Appraisal event links memories, money - Your West Valley News: Suncity

Appraisal event links memories, money

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Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 9:21 am

Gretchen Barrand is the owner of a gold pocket watch that belonged to her great aunt. The family heirloom is precious to the Sun City woman, but Barrand said she has always been curious to know more about it.

“She taught school for 51 years,” Barrand said. “I think it might have been a retirement gift.”

Tuesday, Barrand was one of many Sun Citians who visited the Sun Health Resale Shop for a private appraisal with Josh Levine of Scottsdale-based J Levine Auction & Appraisal. Barrand came away pleased.

“He told me it is 14 karat gold, and made in 1904,” she said. “And it’s worth something like $600 to $800.”

The shop, located at 14668 N. Del Webb Blvd., hosted Levine for about five hours. The store’s manager, Susan Slezak, said the idea for the appraisal event came together after a meeting with Levine.

“I hooked up with Josh because we needed help pricing some larger-value items,” she said. “And then we got to talking.”

Levine paid a visit to the store and happened to be there when a resident brought in a valuable painting.

“He was so excited,” Slezak said. “And that painting ended up selling at one of his auctions for $2,500, which is great, because of course those proceeds come back to Sun Health.”

Many of the community members who donate items talk about their treasured heirlooms, the valuables handed down through the generations, and so Slezak broached the idea of hosting an appraisal. Levine said he was happy to donate his time.

“I do about three of these events in the summer,” he said. “We’re just so swamped when the Snowbirds are here so the summer is the perfect time to get out in the community.”

Levine said he is often just as excited to appraise items as the people are to have their items appraised.

“I love it, because every time I do one of these, every time, I’m shocked by something,” he said. “Someone, at least once, will walk in with something I’d never expect to see.”

Just recently, he said, a person walked into an appraisal event with a dirk dating back to the 16th century. At another, someone presented him with a Gibson Girl painting worth about $6,000.

“If I could spend all my days doing these events, I would,” he said. “They’re that much fun.”

The job does sometimes require an appraiser to be tactful, he added, due to what he calls “price anchoring.”

“If mom told you this brush was worth $3,000, then to you and your family, it’s accepted as fact,” he said. “And so if you come in and I tell you it’s plastic, it’s worth maybe 10 bucks, you don’t want to believe me. You just have to be tactful in those situations.”

Levine said the reason he does not let things like that bother him is because of the variety, pure and simple. Every day he goes to work knowing there is a good chance he will be taken by surprise.

“I’ve been around antiques since I was born. My parents were collectors,” he said. “And still, each week, I see something I’ve never seen before. And the funny thing is, I’ll see something I’ve never seen before and then see three more of them by the end of the week.”

So was the event a success? Slezak said yes.

“There is definitely a lot of interest in the community for this,” she said. “We booked all the reservations in a few hours. We’ve been taking people’s names and putting them on a waiting list for the past couple of weeks.”

If Levine is game, Slezak said she would like to make the appraisal events a regular thing.

“Maybe one in the spring and one in the fall, or whatever works for him,” she said. “It’s great for us because people are clearly interested in it, and it gets them in the store.”

• Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or

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