Expert Appraisers Miss ‘Great Find’ Hiding in Plain Sight

Will Seippel, the founder, CEO and president of WorthPoint, recently discovered a pair of these 18th-century Sevres end pieces at an estate sale after many people passed them over, including a pair of expert appraisers, who tagged them at $125 each. Their true value is much, much more.

Will Seippel, the founder, CEO and president of WorthPoint, recently discovered a pair of these 18th-century Sevres end pieces at an estate sale after many people passed them over, including a pair of expert appraisers, who tagged them at $125 each. Their true value is much, much more.

Just as the everyday collector hopes to come across a Great Find—an item bypassed by many, purchased for a pittance and worth thousands—experts can miss a valuable item staring them in the face.

Will Seippel, the founder, CEO and president of WorthPoint, recently had such an experience.

Will wanted to attend a private estate sale in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, but circumstances—in this case a late flight back from Ohio—had delayed his arriving at the sale. By the time he got there, there were only minutes left before it closed for the day at 5 p.m.

“I thought I could get them to apply their second-day 50-percent-off discount early, if I found anything,” Will said.

But after briefly talking with the organizers of the sale, Will had learned that most of the estate’s pieces had been sold ealier in the day, prior to his arrival. Additionally, the sales company had hired two appraisers to help evaluate prices before the sale. So, he thought, finding anything worthwhile was going to be a longshot.

Still, Will decided to look over what was left. His eyes were immediately drawn to a pair of white porcelain pieces—each with four cherubs surrounding a pillar holding up a low bowl. He looked at the tags: $125 each.

He picked one up and turned it over: “I thought I recognized the mark on the bottom and knew immediately I had something.”

The pieces were early porcelain, 18th-century French, Will thought, judging by the irregular salt-glazed finish. They were also made in pieces and then combined into the final piece, as the “technology” did not exist in the early 1700’s to mold such intricate and large pieces in one mold.

A mark and the iron assembly helped to determine the identity of this circa 1740 Sevres end piece.

A mark and the iron assembly helped to determine the identity of this circa 1740 Sevres end piece.

“They were also sophisticated in the detail and that the floral decoration is usually indicative of Meissen porcelain of the period, but the puttis/cherubs were typically French,” Will said. “The square iron bolts holding them together also dated them.”

What he had found, hiding in plain sight from all the experts and experienced buyers all day long, Will decided, were Sevres porcelain end pieces.

Still, he stood there for a few moments, blinking, because he couldn’t believe what he was holding.

Well, it was time to buy. Since it was 5 p.m. and the end of the first day sale, Will asked the persons conducting the sale to give him second-day pricing to save a trip back the next morning, and possibly waiting in line. He ended up with a very good deal, if not a textbook “Great Find.”

The sophisticated in the detail and that the floral decoration is usually indicative of Meissen porcelain of the period, but the puttis/cherubs are typically French.

The sophistication in the detail and that the floral decoration is usually indicative of Meissen porcelain of the period, but the puttis/cherubs are typically French.

After getting his buy home, he called Thom Pattie, WorthPoint’s chief Worthologist, who, looking at photos send via e-mail, confirmed that Will had indeed made a good buy: the pieces were marked in an early Sevres mark and were made about 1740.

Wow, a pair of Sevres end pieces in great condition, acquired at a steal at $100, that are easily worth $1,000 to $3,000 each. This story only goes to show that when on the hunt for a Great Find, don’t disregard an item just because an “expert” passed on it.

Gregory Watkins is the editor of WorthPoint.com.

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