Three new Antiques Roadshow segments filmed in Chicago are set to air on PBS (WTTW) starting Monday, and continuing on the next two Mondays. They were filmed on one long Saturday in July of 2014.
The Roadshow crew rolled into town earlier that week, and set up in the cavernous quarters of McCormick Place. This was the first time the show had been in town since 2003, and more than 18,000 people entered a drawing for 3,000 pairs of tickets.
The folks who landed those tickets were each allowed to bring two items for evaluation by the show’s cadre of professional appraisers. The appraisers, who traveled at their own expense from all over the country, were positioned at tables according to category (Asian Art, Pottery and Porcelain, Sports Memorabilia). The tables formed a circle around an open filming area.
Ticket holders, arriving at appointed times, were funneled through triage and into lines that crept toward the appropriate expert. The longest, by far, were populated by hopefuls who, in spite of warnings, came with paintings—the most popular category.
Most of us, having watched the show for years, were curious to see how it actually works and were fascinated by the parade of quirky stuff that was being hauled in.
One thing, however, quickly became clear: when appraisers are plowing through 10,000 items in a single day, they’re not going to be all that interested in most of them. Their job is to find a needle in a haystack—the camera-worthy treasure. They know at a glance when the cherished object presented to them is just another piece of, well, you know what goes with hay.
Roadshow’s appeal stems largely from the fact that there’s a story behind every old thing we’ve accumulated. Whatever it is, someone made it, someone acquired it, somehow it got to us, and during all of that, history was happening. The record of the whole human race is embodied in stuff, which is why the show, now in its 19th season, is PBS’s top-rated ongoing series.
That, and the jackpot factor, which is the other—no doubt greater—basis of the show’s appeal: a very few pieces of all that stuff will turn out to have real financial value.
Like Grandma’s Lithuanian amber jewelry, brought in by appreciative grandson, Michael (Roadshow forbids publishing participants’ last names). That was worth “well over $2,000.” Bingo.
But what about this fantastic horn chair that (another) Mike rolled in on a dolly?
Appraiser John Sollo told him that horn chairs were made from 1870 to the present, and the value of this one, which was probably made around 1910, would depend on where it was sold. In a western state, $1,000 to $2,000. Here, less.
And Walter’s antique, wood-slat costume trunk? He found it at Broadway Costumes, and it still bears the label that says it belonged to Broadway’s predecessor.
In a Chicago collectibles shop, maybe $75.
Angie and (yes, really) Mike’s pair of painted figures, purchased in a thrift shop a decade ago and cherished by them ever since?
Three hundred dollars for both.
My Japanese teacup, embellished with ten mystery flags and a Union Jack?
You can see the treasures that made the cut when the show airs at 8 PM Monday and on the two following Monday nights on Channel 11.