I am a big fan of Antiques Roadshow. The program, produced by WGBH Boston and shown on PBS, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. I thought that milestone was worthy of a post on my blog! So, here are a few interesting facts about the popular show.
Antiques Roadshow originated on BBC in England in 1979. Soon versions sprang up in other countries including the U.S. and Canada. The format of the show is simple. Ordinary people bring in
items to be appraised free of charge by a wide range of professional appraisers. At a typical show, you see people lugging in their “stuff” on dollies, in Radio Flyer wagons, in roller suitcases, or simply carrying their “treasures” in their arms. There’s always a hodgepodge of items: paintings, tea pots, jewelry, movie posters, chairs, guns, photographs, quilts, swords, musical instruments, toys, etc.
When the people enter the building, they are directed to various sections of the auditorium, depending on what they have brought. They are allowed two items for appraisal. There are roughly 26 category tables and over 70 appraisers who do 10,000 “spot-appraisals” per show. A few lucky people will be escorted to a place to be filmed before they receive their appraisal. That usually means their item has significant value. The show travels all over the country and has been in nearly every state. For the first show, about a dozen people showed up. Today, the crowds are so large, you need a ticket (they’re free) to get in.
Why is the show so popular? First, it tells good stories. One elderly man, for example, told how his mother kept this large, clear jar on a shelf in
her kitchen. Inside she frugally saved pieces of string that she could reuse. The man was moved to tears when he learned that this extremely rare and highly sought-after jar was now worth thousands of dollars.
The show connects us to history. It educates us in fields we may know little about. Most of us like surprises. The Roadshow delivers every time by surprising us with the hidden value of seemingly ordinary things. John Nagy, writing about the show in Notre Dame Magazine, summarizes its popularity in these words: “It’s vignette history. It’s our weekly dose of something we didn’t already know; it’s mysteries solved and new ones afoot…. (It’s) pure entertainment with a dash of education and no commercial breaks.” When 60 Minutes did a piece on Roadshow in 2001, producer Dan Farrell reminded Dan Rather that Roadshow—and not CBS’s Survivor—was America’s first reality TV show.
What are some of the most valuable items ever appraised on Antiques Roadshow? Here are a few:
A man in Tucson, AR brought in a Navajo Ute blanket that had been in his family for a couple of generations. It was now hanging on a door in his house. Appraisal: $750,000 – $1,000,000.
A woman in Raleigh, NC brought in an 18th Century jade collection from the Qing Dynasty. Appraisal: $710,000 – $1,070,000.
A woman in New York brought in some baseball cards. She said her great-great grandmother ran a boarding house in Boston in 1871. The newly formed Boston Red Stockings team was housed there. The woman received all these earliest baseball cards from the players. She also had many of the team’s autographs. Appraisal: $1,000,000. (Guests who receive such high appraisals may have a police escort to their car.)
Not all appraisals are that high, of course. The stuffed duck used as a prop in the Groucho Marx show, You Bet Your Life was appraised for $12,500. But a woman’s collection of Charles Schultz’s original Peanuts comic strips (which cost her $400) was appraised for $450,000. You never know! And that’s another reason the show is so popular!
Do you like Antiques Roadshow? Why or why not?
If you could take two items to be appraised on Roadshow, What items would you take?
The most common items brought to Roadshow are family Bibles. With that in mind, I chose today’s song, “The Bible, The Word of God Is Living.” The Bible is so much more than an heirloom, isn’t it? It is the living and nourishing guide for our life!
Do you have any thoughts about this reflection today? I welcome your responses below!
Good morning, Melannie. Love the Antiques Road Show, and every time I watch it I wonder….”Is there anything we might have of value tucked away somewhere?” But then life intervenes, and that’s that. But it really is a great show. Thanks for the background, and that nugget of its being the first reality t.v. show!
I love Antique Road Show too! It always makes my Monday egos fun.
Thanks for sharing.
I love to see the excitement on the peoples faces when they discover the value of their item. I tried to get on once, you have to be invited, perhaps it is not as difficult as I thought. Loved the video with the song selection, a great way to start the week.
I am not a TV watcher, but do respect that folks are interested in the Antiques Roadshow, and collecting things, and telling their stories.
As I read your post, and reference to John Nagy’s comments, I can’t help but mention a reference to two wonderful books I recently read that very much encourage us to become more aware of “the hidden value of seemingly ordinary things” and “mysteries afoot” each day. The many faceted benefits and mystery of nature and natural places in Richard Louv’s “The Nature Principle” and the value of disconnecting and listening firsthand to other people’s stories in “In Praise of Wasting Time” by Alan Lightman.
Antiques Roadshow is one of the best shows on television. I often wonder if the lamp my parents received as a wedding present is worth something. To me it’s priceless. The Roadshow is on tonight! I’ll be watching.
Our volunteer fire department held a roadshow as a fundraiser: my 19th-century pie plates, which I’d been using for years, were consigned to decorative use only after I learned their value!
My husband and I both enjoy Antiques Roadshow. I have an old Victrola of my grandmother that still works and has records. I’ve often wondered what the value of it may be. And I have an old rocking chair that I still use often which my grandmother told me belonged to her great-great grandmother, so it has been around for at least 6 generations and was handmade by a relative. Their value to me is priceless, but it would be fun to know what they appraise for. Value is often found, not so much in the object, as in the memories and the sentiment attached to them.
We watch Antiques Road Show nearly every Monday night. A great show. Enjoyed your info. Have a great week!
We love watching Roadshow! Alas, I do not collect nor have I inherited as I am the youngest in a rather poor family. If there was a category for them, I would take my children. I see traits and characteristics in them that I know from grandparents, aunts and uncles. My family has not only great value but significant historical provenance. LOL
My mother had a china set with the same floral pattern as the teapot in the picture. Also, my father had a piano stool that his father used to cut the hair of his three sons. The piano stool was made of wood and would turn to adjust the height.
Melanie, today an unexpected reflection came to mind. The concept that struck me most was not the ideas about the Antique Show, but rather the use of water as the background for the song you selected.
The entire background of that song is on water–its gentleness, its power, its quiet, its roar. What a symbol of God’s grace! One of my favorite quotes is by Annie Dillard from “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”, page 102.
” …When I face upstream I see the light on the water careening towards me, inevitably, freely, down a graded series of terraces like the balance winged platforms on an infinite, inexhaustible font. “Ho, if you are thirsty, come down to the water…” Bernadine
Love the show! I collect all kinds of “stuff” – mostly related to the early days of the automobile industry through the 60s. I have a bound book of SHELL US Maps from 1959 – its so interesting to see city maps before all the interstates. I also would like to know the value of a violin that my husband’s uncle owned.
I love AR. Mini history lessons coupled with items that have stories from a person’s past. What impresses me is how almost everyone is more interested in preserving their treasure regardless of the value because they recognize that they are priceless. It warms my heart to know that there are people out there who still are moved by sentiment & gifts from the past that paint pictures of those who came before us. Some things are just not for sal. How refreshing that money is not always the prime motivator in people’s s lives.
The word of God is living. It’s like the seed sown in our good soil that unites us and transforms us or maybe we’re the grain of wheat being changed by God’s good soil. Together, seed and soil, we’re never the same again as we die and rise for each other. Maybe that’s why I feel so hopeful when I pass by a farm field busting with life this time of the year.