Adding value

Antiques class to be taught
by store owner, noted authority

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

NEW CASTLE, Ky. (March 2005) – R.E. Wells has an eye for antiques – so much so, that he travels throughout the year to approximately 27 counties to share his passion about antiques.

R.E. Wells

Photo Provided

R.E. Wells helps a participant
decide what an item is worth.

His antique classes are offered through county extension offices throughout Kentucky. Participants can learn about a myriad of subjects relating to antiquity: glassware, furniture, paintings, china and silver. Wells said his goal is to teach participants to “recognize the real from the reproduction.”
Wells brings 28 years of knowledge to the classroom. Beginning March 7, the eight-week class will run until April 25. Classes will be held at the new Shelby County Extension Office on Hwy. 60 in Shelby County. The classes are so popular that two sessions are held: a daytime session from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and an evening session on the same day from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Maryellen Garrison, Henry County Agricultural Extension Agent, said she thought these classes “would be a nice educational offering.” The Extension’s district for this area includes the counties of Jefferson, Bullitt, Spencer, Shelby, Oldham, Trimble and Henry.
Wells said he attended a seminar in Kentucky 31 years ago at Shakertown, while employed by one of the three museums for which he has worked. After visiting the Bluegrass in the spring of the year, Wells said, “I fell in love with Kentucky.”
He went home, quit his job and moved to Kentucky permanently. Wells was born in Florida, grew up in Ohio and attended school in Europe. He has operated an antique business for the last 36 years in Kentucky.
Wells owns the Curio Cabinet at 137 Frankfort St., Versailles, Ky. It is housed in one of the oldest antique shops in the county. The previous business had been in the same building since 1921. Wells began his business there 21 years ago.
What began as a hobby to annoy his mother, who hated antiques, has grown from 40 different collections to 110, he said. Wells’ collection runs the gamut of variety. He takes an interest in paintings, clocks, cut glass and dolls by Kentucky artists.
When he realized he could turn his love of antiques into a viable business, Wells remembered his grandmother’s admonition: “You only get paid for a job you don’t like.” Wells proved her wrong. He has a doctorate in art history and a lesser degree in fine art.
Wells is so busy teaching throughout the springtime that his store hours vary with the seasons. After March, he can only be found in his shop from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. During the weekdays, he advises customers to call for an appointment.
He has also had a lot of experience as an insurance appraiser for individuals. By having his own business, he can keep up with current markets trends and their value.
Most people take his class because “they want to know what they’ve got,” he said. “I cover a vivid array of things.”
Saundra Smith is a Henry County resident who has attended Wells’ classes. She said, “Sometimes family treasures are not valuable (monetarily) but are more of a sentimental piece. Dr. Wells is a wealth of knowledge.”
Usually, an item is considered an antique if it is 100 years or older. But even if it’s not an antique, it can have value, said Smith. She cited Barbie dolls as an example of something she thought was merely a collector’s item of little value, but she learned from Well’s class that these items can also be of monetary value. A series of dolls that were not widely distributed can have a real value attached to them.
If participants go out antiquing after one of his classes, he has given them the ability to identify fake items from the real thing. They can go out and look for the items and have a better understanding of the item’s value and historical context.
Wells informs participants of the history of the items he discusses in class, said Jefferson County, Ky., Extension Agent Valerie Holland. This makes for an exciting, informative class and incorporates an explanation of why some items are made the way they were made, said Holland.
Many of the participants sell antiques, said Holland. Through Wells’ classes, they learn more about what they sell. These classes are so popular that Holland said the most frequently asked question she gets is, “When is the next class?”
She learned about Wells from the Nelson County Extension Agent and contacted him to teach classes through the extension office. “He has quite a following,” said Holland.
Many people inherit items and don’t know their history, said Wells. Items were made for certain reasons, at different time periods and embellished with particular designs and decorations for a specific reason.
The antiques class will conclude April 5 with an Antiques Road Show. This class is based on the popular KET Antiques Road Show series. It is only open to class participants, who can bring in four items to be appraised and discussed.

• There is a fee for this class and participants must pre-register. For more information contact Garrison at (502) 845-2811, Holland at (502) 569-2344 or Wells at (859) 873-4638.

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