Here is Joanne Baier and Mark Moran, a former appraiser on the PBS TV “Antiques Roadshow.” Photo by Megan Frye.
Here is Joanne Baier and Mark Moran, a former appraiser on the PBS TV “Antiques Roadshow.” Photo by Megan Frye.

By Joanne Baier

ELMWOOD, WI – “Did I make a good investment or not?” That is what I asked Mark Moran, a former appraiser on the “Antiques Roadshow” who was present at the 5th Annual “What's it worth?” event sponsored by the Woodville Historical Society on Saturday, October 13, 2018 at the Woodville Community Center (Lions Den). Before I reveal Mark's answer I'd like to share some of the highlights of the day.

I had the good fortune to share a table with two dynamite young people with a love of antiques. Megan Frye, of Baldwin, and her husband just started a collection of Fiestaware in January of this year and like me – when you want a collection you go for it with gusto-- and Megan did just that! St. Croix County residents may know Megan from her volunteer work at the County Fair in the antique department.

Mark explained Megan's Fiestaware was introduced in 1936, with a hiatus from 1973 to 1985. It is noted for its Art Deco styling featuring concentric circles and its range of solid colors. “The medium green is the holy grail,” Mark said as he eagerly reached for a medium green coffee cup in Megan's collection. Mark indicated the resale of Fiestaware has come down recently, yet Megan's collection had many unique items, which should hold its value. Mark uses the “Live Auctioneers” web-page for most of his appraisals.

Having been a librarian for 41 years, books of any kind excite me, so when Janet Aaby showed a 1921 copy of a children's book about Uncle Wiggly I really wanted to get my hands on it! Using a rare and out of print book web-page called “Abebooks.com” Mark appraised Janet's book for the amazing amount of $150.

To the delight of any farm kids or farmers present, Dave Schwartz shared a very unusual wood and metal, two-row-handheld, corn planter which left all of us questioning if it was operated by one person or two. To my recollection, Mark did not find an exact comparison for appraisal purposes due to its uniqueness but did indicate Dave made a good deal.

My first appraisal was on a cast iron door hinge from a house built in 1899, which has many symbols embossed on both sides of the hinge. I was convinced these symbols are religious in nature. Mark said, “Definitely not! They are stylized designs representative of the late Victorian aesthetic movement that started in 1875.” He pointed out these designs are also found in Tiffany glass. The hinge is only worth $20, but because it was a found item I'm ahead of the game at this point. However, always the skeptic, I'm not convinced those symbols are not religious in nature. Anyone with an opinion, let me know.

My second appraisal item was my mom's bride doll dating to about 1919. She has a porcelain head with eyes that close, a mohair wig, mesh stockings, and leather shoes. Her body is mostly cardboard filled excelsior and no distinct manufacturing marks. She is in excellent condition, as mom never played with her fearing her brothers would grab it away from her. I was hoping for a windfall, mostly so my family would love her as I do, but sadly she has “more sentimental value than monetary.” Mark appraised her at $20.

If you know me even the tiniest little bit, you know I have a significant love for 1/12 scale (dollhouse size) miniatures, so my third appraisal was on two dioramas signed by Narcissa Thorne, who was a famous American Artist known for her extremely detailed (commissioned) miniature rooms. They are so detailed and exquisite that they now reside in three major museums in the US.

Yet, Mrs. Thorne's original early works are often found in antique stores, which is where I found two of her dioramas. Using miniature ceramic animals, a German cloth doll and paper cutouts layered into 3D landscapes Mrs. Thorne created a scene depicting Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. Her second diorama, which is even smaller than the first, depicts Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGregor's garden. Both are very appropriate collectibles for a librarian and a miniature lover. As Mark discovered her museum works on the Internet he determined her dioramas are very collectible simply because of her name and reputation in the miniature world. So, the answer to my question is, “Yes, I definitely made a good investment.”

Finally, it is my great pleasure to give a shout out to the Woodville Historical Society President, Dennis Russet and scheduler, Don Johnson for their exceptional planning as the event started exactly on time and stayed on schedule. I received a friendly greeting from all the volunteers and I enjoyed a great 50-cent cup of coffee. Who does that anymore? Obviously, the good folks of Woodville.