Art & antiques by Dr. Lori

When embarking on a new phase of life, like marriage, completing a degree, or moving to a new home, many people chronicle the experience with the purchase of an object. When looking for an investment that is both fun and smart, art and antiques come to mind.

For the novice collector or seasoned art and antiques lover who wants to jump into the market, I’ll share my insider tips on starting art collection. I’ve compiled a buying guide to help you find, understand and collect the best examples of fine art and antiques.

Learn from masters

First, learn as much as you can about art and antiques in places where you are not tempted to buy art or antiques. Visit museums, historical societies, libraries and other places where fine art and antiques are on display, but not for sale.

You should learn about the various media (e.g., pastels, watercolors, bronzes, oils on canvas, etc.), art movements (e.g., Surrealism, Impressionism, Contemporary Realism, etc.) and subjects (e.g., still lifes, seascapes, portraits, etc.) so you have a good idea of what sparks your interest.

This method will prevent you from buying just because the opportunity presents itself. Don’t think about buying a work of art or antique piece until you establish a budget.

Stick to your budget

Have a budget in mind, settle on it and stick to it. Do not waiver and don’t convince yourself to overspend because you fell in love with a piece. No matter what, you will be happy if you stick to your budget.

Slow down

Slow down and forget life’s distractions when you are considering an art or antique purchase. Even if you are starting out slow and only buying a small, reasonably priced piece, it is a good idea to take it slow.

This work of art or antique object will become a part of your home life for years to come. Learn to look at the work of art or antique piece for more than just a few minutes.

Don’t let a pushy dealer, encouraging friend, or other “background noise” distract you or rush you into the purchase. Take a minute and just stand there and quietly look at the work. Think about what you see and try to figure out what you like. Consider it, ponder it and don’t rush it.

Back to basics

Try to consider the basics starting with black and white. Don’t be taken in by an artwork’s color or an antique’s various forms and ornamental details. Some people who sell art or antiques will try to get you to like a particular work based solely on its colors or how it may fit into your color scheme.

Remember, a big part of buying something good is learning to recognize quality pieces. I want you to buy something that you like that is also of high quality and worth the money.

Buy training

Buy the work of the trained artists and established craftsmen. Better yet, buy the work of artists who teach other artists like those established instructors from prestigious art schools and apprenticeships. When it comes to market prowess, those who can, teach!

Appraisers, curators and art historians know that the best quality work is always the best choice for a collection. It will hold its value long term. Collecting quality art and antiques is always a good investment.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.

Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s “Auction Kings.” Visit, or call 888 431-1010.

Art & antiques by Dr. Lori

My museum training allows me to offer some advice to those of you who hang paintings, prints or pictures on your walls. Rule No. 1: Make a design plan.

Even a simple plan will help you hang art in style.

Draw a simple picture of the blank wall. Measure the wall. Give yourself, depending on the size of the wall, at least 6 to 12 inches of blank space at the beginning and end of the wall. Make certain that you are not squeezing a big piece into a small space.

Unite unrelated objects by framing them in the same way-same frame design, same frame wood or color, same size.

If you have art or antique collections on display, display enough pieces to insure that you can carry the visual space of an entire wall. Don’t forget about your furniture. Furniture positioned beneath works of art has an impact on that wall above, too.

Remember, an overstuffed club chair, delicate feminine settee or clean-lined wooden bench add visual information to the wall upon which you have hung artwork. Don’t disregard the furniture when hanging art.

How high is too high?

Objects arranged in odd numbers provide pleasant visual symmetry. Symmetry, like three black and white photographs in a row is pleasing to the eye.

Arranging objects in odd numbers can help you make ugly spaces look good.

There is a reason why art looks better in museums than in most homes.

In museums, framed works of art have their center point hung no higher than five feet.

If the center is higher than 60 inches, then most museum designers consider that artwork hung too high.

The rule of thumb is not to exceed 60 inches high at a painting’s center. This is, for most people, a comfortable viewing height. Most people are surprised to learn that Americans, unlike Europeans, tend to hang art much too high.

Museum curators also take patrons in wheelchairs and children into consideration when hanging art exhibitions.

So, in your home, you may want to hang works of art at a pleasing level for all members of your family. If you are hanging framed works of art in a children’s room or playroom, you may want to consider your 4 year old’s eye level – not an adult’s eye level.

Don’t be hammer happy

When hanging a work of art, be sure to measure twice before reaching for that hammer. That hammer can prove lethal to your design scheme and your drywall, so don’t use it unless you are sure.

Artwork deserves a secure hook that relates to the weight of your piece. Don’t hang your painting on an old nail or screw.

Eventually, a nail will give way and your painting will hit the floor and damage the floor, the wall and the art. Every work of art needs proper hardware for the drywall, plaster, artwork and the frame.

Don’t cram many works of art onto one wall. Art needs blank space around it or visual breathing room. Massive works of art require high ceilings and blank areas free of visual obstacles like chair rails or wainscoting or low ceilings. When it comes to hanging artwork, think like a museum pro.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.

Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s “Auction Kings.” Visit, or call 888 431-1010.

Art & antiques by Dr. Lori

I think the best word to describe the feelings, fears and finality of downsizing is the word “overwhelming.” While I help people through this difficult process on a regular basis during my in-home appraisal appointments, most people are both excited to move on to a new phase in life and terrified about how to actually get there.

Treasure the trash

I think that the age old statement that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is stupid. Why? Ask yourself, why isn’t my trash my treasure? People who sort through dumpsters or your curbside trash pile think that your unwanted stuff is treasure, then why don’t you? Some of the most valuable “trash” is in the homes of the guys who removed the rented dumpster from your deceased grandma’s front yard after you cleaned out her house.

Do you ever wonder why all these people – seems like everybody you know – are involved in the buying and selling of antiques? They are all calling themselves pickers – they are trading, taking and trying to turn your unwanted stuff into cold hard cash. Americans need to realize that they have valuable stuff.

In your best interest

Is this a profile of your downsizing situation? Your son-in-law wants to throw everything in the dumpster, so he doesn’t have to move it to your new residence. Your daughter wants you to keep everything that isn’t nailed down for sentimental reasons. Your granddaughter is searching for cool stuff for her first apartment and thinks your “vintage” pieces are cooler than Kim Kardashian.

There are other folks like nosy neighbors, friends of friends, your housekeeper, your landscaper, the local handyman – all of whom will give you “a few bucks” for your antique grandfather clock or Rococo revival armoire – just to “help you out.” Downsizing is stressful and this is a trying time and others may try to take advantage of you.

Sometimes that “helpful” third party is a scout for an antiques reseller. Their interest in your objects may be a clue that your trash is worth money. Of course, when I make statements like this to help folks, I receive hate mail from people and organizations who don’t want me to make you aware of what’s really happening out there.

Time is precious

Give yourself much more than one long weekend to decide what to downsize.

Ask your loved ones to hang around in order to give you help. As an appraiser only, I often see how objects spark memories and bring out those untold stories that family members may have never heard.

I was there when a 40-year-old son first learned that his 85-year-old mother had once dated the boxing legend, Joe Louis, in the 1940s. From a desk drawer, this woman uncovered a photograph of herself and Louis as a couple at a USO dance; a photo that her son had never seen. He was so shocked by the information flowing from his mother during the appraisal session that he spent most of the afternoon asking additional questions about his mother’s life during the war years. Values of the objects in her home were of interest but he told me as I was leaving that he will treasure that afternoon spent with his mother for years to come.

Downsizing is a big step. Talk to your family and friends and ask for help. You didn’t accumulate all of that stuff alone, so why would you be expected to make decisions about all of it without any help?

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.

Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s “Auction Kings.” Visit, or call 888 431-1010.

Art & antiques by Dr. Lori

I share advice about art, antiques and the appraisal of personal property in this column and at my public events hosted worldwide. Here are a few questions from the field.

Q: What is the best way to find that valuable antique? When I’m shopping in an antique store, at a yard sale or cleaning out my attic, are the oldest pieces the most valuable?

Dr. Lori Verderame: Just because something is old doesn’t mean it is automatically valuable. I have junk, you have junk, my grandmother had junk sometimes it is just older junk! Age is not an automatic value indicator.

Q: I’m researching online and I can’t find the markings that are on the bottom of my ceramic vase. The numbers show the date “1910.” Is that the date that the piece was made?

LV: Don’t waste money buying all those books which list pottery marks.

If you have a ceramic or piece of pottery with a number on it that resembles a date, that number usually is not a date. Often, that four digit number is a model, inventory or mold number identifying the form of your piece to the manufacturer or mold maker.

Q: My five year-old son decided to act like Picasso and used his crayons on the back of my grandmother’s wooden desk chair that she passed down to me. Should I refinish it?

LV: Don’t trash it and don’t refinish it just yet. Try to maintain the original finish of an antique wooden piece of furniture as it impacts value. Before you make a decision to trash it or to restore it, get an appraisal of the value of the piece. You want to know if it is worth investing money in restoring the piece.

Be sure to keep your antiques away from sunlight, active pets, water and aspiring young artists.

Q: I want to sell my unwanted stuff online, but I’ve never sold anything online before. How can I avoid getting ripped off?

LV: Don’t publicize the physical address where the antique object that you are selling is located. Don’t connect your work address or home address to your online selling information. Buy a post office box and do all the correspondence from that address. I hear the stories from people at my antiques appraisal shows where thieves target homes from an address posted online.

Q: My mother-in-law wants to give me her wedding china, but I don’t like it. Do you think I should keep it? Do you think it has any value?

LV: First, is it going to kill you to accept the china set to help keep family peace? Don’t simply ignore an item’s value just because you don’t like it.

Across the nation at my antique appraisal shows, I advise my audiences to set taste aside … Ugly is your first clue to value. Get it appraised and then make a decision about it.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.

Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s “Auction Kings.” Visit, or call 888 431-1010.