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Thu Jan 23 2014 12:44:13

A Chat with 'Auction Kings' Appraiser Dr. Lori

By: Julia Wilkinson

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We asked you to nominate the antiques and collectibles experts you'd like to see interviewed, and Dr. Lori, expert appraiser who appears on Discovery Channel TV's "Auction Kings," was one of the first suggested. AuctionBytes Blog caught up with Dr. Lori, who, despite her jam-packed schedule, answered our questions about how she got into appraising, what some of her favorite and strangest things appraised are, and how she likes being on "Auction Kings."

But first, a short bio, in case you are not familiar with her:

Dr. Lori Verderame stars as the antiques appraiser on the Discovery channel's hit reality TV show "Auction Kings." An award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori has been featured on NBC's “The Tonight Show” and Comedy Central's “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” for her comedic and no-holds-barred approach to antiques. This is why Anderson Cooper and Inside Edition always ask Dr. Lori.


- You have said in an interview that you first got interested in collectibles because of sports. What sports were those? Did you play a sport or sports in school, and/or were you a fan of professional sports teams?

Two people inspired my interest to be an appraiser: My Dad and a perfect stranger.

I always had a love of history through objects. My Dad affectionately called me his "son" because I loved to tag along with him to flea markets, yard sales, fishing trips, sporting events, etc. As a kid, I loved to be among the antiques that would end up in my #1 favorite spot in the world - my Dad's garage. My father played baseball for the New York Yankees and I swam competitively as a young person.

Today, I still love sports. Today, I cherish those memories of tagging along with my Dad as he suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

My parents encouraged me to follow my interests in the field of art and antiques and I went on to earn several academic degrees in history including a BA from University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from Penn State University.

After years teaching in university classrooms and working as a museum director, I was inspired to start appraising antiques after I met a perfect stranger. She was a 75-year-old woman who had sold an historic George Washington document for $50 that was worth $50,000! When I met her, I thought, this woman could be my mother--anyone could make that mistake. That woman's mistake inspired me to share my education and expertise with America. So, as America's Appraiser, I do just that presenting over 150 antique appraisal shows and appraising 20,000 objects that audiences bring me to review every year.

- Did you have a different job or career before becoming a professional appraiser?

No. I have studied and worked in the field of art and antiques for my entire career. My former career which has informed my career as an appraiser was as a university professor of history and art history and as a museum director and curator. I am a dog lover and an insect hater! I am a native of New Haven, CT and now I reside in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

- How many years of study did you put in to get your Ph.D.? Did you have to specialize in one area of antiques/art, and what was it if so?

I studied four years to get my BA (University of Michigan at Ann Arbor), two years to get my MA (Wesleyan University), and five more years to get my Ph.D. (Penn State University).  I have written 30 books on art and antiques and I have the expertise and educational background to appraise all types of art, antiques, and collectibles. I appraise approximately 20,000 objects a year.

- You have worked in/for museums. Can you say which one or ones, and what did you do there? How did you like the experience; what stands out about it for you...any special object or piece of art you worked with?

I worked at the Yale University Art Gallery, the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley, the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State University, and the Martin Art Gallery of Muhlenberg College. I worked as a museum curator, educator, and director. I have been asked to lecture on the art and antiques collections at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Vatican Museums in Vatican City.

- What are some of the strangest things you've appraised?

For the last 15 years, I have been appraising objects at more than 150 shows a year. That’s a lot of appraisals. I have appraised many diverse objects. Some that come to mind are: a very large piece of the Berlin Wall - complete with rebar and graffiti, a French Impressionist drawing worth $100,000 discovered inside an old beat-up upholstered chair, a $15,000 weathervane that helped get the owner’s farm out of foreclosure, a very smelly sock monkey from the 1950s, a Native American beaded leather papoose, a cheap glass Ball jar that the owner believed was the first one ever made - it wasn’t!, a good luck charm that belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte worth $2 million dollars encrusted with jewels that the owner traded for a set of golf clubs, an ugly Picasso drawing of a bird that was purchased at an estate sale for $2 but was worth $50,000, a drawing by King Louis XV court artist worth $40,000 that was bought at a yard sale for $1 in Florida, a $500,000 stained glass Tiffany lamp that came to one of my events wrapped in a cat’s bed...and, the list goes on!

