March 28, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

Bobbi Jordan knew the brown vase had been in her family for three generations. But that was the extent of her information until she attended a program sponsored by the University of Kentucky County Extension Agents for Family and Consumer Science and the Pennyrile Area Extension Homemakers.

Jordan learned that the family heirloom which she brought with her to be appraised also was a highly desired collectible.

The program, Your Treasure Chest, Silver, Antiques and Collectibles, allowed participants to gain knowledge on glassware, silver, linens and dolls. In addition, they were invited to bring along something they would like to know more about.

Paducah TV station WPSD taped its "What's It Worth?" program at the event using items participants had brought with them to the UK Research and Education Center.

Laura Wilson, Lyon County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, said the idea for the March 22 function came from a home furnishings in-service training she attended about a year ago.

Often agents discuss programs they have done at these trainings and Betty Overly, Bourbon County Extension Agent for family and consumer sciences, mentioned one she had done on silver. She is a longtime silver collector and Overly brought her expertise to the western part of the state last week.

"We like to have these seminars and they are pretty well known in the Pennyrile area," Wilson said. "I felt this was something we could build a wonderful program around so a committee of three agents and three homemakers began working on it back in June."

When Overly agreed to come, Wilson said it provided the building block. Overly's presentation included all aspects of silver collecting from storing to cleaning to security.

"If you are going to buy silver," Overly said, "learn as much about it as you can before you go to buy it. If not, someone else will teach you and it may be an expensive lesson."

Some 200 people from the area attended the program.

"The response was so beyond our expectations," said Clara Lawrence, president of the Pennyrile Area Extension Homemakers Association.

The appraisal work for WPSD-TV is done by Jerry Snook, a Paducah dealer who has been in the business for 42 years. Snook looked over items the participants brought to the program and picked out about 30 to use on the show.

"Basically, I look for the most unusual and the rarest of items first," he said. "They are usually the ones that shock people.

"Everything is collectible," Snook said. "There isn't anything that people aren't collecting now. What I tell people is to collect things they like and as long as it is not real expensive they probably aren't going to get hurt. But when they start paying big dollars for anything then they better learn what they are collecting."

Reproductions and less-than-honorable sellers can make it expensive for those who are not well versed in what they are collecting, Snook and other dealers at the event noted.

Many people at the event got their start in collecting by inheriting something or being given a gift. That was the case for Carole Schafer of Trigg County. Schafer collected dolls as a young girl and brought four with her to the program.

The dolls are made of paper-mache and were given to her when she was in high school by a friend of her mother's who knew she collected dolls. They've been sitting in a box in recent years.

Snook chose the dolls as one of the items to highlight on the show. He said the dolls were basically one of a kind. They look like other WPA dolls made around the depression but were larger. The dolls were worth hanging onto, he said.

"I came to hear about the dolls," Schafer said. "I still have more at home. I can't say I'm big on collecting anything, but the dolls have been around with me since I was a baby. I don't still add on."

Jordan said she got the vase when her mother died but did not know the history. She is a collector, she said. Most have been handed down through the family.

"I came today to learn more about what I have," she said. "I just want to know. I'm going to go home and take the Saran wrap off my silver."