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A Trip to the Antiques Roadshow

Last weekend, a dream of mine came true. I attended the Antiques Roadshow. When B and I told people the reason we were going to spend the weekend in St. Louis, Missouri, the reactions were mixed. About forty percent of people either said, “The what?” or “Is that still on T.V.?” Another forty percent asked, “why?” And the last twenty percent were jealous. Hopefully, after this post explains the awesomeness that is the Roadshow, one hundred percent of readers will enter the raffle for tickets next year.

Having fun at the Antiques Roadshow
We made it to the big show!

First question: what is the Antiques Roadshow?

The Roadshow is a television show (just to be clear, I’m talking about the American version and not the British version) that is televised on your local Public Broadcasting Service channel. The premise of the show is people bring in antique items and have them appraised by experts in different fields. The guests on the show tell the story about how they got the item and the appraiser explains what it is, gives some history of how it was made, and says what the price would be retail and at auction.

How does one get on the Roadshow?

Contrary to what a lot of people we talked to think, it is actually really hard to get on the Roadshow. Not only do you have to bring a really interesting item, but tickets themselves are hard to get. Each spring, the Roadshow announces the cities that will be the locations for that year’s season (typically around eight). Potential attendees then enter a drawing to be chosen to the city that they choose. The odds of being chosen depend on how many people want to go to that particular city that year. Each applicant must list their address and only one ticket can be submitted using that address.

I have been trying for YEARS to get tickets to the Roadshow. Every year, until this one, I was disappointed when I checked my email later that year. Imagine my shock when I saw the sweet phrase “Winner! This application was selected to receive two tickets.” Hurray! B, some antiques and I were heading to St. Louis, Missouri. (If you’re wondering why I picked St. Louis, the dates worked out the best in my busy summer schedule.)

Antiques Roadshow tickets
One of the most exciting things I’ve ever received in the mail.

Sidenote: not everyone who gets tickets to the Roadshow are selected to be on T.V. I read an article once about how the odds of winning tickets and then getting your item appraised on T.V. at one location were smaller than the odds of your child graduating from Stanford. These tickets are hot commodities and people routinely try to sell them once they’ve been selected. For our trip, I saw on Craigslist several people were selling their tickets for $150. P.S. Selling your tickets breaks the Antiques Roadshow rules and is super shady, IMHO.

What antiques did you bring?

After we told people we were going on the Roadshow, people’s next question was, “What are you going to bring?” Each ticket allows you to bring two antiques to be appraised. Being as we were going to be flying to St. Louis, our selections were narrowed to what we could bring on a plane. B went to her mother’s house and found lots of possibilities. After doing some initial checking on the internet to see what the highest ticket items were, she selected a porcelain plate and a small tree made from stones.

Our items to be appraised at the Antiques Roadshow
Our treasures, sort of.

My favorite episodes of the Roadshow are called ‘Trash to Treasures’ where they show people who have found items or bought them for very little and they turn out to be worth a lot of money. I understand that the odds of this happening are very slim, but I didn’t really have anything else I wanted to bring. So I decided to head to my local thrift store. I had just read a book about Bulgaria so when I saw an oil on canvas with a Eastern European scene for $3.99, I purchased it. My second item was a turtle broach my mom gave me in high school.

Bags are packed! Ready for the big Antiques Roadshow.
Bags are packed! Ready for the big show.

How does it work when you show up for an event at the Roadshow?

In one word, it works like clockwork. The folks behind this show have been doing this for twenty years and it is now a well-oiled machine. I selected the 12:00 p.m. time slot for my ticket. When we arrived at the America’s Center Convention Complex, we were greeted by several volunteers with Antiques Roadshow t-shirts. They directed us to the next set of volunteers, who directed us to the next set of volunteers. There were a lot of volunteers.

We made it to the first check of our tickets in a huge warehouse looking room. Every two hours there is a different time slot and you can line up at the designated time, but you don’t actually get to enter the event until it is your turn. We walked past the line of 2:00 p.m. people and honestly, I’m not quite sure what the advantage of coming so early is. We were right on time and joined our line.

Antiques Roadshow Lign
The first of the lines.