- Do you collect anything yourself, and what?

I collect fish figurines (goes back to my swimming days) and small seascape paintings by American artists that remind me of Cape Cod, where my family spent summers.

- Do you have a favorite thing or things you have appraised over the years, and what did you like about it/them?

I like meeting the people who bring me their cool collectibles and antiques. I get to review interesting objects and listen as audience members tell me their stories of family heirlooms and yard sale finds. You could say that I collect the stories of antiques.

- How do you like being on "Auction Kings"? For those who don't know, what sort of things do they call you in to appraise? What have been the most memorable for you?

I am the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s "Auction Kings." On the TV show, I have appraised President Thomas Jefferson’s writing desk, a movie costume from Talladega Nights starring Will Ferrell, Victorian chastity belts, a Vitapulsar medical device from the 1920s, movie memorabilia from 1963 film "Cleopatra" starring Elizabeth Taylor, antique American flags, cigar store Indians, National cash registers, a Red Baron amusement park ride, carnival collectibles, 1960s vending machine, John Deere bicycle, antique scale, and more. 

I have to say that as a history buff; appraising the desk that Jefferson wrote his personal letters on was a real treat! But, who doesn’t like a costume from a Will Ferrell movie too? That’s the beauty of my job - I can appraise a variety of objects.

- Where can people find you, for your in-person appearances and in the media? Any upcoming shows or events?

Some of the places where I will be appearing are NY, TX, FL, MI, IN, OH, PA, NJ, WA, and sites abroad. Requests for my events continue to be received by my office, so I expect that list to grow and I’ll be visiting even more locations too. My events are posted on and on my Facebook Page.

And, you can always see me on TV - recently "Auction Kings" expanded its viewership and premiered in Asia and Australia.

- Thank you, Dr. Lori!

Have you seen Dr. Lori on TV's "Auction Kings"? Is there anything you have rattling around your attic or basement you are thinking of getting appraised, and what?

Comments (5) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for A Chat with 'Auction Kings' Appraiser Dr. Lori   A Chat with 'Auction Kings' Appraiser Dr. Lori

by: Mr. Me This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 24 12:07:08 2014

Another candy coated "reality" show that will fill the auction houses and storage locker sales with Amateurs looking for an easy buck.......

Perminate Link for A Chat with 'Auction Kings' Appraiser Dr. Lori   A Chat with 'Auction Kings' Appraiser Dr. Lori

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 24 19:44:18 2014

Yes and most of the junk is overpriced.

Perminate Link for A Chat with 'Auction Kings' Appraiser Dr. Lori   A Chat with 'Auction Kings' Appraiser Dr. Lori

This user has validated their user name. by: Puck

Sat Jan 25 11:00:47 2014

"Another candy coated "reality" show that will fill the auction houses and storage locker sales with Amateurs looking for an easy buck"

You mean the shows where the winners' discover every box in the storage unit they won is filled with junk except the last one they open which contains an original Van Gogh.

Or the one where the winner picks up the 'trophy' piece in the unit (a Sears and Roebuck formica coffee table missing three legs) and triumphantly crows, "I can get $500 for this!!"

Perminate Link for A Chat with 'Auction Kings' Appraiser Dr. Lori   A Chat with 'Auction Kings' Appraiser Dr. Lori

by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jan 26 10:40:34 2014

Auction King show is (sometimes) interesting. You only see 4 maybe 5 items out of the 200 plus that are put up for auction.
I think that show is a lot more realistic than storage wars where Dave says everything is worth a fortune.  

Perminate Link for A Chat with 'Auction Kings' Appraiser Dr. Lori   A Chat with 'Auction Kings' Appraiser Dr. Lori

by: Toledo Maude This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 27 18:18:25 2014

Man, the last five genuine authentic Thomas Jefferson writing tables (NIB) that I had did not get nearly as much as the appraiser quoted.   My bad luck or maybe it was the “Made in China” stickers that I should have removed.  

Maybe I will have better luck with the next two or three.  

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