An important American Indian vessel stood out as one of countless gems at Antiques Roadshow’s Orlando event.
By Larry Canale
Appraiser Joan Caballero was sitting at the Tribal Arts table with colleagues John Buxton and Bruce Shackelford during Antiques Roadshow’s Orlando visit in June when she noticed a woman in line holding an American Indian pot. “I saw it when she was six or seven people away, and I thought, I hope I get it,” Caballero said.
She did get it, and immediately pitched it to the show’s producers as an ideal object to appraise on camera. Caballero again got her wish, and—with “tape rolling”—began telling the jar’s owner that she had a Zuni Pueblo water jar worth a hefty $8,000–$10,000.
The jar, which dates to c. 1890–1900, shows wear around the rim. In fact, Caballero noted that it might be worth $12,000–$15,000 without the wear. On the other hand, collectors increasingly are seeing such wear as a positive.
“What the jar has around the rim is what we call ethnographic wear,” Caballero said. “That wear shows it was actually used as a water jar, probably by American Indians. It was caused by ladles going in and out of the jar, and a lot of collectors love to see that.”
Ultimately, it’s “a personal choice,” Caballero added. “Do I want something that shows evidence of use, or do I want it pristine? I know museums and more and more collectors really prefer to see use.”
Times have changed. “A couple decades ago,”Caballero explained,“dealers all wanted that ladle wear restored. I recall that when I first got into this business in the 1970s and early ’80s, the thought when we received a jar like that was to immediately send it out and have the rim restored. We knew more moneycould be had with a pristine-lookingrim. Nowadays, people love the honestyof a piece. They like knowing it washonestly used, and that the wear is aneffect of that use.”
The owner ofthe Zuni Pueblo jar, Florida resi-dent Dana Nielson,said she originally thought it came from Peru. Her parents had taken a trip there in the 1950s, and she remembers the jar turning up around that time.
“But she never asked her parents where they got it,” Caballero said. “It might seem kind of odd that you’d have a piece like that in the house that you wouldn’t know about, but it happens all the time.... As [Dana] was growing up, the jar probably didn’t interest her much. And no one had talked about it and told her, ‘Remember, this is valuable; don’t go 1940s-era fir selling it in a yard sale.’”
The Zuni Pueblo jar, which origi-nated in, of course, Zuni Pueblo, N.M.,measures approximately 10 inches in diameter. “Larger ones sell for a lot more money,” Caballero noted.
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The Zuni Pueblo jar was one of more than 10,000 items appraised in Orlando. We can’t cover everything, but we can at least give you details on a few pieces at different value levels....
• In early 1982, Joy From of Cocoa, Fla., spent $20 on a Regency etagere, a piece of furniture “with a series of shelves,” as appraiser Leslie Keno explained. “It’s a rare form, used most likely in a dining room,” he added. “And it’s on wheels, so it’s like a movable feast.”
Joy’s etagere was made “between 1829 and 1835,” Keno said. “It’s of beautiful quality, with its mahogany wood painted to look like rosewood.”
Today, it has an insurance value of around $10,000, Keno said. Joy was more than suprised: “I was shocked,” she said. “I thought it was worth maybe $1,000.”
She had asked dealers about the etagere in the past, “and even though they couldn’t tell me what it was,” she said, “they all wanted to buy it.”
Joy plans to hold onto her etagere, however.
She uses it to display things like knickknacks,glass-ware, and marble eggs.” Besides, it represents a true find: “And I’m the person who never pays more than $5 or $10,” she said twith a laugh.
• Ernest Hickson drove from nearby Kissimmee, Fla., with his sister, Sheila Wheeler of Oviedo, Fla., bearing, among other things, the striking fire helmet pictured above. It’s the product of his antiquing travels, he said:“I found it at a flea market almost 30 years ago.” At the time, he was still and his sister, a teenager, but one who had always enjoyed the thrill of the hunt.“Garage saling and flea marketing - that’s how we spent our childhoods,” he said.
At Antiques Roadshow, Ernest dis-covered that the helmet (which dates to the first half of the 20th century) isn’t worth a fortune: Its value is around $300. But he loves it for what it represents the work of our firefighters and also for the reason that it originally attracted him: “It’s just a cool-looking helmet.”
• Leah Blythe of Orlando brought in a variety of artifacts owned by her great-great-great-grand-father, including a police badge, a pocket watch, and a ring. “He had horses,” Leah said, “and he loved them so much he had horse-tail hair braided into rings.” The ring Leah brought in turned out to have minimal value (around $150, according to appraiser Rosalie Sayyah). But “value didn’t matter,” Leah said. She was happy to learn more about her great-great-great-grandfather who “took care of noble horses and lived in England for a while.”
Larry Canale has been editor-in-chief of Antiques Roadshow Insider since its launch in 2001. He's also author of The Boys of Spring (2005) and Mickey Mantle: The Yankee Years (1998).