Sorting hat (well sorting at least)

The next step is to get sorted. Each antique you bring is categorized and volunteers gave us four tickets. We had two Asian Art tickets for B’s items, one Painting and Prints for my painting, and one Jewelry for my brooch. Once we got these tickets, another volunteer brought us into the next giant warehouse room where we would then find our line and wait until we could make it up to the next volunteer ticket taker.

The Layout

This room was quite large and in the middle there was a small, makeshift room with blue fabric blocking off everything but the different entrances, so we couldn’t really see inside until we were close. There were entrances all around this inner sanctum, kind of like spokes on a wheel. We decided to do B’s first, so we queued up in the Asian Art line. Part of the fun of the Roadshow is to see everyone else’s stuff, so we made friends with the couple in front of us and learned that their creepy pirate marionette thing that was attached to a hand cart was worth $3,500. (B later said she would pay that much just to get rid of that thing if she owned it!)

Our turn!

As we waited in line, I was able to spot a few of the appraisers that are frequently on the show, and I told B about one of my favorites, a dashingly handsome man with a British accent. Wouldn’t you know, when we gave our Asian Art tickets to the lady at the door and crossed the threshold into the inside room, there sitting at the Asian Art table was the British Babe. He motioned to me and called me madam, and I totally lost my cool. B had to step around me and give her items to him as I was rendered temporarily speechless and motionless.

A handsome devil of an appraiser.

Mr. Hottie Pants very succinctly told B her plate was Japanese, made to look Chinese, and her tree was called a jade tree. After only a few minutes, we were back out of the room and in the Painting and Poster line. Luckily, by the time we made it back to the room, I had recovered and was able to speak coherently to the appraiser who told me my painting was a nice oil on canvas, probably meant to be in Germany or eastern Europe and was painted within the last 50 years because the canvas was stapled to the wooden mat.

Waiting in line

Our final line of the day turned out to take the longest, but we got the best view of the filming that was going on because of where we were at. When you get your item appraised and the appraiser decides your antique is worthy of being filmed, you are brought one of four areas at the inside of the appraisal room and wait until the crew is ready for you. While we were inside waiting to talk to the jewelry appraiser, we saw one lady being filmed while a gentleman waited very nervously for his pin collection to be discussed. (Even if you are filmed, you are not guaranteed to make it to the broadcast.

They film good stuff throughout the day and then later in the editing room decide what makes the cut.) While we were in the jewelry line, we did hear some good gossip by a few ladies who were definitely in the Roadshow know. One said she was behind someone who had two pinup drawings from the 20s that were each valued at $20,000 and they didn’t get asked to be filmed. The appraiser for jewelry was very nice and told me my broach was made by a company out of Santa Barbara, California, probably in the 60s. It is a piece of costume jewelry, but he was impressed the glass shell hadn’t broken over the years. (I didn’t know it was glass…)

Feedback Booth

After we finished getting our items appraised, we headed to the Feedback Booth. When you watch an episode of Antiques Roadshow, the last five or so minutes is dedicated to people who briefly tell about their item and and their experience at the event. To make it on the feedback booth segment, you are supposed to be cheerful and charismatic. We didn’t want to ramble so we came up with a quick script and when we stood in front of the camera we performed admirably, if I do say so myself.

It was the first and probably the last time in my life that anyone will stand behind a camera and do that silent 3-2-1-point thing with their fingers, so I was just glad I didn’t miss my cue. We won’t know if we made onto the episode until next year. (Update, we didn’t. Boo.)

Antiques Roadshow Feedback Booth
Our one chance of getting on T.V.

So what was your stuff worth?

My boss asked me about how much my item was going to have to be worth to recoup my expenses for the trip. I told him he was completely missing the point. We didn’t really care how much this stuff was worth.  What really mattered is that I was finally able to be a part of a show I’ve been watching for years. That being said, here’s how our items were valued.

  • Japanese/Chinese Plate: $50
  • Jade Tree: $200
  • Oil Painting: $50-$100
  • Costume Jewelry Broach: $50

Conclusion

Attending the Antiques Roadshow was so much fun. Everybody, from the appraisers to the volunteers to the other attendees, was so nice and happy. How often do you get to be surrounded by several thousand people who are all in a good mood? Even if our antiques didn’t make us rich, it was a terrific day. Now I get to cross off one more item on my bucket list.

Antiques Roadshow St. Louis
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