Mysterious Poe Portrait on Antiques Roadshow
The Purloined Portrait
On the trail of a missing Poe daguerreotype
In her interview with appraiser C. Wesley Cowan, which first aired on Antiques Roadshow in February, Guest said she was browsing a little "antique/junk shop" in Walnut, Iowa, when a daguerreotype caught her eye amid a jumble of other bits and pieces. As an aficionado of the form — and suspecting the man it depicted might be Poe — Guest says she eagerly paid $96 for the photograph and took it home. She became very fond of the picture, and over the next year, Guest displayed it proudly on her mantel — even though, she says, Poe "is not the best-looking man."
Cowan confirmed on-air that Guest's picture was indeed a daguerreotype of Poe — an amazing fact, given that only six such photographs of the poet were known to exist, he said. Despite the superficial damage to the image (apparently caused by someone having wiped it with his finger) Cowan estimated its value at between $30,000 and $50,000, conservatively, calling it "an incredibly rare portrait." Guest was overjoyed. "I'm thrilled," she said. "I liked the picture anyway, but now I really like it." Cowan said there was no question that a great many people would be willing to compete for the photograph at auction.
Perhaps befitting a story that involves Edgar Allan Poe, from here matters become more intriguing.