One of my favorite TV programs is Antiques Roadshow, the popular PBS series that features people who bring in a variety of old and vintage items – antique furniture, historic paintings, political memorabilia, collectibles – for professional assessment and valuation. After learning the story behind their supposed treasures, hearing about details that either add or subtract to their overall worth, the people are given an estimated market value. The Oh my God! reactions of people who picked up priceless pieces for pennies at a swap meet are as much fun to watch as the crestfallen expressions on the faces of those who expected to be told they’d hit the jackpot with a family heirloom passed down to them through generations, only to learn it was a fake to begin with.
At the end of each evaluation, at the bottom of the screen, the estimated price range that the piece could be expected to bring at auction is posted, and I’ve noticed recently that a second price range is added. The first refers to the estimated value at the time the show aired, and the second refers to what the value is estimated to be today. Rarely are they the same. Some prices have gone up, but the majority have gone down, reflecting the changing times, and the new reality that very few “things” are invested with an intrinsic worth that can be objectively determined, but rather are worth what someone is willing to pay at a given time.
I have been reminded of this updated feature on Antiques Roadshow recently as I read and try to respond to the questions that are entered into the Ask the Trailmaster feature on our website. I would estimate that three out of five questions are versions of, “How much is my Painted Pony worth?”
I wish we could provide a simple and straightforward answer. A comprehensive price guide that Trail of Painted Ponies collectors could refer to for insurance purposes, replacement purposes, or if they just want to sell the Ponies they have, unfortunately, does not exist, for Painted Ponies or indeed for most collectibles. Price depends on so many variables. The condition of the Pony. Whether it comes in its original box. How rare it is, i.e. how many were created. The edition number on the bottom of the base (the lower the edition number, the higher the perceived value). Whether the Pony was part of an Official Autographed Edition, or hand-signed by the Artist. Whether it is retired, which means no more are being produced. The personal significance that particular Pony may have for someone. If it is the only one missing from a particular grouping that is the focus of a collector. Whether a collector that is new to The Trail wants to add a particular Pony to his/her collection that is no longer available in stores.
There are certain aspects to Painted Ponies that are unique among collectibles and that give them a value which tends to appreciate over time. Some of the Native Ponies were created by tribally-recognized Native artists. Some have been created by celebrities in other fields. Every Painted Pony shows an exceptional degree of craftsmanship and an attention to detail and design that is commonly associated with legitimate works of art that sell for a much higher price than Ponies to begin with, and appreciate in value over time
So how does this translate into an answer to “How much is my Painted Pony worth?” I don’t think the specialists on Antiques Roadshow can tell us. What I think they would say because I’ve heard them say it is, “Ultimately, it’s value is how much enjoyment it gives you.”