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What to watch for when Chicago episodes air on Antiques Roadshow in 2015

A 100 year-old German doll was valued higher than her owner thought.
A 100 year-old German doll was valued higher than her owner thought.
Jodie Jacobs

With 6,000 guests and 18,000 items coming through the door of Chicago’s McCormick Place when PBS’ Antiques Roadshow taped there July 26, 2014, you know there were some fascinating items and stories.

Leland, MI guest brings about a 150 year-old Turkman piece for appraisal
Jodie Jacobs

Here are a few items to watch for when the segments air during the Roadshow’s 19th season. Roadshow executives don’t know yet when Chicago will be featured but the city and seven others from this summer’s taping tour will be on Mondays beginning Jan. 5, 2015.

Beatles can still surprise.

If you are a Beatles fan you might know that the “Fab Four,” as they were labeled, opened a London boutique where they sold clothes under their “Apple” label. But it will be news to some people until they watch the Chicago Roadshow segment where a woman brings in the costume-like clothes she bought there. Her $500 purchase is now valued at $15,000 to $17,000.

Why art needs authentication.

Experts at the taping are fairly certain that the guest who brought in an interesting box sculpture had a valuable piece by artist H.C. (Horace Clifford) Westermann (1922-1981). The problem was he got it at a good auction venue for a mere $150. If an authenticated Westermann, it would be valued at $20,000-$30,000. If not but in the style-of, it would be $2,000. The expert suggested contacting the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago because it had a Westermann retrospective in 2001. Roadshow Executive Producer Marsha Bemko said they expected to know before the airing. “We’re persistent. We’ll call and ask if he has plans to do anything. But the experts said it felt and looked right.” Westermann’s work was also exhibited at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC in 2002.

Another side of a noted poet is brought to light.

A guest brought in a letter written by poet Walt Whitman but it wasn’t about his poetry. Instead, Whitman wrote the letter for a wounded Civil War soldier who couldn’t write. It was dated June 12, 1863, Washington. After Whitman visited his brother who was wounded, the poet stayed to nurse wounded soldiers and write letters for them. The letter, which gives the soldier’s name and says written by a friend, is valued at $8,000-$12,000.

Two special items had Chicago connections.

Sixty years after Hugh “Hef” Hefner started Playboy Magazine in 1953 in Chicago, he and his Playboy Enterprises still make headlines. So, it’s nice to hear the memories of a Playboy Bunny. A guest brought her silver lamé costume with bunny tail, her plaque and a program from 1976 when she was the Bunny of the year. “It’s rare for a costume to have survived,” said Bemko. “Girls were supposed to turn them in but most kept them. It was a hoot to hear her memories. She lived in the (Playboy) Mansion.” The bunny suit was valued at $6,000-$8,000, trophy $2,000-$3,000 and program at $200-$300.

The other item was unusual. It was a subpoena signed by the Chicago Seven including Abbie Hoffman.The guest who brought was a CBS cameraman who was among the first people hit during the infamous riot when police clashed with anti-war demonstrators at the 1969 Democratic National Convention. Eight demonstrators were indicted but after one case was dropped the other demonstrators were known as the Chicago Seven. The item was appraised at $5,000-$7,000 with an insurance value of $10,000.

When an appraisal can be overwhelming

Gurnee resident Anne (last names not used by Roadshow request) brought in a doll her grandmother gave here. Folsom, CA doll expert Marshall Martin told her the item was a 100-year-old German porcelain character doll with a pouty face that had all its original clothes from shoes and socks to hat. When he appraised it at $2,500-$3,000 she was shaking from the shock. Once calmed down, she said, “It’s worth a lot more than I thought. It was just sitting in the closet. Now I will put it out in the curio cabinet.”

Dee of Leland, MI brought in a Turkman Yomud Chuval (certain size of storage bag hung inside a yurt) that was woven between 1850 and1875. After New York rug and textile expert Jim French told her that the piece she inherited from her father-in-law was valued at $5,000-$7,000, she looked stunned. “It’s much more than I thought,” Dee said.

Expectations can be higher than reality.

Chesterton, IN resident Joanne’s surprise went the other direction. Furniture expert Ken Farmer, Charlottesville, VA, liked the English highboy she had from the 1870s Aesthetic Movement. It was similar but not the same as a piece in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Because a worn section was redone and it was by a lesser maker than the museum piece, he appraised it at about $3,000. “It’s still nice. Most of it is original finish and its gilt is nice.” Farmer said. Disappointed in the amount, Joanne said, “It’s not as much as I thought it would be.” But having also brought a painting, she was eager to hear its value.

Check Antiques Roadshow the fall of 2014 for Chicago airing dates in 2015