Rare Victorian - The Antiques Roadshow Experience

The Antiques Roadshow Experience

leigh leslie keno The Antiques Roadshow Experience

leigh leslie keno The Antiques Roadshow Experience

This past Saturday was the Antiques Roadshow event in Atlantic City, NJ and I invited a friend of mine whom I knew had some items that he had wanted appraised for quite some time.  I requested a press pass so that I could have less restrictions on where I could take photographs so that I could share more of the feel of the experience here on Rare Victorian.

I selected a 10:00 slot to stop by the press desk to get my lanyard and my escort.  Yes, I had a personal escort for the complete duration of my day there.  I’m not sure if I should be honored or offended, but it proved to be advantageous to have someone with us that knew a lot more than we about the goings on within the Roadshow.

We were whisked straight to triage, where a small team of experts hands out tickets for the specialized lines where the actual appraisals occur.  This bypass of the triage line proved to be our best perk, saving us probably 90-120 minutes waiting in that line.

triage line The Antiques Roadshow Experience

After receiving tickets at the triage desk for the “Arms & Militaria”, “Paintings”, and “Asian Art” lines, we headed to the appraisal lines.  Chris and I opted to visit each line together so that we could both be there while each of us had our items appraised.

The first line was the Asian Art line to get Chris’ statue appraised.  Chris believed it to be a depiction of Parvati, a Hindu goddess and about 2,000 years old.  We were going to finally get another opinion on that.

We waited approximately 25 minutes in line for the table where there were three Asian items appraisers.  We were directed to  James Callahan who looked it over and provided a possible region of India for it’s origin and a 2,000 year estimate for age and an $8-9,000 evaluation.

This was where I learned that a lot of the Roadshow Appraisals are done off-the-cuff by the appraisers, usually with nothing other than their noggin.  There is no meaningful quantity of research material at their immediate fingertips (at the tables) and it appears that only some of the tables have a computer for Googling (namely, the paintings table).  There is apparently some quantity of research material available outside in a truck, but apparently that is utilized if needed when preparing for a video shoot for a TV segment, when necessary.


After Asian Arts we headed to the “Arms & Militaria” table for an appraisal on a painting that I own.  It is a depiction of General Sherman on his favorite horse on the Civil War battlefield painted by Newbold Trotter.  I bought it at Cowan’s a few years ago and they listed it as a 1930-ish copy of the “original” painting.  I disagree with Cowan’s on that particular point.  The rear label (and the front signature) has the artist’s own handwriting (I have 3 of his other paintings to know) – not something possible to produce in 1930 since he’d been dead 32 years by then.   He’s not a notable enough painter that someone would try to copy the painting and go to the trouble of writing the rear label in his handwriting.  Trotter nearly always marks the rear of his paintings with a catalog code (usually a “#” and three letters), a title and/or description and his name and date as this one does.  Also, the rear label has an 1880 date on it.

I live in a house his son Spencer built in 1886, he lost it to the bank in 1887, and Newbold’s wife (Spencer’s mother) bought it back from the bank in 1900.  The son eventually inherited the house he had built after his mother died in 1924.  Since their father/husband was a painter of note, I thought it would be great to have his paintings in the house and now own 4 originals.

It’s easy to research the market for a painter that has some auction history.  I knew that Newbold generally painted landscapes and animals and Western scenes but I’d never heard of him painting people, let alone famous people.  This made it hard to find comparative prices.

What added to the dilemma of researching the market for this particular painting was that it was accompanied by a typewritten letter from Sherman’s son “P.T.” to another Sherman relative, Arthur, speaking about the painting, saying it was a “historical painting made under the direction of my father and you may be interested to have it”.  So the painting was in the Sherman family and probably originally owned by the General himself.

I also have an obituary of Newbold Trotter talking about the relationship between Trotter and General Sherman and how he paid him $3,000 for a painting to be done of his horse based on an old photograph (which this painting is).

This all adds up to a difficult, one-off appraisal situation for a non-expert such as me.

Rafael Eledge was my appraiser for this particular painting at the Arts & Militaria table.  Rafael is one of the nation’s leading experts in Civil War militaria, but an oil painting is not a cannon or a projectile, so he sought some additional opinions at the paintings table.  I was glad that I’d be getting the distillation of multiple opinions and the consensus was that it could be worth $15-$20,000 since it is “one of a kind”.  It bothers me that this value is significantly over the maximum ever paid for a Trotter painting.  I think it is indeed a special painting but is it his most valuable ever?

Stay tuned for part II, but in the meantime, I’ll share the photos from our trip.  Click on the image below.

Antiques Roadshow

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  • Mary Evans - June 10, 2009

    I read your blog about the Antiques Roadshow. I, too, attended the show at AC, NJ on Saturday. You were able to verbalize my exact sentiments about my experience.

    I just wish I could’ve taken pictures inside!

    I found the most important area of all…the place where they give the tickets for the categories of your items was manned by volunteers. They either did not care or were blind to which area to send people to for their appraisals. This caused a lot of errors and trouble.

