Matthew Quinn of "Antiques Roadshow" on finding hidden treasures | Home Front

Sep 04, 2014

Matthew Quinn, of Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church, is a regular on the PBS program "Antiques Roadshow." Quinn will answer questions about auctions, garage sales, spotting “Antiques Roadshow" treasures and how to redo and remodel using things bought at an auction..

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Good morning, thank you for having me. I’m delighted to be here and happy to talk about finding treasures at auction, how to tell the good from the bad, and the riff from the raff!

My mother is trying to downsize and has many amazing antiques. Is it weird to cold call or email an antique store and show pictures to see if they would be interested? She doesn't want to hold an estate sale but also has no concept of if what she has people want.

Ideally one would have an understanding of what they were selling prior to contacting a dealer whose interests are not necessarily aligned with them. We always recommend that if a person chooses to sell directly to a dealer that they get 3 quotes and NEVER answer the question "What do you want for it?" As an auctioneer we would remove the items from the home and respect the clients desire not to have people in the home, but still maximize value in a short period of time.

Matthew Quinn, of Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church, is a regular on the PBS program "Antiques Roadshow." I am excited to have Matthew on our chat today to answer questions about our treasures in the attic and basement and about auctions and how they work. Let's get going!

I live in a rural area, and we don't have pages of appraisers in the phone book to say the least. Other than packing up a U-Haul, do you have recommendations for getting furniture, cut glass, silver etc appraised? Valued, or even identified as having anything other than sentimental value?

The first step is to identify why you need to have the item appraised.  There are many types of appraisers out there and all do slightly different things.  Some are insurance, others just for estate purposes or dividing items among family.  Often our clients will submit photos to us to help them decide what they really need.  Then, if warranted, we will arrange a personal visit.  I often find my self in random cities around America.  You can always go online for addition resources.

I am looking for a nice desk for my living room that would also function as my work area for my part-time job (so I need one with several drawers). I've looked at Pottery Barn and others, but am not impressed with the quality. Any suggestions?

One of the great things about auctions that happen all around the country is that great items come up at bargain prices.  We hold weekly auctions as many firms around the country.  Great treasures can be found in these sales.  

Every time I watch a show that talks about the value of an antique, they stress the item should be in the original, used condition and that any attempt to clean an item will ruin the value. But shows like American Restoration seems to take the opposite opinion that the value of an item is one that is restored to a like new condition. Which is correct?

The key here is that the item lost value because it needed to be restored, not that it was actually restored.  If one were to restore an item that didn't need it, then you would be reducing the value.  Collectors always prefer original condition. Restore only when necessary. 

Hello! I have a question about antique pocket watches. I know next to nothing about them, but I would like to purchase one as a gift. What should I be looking for as I scour the local antique malls? Are there other places I should be looking? I'm more interested in the type that have a cover and so open and close, and it has to work as a watch. Any tips?

It is always best to buy things that you like.  Often times pocket watch value will be based on the maker, case & complexity of the movement.  Here is an example from our upcoming auction on Sept 13...

I have a linen tablecloth that is embellished with 100+ embroidered signatures. Among these hand stitched names I found Jean Despujols and Lyle Saxon. I'm not sure of this tablecloth's history, but appears it may have been a gathering of Centenary College alums or visitors. The signatures are stitched in different thread colors coordinating with the year the guest must have been in attendance. Dates are from the 30's to the '60's. Is this a significant purchase I made at a local estate sale?

It sounds interesting.  You may want to have it looked at professionally.  Linens and Textiles are not my expertise, but I'm sure we could with someone who could assist. 

These seem like really simple questions, but I have no idea how to care for jadite. I also don't know how sturdy it is or how much it is supposed to cost - with a toddler at home, I hesitate to buy a lot of it. Right now, I only have a couple of pieces - I paid about $30 for a mixing bowl and $14 for a pair of salt and pepper shakers. I like the look of it and the color.

The first thing we need to do is differentiate between Jadeite the naturally occurring hardstone, and the glass bowls primarily made by Fire King, referred to as Jadeite, which simply a milky green colored glass.  The glass bowls from which I believe you are referencing should be fine in the dishwasher.  

fresh start for fall! what are you favorite interior design websites and blogs?

Great question. Let's all chime in with some of our favorites. I do love Apartment Therapy and also Apartment Envy which is local. I also love Pigtown-Design. Design Sponge is amazing. House of Turquoise is lovely. Oh Joy is inspirational. I gotta say, Martha Stewart's blog is something I read most days. I confess I am fascinated by her houses, decorating, parties and travel.

I love Ballard furniture! I have a sideboard in my foyer, an upholstered bench in my bedroom, and a wrought iron table on my patio. The quality is very good and customer service was excellent.

Thanks for bringing this up.

Hi- you have mentioned great deals at auctions but can you give us some tips on actually going to one and bidding. I tend to think of auctions as only for very expensive pieces and would love to feel comfortable attending one locally and possibly bidding on something. Thank you.

Great deals can be found at auction, all the time.  They are not always for very expensive pieces.  While we host high end sales like the one next weekend, we also host weekly auction for more of the common items found in households today.  Great finds can be found in both.  The most important thing is to get comfortable in the room, talk with the owners, and learn how that auction works.  Each auction is a little different.  Be careful... once you figure it out you'll be addicted. 

You have to attend. Be comfortable, and bid!

What is the best way to have coins evaluated? My grandfather gave me some silver coins about 30 years ago that he collected when he owned a small grocery store. They are not in mint condition. Are they worth more than their weight in silver? How can I find out?

Over the last 5-6 years the price of silver has fluctuated greatly and coin values change all the time, as many of them are tied to the price of silver.  Like many items there are outliers that have value far in excess and those should be identified.  You can make an appointment with an auction company who can begin to help you understand.

