Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Antiques Roadshow

A few months ago I was aimlessly flipping through the channels and landed on a PBS show called Antiques Roadshow.

Formally dressed and often thick accented appraisers look over people's cherished family heirlooms and yard sale finds. In every episode you will see people saying something like
Regular Lady: "I bought this pretty vase at a yard sale for 50 cents."
Appraiser: "Do you know how much it is worth mam?"
Regular Lady: "No clue"
Appraiser: "This is a rare, second century vase in mint condition. It is worth $560,000!"
Regular Lady: "AHHH!" (faints)

At the end of this exciting episode there was an announcement that the Antiques Roadshow was coming to Hartford. Free tickets. Just email PBS to get into the lottery.

Smelling like an adventure, I sent in an email. After a few minutes later I remembered just how unlucky I am (the only thing I ever won was my ninth birthday cake...6 people entered) I decided to enter my mummy to.

Wouldn't you know it, a few months later I received an email telling me that I had not been chosen for tickets but thank you and keep watching. Gee thanks.

Completely forgetting that I entered my mummy, I got a call from her a few days later. "Ummm, did you do this? Did you request Antiques Roadshow tickets? I got two tickets!"

Fast forward to Saturday. Mummy and I each rounded-up two family antiques that we thought might be worth something. A neighborhood signature quilt, a silver cup, old porcelain dolls and letters from Paul Revere.

We arrived at our designated time and stood in line for an hour. Like Disney World, that line was just a teaser. We still had to wait in four additional lines to speak with the individual appraisers. With the average age of the Antiques Roadshow viewer being somewhere around 78, that meant the lines were filled with chairs, wheelchairs and walkers. If my nerves were frayed and I was tired, they were certainly wiped out.

I'm still puzzled as to why the friendly people at Antiques Roadshow weren't prepared for lines lasting four hours in the painting section. Or two hours in the folk art section. This was the 90th Roadshow. Shouldn't they know how to make things run smoothly by now? Shouldn't they know that they are catering to an older audience?

The lines would have been worth it if I too had a table appraised at $300,000 like a particular weeping woman.

Mummy and I started at the "manuscript and books" table. We had letters from Paul Revere that my great grandfather may or may not have liberated from a certain state house. Turns out the letters are actually from Paul Revere's son. Not the Patriot himself. "Lots in the market. Not worth much" we were told.

Next up was the "doll" table. An 1870's Springfield Doll that had been well-loved and an 1880's German doll in pretty good condition. Not worth anything special.

Then came the little silver cup. Grandma Dot used to let me use it in my sandbox as a kid. I grabbed it from her house for sentimental reasons and now use it as a pen holder. Just recently I was dumping out the pens in a desperate attempt to find lip balm when I noticed the date. 1792. Seeing that the cup was that old, I hoped that maybe this would bring in a high appraisal number.

Turns out that Grandma Dot should not have allowed Little Gruppie to play with an eighteenth century silver cup from St. Petersburg, Russia. I dinged and dented the bottom of the cup reducing it's value "exponentially." Bummer.

Last up was my pick for the highest value. A signature quilt from 1850's Newburyport, MA. My grandfather's family arrived in Newbury, MA in the 1620's and apparently stuck around for a while.

The quilt spent many years in my mummy's hope chest and has been hanging on a quilt rack in my house for the last ten or so years. It is simple (like my tastes) and historical (I can be a bit of a history geek), so naturally I love the quilt.

"Sentimental value" the appraiser said. "So, umm, could you put a monetary value on the quilt?" I hopefully asked. "Zero" the appraiser said. She went on to say something about lack of color and bunching in the batting.

I'm looking back on my experience with the Antiques Roadshow as an adventure. I didn't find any lost money, but I did learn a little more about my family heirlooms. I saw hundreds of people who love antiques over new purchases. And really, what could be more green than antiques?


Ruth Dynamite said...

So your stuff didn't score big with the Roadshow appraisers, but your time spent with your mom? Priceless.

Abbie said...

Very cool! I wish I had known about it. My dad has a highboy that apparently came from England with out ancestors. Would have loved to try to get it appraised.

Of course, like your stuff, it probably means way more to me than it does to anyone else.

But the fun day (minus the waiting) seems like it was worth it, and of course you'd never sell those family heirlooms!