Eiteljorg Musuem Blog

Appraisal Day Next Saturday | Find out if you've got valuable heirlooms or a hunk of junk

by Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art | Mar 16, 2015

Wes Cowan
Wes Cowan is founder and owner of Cowan's Auctions, Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio. An internationally recognized expert in Historic Americana, Wes stars in the PBS television series History Detectives and is a featured appraiser on Antiques Roadshow.

On Saturday, Mar. 28,  from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Eiteljorg will host Appraisal Day, featuring Wes Cowan, star of the PBS television series History Detectives and featured appraiser on PBS. Cowan, aided by other experts from Cowan’s Auctions Inc., in Cincinnati, will teach museum guests how to spot treasures and will provide on-site appraisals of items, including Native American objects, Western artifacts, coins, jewelry, timepieces, paintings, photographs, documents and decorative arts.

To register, call or email Erinn Wold at 317.275.1310 or email Erinn at to reserve your space.

Cost: Museum Members: $15 for the first item and $10 for each additional item (up to three items total).

General Public: $20 for the first item and $10 each additional item (up to three items total).

Price includes one adult admission to the museum. Each additional person must pay admission to the museum.

For anyone wondering whether the “junk” gathering dust in the attic or sitting at the neighborhood garage sale is valuable or merely a curiosity, Cowan offers the following hints:

1. Paintings: Check authenticity - There is nothing worse than spending hard earned graydonappraisalfairmoney on a beautiful painting by a favorite artist only to find out it is a fraud. Fakes have become more prevalent in the world of antiques, duping everyone from dealers to collectors to institutions. When dealing with a major artist, it is always important to check for a comprehensive publication of the artist’s extant works.  If any useful information is revealed, make copies and keep these with the piece. They are vitally important and directly affect the value of a painting. The easiest way to determine whether a signature is authentic is by placing the painting under a black light or a powerful UV light. This process also helps to determine the amount of prior restoration to a painting. Later overpaint by a conservator or a false signature will fluoresce a dark purplish black under UV light rays.  These can be removed if a painting were cleaned, because they are sometimes applied over a varnish.

 DSC_91072. Furniture: Condition is important: Original upholstery and construction elements add value to a piece. Original finish on a piece may be a different story. In general, collectors prize early hand-made pieces that retain their original finish.  Surprising as it may seem, a piece of grungy, age-darkened and stained piece might fetch astronomically more than its clean, refinished cousin of the same age.  Why?  Because nearly every piece of furniture made before the mid 19th century has been refinished at one point in its history, making those few that haven’t exceptionally rare.  But few collectors worry about the finish on furniture made during the machine age because some many more pieces were manufactured. So, should you refinish Grandma’s oak kitchen table made in 1910?  You bet.  Stripping away that grunge and grime will expose the beautiful grain and color of the wood, and provide a fine, clean eating surface, and won’t affect its value.

JackLewisJoeMoran 3. Know what’s hot…: Just for example, collectors, for years, have placed a premium on things associated with the country’s westward expansion. Big money is spent on the era’s books and other printed materials, photographs, firearms and other weapons and cowboy and Indian artifacts.

4. …But learn about what you are interested in collecting: Go to the library, search the Internet, read, and visit exhibits at museums.  The educated buyer is the smartest buyer.

Call or email Erinn Wold at 317.275.1310 or email Erinn at to reserve your space.

Considerations when making your reservation:
- Appraisals are focused upon Jewelry, Timepieces and Coins; American Indian art; Western and American paintings; Sculpture; Furniture and Decorative arts; and historical Americana and Western artifacts. (no pop culture items) 
- Appraisal items and bags will not be allowed in the museum galleries. 
- Please do not leave appraisal objects unattended. 
- No refunds will be given for appraisals. 
- Pre-registrants are guaranteed an appraisal time. 
- Appraisals for walk-ins will be available on a first come, first serve basis time permitting. 
- Observations of appraisals will be allowed in accordance with space capacity of the Clowes Ballroom. 
- The Eiteljorg Museum and Cowan’s Auctions, Inc., are not responsible for loss or damage to items brought for appraisal. 
- For insurance purposes, the Eiteljorg Staff cannot handle, store or be responsible for appraisal items.



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