    I had a 1900 Theatre Scapbook with signatures and pictures of stage stars from the era, also full length posters. The lady sent me to ‘Books’. The appraiser there did not even look at it. He thumbed through and said this is a scapbook. Well, the owner was Blanche Horton, granddaughter of Commodore Vanderbilt.
    I really should’ve been in Collectibles. When you go back for another card, they are very suspicous. Make sure you get the right card for your item at the beginning.

    I also had approx. 20 posters from Ferdie Pacheo c1970. He was the cut man for Cassius Clay aka. Mohammed Ali. He retired and became a sports announcer and in his spare time he drew pictures of famous sports scenes. They are quite famous in the sports field. One intitled, ‘The Fumble’ is about the famous Dolphin fumble. He drew his pictures mostly in Miami. My sister in law picked these up during the 70s to sell for a fund raiser.

    I went to the poster line, but was told the artist was unknown so they were worth 15-20 each. I had all kinds of content in them from the period. I really think the sports area would’ve seen a better interest. I actually asked for sports memorbilia.

    Just a warning before you go…make sure and know where you want your item appraised BEFORE you get there.

    So glad to find another person’s comment online!

    Thanks RareVictorian!

  • Sue - June 28, 2009

    I went just recently (this past weekend in Raleigh). I agreed with my appraisals except one. I won’t comment on the item or say the appraiser’s name, but the guy (and I cannot speak for anyone but him; maybe the rest are true appraisers who know their stuff); didn’t want to look at a lot of people’s stuff… and he told one woman her stuff had no value (Let’s just say I am sort of an expert in her particular item and it didn’t have tremendous value but at least 200.00 and she drove far and he should’ve at least placated her). I had a series of 5 items and he didn’t want to look at the other three saying after asking me what I paid, that they weren’t more than I paid no matter what they were.

    Here’s the problem as I see it. I did a TON of research before I went and this is NOT what you were supposed to do, but I was curious what they’d say. I knew what my stuff was worth before going in and this one guy told me it was worth what I paid (about 150) and I knew it was 350-1200 depending on certain criteria (I personally felt mine was worth in the 700 range because it was near perfect).

    Am I an expert? No. But I’ve been buying these things for about 10 years and searching the net/stores etc for these things and I know the values. So he “generalized” the item as he’s not an expert on this item in particular. He knows a lot about the type of thing and general knowledge about many things, but to be honest there are probably collectors out there that do this ONE thing and know more than him.

    What I mean is this: you have a doll appraiser who knows a LOT about many dolls. But there’s probably a collector out there that collects say JUST Madam Alexander dolls etc and is in “clubs” and all that. Who’d know more? The person who deals with that and other things or the one collector who does just that every day of their lives? I’ll pick the collector thank you very much.

    They aren’t the be all and end of of appraisers. They are good yes, but if you feel you have been given a wrong value, look for someone who might specialize in that one specific item or field.

    And this is not what I hoped it’d be. I didn’t see the host, the Keno brothers, I didn’t see any interest in the city it happened in (no local news or even local antiques shops even knowing it was in town). I was in an hour of the whole event in less than an hour and a half and it took me over 3 hours to drive each way.

    PS I’d agree too with the person above who said they send you to the wrong place. I should have seen an autograph appraiser or an emphera dealer rather than books or manuscripts. I didn’t have a book nor a manuscript. And the “off the cuff” appraisal, though better than I said, they didn’t know about the history like I did. The appraised my item based on that it was a document that doesn’t sell well (however, as an autograph collector I know about how to sell items that are unsellable that can be clipped and mounted to bring more). So I think they sent me to the wrong areas too.

  • woodwright - January 24, 2010

    John, I see the Antiques Roadshow episode that you attended in Atlantic City last June airs tomorrow (Mon 1/25). Maybe you’ll see some people and items you saw while standing in line or inside.

  • JJ - August 8, 2010

    I am so glad I read this before I attended a Roadshow event this year in Des Moines, IA. I completely agree with all of the above. It was a good time, and we had fun, but the appraisers could not have been more wrong on so many levels – and like you, I do my homework! For example, one of the very popular Tribal Arts appraisers told me that the blackware twist candlesticks that I showed her were by Juanita Vigil. I found that assessment to be interesting, as Juanita Vigil died over 70 years ago, and the candlesticks are dated 1962. (They’re actually by Juanita
    “Wo-Peen” Gonzales, and the signature makes them easily identifiable. This is an incredibly amateurish error – really something an “expert” would have known.) The paintings appraiser took things to an even lower level when she told us that as she “couldn’t locate any auction records on Askart or Artnet” she really had no idea how much our painting was worth. Really? Askart? Artnet? Gee, I never tried those myself, duh. Please. That’s the equivalent of saying you checked something on Wikipedia. Is that the best you’ve got? (And by the way, Liveauctioneers.com has an auction record posted on our artist, if that’s all you know how to do to appraise something.).

    From now on I’ll stick to using qualified licensed appraisers I locate on my own, doing my own Internet searches, and just watching Roadshow on TV. But thanks to RareVictorian, I knew what to expect! Thank you!

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