From Canyon To Cove: From trash to treasure, and back again

February 17, 2011|By Cindy Frazier
  • Wendy Potter, leaning on picture, has a classic painting of a clipper ship looked at by representitive of Bonhams and Butterfeilds during appraisal clinic.
Wendy Potter, leaning on picture, has a classic painting… (Cindy Frazier,…)

Laguna's own "Antiques Road Show" rolled into town last week, and I wanted to get in on the action. Bonhams and Butterfields held its second art appraisal clinic at Laguna Art Museum, and for $5, professional appraisers mulled over everything from ceramics and statuary to oils.

I was dying to know more about a rather unusual ceramic vase that my partner, Sharon, had inherited from her grandmother. It's not pretty; in fact, it's pretty ugly. The 8-inch-tall black vase has horror-type masks, scowling faces and strange cigar-type figures randomly floating on it.

But I knew it was an "antique." It had stood on her grandmother's knick-knack table in her Santa Monica apartment since the mid-1950s. The fact that it was stamped "Made in Japan" did not dissuade me from thinking this might be a rare gem. I became more convinced that it could be valuable after a trip to the Getty Villa, where I saw Roman theatrical masks on black pots that were quite similar. Surely some artistry had gone into the making of this vase. I was convinced.


So I wrapped the vase in tissue and placed it in a paper bag to take to the appraisal, held in the main gallery at the museum. The room was filled with eager folks toting their own treasures: mostly paintings, some wrapped in paper, some in bubble wrap, some in beach or bath towels, and some not wrapped at all.

I got my number, 7, for the ceramics table. I found the table and sat down, thinking I would have some time to enjoy the hubbub around me, when immediately my number was called. I placed my item on the table for the appraiser, who picked it up, frowned and said, "Oh yes, I've seen these before."

She looked it all over, and at the "Made in Japan" stamp on the bottom and said, "This is a Japanese porcelain from the second half of the 20th century. It would be worth under $100 at auction." I thanked her, put the vase back into its bag and left, somewhat crestfallen.

I admit my high hopes were no doubt fueled by the experience of one of my relatives, who appeared on the real "Antiques Road Show" in 2008. She had brought a painting American Impressionist Charles Curran did of her grandparents — my great grandparents — dating from 1894.

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