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Q: I just bought this extravagantly beautiful antique chair for a song at the flea market. I suspect it might be valuable; how do I find out what it's really worth?

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A: Even if the Antiques Road Show isn't in town, you have several places to turn. Many New York City auction galleries offer their professional expertise at no charge, and -- surprisingly -- this includes the city's most prominent houses. With a little patience, you can quickly learn the estimated (auction) value of your find. Christie's (Auction Estimates, 20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020; 636-2000) and Sotheby's (Mixed Consignments, 1334 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021; 606-7525) both have experienced estimates departments that will make sure your questions get answered. Simply mail a few snapshots of the item in question, along with its dimensions, its provenance (history), and your address and phone number. Your query will be routed to the appropriate specialist, who can then schedule an appointment (for further examination) or tell you whether you struck it rich.

The experts at William Doyle Galleries (175 East 87th Street, New York, NY 10128; 427-2730) will even make house calls, though they ask that you first send photos so they can send the proper specialist. (Several of their experts tour with the Antiques Road Show.) William Doyle Galleries also has "Walk-In Tuesdays" from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., when you can have a consultation without an appointment.

Tepper Galleries (110 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010; 677-5300) is a downtown alternative to the uptown antiques market, and these self-proclaimed generalists encourage walk-in estimates every day of the week.


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