September 11, 2011 in Business

Local antiques appraiser is an expert on art of business

Michael Guilfoil Correspondent
J. Bart Rayniak photoBuy this photo

Antique appraiser Carol Worthington-Borodin prepares for an estate sale in Spokane Valley on Aug. 9.
(Full-size photo)

Five facts

Years of appraisal experience: 32

Most valuable item appraised: Painting worth $150,000

Largest item appraised: A 15-foot-tall bronze statue of a miner

Item that Worthington regrets having sold: An elegant 1770s card table

Best find: A rare, gold-plated 1920s snare drum, purchased for $10 at a garage sale and sold for $1,600. “But I didn’t know what it was when I bought it.”

Carol Worthington-Borodin began her professional life as a stockbroker, then switched to antiques in 1984. She earned certification with the American Society of Appraisers in 1990, and launched three successful local antique businesses.

Today she operates Worthington Estate Sales and Worthington-Borodin Appraisers, headquartered in Rathdrum, Idaho. She also offers her appraisal services at fundraising events.

Worthington recently identified a local client’s 18th century British pocket atlas that she predicts will bring at least $6,000 at auction. We caught up with Worthington as she organized an estate sale at a Spokane Valley home.

S-R: Did you grow up surrounded by antiques?

Worthington: No, but I grew up with parents who loved history and took me to museums whenever we went on trips. And state capitol buildings. There’s a lot of art in state capitols.

S-R: What was the first antique you bought?

Worthington: An 1860s English wash stand with tile on the back and towel racks on the side. I was 25, and I bought it to resell. I was never a collector. I got into the antique business to be a dealer. That’s very unusual. Most dealers are also collectors.

S-R: When did you realize that appraising antiques could be a career?

Worthington: Not until I started working at International Interiors (which sold European antique furniture). We started getting calls for appraising. At that time, the only certified appraiser in Spokane was Roy McLeod. So I contacted him, and he told me about a school run by the American Society of Appraisers, and recommended I go there, and I did. That was 1989.

S-R: Do you have a favorite antique genre?

Worthington: I’m very fond of late 1880s French art glass – Daum Nancy, (Emile) Gallé.

S-R: How do you go about appraising, say, a painting?

Worthington: Condition is paramount. Then I consider the size of the painting. Does it have a signature? Is it well painted or quickly painted? What materials were used? Where does this piece fit into the artist’s body of work? I turn the canvas around and look to see if there have been any repairs. I go through a whole series of questions.

S-R: What impact has “Antiques Roadshow” had?

Worthington: People think I can immediately identify something and value it, like they do on the TV show. But in reality, it’s all about research.

S-R: What antiques are gaining popularity?

Worthington: In the younger crowd, what we call shabby chic – used furniture that’s been reworked. And silver is very hot right now – anything made with sterling, because the commodity is very hot. An appraiser should be able to tell you what the weight of the silver or gold is in an item. Some things are worth more than their weight, and some things are not, depending upon the quality of the material.

S-R: What’s in the doldrums?

Worthington: Cut glass. And Victorian furniture seems to be very slow right now.

S-R: Has the recession affected antique prices?

Worthington: Absolutely. Prices are back where they were maybe 10 years ago.

S-R: Will China’s growing economy affect the price of Chinese antiques?

Worthington: It already has on the very high end – bronzes and porcelains. So I’m sure it will.

S-R: What have you appraised that was worth much more than the owners thought?

Worthington: We’ve had several paintings that the owners thought were worth $5,000 or $6,000 and were $25,000 or $30,000.

S-R: Are there still treasures out there in people’s attics and barns?

Worthington: I think there are, but less and less, because people recognize that they need help in identifying and valuing things.

S-R: Are estate sales a good way to dispose of antiques?

Worthington: I think they’re a very good way because it’s a controlled market – I can control what I sell things for.

S-R: Can they be a good place to find bargains?

Worthington: Yes, but I like to think that at my sales, prices reflect the market.

S-R: Is eBay a good place to buy or sell antiques?

Worthington: Millions of people think so and do it every day, but it’s not something I do. I think that’s a place where you can be taken, but I’ve also heard that it’s a place where amazing finds can be made. So, yes, it’s a good place if you know what you’re doing.

S-R: What item today will have antique value a century from now?

Worthington: The marketplace is in constant change, and what we value today may be of little or no interest in 100 years. Here’s what I think will be valuable: handmade, crafted furniture at the high end of the market – things that cost $5,000 to $10,000 that you see down at (Seattle’s) Pioneer Square. Those will be very sought-after 100 years from now.

S-R: What advice would you offer a novice antique collector?

Worthington: Buy books. And study. There’s just no other way. If you’re going to collect Depression glass, get a book on Depression glass. You’ve got to read in order to know what you’re looking at.

Worthington will be among the appraisers offering verbal market evaluations Oct. 1-2 at Custer’s Annual Fall Antique & Collectors Sale at the Spokane Fair & Expo Center. Appraisals cost $5 per item, with all funds going to restoration of historic Campbell House.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email