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Trinkets or treasures?

That Chinese teapot or stack of Beatles bubble gum cards may be worth more than you imagine. Here's how to find out.

August 21, 2003|Sondra Farrell Bazrod | Special to The Times

One person's junk may be another's treasure, so start checking your home, where treasures worth far more than you ever imagined may reside.

For example, last year two sisters in Los Angeles brought porcelain wall plaques to Bonhams & Butterfields auction house for appraisal, where they learned that the plaques were Meissen. One plaque, titled "Pianist" and depicting figures in a music room from the late 19th century, was sold at auction for $22,325.

Here are experts' tips on spotting hidden treasures around the home:

Dishes: Carolyn Mani, specialist in furniture and decorative arts at Bonhams & Butterfields, said Meissen porcelain has a crossed-swords mark on the bottom instead of the name. Figurines can be worth as much as $10,000. "If you see various marks on dishes and other items, buy or get a book ... which identifies the markings," she said.

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Furniture: Don't assume it has value because it is old, Mani said. Don't rule out mid-20th century items, because they may be valuable. Contemporary furniture of the '50s and '60s now is very popular.

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Books and toys: Old autograph books with movie star signatures can be worth thousands of dollars, said Charles Sachs, an expert on historic manuscripts and items of popular culture. "So many things can be valuable such as toys, comic books, Erector sets, Lionel trains, teddy bears, baseball cards, old typewriters," he said. "And, of course, first-edition books ... such as J.D. Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye,' which recently sold for $10,000." He says a dust jacket often is 90% of the book's value.

Pam Korman, of All Manner of Things Estate Sales, said dolls in good condition can be valuable. "People go to college and parents get rid of their things," she said. "Don't throw things away.... Even old pottery bowls of the '50s have value."

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Records: Records can be worth $1 to $500 or more, said Daniel Tures, a manager at Amoeba Records. "It's the rarity of it, the desirability and the condition," he said. "For example, '50s and '60s rock, country, blues and jazz is valuable."

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Jewelry: Shannon Beck of Bonhams & Butterfields fine jewelry department said to check costume and fine jewelry to see if there are stamps, markings or locations on the item. Examples would be 14 karat for gold, "sterling" for silver and the name of the maker for watches.

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Clothing: Styles from the '60s and '70s now are in, said Cameron Silver, owner of Decades Vintage Designer Clothing in Los Angeles. She said Pucci dresses in good condition can be worth $800, and some items can be worth more than the original purchase price.

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Expert help

Bonhams & Butterfields: Consignment clinic on the last Wednesday of each month. People can bring in as many as five items for a free appraisal. 7601 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 850-7500

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Charles Sachs: Expert on historic manuscripts and popular culture. (323) 665-0222

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Pam Korman, All Manner of Things Estate Sales: Korman appraises items in the home and then holds a sale. Unsold items are donated to charity. (310) 550-7968

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Amoeba Records: 6400 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 245-6400.

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Decades Vintage Designer Clothing: 8214 1/2 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 655-1960

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