I see some pieces in your upcoming auction on which I'd like to bid. Unfortunately, I'll be out of town during the auction. Are there ways to bid online? Or, could I have someone attend in my place?

Of course.  Virtually all auction companies have multiple platforms to bid.  We accept written absentee, phone, and online bidding through multiple channels. You should speak with a representative at the auction house to determine which is best for you. 

Does anyone have experience with honed Caesarstone countertops? I like the matte look of them, but I hear that the stain and scuff more easily, and require more maintenance than polished Caesarstoune countertops.

I do not have personal experience with this. Can someone comment?

Yes, I meant the glass bowls. Is it okay to microwave them? And how much should a typical Jadite mixing bowl cost me?

I believe the microwave should be fine, but you might confirm with a quick google search.  Bowls are not too expensive these days as Fire King prices aren't what they used to be. I would think $5-50 at auction depending on size.

Good Morning: I'm interested in selling some of our mid century modern furnishings to make room for new items. Any suggestions for how to go about this?

The mid-century market is one of the hottest right now.  You can find and follow numerous examples in our upcoming sale found on our website at  Given how hot the market is for mid century auction is the way to go as new records are being set everyday.

I love Antiques Roadshow! But, I've always been curious if all the "great finds" on the show are staged. Can you tell us a little about what happens behind the scenes?

Antiques Roadshow is one of the most real shows on TV today. 60-80 appraisers gather 8 times a summer around the country to spend 12-14 hours with 10,000+ items to build the shows each week.  The production crew works tirelessly to ensure an authentic show for you each week.  Keep Watching! 

Hi - my family just moved into a rental house with a fireplace, which we are looking forward to using this winter. The only issue is that it is already giving off a strong soot odor, even though the owner has it cleaned yearly. Is there anything to help mask the odor? We have wood floors and no curtains, so it shouldn't be coming from fabrics that have been in the home for a while. Any advice would be great. Thank you!

A dehumidifier in your house will totally clear up the smell!

Do you get many items of Washington memorabilia in your auction house? What types of items come along?

Being here in the DC area we see lots of local DC maps, historical & political items from Washington to Obama.  We recently sold the personal collection of former Speaker of the House Tom Foley and his wife.  You never know what might come across the block... here is a great example from the Post ...

My house has all hard-wood floors. I'd love to invest in some nice, antique rugs but I'm not sure where to start or how to evaluate what a rug is "worth." Can you help?

Rugs come up all the time in various shapes, styles, sizes and age.  Prices vary all of the place.  You will most certainly find great buys at auction at a small fraction of retail.  You might have to dig a little but it will be worth it when you compare pricing. 

My parents downsized last year into a condo from a large house with lots of storage. They've pared down but not enough. My mom collected those Bradford Exchange plates and they remain boxed in their storage room, taking room from items that really should be in their storage room. Any suggestions for selling them? Replacements, maybe?

Post WWII we were a heavy collector society that we are not today.  The demand for almost all collectors plates was met by the salesmen at the time.  Today at auction the do not have much value, although the occasional one is made from sterling silver and can have value because of the silver.  Most collectors plates sell for $3-5 each.  Auction or Estate Sale is probably your only option here.  Best of luck.

Hi, I have several paintings that I cannot make out the signature of the artist or no signature at all , but they are original water colors, oil paintings, etc. Do you have any recommendations on how to find experts to ID the artists?

Unknown paintings can still have value for decorative purposes.  You should be careful as some best finds at auction are a missed or unidentified signature.  We, like most galleries, are happy to help in that process if you reach out.

Can you enlighten me on how to find a good freighter to ship antique furnitures that weighs like tons? What is a reasonable pricing? insurance ?

The most important thing to do is get multiple quotes, we also struggle with that from time to time, rarely is there one answer.

Though I don't collect Jadite, I do have a number of Depression Glass pieces, and I've been told that they shouldn't be put in the microwave because the mineral content of the glass makes them more susceptible to cracking. Dishwasher is fine.

Sounds like good advice... Thanks for you help!

I have boxes full of collectibles left to me by my mother. The boxes are sitting in my attic gathering dust, but I'm reluctant to part with her treasures. Do you have any advice for folks like me? - Sentimental in NoVA

The most important thing in life is memories.  Objects just trigger those memories for us.  Try to relate to which objects trigger special memories and keep one or two.  If you place one item on the mantle you will think of your mother everyday and that will be more valuable than a box of items in the attic.  We help families with this everyday.

Naturally hand made rugs are worth more -- but do old machine made rugs, specifically Turkish and Iranian (Persian) also increase/hold value?

Collector's prefer hand made rugs and they always have more value.  Always important to show rugs to an expert on a case by case basis.  

Thanks Matthew for answering our questions about antiques and buying and selling them. We appreciate your being on the chat! Bye for now.

Thank you so much. I truly enjoyed it. Hope to see you at Quinn’s Auction Galleries’,, upcoming sale on Saturday the 13th, and of course every Wednesday at 6pm.

Hello Matthew and Jura - what antiques do you collect yourself?

Personally I collect items that trigger memories from my experiences...  I love to buy old travel posters from places that I have been.  I don't typically buy it on my trip, but after I get back and I seek it out at auction.

We have inherited a white china set from my grandmother. We are not the type of people that eat off china, even for special occasions or parties. Should we sell it, or should we save it and hand it down to our kids?

China sets don't have much value today, and it is hard to get family members to keep them.  If the kids will keep it great, if not we sell them all the time for families.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Matthew Quinn
Matthew Quinn, of Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church, is a regular on the PBS program "Antiques Roadshow." Quinn will answer questions about auctions, garage sales, spotting “Antiques Roadshow" treasures and how to redo and remodel using things bought at an auction.
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