(Stan Prier is a Tualatin resident who contributes occasional columns to The Times' Opinion pages.)

I guess that many of us, at one time or another, have dreamt of finding on old painting in the attic and discovering that it's a long lost version of the Mona Lisa, rather than an early portrait of our mother-in-law, Mona Lott.

Such unwarranted optimism, while rarely causing anyone to clean out their attics or garages, accounts for the popularity of programs like 'Antiques Roadshow,' where people bring in old family items that they have always considered worthless, just so an expert can confirm their opinions. Said experts are invariably polite - sometimes even enthusiastic - and thank them for bringing in that particular piece, and assure them, truthfully, that they have never seen anything quite like it during their 40 years of appraising.

Sometimes they are told that their find would have been really valuable if they hadn't tried to refinish it themselves, however, given time and money, a skillful restorer might be able to do something with it. Or they may be informed that just because their old coffee table has a picture of two rodents on the underside does not make it a Chippendale.

Mind you, occasionally something shows up that really is fairly valuable, and this probably occurs at a rate somewhat better than the chance of winning the lottery. When this does happen, people scream with delight and the appraiser expresses his or her congratulations. Even then, the lucky owners should bear in mind that the value they are quoted is most likely what they would pay for it in an antique store. In real life, they would only get around half that amount. The best strategy in such cases is to sell the article to someone in the family with whom they are already not on speaking terms and who is unlikely to sue.

The reason I'm parting with all this critical information is that the Tualatin Historical Society is holding an antiques appraisal at the Tualatin Heritage Center, 8700 S.W. Sweek Drive, on Sunday, March 30, starting at 2 p.m. The society has enlisted the services of three of their members who have spent many years in the antiques business and have a vast store of knowledge on the subject, not to mention an uncanny ability to look at almost anything that is old enough to be considered an antique, except me, and come up with a close approximation of its worth.

I have been to several of these events and seen some of the reference books they use, each one devoted to some niche in the antiques world like sterling, chinaware, paintings, guzunders - you name it and there's most likely an illustrated book on the subject.

If you attend, and I sincerely hope you will, I would advise you to show up early. There is usually a lineup of hopefuls clutching their treasures, and it frequently runs into overtime. The cost for appraisals is $4 an item, with a limit of two items.

Just try getting a deal like that anywhere else. Proceeds go to the continued support and operation of the heritage center, housed in a beautiful 1926 converted church. Now there's a local antique that really is worth a fortune!

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