When Irene Johnson was about 8 growing up in the early 1940s in Austin, her father brought her a lasting gift --a Gibson steel guitar.
As an award-winning guitar player who later became a music teacher, Johnson arrived at the 39th Antique Sale and Show Saturday at the Brainerd Armory hoping for the first time to get an idea what the guitar is worth. Her husband, Bert, carried the heavy Gibson in a worn brown case, joking he would be recognized for having one arm longer than the other.
"I thought sure when she said we should go (to the antique show), she was going to put me up," he said and smiled. They had a crinkled piece of paper bearing the number "76" as an indicator of how long they would have to wait to hear what the antique appraisers thought. The white board listed No. 20. They walked along antique sales booths lined with colorful glass items, sparkling jewelry and vintage dolls. Bert built a glass case for the three keepsake guitars, including the steel Gibson.
Irene Johnson told about receiving her Gibson steel guitar as a gift from her father when she was a young girl as she looked at the item Saturday during the 39th Antique Sale and Show at the Brainerd Armory as her husband, Bert (left), and her brother, Lavern Peterson, listened. The guitar couldn't be appraised. Her mother's photo album (foreground) was estimated to be worth $400 and the colorful bowl's appraised value ranged between $85 and $100.
Irene graduated from Austin High School in 1948. She went on to school and later married Bert. The rest, she said is history. Almost 50 years after they married, they count three daughters, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren among the family treasures.
In July 1948, a teacher put Irene with three other guitar players and they drove north to Minneapolis for a national contest. They played Hawaiian music. One tune was "On the South Sea Isle."
The number on the white board had risen to 40 and then to 55 quickly.
Regardless of the price the appraisers might give, Irene said she would not sell the guitar. A son-in-law and grandson are musical and may be the future caretakers of her father's gift. It's on a short list of items Irene said she'd rescue if her house ever caught fire.
She watched the other people having lunch or walking through the aisles between antiques, each clutching their own personal memento for appraisal. She said the interesting stories were the people behind the item.
"It's the people who brought them and their great-grandparents or whatever -- it's a thing that is going to be priceless in memory. It doesn't mean that much to anyone else."
Other antique gems
Appraisers at the 39th Antique Sale and Show in Brainerd Friday and Saturday found a few notable gems.
One person with a Tiffany lamp with a rare base was told they may be sitting on a fortune. The lamp shade alone was worth an estimated $2,000.
Several lamps ranged from $1,500 to $3,000.
And a Norman Davis painting was estimated to be worth $15,000 to $20,000.
At a nearby table in the refreshment area, her brother ,Lavern Peterson, Elk River, brought their mother's photo album in a plastic bag. Her husband had a colorful bowl wrapped protectively in white cloth. Suddenly, the white board number jumped from 70 to 80. The Johnsons quickly made their way to a back room. The appraisal specialists sat at a head table. Microphones carried their voices to the rows of people sitting along long tables waiting for their number to be called.
When Irene went to the front of the room with her Gibson guitar, the trio -- James Marrinan, Bonnie Lindberg and Kevin Callahan -- from Appraisal Specialists Midwest, Minneapolis, said a collective "wow."
"That is out of our range," Callahan said. "That, to me, seems very unique."
They guessed the guitar was an early Gibson and a custom piece.
"I think that's very special," Lindberg said.
They gave Irene a name of a St. Paul appraiser to contact for an idea of the guitar's worth. Marrinan said when people watch "PBS Road Show" on TV where antiques are appraised plenty of homework is done on the highlighted pieces.
The family's photo album, filled with ornate pages and photos of staid people often in stiff collars, was estimated to be worth up to $400. Lindberg said it was one of the best albums she had seen.
"That was an eye-opener," Bert said of the value.
The album is estimated to date back to the late 1890s. The colorful bowl's appraised value ranged between $85 and $100.
The Johnsons intend to contact the St. Paul appraiser to get a better idea about the Gibson guitar.
Irene's brother Lavern leaned over and said: "Then I get to split it with you."
"Says you," she said.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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