thinks might be valuable.

“It can be anything — anything that looks interesting,” Mickinak said. “Old and quality are two prime indicators of value — and condition.”

Appraisal of one item is $10. Participants can get a second or third item appraised for $5 each, said Joanna Moyar, education coordinator for the historical society. There is a three-item limit.

People who plan to bring items are urged to make an appointment in advance by calling 724-532-1935, ext. 210. Moyar said each assessment might take up to 15 minutes. People with appointments have priority over walk-ins, she said.

The event will be held at the historical society's office at 362 Sand Hill Road, Suite 1, in Greensburg.

Moyar said the first Antique Appraisal Day was in 2010, and the society has since held two or three per year. Proceeds from the event go toward programming for the historical society, a nonprofit educational organization, Moyar said.

Hopeful or just curious owners of old keepsakes and antiques at previous appraisal days have brought in a variety of items, such as dolls, folk art, and jewelry.

Moyar suggests that for a large item, such as a piece of a furniture, someone might just want to bring a photograph.

It's hard to say in advance if something is worth evaluating, said Mickinak, of Greensburg.

However, one important rule of thumb for finding value in antiques is “condition, condition, condition.”

Mickinak has been in the antiques business for more than 30 years and regularly provides appraisals and assessments. He said he first started going to auctions with his mother when he was 12, and antiques caught his interest.

To appraise an item, “you have to be part cabinet-maker, part historian and part detective,” said Mickinak, who is on the board of the Westmoreland County Historical Society.

As someone who majored in art in college, he particularly enjoys antique artwork and furniture of early western Pennsylvania.

Moyar, of Greensburg, said she enjoys the Antiques Appraisal Day events.

“It answers people's curiosity, and it's a fun thing to do. There's a lot of fun conversation,” she said. “You don't know what's going to come in.”

Her mother, Pauline Moyar, had some items assessed by Mickinak when she came in for one of the society's Antique Appraisal Day events last year.

She had various Easter bunny figurines since she was a child and was curious about what they were worth. She said they are approximately 85 years old and made out of a felt-like material. One stands one approximately 12 inches tall and the other 8 inches tall. She also has another rabbit toy that can be used as a candy holder.

Pauline Moyar, who lives in Greensburg, still sets them out for Easter every year, and said she has no intention of selling them because she hopes they always will stay in the family.

“They're things I treasure from my childhood, and they're worth a lot to me because (of that),” she said.

Toys are something that people frequently bring for appraisals, but there actually are trends in antiques and collectibles, Mickinak said.

Previously, old porcelain baby dolls were popular, but they have since lost their value. That's because those in the younger generations are more interested in classic Barbie dolls, which now are getting higher price tags.

He said hand-painted china used to be popular but it isn't as popular with younger buyers, so that also has gone down in value.

‘Some things come in and out of fashion,” Mickinak said.

Old computers from the 1980s are becoming collectibles, he said.

Mickinak will appraise costume jewelry but not pieces with real stones or metals. He'll refer a person to a gemologist or professional jeweler for that.

Age is a big factor when determining the value of an item, but items of similar age won't necessarily have similar values. One type of item from the 1960s might not be worth as much as another from the same era, he said.

Moyar said that because of the short time period Mickinak has to assess items, he will not be able to give formal appraisals. Usually, she said, he can provide people with background information about their items.

And those hoping for a big windfall should be ready for any type feedback.

“It's not always good news. Something may have value, but you're not going to put your grandchildren through college (with it),” Mickinak said.

When it comes to buying antiques, Mickinak said, always go to a reliable antiques dealer, ask a lot of questions and take extra time to inspect items.

Moyar said appraisal events are gaining in popularity because of television shows such as “Antiques Roadshow” and “American Pickers.”

Mickinak said he finds shows such as “American Pickers” interesting but that he has seen the show's buyers walk right past something valuable during their hunts.

He said this most likely is because the niche buyers aren't necessarily looking for the most valuable antique.

Mickinak recommends any type of antiques hunting.

“It's fun and a great discovery to do,” he said.

Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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