Museum's appraisal fair reveals local history and small fortunes


BENNINGTON -- About 45 people and 150 items came into Bennington Museum for appraisals on Saturday.

"Any time that you have an object that you think might be one of a kind ... formal appraisals can cost hundreds of dollars per object," said Museum Curator Jamie Franklin. "The thing about this is that $5 is practically nothing. It's not a formal appraisal, but these appraisers are more than capable of telling you that something is valuable and can give you a general sense of value and point you in the right direction."

Franklin spends much time going to auction houses and antique dealers. In his eight years as curator, he established business relationships with some of the most knowledgeable appraisers in the area who know about a variety of materials. On a volunteer basis, the appraisers help put some extra money into the museum's operating budget.

"This year, a lot of particularly good material has come through the door," Franklin said. "We saw an original George Washington signed document and a beautiful early-19th century piece of stoneware."

Michel Kimball and Don Trachte had a strong feeling that some things they had in their home were worth something of value.

Kimball had been using a small iron-pig statue as a doorstop for years. Her sister received a dog statue from the same artist, at the time Kimball was given her iron pig. She found out the two statues from 1916 were sculpted by her great aunt's stepdaughter, Laura Gardin Fraser. A large bronze horse statue by Fraser is also displayed on the second floor of the Bennington Museum.

"My sister was curious about her appraisal, so when I realized what this was I thought I would bring it in," Kimball said. "It was appraised at $2,000."

Trachte's father was a cartoonist from Madison, Wisc. "My father was good friends with Betty Cass, a former writer for the State Journal," Trachte said.

Cass published a book that Trachte's father bought and filled with numerous autographs and illustrations from famous artists and cartoonists. The book was appraised between $10,000 and $15,000.

Kimball and Trachte said they have no intention of letting go of their possessions, but it's nice to know they own a couple pieces of history.

Contact Tom Momberg at Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg


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