Gary Piattoni

Gary Piattoni, an appraiser from the PBS series "Antiques Roadshow," talks about a German deco piece to people assembled at Friendship Village in Tempe for an appraisal event on Monday, Jan. 31, 2011.

By Mike Sakal, Tribune

For decades, the porcelain figurines of two people sat inside the home of Lyn Reed's mother.

They were believed to be passed down to her mother from her grandmother who was from Germany, and Reed, 68, wanted to know more about their history and value.

"I've always been curious," Reed said. "I knew nothing about them and really had no idea where they came from, if they were from somewhere like a Woolworth's store, or if they were valuable."

It turns out the two figurines, each about six inches tall, also are of German descent - bisque porcelain figures dating back to the 1880s, estimated to be valued at about $75 apiece, according to an antique expert on hand at the Friendship Village senior community in Tempe on Monday.

Was Reed surprised at the value?

"I guess so," she said.

On Monday, Reed was among about 150 residents who brought antiques and heirlooms with sentimental value to an up-close and personal appraising event moderated by Gary Piattoni, one of the appraisers from PBS television's popular "Antiques Roadshow."

While examining dozens of items spread along two tables, Piattoni's expertise allowed him to rattle off the origins, manufacturing dates and approximate values of many pieces. They included 8mm cartoon films featuring Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop from the 1930s, an early 1900s Singer sewing machine, paintings and pottery, a Depression-era pitcher with Shirley Temple's likeness etched into the glass and a Confederate Army reunion ribbon from 1907 holding a button of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

"I've been interested in antiques since I was a kid," said Piattoni, who holds a certificate in appraisal studies from New York University and formerly worked for Christie's, a fine art auction house in New York.

Calling himself a "generalist" when it comes to his knowledge of antiques, Piattoni said he enjoys the diversity of items brought before him.

"I get to see a little bit of everything," Piattoni said. "You never know what's going to turn up. It's always something different. It's exciting for me to see people who bring in something that's special to them and I'll be able to tell them something about that they didn't know."

Susie Vosdoganes, marketing director for Friendship Village, said two of the more unusual and valuable items brought in during the event were a pair of burgundy-colored Prussian Bishop's caps valued at $1,000 apiece.

"It was amazing what people brought," Vosdoganes said. "As long as it has value to you, it should be a treasure. That's why I have so many bald headed Barbies."

Other items were connected to the world of entertainment before television caught on, such as Robert Redpath's plastic bag filled with six 8mm films - cartoons and Hollywood films from the 1930s.

"My dad bought them when we were kids," Redpath, 71, said. "We used to watch them on a projector."

Piattoni valued the films at $30 apiece or more, saying that many people seek them simply for the art on the boxes.

A while back Carolyn Carson, 85, purchased for $5 a late-1800s pin featuring an American flag and picture of President Abraham Lincoln similar to a tin type. She had no idea then that Piattoni would appraise its worth as $800 to $1,200.

"I think I'll keep it a while," Carson said.

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