Rare Victorian - My Antiques Roadshow Experience Part II
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My Antiques Roadshow Experience Part II

European painting My Antiques Roadshow Experience Part II

I left off with my Antiques Roadshow experience in the last post at the paintings table.  Both Chris and I had lugged our final appraisal items through this, our longest line – long enough that it was broken in two, which was not apparent until you reached the “inner circle”.

European painting My Antiques Roadshow Experience Part II

Chris took a large “Russian-looking” painting of a war scene that we’ve had problems identifying.  The signature seemed to be in Cyrillic which removed all possibility of us identifying the artist.

After a consultation with Alan Fausel of Bonhams, it was determined to be possibly Hungarian or a country in that Eastern European vicinity and value to be $200-$300.  It may have been purchased at retail for a four-digit figure, but value on the street was much lower.  Artist is unidentified.

My painting was a waterfront scene with boats in a newer, “old-looking” frame.  My appraiser was Coleene Fesko of Skinner who quickly cut to the chase.  My painting, although 19th-Century in style was a “scam”.  It is a painting done to appear old but was done in the contemporary time period.  $75 was the value now.

I hadn’t had the occasion (nor impetus) to remove the enclosed rear wood panel on the frame and look at the back of the painting which would have probably shown me a canvas devoid of age, which is probably why the framer added the panel in the first place.

I may know something about Victorian Furniture, but my lack of time spent on oil paintings is readily apparent.

boat scene My Antiques Roadshow Experience Part II

My Overall Take On The Roadshow Experience

I realized in looking back at the day spent at the Roadshow that I have to remember that it exists for the sole purpose of generating a television show.  Everything is geared towards getting an adequate quantity of items for them to appraise (5,000-6,000 people worth), filtering out 75 good ones to film (the top 1%), and getting enough engaging content on film to create 3 decent episodes.

This isn’t an appraisal day – it is an inspection day to find items and owners that will entertain the show’s viewers.

I don’t mean to say that the vast majority of attendees don’t get a good day out of it.  But I can tell you from my firsthand experience and from those murmuring as they walk away from their two minutes at the appraisal table, there is a sense of “is that it?”

There is an old television show that embodies how I feel about the Roadshow and it is the old Twilight Zone episode titled, “To Serve Man“.  Wikipedia summarizes the storyline well:

A race of aliens known as the Kanamits [the Roadshow] lands on Earth and promises to be nothing but helpful to the cause of humanity. Initially wary of the intentions of such a highly advanced race, even the most skeptical humans are convinced when their code-breakers begin to translate one of the Kanamit’s books, with the seemingly innocuous title, “To Serve Man.”

Sharing their advanced technology, the aliens quickly solve all of Earth’s greatest woes, eradicating hunger, disease, and the need for warfare.  Soon, humans are volunteering for trips to the Kanamits’ home planet, which is supposedly a paradise [the Roadshow appraisal line].

All is not well, however, when a code-breaker discovers the Kanamits’ true intentions: Their book, “To Serve Man”, is a cookbook, and all their gifts were simply to make humanity complacent, much like fattening pigs or cows before they are slaughtered [“Served” up on TV].

I’m being overly dramatic and critical of an event that is FREE and provides you access to some of the most knowledgeable experts alive in their field.  However, if you’re planning to go, I feel there are some things to know before you go expecting a different experience than what you see on TV.

Why You Wouldn’t Want To Go To The Antiques Roadshow

  • If you know a lot about your item but are missing one piece of the puzzle, don’t bother going.  Unless you get lucky and they have coincidental knowledge about your missing nugget that you’ve already Googled the heck out of, there’s a good chance that you won’t get that last piece of the puzzle.  Chris didn’t get his painting artist name, or a country of origin.  Chris didn’t get his statue region nor a concrete assertion on who the statue is depicting.
  • If the missing piece for you is price, you’ll get a figure (most times) out of their heads and not based on cold hard data such as comparable auction/sale results.  The value given on the statue didn’t reflect the higher prices seen at auction for similar statues that we had researched (auction results are higher by 50%).  The value given to me for my painting was 25-50% higher than was ever achieved for the painter and was of subject matter that is not his sweet spot.
  • Don’t expect your appraisal to go down like it does on TV and get all of the following information: the life story of it’s maker, the exact date range, certainty on region of origin, a price that has been cross-checked with auction results or bantered about with 3-4 other Roadshow appraisers, an in-depth analysis on condition and it’s impact on your value.  That’s all reserved for the 1% shown on TV.
  • Don’t be surprised if you wait several hours for 2-3 minutes or less time with an appraiser.
  • Dont’ be surprised if you hear “this is the best thing I’ve seen at this table all day”.  I heard several casual acquaintances over the course of the day tell me that the appraisers said this about their items and some had been to several Roadshows.  My Trotter painting “was the best thing seen at the table all day”.
  • The furniture that is pre-selected in advance and brought into the special furniture section against the wall (usually large items) are used merely as stage backdrops.  The day I was there they looked more like a cornucopia of styles that together looked like the antique equivalent of a still life painting.  The bed in this collection was a modern, Indonesian reproduction that merely looked impressive from afar.  There was a Meeks sofa, that although somewhat expensive, can be found quite readily at auction.  If they’re taking the time to pre-select this furniture in advance, weeks before the Roadshow, you’d think they’d not choose the aforementioned.  [side note: If the Quervelle table in this group doesn’t show up on the TV episode, then either their experts didn’t spot it as being by Quervelle, or one of the greatest local cabinetmakers for this Roadshow location is overlooked;  if not Quervelle, it is certainly Philadelphia].
  • Don’t take something that looks like it is worth less than $100.  We’re not all good judges of value and some valuations may surprise us, but in general, people know quality when they see it.  Less than $100 isn’t worth a days worth of schlepping and the appraisers don’t want to see it either.

