As the star appraiser on History’s The Curse of Oak Island, I spend a lot of time identifying buried treasure found on a small, secluded island off Nova Scotia.

At my antiques appraisal events, where audience members bring me their art, antiques, and collectibles to evaluate, I uncover the true stories behind objects from many historical time periods. Like Oak Island treasures, sometimes folks’ valuable antiques are buried in plain sight.

At some recent seminars, I appraised many interesting objects, including a Limoges porcelain footed serving bowl, an American Impressionist painting by a Rockport artist, a strand of opera-length pearls, a 19th-century silver tea service, a mid-century modern kimono, a Maria Martinez black-on-black pot, a jadeite vase, a Tiffany lamp, a large glass perfume bottle collection, and the list goes on.

A couple brought a lovely pair of Sioux Native American beaded dolls to my appraisal show. They were handed down in their family, and the couple was interested to know the dolls’ value and origin.

I assessed the type of beadwork; Native American tribes were adept at beadwork, and the patterns of the beadwork typically reveal which tribe made the dolls. The beadwork was colorful and very well executed, which spoke to the quality of the object.

The leather was in good condition, which means that the dolls were probably not stored somewhere hot, such as an attic, or damp, such as a basement. Remember, when it comes to deteriorating leather, dryness is the culprit.

The two dolls dated to the early 1900s and were worth nearly $1,000 on the market today.

A young man who enjoys yard-sale shopping told me that he was learning about 19th and 20th century art by reading my blog and visiting museums. He knew that he had a winner when he recognized the butterfly mark on a landscape print for sale at a local yard sale.

That butterfly mark was the famous mark of American expatriate artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler (of Whistler’s Mother fame). According to this young man, for just $5, that print was not going to stay at the yard sale for long.

I authenticated the print by Whistler, because the mark is not the only indicator of credibility on an old print, and dated it to the late 19th century. Then I revealed that this savvy shopper had a work of art worth $1,500.

Prints hate direct sunlight. Keep your prints framed to protect them, and hang them in a dark area of your home.

A fine Tiffany Studios favrile glass lamp was a most interesting antique and one that surprised its owner. The lamp was worth $11,000 and was handed down in the owner’s family. She remembers her grandfather reading by it.

Got something you are curious about? Want to know what should be handed down to your children and what should be sold off to take advantage of a strong art and antiques market? Have me appraise your antiques and collectibles, and I’ll tell you if it’s trash or treasure.


Dr. Lori Verderame is an antiques appraiser, internationally syndicated columnist and author, and award-winning TV personality on History’s The Curse of Oak Island and Discovery’s Auction Kings. With a Ph.D. from Penn State University and experience appraising 20,000 antiques every year, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events worldwide. Visit or call 888-431-1010.

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