Lori Verderame, aka 'Dr. Lori,' appears on the Discovery Channel's 'Auction Kings.' (Discovery Channel)
When “Dr. Lori” (aka Lori Verderame) returns to the area this weekend for the Novi Home Improvement Show, she will be returning to a state she knows well. The popular appraiser, known from the Discovery Channel’s hit TV show “Auction Kings” and her syndicated column, now resides in Bucks County in Pennsylvania but attended the University of Michigan, where she received a history degree in 1987 (she also earned a Ph.D. in history from Penn State, hence the title).
Featured on NBC’s The Tonight Show” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, she’ll present “Dr. Lori’s Antiques Appraisal Comedy Show” at the event, her signature mix of education and entertainment. As part of her unscripted program, guests may bring an antique for a free appraisal. “I’ll break some hearts, I’ll make some millionaires,” she says. She also provides tips on how to sell unwanted stuff for top dollar, learn auction secrets, find collectible bargains and why you should not host a yard sale. We caught up with her before her visit to talk about her background and what she hopes to find while she’s back in the Great Lakes State.
Q. How did you get into antiques?
A. Two people inspired my interest in antiques: My dad and a perfect stranger. I always had a love of history through objects. My dad affectionately called me his “son” because I loved to tag along with him to flea markets, yard sales, fishing trips, sporting events, etc. As a kid, I loved to be among the antiques that would end up in my No. 1 favorite spot in the world — my dad’s garage. I now cherish those memories as my dad suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
My parents encouraged me to follow my interests in the field of art and antiques, and I went on to earn several academic degrees in history. My first degree in history is from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (Go Blue!) and I also hold the Ph.D. from Penn State University. After years teaching in university classrooms and working as a museum director, I was inspired to start appraising antiques after I met a perfect stranger. She was a 75-year-old woman who had sold an historic George Washington document for $50 that was worth $50,000! When I met her, I thought, this woman could be my mother — anyone could make that mistake. That woman’s mistake inspired me to share my education and expertise. So, as “America’s Appraiser,” I present over 150 antique appraisal shows and appraise 20,000 objects.
Q. What are the best and worst things you’ve seen?
A. I have appraised an actual and very heavy piece of the Berlin Wall that a U.S. service man brought home in 1989, a French Impressionist drawing worth $100,000 discovered inside an old, beat-up upholstered chair, a $15,000 weathervane that helped get the owner’s farm out of foreclosure, Napoleon Bonaparte’s $2-million-dollar good luck charm encrusted with jewels that the owner traded for a set of golf clubs, a Picasso drawing that was purchased at an estate sale for $2 worth $50,000, a $500,000 stained glass Tiffany lamp that came to my event wrapped in a cat’s bed, and a cheap glass Ball jar that the owner believed was the first one ever made — it wasn’t! The list goes on and on.
Q. What surprises you during your travels?
A. The people and the stories that go along with their objects are big surprises. My shows are always different and very entertaining thanks to my audiences.
Q. What do you wish people would leave at home? What would you like to see more of?
A. I want my audiences to bring any item (antique, collectible, old, new, ugly, beautiful, whatever!) that they are curious about to my events. Every object tells a story.
Q. Some say the younger generation isn’t interested in antiques. Do you think this is true?
A. The younger generation is interested in antiques more than ever. They are interested in the background of the objects they grew up with at their grandmother’s houses. They love DIY projects where they repurpose antiques and make art from collectibles. They are some of the best yard sale hunters and flea market pickers in the business. Young couples antique hunt for their new homes, too. And, what’s more, I have many young people (ages 7 to 97) who follow me on TV, online and at my stage show events. Don’t disregard the children because they often bring objects for appraisals. I know that little kids are really savvy collectors, and I have had many of them come to my show to show me their collections!
Q. The world of antiques is definitely changing. What do you see in the future?
A. Items that say something about the way we live now are the antiques of the future. … I know how important technology is to our culture in the 21st century, that once those devices go out of style, they will be coveted collectibles. I always say collect what’s coming and what is coming is a host of interesting objects that teach us about who we are and how we communicate with one another. There is so much cool stuff out there. … I can’t wait to see it at the Novi Home Improvement Show (for show details, see www.novihomeshow.com).
Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure, 615 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to email@example.com. If chosen, you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.