A large part of Leila Dunbar’s life has been spent in the driver’s seat, from go-karts and muscle cars to a Cessna 172 airplane and an 1928 Indian Scout motorcycle. This is not surprising as she spent much of her childhood in her father’s auto salvage yard, meeting folk with colorful nicknames like “Blonde Bobby”, “Joey One Arm” and “Little Anthony”.
In the early 1970’s, parents Howard and Martha were smitten by old samplers, stoneware and Mickey Mouse. Becoming collectors and then dealers, they handled antique American advertising, toys, folk art, automobiles, motorcycle memorabilia, and locally made Dedham Pottery. At nineteen, Leila ventured to Spain for a year, developing a fondness for flamenco, motor scooters, paella and vintage Feria festival posters. In 1983, she obtained degrees in Journalism and Spanish at the University of North Carolina.
Returning home, Leila ran the junkyard for several years before establishing Dunbar’s Gallery with her father Howard out of their former junkyard. At the gallery the Dunbars held numerous absentee auctions in automotive and motorcycle memorabilia, toys, advertising and Halloween memorabilia.
In 1996 Leila was one of the first appraisers chosen to participate in the television series “Antiques Roadshow,” which, in 2013 was featured in a profile on CBS Sunday Morning and averages 10 million viewers a week, PBS’s highest rated show. In her 18th season, Leila has manned the Toy, Collectibles and Sports Memorabilia tables.
Three years later, in 1999 Sotheby’s recruited Leila to serve as SVP and Director of its Collectibles Department, selling more than $75 million in sports, entertainment memorabilia and collectibles in 9 years, including the estates of Casey Stengel, Pee Wee Reese, Wilt Chamberlain, Katharine Hepburn and Johnny Cash, as well as the collection of Cher.
In 2008 Leila left Sotheby’s to build a fulltime practice as an appraiser and still consults for Sotheby’s, as well as other auction houses, on a regular basis. In six years, Leila has established herself as one of the leading appraisers in the country in sports, entertainmentand pop culture memorabilia, preparing written insurance, estate and donation appraisals, with many major institutions, celebrities and athletes as clients.
Leila is a member of the Appraisers Association of America (AAA), certified in sports memorabilia, entertainment memorabilia and wine appraising. She is also a member of the International Society of Appraisers (ISA)and a Board of Trustees member for the national Appraisal Foundation.
Today Leila is on the road approximately 40% of the time, appraising sports, entertainment and pop culture memorabilia, plus wine; auctioneering for Augusta Auctions, Goldin and Julien’s Auctions as well as numerous benefit auctions; speaking to organizations such as SABR, AAA, ISA, Golf Collectors’ Society and Women’s Leadership Circle; and discussing the market in her blog and for press outlets such as ESPN and the New York Times.