By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
BROOKFIELD -- For years Harold and Kay Powell kept an old china clock on their bedroom dresser, its melodious gong sounding faithfully on the hour.
It took a trip to the Valley View Antique Mall for the Hubbard couple to learn that the ornate timepiece, a wedding gift to his grandparents in 1902, is more than just a family treasure. Experienced appraisers say the heirloom would be worth between $750 and $950 to an antique collector.
The Powells' old German clock may be among the items featured this month on the "Valley View Antique Appraisal Show," a new locally produced television program modeled after the well-known "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS.
J.V. Ferrara, a partner with his mother Julia Ferrara in the antique mall on Warren-Sharon Road in Brookfield, decided to try sponsoring the program to give local collectors a chance to show off their valuables and find out what they're worth.
First broadcast the last weekend in April, the show will air on the last weekend of each month -- at 10:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox 16/72 and at 11:30 a.m. Sunday on WKBN-TV27. WKBN news reporter Tricia Perry is the host.
Great response: Valley View began scheduling free appraisals every Wednesday and Saturday starting March 31 in preparation for the show. Mall manager Bob Stafford said the response has been almost overwhelming.
"We've done 1,100 free appraisals since we started in March, and we're averaging 55 to 65 a day," he said. Appraisals are limited to two items per person, but many collectors return week after week.
Appraisers select between 10 and 15 of the items they believe are the most unique or have the most compelling stories behind them to be featured on the monthly program.
Many, like the Powells, just want to know what their items are worth and have no plans to sell them. "Oh no, we're not selling. These are family," Harold Powell said. "I've got four grandchildren. It'll go to them sooner orlater."
Others, such as Lisa Hinkle of Warren, come hoping to sell. Appraisers said the 1960s typewriter she brought in wasn't worth much -- maybe $10. A record album featuring the voice of President John F. Kennedy was appraised at $30 to $35, and a 1940s-vintage record player was valued at about $35.
Charles and Janice Sass came from Jamestown, Pa., to sell some green Depression-era glassware and several sets of child-sized china. Mrs. Sass has already been featured on the appraisal program, showing off a wooden whirligig lawn ornament appraised at between $350 and $450.
"We've been collecting for 40 some years," she said. "Now it's time to get rid of it."
Mrs. Sass said she's often been surprised by the worth of her possessions. She remembered a cameo broach and necklace that a flea market vendor had pronounced not old enough to be valuable -- an antique collector and appraiser later paid her well over $100 for the pieces.
Betty Wright, a longtime collector from Hartford who serves on the mall's appraiser staff, said most have gained expertise through experience. "You've got to know something about everything, from bandsaws to hair nets."
Linda O'Donnell of Liberty, a dealer and appraiser, said she's learning by working with other veteran collectors. "I still make mistakes," she said with a laugh. "A few weeks ago I sold a piece of pottery for $5. I found out later it was worth $75."
Del Lambert and Jeff Anglin, both staff appraisers and auctioneers, said all the mall appraisers are volunteers who provide the service because they want the antique mall and the new appraisal television show to succeed. "It's fun, too, because there's never a day that somebody doesn't bring in something that we don't know what it is," Anglin said.
Appraisers: Most of the volunteer appraisers are avid collectors who have their own display booths at the store, and they often buy items to display and sell themselves later.
The appraisers said there's a certain thrill to being the first to examine the family heirlooms customers bring in from their basements, closets and attics.
"My heart is pounding," said appraiser Christine Singer as she scrutinized a vase hand-painted by a well-known pottery artist. "When I see something that's one-of-a-kind like this, or something that has an ultimate story -- it just puts the little tiny hairs up on the back of my neck."
The Valley View Antique Mall started out as a 173,000-square-foot department store the Ferrara family built in 1959, and the independent store successfully competed with retail giants such as Kmart for decades. In 1995 the family decided to make a change, converting the business to an antique, craft and gift store and flea market.
Displaying their wares: Exhibitors in the antique and craft sections pay a monthly rental fee for the space and pay Valley View a commission on their sales. Store employees handle all aspects of selling the items. The store also offers to post customers' antique items on eBay, the Internet auction service, for a $5 fee and a percentage of the sale price.
J.V. Ferrara said the family has several new ventures under way. Plans are in the works to open an 18,000-square-foot expo hall behind the craft and antique mall in August.
Ferrara purchased Pine Lake Golf Club on West Liberty Street in Hubbard and reopened the renovated course in 1999. He's working now on the restoration of an 1870s-vintage mansion next-door to the course that he plans to open as a bed and breakfast later this year.