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Rochester man happy with antique show find

By Matthew Stolle

The Post-Bulletin

The chair was rough-hewn and plain-looking, something not likely to capture the casual observer’s eye. When Terry Campbell saw it, he froze in his tracks.

His adrenaline pumping, Campbell was convinced he had made a rare find. The simple, unadorned chair that he had almost breezily walked past at the Gold Rush antique show last weekend in Rochester was a Revolutionary War-era piece, he said.

The clues were numerous and unmistakable, he said. The shape of the rail crest, the ridges on the handmade legs and the thickness of the seat marked the chair as belonging to the late colonial to early federal era — somewhere between 1760 and 1800.

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Campbell paid the lady $75 for the chair but estimates it’s worth more than $1,000. If there had been any doubts about the chair’s origins, they were dispelled as he walked the Olmsted County fairgrounds with his new possession in tow. Half a dozen people inquired about it, and one person offered him $1,000 for it, he said.

When he looks at the chair, Campbell said, he imagines the time in which the furniture was made.

"These chairs were made for the masses. These aren’t the big city, high-style chairs of the era. These were the country chairs," Campbell said during an interview in his Rochester home.

Campbell, whose white beard and glasses give him a professorial air, made his discovery even as he prepares for a new career as a certified personal property appraiser with a focus on antiques. Campbell said he decided to make the switch after suffering his eighth layoff in a 35-year technology career.

"I was just tired of tech. I wanted to do something I loved, so I decided I was going to be involved with antiques one way or another," he said.

Campbell worked at IBM in 2001 when the unit he worked for was sold to the technology company JDS Uniphase. The company closed last year. A dislocated worker program has paid for Campbell’s correspondence courses through the Ashford Institute of Antiques and the College of Appraisers.

Campbell said he expects to begin working in his new field this fall.

The career change is ironic. Many people who find themselves unemployed return to college to upgrade their skills for the 21st-century marketplace. Campbell returned to school to hone his skills at appraising objects made decades, if not centuries, ago.

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Yet the move makes sense, he said. It was his parents’ generation that started to accumulate a considerable amount of personal property. As that generation passes, a lot of personal effects and property are changing hands. People will want to know the value of that stuff.

"It’s like a fresh start," Campbell said. "I’m very much looking forward to working for myself, meeting new people and (making) other discoveries."

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