By TIM CLEVELAND
With shows such as Antique Roadshow, Pawn Stars and others dealing in appraising and antiques, Youngstown’s Jeff Byce has seen demand for his services spike in recent years.
Byce, an auctioneer, appraiser and real estate broker, has been in business for nine years at 755 Wick Ave., along with his associate Steve McMillen.
The duo does six shows a year at the Liberty, Hubbard, Youngstown, Boardman and Austintown libraries, plus another at the Butler Museum of American Art’s Christmas show.
On May 3, they were at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, where 30-50 people were expected to bring in various antiques for free appraisals.
“We give what we call a casual appraisal today,” Byce said. “We give an opinion of value. We sell approximately $500,000 to $1 million worth of collectibles and personal property a year. What we like to do is give an opinion of value as to what the items would actually sell for in a well-advertised auction.”
Byce spoke about his background in appraising.
“I was in marketing for large corporations for a number of years,” Byce said of his background. “In 2005, I started Byce Auction and Realty with a passion for the auction business and mainly to sell real estate at auction. I’ve been interested in collectibles my entire life. As I transitioned to a different career, I was always attracted from a very young age to be an auctioneer. I completed appraisal credentials through the National Auctioneers Association. I’ve got my auctioneers license and my real estate brokers license.”
One of the attendees was Nancy Christie of Youngstown, who brought in a mantle clock, a small creamer and mug and a six-piece Nippon China tea set.
“I brought in two items that belonged to my father’s mother,” she said. “We didn’t know what the value was so it was a good opportunity to bring it.”
Byce and McMillen appraised the clock at $25 - $35, the creamer and mug at $5 - $10 and the Nippon China tea set at $50 - $60.
Christie said she was mainly curious about the values of the pieces and has plans to hang on to them.
“It was interesting,” she said. “I didn’t know too much about it. My father recently moved up here from Florida so it had just been sitting in his closet. For me it’s mainly sentimental. Old stuff, family stuff.”
Byce said he has encountered many valuable pieces during his career.
“We have encountered artifacts from the Civil War, we’ve encountered certain art and some of these items would be considered absolutely priceless,” he said. “Defining a quantitative value to the most valuable item we’ve appraised would probably be somewhat difficult. In this area, there’s a tremendous amount of art, history and collectibles. Things turn up from the Titanic in this area. There’s art in this area that’s in the seven figures that you often times don’t read about. The most valuable thing we’ve ever appraised would be a Tiffany window from a private collector that was in the seven-figure area.”
He said he has seen odd items over the years, as well.
“Probably one of the strangest for me is there was a phenomenon back in Victorian days where they had morning rings and morning jewelry and it was actually made out of the hair of a loved one,” Byce said. “It was woven into a ring or a piece of jewelry and when you saw it, it wouldn’t be obvious what it was. There’s a lot of cultural things that are very unusual that at one time were collectible but now appear rather bizarre.”
Byce added that there are a lot of counterfeit pieces that he has to keep his guard up to look out for.
“Not as easy as you might imagine,” he said of spotting fakes. “There are a lot of counterfeits, there are a lot of replicas out there. I was contacted recently on an ice bucket supposedly off the Titanic. What it was, was the molds to make that are still in existence so somebody out there is stamping them out. They’re actually making them out of sterling silver, which is not an inexpensive thing to do. The reality of it is they are fake. A lot of military items tend to have a lot of reproductions. You have to question that constantly, especially medals, swords, guns. One of the first things we look for is where the its came from. Generally if it came from the west side of Youngstown and it’s from a family, that’s a very good indication that we’re probably not going to encounter that [a reproduction]. We also look for people who have multiple items of things. There’s a chance that things can be sold as a reproduction.”
Those interested can call Byce Auction at 330-747-7000 to get an unwritten opinion of value at no charge for any antique pieces they may have.