Neil Overholt’s parents always said they would leave him a family heirloom, a candelabrum with golden American Indian figures posing triumphantly underneath dangling crystals, promising one day the relic would be worth a lot of money.
So on Saturday, Overholt and his wife wrapped the candelabrum in blankets — “the best it has ever looked,” he joked of the relic he considers ugly — and brought it to be appraised at the Antique Family Heirloom Roadshow at the West Baton Rouge Community Center in Port Allen.
The roadshow, a fundraiser for the Louisiana Association of Museums, relied on volunteer appraisers from the Neal Auction Co. in New Orleans.
“We just want to unload it,” Overholt, of St. Francisville, said. “It’s come down my family through generations, always tucked in the corner, looking ugly.”
Overholt said he would be willing to sell the candelabrum for no less than $1,000. He was happy when appraisers estimated his candelabrum probably dated back to the late 1800s and could be auctioned for $1,000 to $1,500, in part, because it was a commemorative of the famed 1804 Louis and Clark expedition.
Others, however, were not so lucky.
A Baton Rouge couple, Danny and Marilyn Dayires, were disappointed to find out the two porcelain vases they inherited from Danny Dayires’ grandmother — who had said they were salvaged from a burning monastery in Bayou Goula — were worth only about $350 each, one-third the amount they had hoped for.
“To us, they’re still a treasure,” Marilyn Dayires said.
To raise money for the Louisiana Association of Museums, the roadshow charged participants $20 to have a museum curator provide the history of their heirlooms and $10 for a Neal Auction Company’s verbal appraisal of the object’s likely auction value.
Ray Berthelot, an Office of State Parks historian, said most family heirlooms were actually mundane objects that had been used every day by people in past centuries.
“By looking at these things people bring in, I’m constantly learning about how people lived in the past,” Berthelot said.
In the early 1900s, for example, it was common for families to repair broken dolls rather than dispose of them, as evidenced by the two porcelain dolls that Modlyne Didier, of Port Allen, inherited from her mother.
The dolls’ porcelain heads appeared to have been made more recently than their bodies, said Julie Rose, director of the West Baton Rouge Museum.
That concept of manufacturing durable everyday objects has been largely lost today, said Neal Alford, president of Neal Auction Company.
Alford said he had recently seen an enameled kitchen strainer from the 1880s sell for $75. Future generations, however, will likely not find such value in today’s mass-produced consumer goods, he said.
“You might’ve seen the last of that world now,” Alford said. “It all looks disposable to us. It’s not going to hold up in value.”
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