Growing up, Lori Verderame took an interest in the antiques her parents collected, often hunting for them with her dad at flea markets and yard sales.
Known simply as “Dr. Lori” to many, Verderame is a Penn State graduate (she holds a Ph.D. in art history, Class of ’96) who will join the cast of the hit reality TV show “Auction Kings” on the Discovery Channel for the show’s third season.
Verderame, a TV expert and nationally syndicated columnist whose articles reach 8.2 million readers, worked as a graduate assistant in Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art. She credits the University for providing her with the opportunity to gain important museum and art history training that she uses in her work today.
“I used to teach in the lecture halls that held 300 students,” she said. “I learned quickly the best way to keep that many students happy and awake is to be funny while teaching the subject matter.”
The Penn State alumna’s humor and expertise as a certified fine art and antiques appraiser has been not only the inspiration of her column and blog, it has led to appearances on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and additional shows on ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX.
Though it was the sense of humor she honed at Penn State that got her on TV, it was an older woman who inspired her to become an antiques appraiser. While working as a museum curator, Verderame met a 75-year-old woman who needed to pay her bills and sold a historic George Washington document for $50 to a dealer. The document was actually worth $50,000. When Verderame spoke to people in the appraisal business about the incident, they told her, “That’s just business.”
“When I met her I thought, ‘This woman could be my mother,’ she said. “Anyone could make that mistake.”
Determined to educate people on the value of their possessions, Verderame began teaching the public about antiques. She taught art and antiques courses at local community colleges and eventually began touring the country, even presenting her popular antiques appraisal shows on cruise ships, all to teach people the worth of their collectibles.
“I ended up with a fun, fabulous career as an appraiser,” Verderame explained. “No one knows more than I do how lucky I am.”
Her career wasn’t just luck, however. Verderame has been working at it for a long time. She said she doesn’t bake, have kids or pets — she has her career, which she’s passionate about but which takes up her time. She’s always researching and maintaining the latest information on appraisals.
“On ‘Auction Kings,’ the values I provide are comparable, so if someone brings me their Tiffany lamp, I appraise it for what another, similar Tiffany lamp has most recently been sold for,” she explained. “I evaluate about 20,000 objects per year at my antiques appraisal shows and on TV. I have to keep a running database in my head.”
She’s rarely stumped. Verderame appraises “anything from soup to nuts,” and her unique expertise has her ready to appraise nearly any object.
To see Verderame in action, watch “Auction Kings” at 9 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesdays on the Discovery Channel, or read about her at http://www.DrLoriV.com, to see where she will be appearing next. She might even make an appearance at Penn State’s Berkey Creamery, when Palmer Mousseum with Almonds, her favorite, is the featured flavor.
Rebekka Coakley, Penn state University