TAMPA — Appraisers at the monthly antiques evaluations at the Henry B. Plant Museum never know what is going to come across their tables.
Sometimes they spend the two-hour sessions looking at costume jewelry or old knickknacks that aren’t worth anything. Other times, people bring in treasures worth a small fortune.
That’s what makes it fun, said Barbara Smith, a jewelry appraiser who volunteered at the occasional Saturday morning evaluations for 15 years.
“I never know what exciting thing is going to come through the door,” she said.
The museum has hosted the appraisals for about 20 years, said Executive Director Cynthia Gandee Zinober. People can bring up to four pieces for evaluation by volunteer appraisers who have experience with antique jewelry, fine art, silver and other collectibles. The sessions, which last from 10 a.m. to noon, are held once a month, September through May.
“It really is great fun to see what people bring,” Zinober said.
On Saturday morning, a small crowd met with three appraisers in the Plant Hall music room on the University of Tampa campus. They brought paintings, sculptures, teapots and pieces of old jewelry.
The appraisers told the owners what the items were made of, about how old they were and whether they were worth any money.
Celeste DeDio on Saturday brought an old Mickey Mouse comic book that she learned isn’t worth anything. But she has some quilts a great aunt made in the 1870s that she plans to bring next month.
“I think it’s a great thing that they offer,” DeDio said. “And it’s for a good cause.”
The price for an evaluation is $5 per item and all of the proceeds benefit the Plant Museum, Zinober said. In the past dozen years, she said, the program has raised about $45,000.
“It’s not a huge fundraiser for the museum, but it’s a huge friend-raiser,” she said. Zinober estimated about 100 people come to the sessions each month, and they get free admission to the museum on the day of the appraisals.
While not everyone brings in an item that’s worth money, some people are surprised.
Once, a woman brought in a piece of jewelry she wasn’t intending to have appraised, Smith said. What the woman thought was a piece of junk turned out to be worth about $30,000.
“She was almost embarrassed to show it because she thought it was an inexpensive piece of costume jewelry,” Smith said. “It was a fun surprise for me and for her.”
Still, the appraisers — who are all volunteers — are sensitive to the fact that not every item is worth a lot of money like the owner expects it to be, Zinober said. Not everything has a great financial value, but they are still precious.
“Everything isn’t valuable,” Zinober said, “but everything is meaningful to the owner.”