|Julie Scott, doll appraiser|
Kaisers Antiques Roadshow experience
The Antiques Roadshow visit to Eugene on June 4 revealed a rare gem that no one suspected —a Norman Rockwell painting, titled “The Young Model,” valued at $500,000. Someone’s dream of hidden family treasure suddenly became their reality. And let’s face it, dreams were why we were all there.
But most of us who crowded the fairgrounds for appraisals discovered that our treasures didn’t measure up to a Rockwell. As I circled the maze to get to the appraisal booths I noticed that there was more ordinary stuff than extraordinary. In fact (if my observations are correct) there were as many unhappy people with the information they received (and its appraisal value) as there were happy ones.
My husband and I are Antiques Roadshow junkies. We have been watching the Roadshow since its inception. We have also been collecting ‘old stuff’ nearly all of our married life. The family joke is that I am a consumer extraordinaire and Chuck became a wood furniture antique restoration specialist out of necessity. You might say we both know just enough about antiques to be dangerous!
I entered our names in the show’s lottery process in early January. And much to our surprise, we won! The hard part was deciding what to take. Each of us was allowed two pieces to be appraised. But when everything you own is old and mostly purchased at garage sales and flea markets, it’s hard to choose which piece of junk/treasure is the most interesting.
We finally settled on things with family history: my violin (purchased in 1951 when I began lessons); an old wooden child’s wheelbarrow from Scotland; a small mantle clock and a porcelain doll. The night before the show we carefully packed our treasures into my Radio Flyer gardening wagon and went to bed.
Our tickets were for 8 a.m. so we were up early and got into Eugene at 7:30 a.m. To our surprise, we parked up near the front, quickly unloaded our loot and entered a nearly empty building. We were only the second group to be admitted. Lines were still short at that hour and moved swiftly until we got to the appraisal stage.
Volunteer Becky Venice told me that later in the day, the lines would wrap around the building. Some people were there for 8 hours. Becky was one of 120 volunteers (mostly from Portland) who kept things running smoothly. They reminded everyone to turn off cell phones: when to unwrap their treasures, where the bathrooms were located and provided escort service.
Although billed as a local event, I talked with many folks who had come from Portland and as far away as Colorado and Las Vegas. Tickets were scarce as hen’s teeth. I saw an ad on Craig’s list by a Portland volunteer who needed a roundtrip ride to Eugene. In return she offered to enter two items to be appraised. Another ticket holder wasn’t so generous. He wanted $300 for two tickets.
We were just the tip of a 5-6,000 people iceberg and to us the appraisal process seemed very business-like and impersonal. It was obvious that the appraisers were looking for something special and we didn’t have it. Their job was to feed the show as well as appraise; to weed out the ordinary from the extraordinary.
The appraisal area was set up in a circle. The outer circle’s individual booths were the first stop and easily identifiable by signs. The inner circle was reserved for filming the 80 special objects to possibly air on PBS next summer. The very personable Mark Walberg could be seen bouncing around. The Keno brothers were nowhere to be seen.
We were given four tickets (one for each item) and escorted to the different appraisal areas in small groups. Each time we left a booth (i.e. musical instruments) we had to go back outside the inner sanctum and get into a different line to be escorted to yet another booth (i.e. dolls). Fortunately, we did not have popular items to be appraised so our lines were relatively short. My longest wait was at musical instruments — about 45 min.
Observations: There were paintings of every media, size and subject. Big pieces of furniture were dollied in along with some very distinctive junk! We enjoyed watching (although we couldn’t hear) a couple of appraisals being filmed. One was a beautiful and unusual round curio cabinet that is sure to be on television; another was a guitar. The Rockwell painting would arrive later.
We had a few surprises with the appraisal of my 1798 violin (date was accurate; maker not; turned out to be German not Italian); my mother's 100-yr. old 21-inch porcelain German doll would have been worth more with her original clothes; our Waterbury mantle clock was one of millions turned out in the late 1800s although its beveled glass made it unusual; Chuck's 17th century child's wheelbarrow was a first for the veteran toy appraiser Noel Barrett. It fell more into the folk art category but we couldn’t go there — no ticket!
Bottom line: Just because something is old does not mean it is worth a bundle of money. If it did, we would be zillionaires. As it is, we’re not. Our stuff is pretty ordinary. Everything was worth what we thought it was and not a penny more. Of course, we only collect what we love so it was a win-win situation. However, I must admit, a Rockwell would have been nice to have …
Altogether, we were finished by 9:30 a.m. By that time, the lines into the building were lining the sidewalk with people clutching treasured objects. Our time was up. We went home and took a nap.
Thanks, Roadshow, for visiting our little corner of the world — and please come again. We have more stuff!