IT WOBBLED, BUT CLAIRE WIEGAND-Beckmann loved it. So that day in 1965, at an estate sale in Bergen County, N.J., the elementary schoolteacher plunked down $25 for the delicate mahogany card table. "I wanted it for my living room," she says. And there it resided, in Mahwah, N.J.—until it was auctioned Jan. 18 at Sotheby's in New York City for $541,000.
Actually, Wiegand-Beckmann had always figured her little table was worth more than 25 bucks, and her suspicions were confirmed when a Connecticut antiques merchant showed a keen interest in buying it. But she treasured her new prize too much to part with it. Then, last September, she decided to bring the table to a Secaucus, N.J., taping of Chubb's Antique Roadshow, a public-TV program on which specialists give free appraisals. When twins Leslie and Leigh Keno, 40, both appraisers, looked under the table, says Wiegand-Beckmann, 71, "they went nuts." A signature proclaimed it the work of 18th-century craftsmen John and Thomas Seymour of Boston, one of but six signed pieces known to exist. Says Leslie Keno, who immediately estimated its value at between $200,000 and $300,000: "When suddenly you see a masterpiece like this, it's amazing."
Wiegand-Beckmann, who retired in 1983, plans to spend some of her windfall "in places that would make a difference," including a local education charity. "And we can't forget," she adds, "I'm going to need a new table."
On Newsstands Now
- Amy Robach: 'I'm Lucky to Be Alive'
- Paul Walker: Inside His Tragic Death
- Julia Roberts: Choosing Family Over Hollywood
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine