Nora: From Small Town to Christie's in London and Back

By Anh Nguyen |

Ambition is best described as a desire to pursue and achieve something great. For Nora, an Antique Expert on JustAnswer, her ambitions has taken her on a journey from a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania to Wine Country, Hollywood, Christie's Auction House in London, New York City, and back to small town.

We talked to Nora about her pursuit to chase after her passion and how she became an Expert on JustAnswer.

JustAnswer: Tell us about your beginnings in antiques.

Nora: Growing up, my parents collected antiques as a past time so as early as I can remember, I was going to auction houses and antique shops with them. My childhood toys were figurines from China and 19th century children’s books. Let’s just say that the neighborhood kids didn’t play at my house very often because it was like a museum inside and everything was fragile.

JustAnswer: So the path was paved for you to jump right into antiquing.

Nora: Not at all. I went to a private liberal arts college and then studied to be a sommelier. I landed in California and was working in the wine industry when I was offered a very exciting job in the film industry with a major motion picture company.

I spent several years in Los Angeles and enjoyed my job but there were often times when I needed to escape the rigors of Hollywood. I did that by going to antique shops and museums and I would point out objects by name and try to estimate their values.  My friends would ask “how do you know that?”and my naive response was always “I thought everyone knew that.”

JustAnswer: When did you make your great escape from Hollywood for good?

Nora: It was around 2000. I realized that dead artists were so much easier to work with than actors looking for their next job. So I decided to pursue my passion and applied for a spot into the post-graduate program in London through Christie’s Auction House. I was fortunate enough to be selected and I left Los Angeles.

JustAnswer: Congratulations! Tell us about your experience in London.

Nora: I grew up in middle-of-nowhere farm country with little exposure to fine art so it was a surreal experience getting to study Renaissance works with members of royal families and aristocrats who actually owned the paintings I was studying. I worked very hard and finished at the top of my graduating class.

After graduation, I spent about a year traveling around Europe and visiting my favorite paintings and architectural monuments.

JustAnswer: Did you stay in Europe?

Nora: No. After my year of travel, I decided to move to New York City and had the honor of working with major art institutions, auction houses, famous artists, and world class galleries. I specialized in fine art paintings with a knack for deciphering signatures.

Then in 2012, my mother was not feeling well so I decided to leave the Big Apple and return home to northwestern Pennsylvania to take care of her. 

JustAnswer: Please share our best wishes to your mother. Could you share your JustAnswer story with us?

Nora: Later in the same year, I decided on a whim to hike the Great Wall of China for my birthday. While in China, I spent a fair amount time meditating and visualizing what I could possibly do with my fine art background in northwestern Pennsylvania. I pictured a job where I could work from home, in my pajamas (ha!), on my own hours and impart what I know about antiques to others. Two weeks after I came back from China, I got an email about an opportunity to become an Antique Expert on JustAnswer and it sounded up my alley. I applied and became an Expert on the site. It was the most fortuitous email I have ever received in my life so far!

JustAnswer: What has been your experience on JustAnswer like?

Nora: I love to use what I know and help customers discover what they have. Every time I decipher a difficult signature on a painting or object, it’s a small triumph. I get instant gratification from happy customers when they finally know what they have and appreciate the information that I share. It is a win-win for all. Of course, there are also times when I have to inform customers that their items are not authentic or worth as much as they hoped. Unfortunately, these cases happen more often than not.

The other thing I love about helping customers on JustAnswer is that I get to hone my expertise. Since becoming an Expert on the site, I’ve continued to take courses and passed more rigorous appraisal standard exams. I have my USPAP compliant certificate and gained entry as a member of the International Society of Appraisers, which allows me to add ISA at the end of my name.

JustAnswer: Has the extra income you’ve earned on JustAnswer helped in your personal life?

Nora: So much! I get to make a living doing exactly what I love from my small hometown while taking care of my mom. When I left NYC for Northwestern Pennsylvania, I was worried about how I could use my expertise to make a living so JustAnswer is a complete and utter blessing.  After more than four years as an Expert on the site, I have been able to purchase a lake house, boat, car, and support my mother.  Being a JustAnswer Expert is honestly the best ever!

We want to thank Nora for sharing her story with us. You can read other Expert stories here or if you'd like to share your own, please contact us.

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