Art & Antiques by Dr. Lori

Buying Tips for Travelers

By Lori Verderame
Posted February 2016
Photo: Look for woven baskets like this in the Caribbean.

As the New Year has begun, many of us find ourselves taking to the skies or roads on trips for business and pleasure. As an expert appraiser, people often ask me what items are worth at locations around the world. When I travel—and I travel a lot—I often meet people who ask me what is a good buy or how to spot a bargain. Here’s the 411 on what to shop for in many parts of the world. Australia: coral jewelry; Caribbean islands: giant seashells, woven handbags; China: paintings; Costa Rica: coffee, hand-made wooden crafts; Denmark: hand-made wood objects; Finland: wool clothing; Germany: contemporary art, knives; Greece: pottery; Guatemala: Santos sculptures; Italy: leather goods and fashion accessories; Japan: knives and swords: Mexico: silver, terracotta pottery; Middle East: gemstones; New Zealand: wool sweaters; Panama: hats; Turkey: linens, tiles; Puerto Rico: mahogany furniture; Russia: matroyskas or nesting dolls; South Pacific islands: basketry, black pearls; and Spain: Lladro figurines.

Of course, this list is not all inclusive, but it gives travelers a good starting point about what types of objects may be good buys in certain places. While the unique qualities of objects found in far-off lands are interesting, be prepared to shop wisely while on vacation or traveling. Negotiate with cash when you can, be knowledgeable about exchange rates, and be sure to fully understand the shipping and return policies. Remember that in many tourist areas and big cities, the prices are inflated in an effort to attract buyers. Stick to your budget and compare prices from shop to shop whenever you can. No matter where you travel, remember that quality equals value.

Wherever you shop—at home or abroad—negotiate politely and consider the artisan and the locale when shopping for hand-made items. The allure of hand-made items is the fact that they demonstrate a special talent and help you to recall a special trip as a keepsake or souvenir. Some of my most favorite collectibles from my travels are those hand-made items I bought directly from the artisan or those objects I bought after an exchange with a shop owner or local resident. I remember clearly the time I watched as a talented Romanian woman crocheted a tablecloth in Bucharest that I now use in my sunroom, how I tried to break the language barrier with a nun at the Vatican gift shop while I shopped for silver rosary beads blessed by the Pope for my mother, and a local man drew a map of the local roads so I could find the sculpture studio of a Santos carver in Guatemala.

Happy hunting!

Dr. Lori Verderame is an antiques appraiser, nationally syndicated columnist and author, and award-winning TV personality who stars on Discovery’s Auction Kings internationally. With a Ph.D. from Penn State University and experience appraising 20,000 antiques every year, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events to worldwide audiences. Visit,, Lori Verderame on Google+ or call (888) 431-1010.



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