Appraising a family rosary and three prayer books
Any Antiques Roadshow fans in das haus? While not a regular viewer, I’ve occasionally stumbled on the show and then find myself drawn into the fascinating stories and truths behind the heirloom on display. When the episode ends, I typically look around my house and think: Well, shoot. Look at all this junk. I sure don’t own anything worthy of an Antiques Roadshow spotlight.
I’m equal parts Bohemian, or Bohemie as my 88-year-old grandmother Gigi affectionately calls her people, and m-u-t-t. Born and raised in Iowa in a non-farming background, I’ve always been surrounded by a simple way of life going back a couple of generations. I haven’t traveled all that much, nor do I frequent auctions or antique boutiques. The opportunities and experiences to collect prized heirlooms just haven’t presented themselves.
But maybe I just needed to look a little closer …
Pictured here are probably the oldest keepsakes occupying space in my home — a rosary and three prayer books from Czechoslovakia bequeathed through my grandfather’s side. Gigi has now handed down the religious items to me. Seems being that Catholic in the family is working here!
During a recent Sunday visit to Gigi’s, Joel, my mom, and I starting chatting with Gigi about the rosary and prayer books. How old were they? Who owned them originally? How did they get to America? Where have they been hiding all these years?
Gigi mentioned the rosary most likely belonged to my grandfather’s grandmother. So if I do the genealogy correctly, that person is my great, great, great-grandmother. With that information, we suspected the rosary to be around 200-years-old, give or take a few decades. And as we were chatting about it, my mom reminded me that the three “faith, hope, charity” beads were missing from this rosary. Aha! When were those three beads added to the Rosary? That might offer key information in determining the age of this rosary.
So I began my own not-ready-for-primetime-Antiques Roadshow investigation. I’ve learned that chain-stitched rosaries made with wood and possibly even apricot pits, like our family heirloom here, were all the rage during the nineteenth century. It was also during this time that the faith, hope, and charity beads were added to the beginning of the Rosary prayer.
Who knows; maybe Antiques Roadshow will make a stop near Des Moines during their 2014 tour? If so, check your local listings. My rosary and prayer books may just appear on an upcoming show. Really, though, at the end of the day, I suspect the appraisal value I place on these items will trump any value given by Bonhams and Butterfields, Christie’s, Doyle New York, Skinner, or Sotheby’s.