Viewers of public television have tuned in to their local affiliate for a weekly dose of Antiques Roadshow for nearly 20 years now (and the British version of the show has aired nearly twice that length of time). The enduring interest in the show is a testament to the appeal of the format, in which ordinary people bring their collectibles, family heirlooms and antiques to a location where the items are appraised by experts. It’s fun to watch; sometimes family lore has invested somebody’s “treasure” with historical status it doesn’t really have, and at other times a person is truly amazed to find out the formerly-considered-worthless old vase that’s been in the attic is worth a fortune. But dollar amounts aside, the real interest (for viewers, anyway, with no vested interest in making a fortune from the item) lies in the opportunity to check out the details of a beautiful or important object, learning more about history and different cultures through the artifacts that have made it — along with us — through time.
Local residents can have their own Antiques Roadshow moment on Wednesday, April 6 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the New Paltz Community Center at 3 Veterans Drive behind the old Town Hall. The recently formed New Paltz Historical Society (NPHS) will host an appraisal event modeled after the television show that they’re calling, “What Is It? What’s It Worth?” A quartet of knowledgeable antiques experts — Marc Stolfe, Walter Marquez, Sanford Levy and Lionel Heyman — will be on hand to tell people all about their treasured collectibles or to estimate an item’s financial value. The event is free to attend with the cost to appraise an item a suggested donation of $5. Those who wish to bring an object for appraisal are asked not to bring a multitude of items, in order that all attending will have a chance to find out about their cherished belonging. Funds raised will go toward sponsoring future monthly programs of the New Paltz Historical Society (NPHS), slated to be open to the public and held on the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the New Paltz Community Center. Complimentary light refreshments will be served at the appraisal event. (And it should probably be noted that “What Is It? What’s It Worth?” is not affiliated with the Antiques Roadshow public television show in any way.)
Any antique or collectible may be brought in to the event for appraisal. The four experts are quite knowledgeable, says Diane Gleichenhaus, a member of the NPHS and an antiques dealer herself out of the Antiques Barn at Water Street Market. Marc Stolfe is a longtime auctioneer and antiques expert who “knows about almost everything,” she says, as does Walter Marquez, manager of Water Street Market and proprietor of the Antiques Barn there as well as Antiques on Main. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who knows so much about antiques as Walter,” Gleichenhaus adds. Sanford Levy of Jenkinstown Antiques in New Paltz specializes in furniture and fine art, stoneware and china, and Lionel Heyman has particular expertise in tools (antique and otherwise).
At the appraisal event, Gleichenhaus will be available to assist people with joining the recently formed NPHS. The fee is $10. Anybody interested in local history is welcome to join. Members will receive an e-mail reminder before lectures and have the opportunity to work with other members on various historical projects, should they so desire.
The purpose of the historical society is to encourage community participation in an ongoing discussion about New Paltz’s storied history. This is the first fundraiser they’ve held. The organization was initiated last October by Susan Stessin-Cohn, New Paltz town historian. Response to her appeal for membership was enthusiastic from the start, she said. “I didn’t expect this many people to hop on this so quickly, and we’ve had nice turnouts at our meetings.”
Up to now, the monthly get-togethers have involved the group holding a meeting with members giving mini-presentations to each other on their specialties, from circus history to a “Stump the Historian” program to a discussion of 19th century women and Stessin-Cohn’s own particular areas of interest that include the history of slavery in the region and the Ulster County Poorhouse. Beginning with this appraisal event, however, the meeting part will be minimal for board members and not involve the general membership at all, says Stessin-Cohn. Along with the public, who will be invited to the events, the general membership can just enjoy the monthly programs planned and participate in any projects as they wish. The group has a Facebook page and Stessin-Cohn says she hopes to eventually do a blog. Future monthly NPHS events in the works include a talk next month by Paul O’Neil on the history of Ulster County courts, followed by a Civil War presentation in May and Stessin-Cohn speaking about slavery in June. For more information, look for the group on Facebook.