Why You Would Want To Go To The Antiques Roadshow

  • If you know nothing about your item, there is no better congregation of experts in one place at one time to help you.
  • If you’d like to spend a day in a room surrounded by 1000’s of people with interesting antiques, this is the place for you.  This is the antique equivalent of people-watching
  • If you’d love to meet some of the appraisers in real life, they are more than willing to meet and speak to you and have their picture taken with you.
  • If you’ve watched the show many times and seeing the behind-the-scenes is something of interest to you, then this is your chance.

The Roadshow employees, volunteers and appraisers were all exceedingly helpful and I am grateful for their hospitality.  Hopefully the above summary can elucidate the Roadshow experience for prospective attendees.

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6 Comments
  • woodwright - June 24, 2009

    I agree with your appraisal of the Roadshow John. Our experience was similar and we had the same feeling when we left – we would never make the 5 hr. drive (each way) to do it again. We saw some interesting things, talked to some interesting people & learned a little more than we knew before going – but had much higher expectations.
    Certainly there are some very knowledgable people there, but no one knows everything about everything, and unless you are lucky enough to see an appraisor who is very familiar with whatever treasure you have brought (and the odds are stacked against you), you will get their best guestimation – that is all they have time to give you. You will be one of many thousands and so will your item, so your appraisal time will be very limited (about 2 minutes).
    The experience is not what you see on TV. I think most people confuse what they see on TV with reality – but the truth is that TV is generally a staged, sensationalized distortion of reality.

  • john hopper - June 25, 2009

    Hmmm interesting. It does look very much as if it is a TV show rather that an antique festival. I suppose the show and ratings are more important than indepth appraisals, and you can’t really blame anyone for that, but it’s probably better to stay at home and watch it on TV, rather than be disappointed by taking part.

    There was once a very funny episode of Frasier with the Antiques Roadshow as a theme.

  • Sue - June 28, 2009

    I can add some things here what to do and not do.
    1) Don’t go in with any expectations on value; if you can’t help yourself, be a little cynical about the whole thing ahead of time so you’ll come out feeling better in the end.

    2) Don’t take their word as gospel

    3) don’t bring in anything from Ebay or anything you bought recently that is “contemporary” (say made in 1950’s on) UNLESS you have something super special or some really awesome story and you know it’s probably worth a lot.

    4) They seem to like the same old stuff: ie Babe Ruth signed baseballs from the golden era; graphic travel or hippie posters (first generations only unless super rare); tiffany or Lutz glass/lamp; Rookwood/Sevres or other main porcleain that is extremely well done… and 18th century and up to early 18th century furniture from Philly, Boston etc. Those are the things that make it in. Don’t bring: modern sports memoribilia or autographs (unless say you got Marilyn, the Beatles and James Dean etc and have a way cool story to match it).

    5) remember if it’s a treasure to you and you love it, the value doesn’t matter. Regardless what they say!

  • Cat - June 29, 2009

    I read your roadshow review and I must say, after the part about that Twilight Zone episode, I was getting a serious case of cold feet about going to the Raleigh Show. But since a friend gave us his tickets to use, I felt I couldn’t bail out at the last minute. Now, first I just want to say that my tickets were for the very first hour. I swear we didn’t wait that long on line – maybe 30 -35 minutes tops before getting to the triage station (we got there at 7:45 for the 8am entry). Here’s one tip – ask a volunteer to look at your appraisal tickets to see which ones are close to each other. You can save a lot of time that way. They will punch more than one ticket if the appraisers are near each other. We had no wait for books. At our next stop, Dolls, there was only one person ahead of us. The longest wait for us was for Porcelain/Pottery but even that was no longer than 20 minutes. Since Jewelry was near it, we didn’t have to go back out into line – just had the volunteer inside the ring punch our card. Just a couple of folks ahead of us there. Definitely looked like the line for Paintings was the longest but since we didn’t have one, it didn’t effect us. So if you have tickets that let you choose any time to get in (like the ones you get if you donated to your PBS station) – go early! I can agree with the fact that the appraisers don’t know everything but not one of the ones we went to gave us the impression of being jaded. They were all polite and tried to be helpful. Maybe we just got lucky or they just don’t get jaded until later in the day. I realize this is all to get fodder for a tv show but hey, I love watching the show and appreciate everyone who goes. They’re the people I thank for entertaining us with their treasures! As Sue says above, don’t take any appraisers word as gospel but then again, don’t take anyone else’s experiences as gospel either. Hope everyone out there, planning to attend a Roadshow this summer, has a fun time!

  • PJ - July 23, 2009

    Hi,
    I looked at the painting and it looks Indian to me..(as in from India)

  • michelle ann - August 2, 2009

    Hi, I went to the Roadshow here in Poenix and have to agree with you 100% on all aspects of your blog. It was a fun day though, I just wanted to see it up close and personal and prove to myself I am just a smart as the television appraisers.

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