Antiques Roadshow is an adventurous treasure hunt whether you watch it on television or experience it in person, like the more than 3,500 people who had the opportunity to do so on May 29 at the Hotel del Coronado. The 23rd season is being filmed this summer at distinctive historic venues in Sarasota, Florida, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Louisville, Kentucky, Rochester, Michigan, and at our very own Hotel del Coronado. Across the five-city tour, more than 30,000 items will be appraised. This new season is unique in that Antiques Roadshow will stop exclusively at distinctive historic venues, where the cameras will capture the uniqueness of the sites, as well as the antique items. Three hour-long episodes will be created from each of this summer’s five events, and the final lineup will air nationally on PBS beginning January 2019.
More than 13,000 people applied for tickets to get in to the taping at the Hotel Del, and only 1,750 names were randomly selected by a computer, not by specific zip codes. Selectees received two tickets and each person was allowed to bring two items to be appraised. Each item is assessed and when an expert hears a unique story or spots a rare or unusual object, he pitches the idea to a Roadshow producer, who then decides if it makes the cut to be recorded for broadcast. They then capture the owner’s genuine reaction to the true worth or historical significance of the item on camera. Approximately 150 appraisals are recorded at each event, with about 30 of them appearing on the series.
With 65 appraisers representing 23 specialties, experts saw approximately 6,000 items, with up to 300 people and 600 objects evaluated per hour. Appraisers volunteer and come from the nation’s top auction houses and independent dealers. Appraisers examine an item for identifying marks, signatures, brand, condition, age, materials and other characteristics. The appraiser uses his or her knowledge, confers with colleagues, and conducts online research to determine the origin and value. Over the years, PBS has uncovered some special treasures in the more than 5,000 Roadshow segments, with more than 1.4 million appraisals, which can be viewed in the “Appraisals” section of their website at pbs.org/antiques.
What does it take to put an Antiques Roadshow together? Starting the day before taping, 50 crew members erect the set, and then operate the camera, lights, audio and video equipment on the event day. Each event also requires more than 100 volunteers to help with logistics, including directing people and keeping individuals from straying into camera shots.
For larger items, residents living with 60 miles of the tour city are invited to submit photographs of furniture or items they can’t transport themselves. These photos are reviewed and about 10 pieces per city are chosen to be transported to the event for evaluation.
If you get the “golden ticket,” the first stop is at a generalist table, where an appraiser looks at your object and determines which specialist you should visit. I didn’t personally have any items that were unique or extremely valuable, so I borrowed a clock and antique club from my Scottish friend Susan. Luckily for me, my media escort, Carla, from the local KPBS station, breezed me right through the process. We went inside first to some of the booths and discovered Carla’s parents, who were in one of the longest lines, which was Tribal Art. Her mom, Lynette, had what she believed to be a potentially valuable fertility goddess statue that she had picked up in Cape Town, South Africa, but it turned out to be more of a tourist souvenir and not too valuable.
She escorted me to the clock booth and I got to meet John Delaney, from Delaney Antique Clocks, in West Townsend, Massachusetts. He noted that my friend’s Parisian clock was made in the early 1900s. It was a smaller, novelty size made of mahogany with patera inlay. He pointed out cracks in the glass and bruising in the wood on top, and estimated the value at $150, but said that to purchase a fully restored one would run $450.
Our next stop was to Folk Art to have my friend’s club evaluated by Ken Farmer, from Virginia, who went to confer with an appraiser from Ancient Art, who confirmed that the club was from the South African Zulu tribe, made in the early 1900s. He put the value between $300 and $400.
We then went outside to the back lawn area of the hotel and discovered a long line for the Painting area, the most popular category wherever they film. The array of items that people were carrying and toting around in wagons was fascinating. I saw hordes of items I didn’t even recognize and lots that piqued my interest.
Coincidentally, I ran into Councilmember Carrie Downey, who was there with her daughter, having a cookie jar appraised. She inherited this pink ceramic creation, when she had needed a cookie jar as a newly married wife and her mom gave her this one. Her appraiser was Travis Landry, from Bruneau & Co from Cranston, Rhode Island. He identified the era as after World War II, in the 1950s. Items like these, along with Lladro and Hummels, were collected during what was affectionately termed the “knick knack” era. They have an iconic look and have the retro vibe you see today on TV Land shows. At first Downey didn’t really care for the cookie jar, but soon embraced its kitschy look and now has 10 additional cookie jars given to her from aunts, grandmas and other family members.
When asking Marsha Bemko, executive producer, what was unique about this event at the Hotel Del, she quickly said, “From a personally selfish standpoint, we got to roll out of bed and right on to the set in this iconic setting.” She noted that Hotel Del is the fourth venue to be shot this season and said that they are discovering hidden treasure with this historic venue. “We love the chance to share the personal stories of the items and the Hotel Del history. The last time we filmed at the San Diego Convention Center, the difference was like a mad flea market and here we have a friendly fair atmosphere.” With her nearly 20 years on the shows, she knows that “people love the snapshot sequences and won’t leave for bathroom or snack breaks, because they don’t want to miss the behind-the-scenes highlights.”
Currently in its 22nd season, Antiques Roadshow is the most-watched ongoing PBS series, with eight million weekly viewers. This show evokes nostalgia of a bygone era of our parents, grandparents and previous generations of collectors.