Bennett serves as judge for Antiques Appraisal Fair.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Jody Bennett has been collecting 20th Century glassware since he was a kid.

"My mom was always going to auctions. She started dragging me with her when I was about 5 years old," Bennett said Saturday.

Bennett was one of six appraisers who volunteered to provide time and expertise for the second Southwest Kansas Antiques Appraisal Fair on Saturday, a fundraising event for the Finney County Historical Society.

Bennett's areas of knowledge include Depression-era glassware and American art pottery, but he tends to focus on the finer, American made glassware sold in jewelry and gift stores before the era of mass production began.

"Generally, when I go to an auction, if something catches my eye that I've never seen and I don't know what it is, I'll buy it. Then I'll find out about it afterward," he said.

Bennett, who was born in Garden City in 1958, spent two years here at the community college before attending the University of Kansas. From there, he worked in the Kansas City area until returning here in 1993 to help out his parents, and has worked at Tyson for more than 20 years as a microbiologist/chemist.

Going to auctions and other sales as a kid sparked an interest in "old things" that continues to this day. Bennett said he learned a lot about glassware from a woman he knew while living in the Kansas City area who specialized in finer 20th Century glassware.

What intrigued Bennett about glassware was the quality and craftsmanship.

"A lot of it shows handwork, where everything now is machine made. A lot of those pieces required individual operations to create them. And that's why they went out of business around the late '50s because they couldn't compete (with cheap mass produced pieces)," he said.

Bennett doesn't do a lot of collecting now, noting that over a certain amount of time, space becomes a consideration. But he's somewhat more selective now about what he buys, perhaps finding an individual piece that will fill a set, or something so unique he must have it.

"I find time wherever I go to stop at Goodwill or antique malls or whatever. At this point, if I go to an antique mall, it's more of a personal challenge can I find something here that's priced significantly under the value?" he said.

Today, with the Internet, anyone can look up the value of an item, unlike 20 years ago, when there were many items of unknown value a junk dealer could pick up at a garage sale and put in his shop, providing good deals for collectors.

"It's more of a challenge now," he said. "I almost always do find something, and it's fun because I'm not looking for mass quantities of anything."

Bennett said he goes rummaging through Goodwill at least once a week because you just never know what's going to turn up there.

"I've found things over 100 years old at the Goodwill," he said.

Bennett was stumped when asked if he recalled the first thing he ever collected.

"Oh, golly, no. I had a rock collection that I brought to the county fair. When I was in grade school, a classmate of mine's dad was extension agent, and we would come out where there were old dumps and dig for bottles. So, I mean, I've collected all kinds of things over the years. I would collect cars if I had the space," he said.

Bennett's dad had an auto repair shop, and Bennett was involved in that from the age of 12. He said the first couple of cars he owned he rebuilt and resold to make money before college.

On Saturday, about 135 items were appraised, including about 80 pre-registered pieces and 55 that came in during the day.

The oldest item was a Civil War tin type photo of a soldier from Missouri, in a folding case, owned by Frances O'Brate of Garden City; while the item of greatest value was a large art print in an Art Deco-style frame by the Russian-born French artist, Erte.

The print, owned by Russell and Jo Freeman of Garden City, was appraised at $2,500.

Bennett enjoyed helping out on Saturday.

"I love it. It's weird. I suppose some people would wonder what's fun about that? It's a pressure cooker, but it's fun," he said.

In addition to Bennett, the appraisal team included Annette Frank, Copeland; and Linda Hinde, David Tabor, David Tod, and Joanna Meier, all of Garden City. Event staff included six FCHS employees and about a dozen volunteers.

Steve Quakenbush, Finney County Historical Society executive director, said the first appraisal fair was October 2012, so Saturday's event wasn't quite the second annual, but it likely will become a yearly event.

"This was highly successful," he said. "We're really pleased. This was a fundraiser, but it was also an event to have fun and explore history through the objects that people brought. We think people had a wonderful time. Some came and went; others stayed all day."