Appraiser tells the story behind antiques

Marta Meares doesn't consider herself an antique collector, but she's curious to learn the history - and the possible value - behind a few pieces in her collection during a two-day event this week in Concord.

The Antiques and Collectibles Appraisal will be 10 a.m.-4 p.m. July 22-23 at The Concord Museum. It is a joint fundraiser for The Concord Museum and the Old Courthouse Theatre. Cost is $5 per item appraised.

Appraisals will be given by 22-year Concord resident and 40-year antique dealer Michael Hansen. Spectators are welcome. Items only will be appraised, not sold or purchased.

Hansen, a retired U.S. Postal Service worker, has been an active antique dealer for four decades. He graduated from Appraisal Course Associates in Maryland with a degree in personal property appraising and has been appraising for 15 years.

He regularly conducts appraisal fairs for customers of First Charter Banks throughout the Charlotte area and has appeared as an expert in toys and early porcelain on HGTV's "Flea Market Finds With The Kovels." He volunteers his time so proceeds benefit other nonprofits, such as the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Hansen and his wife, Gayle, live with their dog, seven birds and 20 fish in downtown Concord. Together, they operate a full line antique business, traveling from Florida to Massachusetts, doing 15 shows annually.

Of the dozen or so pieces in Meares' collection, she is most excited to learn about a plaster-framed oil painting on wood that has a Borghese sticker on it. Meares thinks it possibly could be of the Borghese Gallery and Museum in Rome, Italy. Another is a hand-carved wooden holster with a knife and a two-pronged fork, possibly from India.

Meares, an avid viewer of PBS' "Antiques Roadshow," said she doesn't pay more than $20 for anything and especially loves old chests.

She admits it would be nice if one of her items was worth millions, but it's more about discovering their history.

"I am a big fan of knowing what used to be and how they did things before," said the former psychologist at Stonewall Jackson Training School who volunteers at The Concord Museum. "I've been sitting with that picture having no real interest in it other than that I liked it. Then I started thinking, 'Maybe I should check this out?' When I turned it over, it had the Borghese (sticker) on it and I looked that up. It's just fun, like solving a mystery. You follow the trail and that gets you interested in other things."

Last year, Meares took part in her first appraisal event hosted by the Old Courthouse Theatre, where she had an autoharp and a bowl inherited from her grandmother appraised by Hansen. The bowl ended up being worth $600. The autoharp was worth about $40, but an iron key adhered to it was worth $35, she said.

"The process was not surprising with the autoharp, because there are lots of those around, but he did get excited about that key," said Meares. "For the bowl, he did note that the dark, dark clay used to make it was only found up in the mountain area. I was impressed with that."

Also in her collection is a set of creel bowls passed down from her dad. These bowls, which she still eats from, prove things don't have to be of value to be important and hold sentiment.

"Everybody should be interested in what surrounds them - their family history and not just the genealogy but the articles, because the things that come down to you through the ages are the most important things."

This is the second appraisal event hosted by the museum. Michael Eury, executive director of Historic Cabarrus Association and The Concord Museum, said he expects about 200 people. The first event appraised dolls and toys, but it snowed, and about 50 people attended.

The process is simple. People sit down at a table and give their item to Hansen. Guests are allowed to describe their history with the item before Hansen shares his own insights.

"He's examined thousands of items over the years," said Eury. "When I watched him in December, it was really like being with one of the 'Antique Roadshow' guys because he just knew so much about so many different things. Often times he knows when he looks right at it. I was just blown away because he knew so much."