I'm really not into antiques, but I enjoy watching "Antiques Roadshow." I love seeing people's elegant heirlooms and garage sale finds.
But most of all, I love seeing their owners' surprise when they learn that what might look like a piece of junk to someone like me turns out to be worth thousands of dollars.
While browsing through the Lilburn Antique Mart one rainy day, I discovered we don't have to wait for the TV show to find its way to Gwinnett County. Snellville resident Joni Dudman comes to the mart four times a year and does free appraisals of whatever people happen to bring in.
Dudman pointed out that age alone is not a factor in determining the worth of an item. Rarity, craftsmanship and condition all play into the value.
"Some things from the 15th century are worth only a few dollars," said Dudman, who surprises people in different ways with her appraisals.
A lady carefully unwrapped what she believed was an ivory statue.
"It was a gift from a Japanese friend in 1955," she said. With a quick glance, Dudman could tell it was only plastic and worth $15 at the most.
Another lady handed Dudman a blue carnival glass bowl and said: "When my grandmother died, there was this big box full of dishes. We each could choose one, and for me, this was it."
OK. When my grandmother died, I inherited a similar bowl, only it's orange, not blue. I've seen bowls like mine priced at around $35, so I did an instant assessment in my head. Was I surprised when Dudman looked it up in her price guide.
"There are over 2,000 different carnival glass patterns," she said. "According to the book, this bowl with field thistles is worth $675 minimum."
Then a young man handed Joni a watch. "It was my grandfather's. It was his retirement gift from AT&T," he said.
"It's a Hamilton," said Dudman, "Just holding a Hamilton gives me the chills."
As she examined it, admitting that watches were not her strong point, an elderly gentleman stepped forward.
"That's a railroad watch. I can tell from the markings," he said. "Only the railroad had that style. So your grandfather must have worked for a railroad."
"Never," said the young man, "He worked for AT&T all his life."
"Then maybe he won it in a poker game," the older man replied.
If you have a treasure you'd like to put a price on, bring it to the Antique Mart at Five Forks Trickum and Killian Hill roads this Saturday afternoon between 12:30 and 5 p.m. You may experience some surprises of your own.
Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at email@example.com.