Real treasures found during Hidden Treasures event

Published 10:38 pm Saturday, October 3, 2009

Albert Einstein showed up for the Hidden Treasures event held by Riddick’s Folly last weekend.

Not the genius physicist himself, but his signature. And the signature could turn out to be worth thousands of dollars for its owner.

It was just one of the happy stories coming out of an event designed to raise money for Suffolk’s only house museum by helping area residents determine the value of antiques and collectibles stored around their homes.

“It was one of the best (events) we’ve had, monetarily,” museum curator Lee King said this week. “It helped Riddick’s Folly tremendously.”

The event brought in about $3,000, collected at $7 per appraisal, he said, and people came from as far away as Richmond to have their items evaluated.

Some, he added, “were so pleased they said, ‘We’ll be back next year, and we’ll bring more next year.’”

Perhaps the most pleased collector of the day was the man who brought in 14 documents that had been signed by Einstein. A Suffolk resident, he is a descendant of the scientist, and he had inherited the handwritten and typewritten papers, two of which were handwritten in Einstein’s native German language.

The best of the documents, King said, had been translated and described the scientist’s plans to send money to relatives in Germany to get them to America just ahead of the Holocaust. All were dated to around 1935, 1936 or later, and all had been archivally framed and mounted.

The collection was valued at $100,000 but could have been worth nearly $300,000 if the papers had been about science.

Upon learning of their value, the owner asked King not to identify him to anyone, King said this week.

“Whether he knew they were valuable or not, he seemed well-pleased with the appraisal,” King said.

Another happy customer was a man who brought a 1795 American Eagle $10 gold piece that turned out to be worth $35,000 to $50,000.

King said the coin had 13 leaves in a cluster on its obverse side. Some coins in that line were produced with only nine leaves, and they are far more valuable today.

Others brought antique guitars and other instruments, paintings, sculptures, toys and other curiosities, and they sat in a line of chairs inside the Suffolk National Guard Armory and waited their turn for an appraisal from one of the group of experts that had been assembled for the event.

James Whisenant Jr. of Suffolk brought a Stainer violin that his grandmother’s music teacher had given to her as a girl.

“I’ve been trying to get to this place for about six years, now,” he said as he waited in line.

The instrument could be as much as 140 years old, appraisers told him when his turn finally came up. It had some condition issues, however, and was missing its bow, so the value was estimated at only $500.

Cathy Hartley and her daughter Emmaline of Suffolk were pleased with the appraisals they got on two toy horses.

“We actually came out positive,” she said following her meeting with an expert on toys. “We bought them on eBay for less than they’re worth, including shipping.”

A few people went away disappointed, King said, including one couple that learned the antique they had brought was worth less than the money they paid for it.

Most, however seemed happy to have come to the event, even if their own items weren’t valuable enough to allow them to retire.

“It’s almost as interesting to see what everybody else brought,” King said.