Praise for the Appraiser
Discovery Channel regular “Dr. Lori” has made a career out of giving people an honest assessment of trash and treasure alike
by Sharon A. Shaw

It should come as no surprise that antiques appraiser Lori Verderame gained notoriety communicating with her fans the old fashioned way, with a weekly column in the Bucks County Herald—since syndicated to 110 publications nationwide—but thanks to the popularity of reality TV shows her message has gone global. The woman known as “Dr. Lori,” a resident of Bucks County, has a reoccurring role on this season—its third—of the Discovery Channel’s Atlanta-based show “Auction Kings.”

A graduate of Penn State with a Ph.D. in art history, Dr. Lori has had an impressive career, which includes teaching at her alma mater and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, among others. She has also held positions at the Allentown Art Museum, Muhlenberg College and the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State. Though her extensive knowledge of art history sets her apart from many in her field, it is her honest approach to antiques appraisal that earned her a weekly spot on CBS3, hosting “Trash or Treasure,” a segment where viewers could get her input on their objects. She has also appeared on shows such as “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” Anderson Cooper’s “Anderson” talk show and NBC TV’s “The Tonight Show.”

Suburban Life recently caught up with Dr. Lori, who makes as many as 150 public appearances a year, including those on cruise ships where she may appraise guests’ collectibles one day and lead a tour of a major art museum the next.

Suburban Life: How did you begin appraising antiques?
Lori Verderame: I have a curious mind. You know those little kids that talk all the time? That was me. It goes back to my dad dragging that chatty girl around to flea markets. He was a World War II vet and I was the baby. My mom would tell him, “Get this girl out of the house,” and he would take me. I learned a lot from him and the people I met at the flea markets.

I got into appraisal because I met a woman who had just sold a valuable document for only a little bit of money. I realized there were a lot of people who didn’t know what they had. Now I’ve appraised everything from soup to nuts: motorcycles, autographs, celebrity/movie memorabilia and more.

SL: How are you able to keep up on so many topics?
LV: Most appraisers don’t have the doctorate background I do. Because of that I have the foundation laid. Other appraisers focus on one or two things; I do my homework. If I have to appraise Disney memorabilia, I research Walt Disney’s life, his career. If it involves documents, I have to know what the paper should look like.

SL: What is the strangest item you have ever appraised?
LV: I have done 150 public events a year since 1998 so I have seen all kinds of strange things, from a Lewis and Clark Peace Medal found by a 5-year-old in the garden to a goblet Napoleon supposedly drank from when he came to Connecticut—he never came to Connecticut—also works by local artists including a Fern Coppedge painting that someone found in an abandoned house. You have to look around, there is a reason people dive in Dumpsters and look in trash.

SL: Has reality TV affected what people expect from an appraisal?
LV: Reality shows have done a great service. We all look around a lot harder. Everything used to go in the Dumpster when we had to clean out Grandma’s house. Now people say, “I wonder if this 1970s can opener is worth anything?” And it is.
One man in Kentucky brought me a weather vane from his home, which was in foreclosure, and it was worth $15,000. That money went a long way to helping him. People realize, “Wow, this could happen.” … The honesty portion is what people appreciate; I look them in the eye and tell them, “You are a millionaire,” or “You have a piece of junk.”

SL: What appearance has been the most fun?
LV: It has been a privilege to do any of these appearances. I enjoy the Discovery Channel and the “Auction Kings” because of the cast. I get to examine all different kinds of objects. I also get called to do appraisals on cruises and they say, “While we are in Florence, [Italy], let’s have Lori talk about [the sculpture of] David.” I have been fortunate to speak at the Louvre [in Paris] and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, [Russia]. I have been known as “America’s Appraiser” for a long time. Now through the cruise appearances and this show I can have an international audience.

SL: What is your top tip for those curious about their objects?
LV: Don’t let it go until you know what it is worth. Whether they choose to sell it or not, they should know. Don’t be the person that lets [something valuable] go. That is a great aspect of the show. People say “Oh, I understand how [an auction] works.”  A motorcycle may be valued at $20,000 but you could have two guys who want it and the bidding gets up to $50,000.

This is a dream job, but I worked hard to get here. … I am honored that [people] want to talk to me about their objects, their family and their emotions. This may have been Grandpa’s desk, and even if it is falling apart that means something to them.