Hidden Treasure



At the start of a new year, many people vow to clean out their closets and declutter their homes. But sometimes there can be treasure buried beneath all that junk, and the Kiwanis Club of Bluffton wants to help you know what to toss and what to keep.

The club’s second annual Antiques Appraisal and Auction Day will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 23 at Seaquins Ballroom in Bluffton. Appraisers will be on hand to estimate the fair-trade value of items, and there also will be a silent auction featuring beer and wine baskets, service and restaurant gift certificates, getaway weekends and more.

The cost of the appraisals is $10 for one item or $25 for three.

The Kiwanis Club will donate money raised at the event to help support other area programs, like the Boys & Girls Club of Bluffton, United Way of the Lowcountry’s Operation Backpack, and the Red Cedar Elementary School literacy program. The money also will go toward the Bluffton Kiwanis Club’s summer day camp for special needs children. The club launched Camp Sinawik — Kinawis spelled backward — in 2018 to great success.

The Antiques Appraisal and Auction Day is a labor of love for Ken Kooyman, who is organizing the event with Marie Cleary-Petillo. A antiques aficionado, Kooyman has appraised many items over the years, including items from Russia’s Winter Palace that once belonged to Tsar Nicholas Romanov and his wife, Alexandra. He said his interest in antiques comes from his two great-aunts, who raised him.

“I was so lucky,” he said. “As a young person, I had no idea (how accomplished) these women were.” One aunt, Florence E. Allen, was a leading activist in the suffrage movement, eventually becoming one of the first female federal judges. The second aunt, Mary Ethel Pierce, was headmistress of a private school in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

He also got some advice on antiques from a mysterious stranger. He was cleaning out his aunt’s home, unpacking boxes of dishes, porcelain and other items for a yard sale. A long black limousine pulled up and an elegant lady stepped out. After viewing the merchandise, she advised him to put aside many items and not sell them. Two weeks later, she sent him several books on antiques, detailing the history and value of the items he’d intended to sell. Kooyman later learned that the mystery woman was Margaretta “Happy” Rockefeller, wife of Nelson Rockefeller, then governor of New York.

Kooyman moved to the Lowcountry in 2015 with his wife, Nancy, after a career working for the nonprofit Disabled American Veterans, helping vets file disability claims, document their post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and schedule psychological and vocation services. Today, he manages an online antiques store for Relic Consginment Shop, as well as an online storefront of his own. He said Asian artifacts — particularly those from China — are in high demand right now. Spurred by growing wealth and a strong desire to reclaim their cultural heritage, Chinese collectors are paying large sums for artifacts deemed to be of merit.


Have an item you’d like appraised? Bring it to the Kiwanis Club of Bluffton’s second annual Antiques Appraisal and Auction Day, to be held from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 23 at Seaquins Ballroom in Bluffton.

For more information, call Ken Kooyman at 314-750-3752 or go to www.blufftonkiwanis.org.