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!