By MATT BLOIS
Linda Dyer has a superpower that makes her very good at buying wedding gifts.
The Franklin antiques appraiser, who specializes in tribal arts in the Unites States, can walk through a thrift store and spot quality.
Recently, she found a $6 thrift store basket that turned out to be worth $400. She has also bought a set of Rosenthal China for her niece’s wedding from a thrift store.
“It’s a skill that anybody can acquire just by going to museums, going to auction houses, touching things,” she said. “It’s not because I’m a genius. You see quality.”
Dyer spent 12 years working as the director of the American Indian art department at the auction house Skinner in Boston. She also worked with Harvard’s Peabody Museum of ethnology, and has appeared on the PBS show Antiques Roadshow.
Now, she’s an independent appraiser who helps families liquidating estates make sure that they aren’t throwing away valuable collectibles. She also works with auction houses and private clients.
Antique appraisers aren’t licensed. There are a few antique appraisal societies and museums that offer courses, but Dyer doesn’t have formal training.
She said she picked up observational skills from her parents, and from starting her own collection.
“My parents had really good eyes, and I think it was just a transfer from them,” she said. “Plus, I was a curious child.”
Growing up in Massachusetts, she would take the bus into Boston alone to walk through the Museum of Fine Arts or Harvard’s Peabody Museum of archaeology and ethnology.
While working as a nurse in Boston, she said she would buy one solid, collectible item each year. Eventually, one of the auction houses she bought from asked her for help appraising the value of tribal art.
She said her background as a nurse has made her a better antiques appraiser because she learned to think analytically.
“It brings me to why I’m decent at what I do now, having an understanding that you can’t have this piece attached to that piece. It can’t be from that time period because that plastic didn’t exist,” she said.
Dyer is an evangelist for collecting, and believes it can connect people with history. However, she said she was part of an “endangered species.”
She could only think of three young people working in the field of antique appraisals, and said she thinks younger generations are more interested in collecting experiences than things.
She said the market for collectible items has softened recently, although she said the highest quality items will always fetch a high price.
Most young people aren’t collecting, and so there isn’t a pipeline of people who have the skills to become antiques appraisers.
“What I hear is, I collect experiences and I like to dine out. Well, I collect experiences and I like to dine out, too, and I have some really cool shit,” she said.
Dyer said the young people she talks to say they can’t afford to collect antiques, but she points out that some of her best discoveries came from thrift stores. Shopper just have to be patient enough and develop Dyer’s superpower of recognizing quality.