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In sharing tips on antiques,he’s answering a different call

Audience member Victor Curran makes his own assessment. Audience member Victor Curran makes his own assessment. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Betsy Levinson
Globe Correspondent / May 27, 2012
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It was a simple Japanese print in an old bookstore in Putney, Vt., that caught Craig Nowak’s eye and ignited a passion in him for antiques.

That was many years and a career or two ago, Nowak explained as he prepared to discuss antiques and offer appraisals as part of a recent presentation for the Women’s Parish Association at First Parish in Concord.

Parishioners know Nowak as the church’s ministerial intern. But after majoring in art and art history in college, he had worked for an auction house near Hartford to pursue his “love of beautiful things.”

About 50 people listened as he explained how to care for household antiques, gave a quick appraisal of some items, and even touched on some “family values’’ connected with creating a collection.

“You should collect what you love, not to make money off it,” said Nowak.

“Making money shouldn’t be your motivation.”

He said the art and collectibles market changes regularly, with values rising and falling accordingly.

“It’s fun,” said Nowak, whose husband has an antiques business in Connecticut. “I meet people, and I love treasure hunting.”

Nowak said he was called to the ministry in 2005, and will be moving on from First Parish soon to complete his studies.

Claudia Nimar, a Women’s Parish Association board member, said Nowak’s expertise helped people in the audience assess items from their homes. He offered appraisals that included their age, condition, and possible dollar value.

Betsy Wilson, a member of the Unitarian Universalist congregation, brought in a Rose­ville vase with a distinctive pine cone pattern that would have brought about $400, Nowak said, if not for a chip and two cracks, which brought the value down significantly.

Nowak cautioned that over-polishing old items can erode the finish or patina that lends character to an object.

“Leave it the way you found it until you decide what you want to do with it,” said Nowak.

For that reason, he said, “never polish bronze.” He said he prefers the old-fashioned “pain in the neck” process for polishing silver, not the dip method.

One person brought in a wall sconce with a bone inlay that Nowak appraised at about $150. Another parishioner brought wrought-iron tongs that “look handmade,” Nowak said.

A small card case veneered with tortoise shell, Nowak thought, was from the 19th century. He said tortoise shell can’t be imported anymore.

He called antique collecting a “green” enterprise, because items “have already been made, and are often made better” than more modern pieces.

“Don’t put off estate planning,” he said, noting the difficulties in evenly dividing family heirlooms.

Sometimes, he said, parents “put valuable things up for auction and let the kids bid.”

Betsy Levinson can be reached at

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