Olentangy Valley News

Camp for 'treasure hunters' benefits symphony

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A recent partnership with a central Ohio auction house has the Columbus Symphony Orchestra learning to appreciate the beautiful music of bid calls and auctioneers' gavels.

The Columbus Symphony Orchestra League and Delaware-based Garth's Auctions will co-host a Treasure Hunters BootCamp Wednesday, Jan. 15, at the Scioto Country Club in Upper Arlington. The three-hour event, led by Garth's President Amelia Jeffers, will offer novice collectors an inside look at the antiques and auction trades.

Jeffers said many amateur collectors think anything with age or scarcity will bring big bucks. She said other factors, such as condition and desirability, can play a big role.

For example, Jeffers said Garth's once sold a mummified Egyptian bird at auction. She said based on age and scarcity -- there's no mummified bird aisle at the local big-box store, after all -- a casual observer might predict an auction price of thousands of dollars.

In reality, the bird sold for about $450.

"In this case, it wasn't condition, but how many people want a mummified bird in their living room?" she said.

The BootCamp is the third event in the auction firm's collaboration with the orchestra league, titled Partners at the Podium.

Jeffers said the groups came together because of an overlap between league members and Garth's auction attendees. She said the league members were "trying to identify the next interesting way to revive their donor base," and Garth's was thrilled to be a part of their efforts.

The partnership raises money for the orchestra's educational programs in two ways.People pay to attend events hosted by the league and Garth's -- for example, the program at the Scioto Country Club costs $45 per person.

They also can consign an item for auction at Garth's and donate a percentage of the profit to the league, which also will receive a percentage of the commission from Garth's.

League President Connie Cahill said the partnership with Garth's made sense because several of the league's members are downsizing and looking to get rid of antiques that their children have little interest in. She said the program gives members an easy way to make space in their homes while supporting an organization they love.

"If I have an item that I wish to donate, I can send a photograph to Garth's ... (and) they will get back to us on what's it's worth and what it could go for at a sale," Cahill said.

Jeffers said her firm has provided free auction and appraisal services at events for nonprofits before, but Partners at the Podium represents a new step.

"We've never had this kind of strategic, long-term partnership with a large organization like the symphony," she said.

Garth's will not make any money from the BootCamp event. Jeffers said the company receives the benefit of telling the audience about the services it offers.

About 10 league members have had items appraised for possible inclusion in a future Garth's auction so far, Cahill said.

Jeffers said people looking to sell items at auction should realize that antiques, like stocks, can go up and down in value.

Items such as Hummel figurines have seen their values fall as the Internet revealed just how many were available, she said.

In other areas, the Internet has been a boon for the auction business. Jeffers said the market for Chinese antiques has strengthened because growing middle and upper classes in China have money to bid online in American auctions and ship their purchases overseas.

Jeffers said the Internet also allows her business to compete with major auction houses in New York, Boston and around the globe.

Before online auctions, Garth's largely was limited to attracting buyers from Ohio and the Midwest who received auction catalogs or saw advertisements in the newspaper. Now, bidders from around the world can view auction catalogues online.

Among other changes in the auction industry, auctioneers, along with pawn-shop owners, pickers and antiques appraisers, have become television stars.

Jeffers said she initially was concerned that reality shows could give the public a lot of misinformation about antiques and auctions. She said she eventually came to view the trend as a positive.

"We've experienced more interest and more people taking a second look at what they have," she said.

Cahill said fans of those reality shows, and budding collectors who want advice from industry experts, should register for the BootCamp event by Friday, Jan. 10. So far, she said, about 50 people have registered, including a group from the Women's Club of Powell.

"I think there's a lot of interest among a lot of people about those hidden treasures they might have," Cahill said.

People who want to attend the event can send a check for $45 to Lynn Savidge, Columbus Symphony Orchestra League Treasurer, 443 Maketewah Drive, Delaware 43015.

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