Tips for browsing wisely

ON the second Sunday of each month, Peggy Caffey, chairwoman of the collectibles department at the College for Appraisers in Cypress, heads for the Rose Bowl Flea Market and joins the team offering free assessments of shoppers' discoveries, sorting the trash from the treasure. What's hot, what's not and other tips from the appraiser:

Jewelry. Chunky stone jewelry or beautiful old sterling silver from Mexico is in high demand, she says, particularly among women 35 and younger.

Turquoise. Caffey says Asian-mined turquoise in apple green, lavender and other colors is hot. The word "turquoise" was a catchphrase coined by Tiffany & Co. in the late 19th century, she says, but the stone actually comes in an array of hues. "They're so different, you want to think they're dyed, but when you examine them, you realize that's the real color."

Art. It's the toughest area in appraising, she says. "More often than not, people are bringing pieces of art that are current reproductions of a master's work." Oriental and Native American art is particularly difficult. "Unless you're a real expert, only buy what you like."

Resources. If you don't have the time or interest in Caffey's 75-hour collectibles course at the College for Appraisers, then she suggests checking, a directory of dealers and specialists who may be able to provide more information on a particular item. Another resource she recommends is the National Assn. of Collectors,

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