As the star appraiser for Discovery Channel's show "Auction Kings," Lori Verderame, or Dr. Lori as she's known to viewers, has seen her share of astonishing artifacts. Some have turned up at home and garden shows.
The bubbly woman from Bucks County brings her Antiques Appraisal Comedy Tour to the Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show today through next Sunday. She will examine and appraise -- for free -- one object per person.
"If it's a curiosity to you, bring it to me. If you're interested and curious about it, I want to see it," said Ms. Verderame, a former museum director who taught art history at Penn State's University Park campus.
Inside Downtown's David L. Lawrence Convention Center, she will be at the south end of Aisle 3500 on the convention center's second floor in the Home Interior section. She will appear at noon, 3 and 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, at noon and 3 p.m. Sundays, and at 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Ms. Verderame has lived in Pennsylvania since the 1990s, so she's seen countless Civil War swords and Amish quilts. But even the ordinary can be surprising.
"I've seen an Amish quilt that was worth $8,000 that was bought for 20 bucks at a yard sale," she said in a telephone interview.
At an annual antiques show held in Central Pennsylvania, she appraised a lamp that was wrapped in a cat's bed monogrammed with the name Fluffy. The cat may have been priceless to its owner, but the lamp turned out to be worth $500,000 because it was made by Tiffany.
At a home and garden show in Virginia Beach, she examined a piece of the Berlin Wall.
"These three huge Marines came in. These guys were tanks themselves. They made me look thin. Three of them had been in Berlin when the wall came down. They took a piece home. It was 3 feet by 3 feet" and contained graffiti and rebar. She valued it at $10,000.
Earlier this month, at a home and garden show in Akron, Ohio, Ms. Verderame examined an American Impressionist landscape painting that she valued at $100,000.
At a show in the Philadelphia area, a retired NASA employee brought her the mold for the left moon boot worn by Mercury 7 astronaut Fred Haise.
"In the movie 'Apollo 13,' he's the guy who is sick with the flu," she said.
The mold for the right boot had recently sold at auction for $9,000, so she valued the left boot mold at that price.
At a home and garden show in central Ohio, she saw a World War II dagger engraved with the words, "All for Germany." Worth about $3,000, the dagger was made in the German town of Solingen, known as the "city of blades" because it has long been home to numerous companies that produce fine swords, knives, razors and scissors.
In Omaha, Neb., a man who traded his golf clubs for a good luck charm wondered if he had made a good trade. He showed Ms. Verderame a good luck charm, a crystal sphinx encrusted with rubies and sapphires. The sphinx was 5 inches long, 3 inches tall and 3 inches wide. The charm, which appears in a painting of French Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte that hangs in the Louvre museum in Paris, turned out to be worth $2.5 million.
The French general, Ms. Verderame said, often carried talismans and "was well known for being rather superstitious."
At an event in Houston, a lawyer who decided to take up upholstering chairs for a hobby brought her a drawing in pastel colors. He had purchased a chair at a yard sale and put it in his garage.
The man's wife told him she wanted to park her car in the garage, so he took the chair apart. In its back, he pulled out a piece of cardboard that contained a hand-drawn sketch of dancers by Edgar Degas.
"One had just sold for $100,000," Ms. Verderame said.
In Seattle, she valued a Cherokee papoose with a large back board at $12,000. "The baby goes inside. The leather goes around the child. It's all beadwork."
She asked the couple who had brought the papoose to her if their family was Cherokee. The wife said no, but the husband said yes, adding that he was two-thirds Cherokee.
"They've been married for 45 years, and she doesn't know he's Cherokee!" Ms. Verderame said.
Marylynne Pitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1648.