Sunday, June 29, 2008


Yesterday, Saturday, June 28, 2008, at the Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, the five-time Emmy Award nominated and PBS’ highest rated series ANTIQUES ROADSHOW engaged the taping of the second show of their 13th season which airs in 2009. Since 1997 Boston’s PBS station WGBH has been touring the country with their well oiled ROADSHOW machine offering free, expert, on-air appraisal services for those of us with antiques and collectibles that might not otherwise get any attention. Appraisers from all the big auction houses to include Christies, Sotheby’s and the local Heritage Galleries, among others, and from independent dealers from across the nation form the unequalled intellectual trust that provides these much sought services. Some six thousand showed up in Dallas for the chance to get their item(s) appraised and maybe even get on television at the same time!

ROADSHOW Guests bring in everything from family heirlooms that may be proudly displayed or many times hidden in attics and basements or those “found” items from the local garage sale or from many of our Texas First Monday celebrations to include the famous Canton, Texas market. This is our chance to have experts tell us the truth of our “treasures” – what we have or don’t have and what the item might bring at auction. More often than not the news can be disappointing.

I recall Brother John of Shango Galleries and Buxton Appraisal, Authentication and Consulting Service (BAACS) fame bemoaning that in the first two years of the ROADSHOW he had only seen fakes and reproductions resulting in some disappointed treasure seekers. Since then John has touched many authentic items to include that now famous Navajo Chief’s Blanket that was appraised for between $350,000 to $500,000 on the 2002 Tucson ROADSHOW. Yes, there have been many great success stories.

With Brother John’s encouragement I have been able to Volunteer to assist with the ROADSHOW and guess that after stints in Atlanta, Charlotte, Charleston and Dallas I am now an official ROADSHOW groupie.

My first ANTIQUES ROADSHOW was the 1998 Atlanta show that, I believe, followed their Pittsburgh show where for the first time they were hammered with thousands more guests than they anticipated. The ROADSHOW had turned the popularity corner and the producers were wondering what the participation level would be in Atlanta. They weren’t disappointed though overwhelmed when from eight to nine thousand guests showed up. In those days the ROADSHOW didn’t have the current ticket system with staggered admission hours. In Atlanta it was literally first come, first served. To their credit the ROADSHOW saw everybody requiring a herculean effort from all Staffers, Appraisers and Volunteers.

As was the privilege of the ROADSHOW Volunteers I brought in a large metal “punch bowl” that I had inherited years earlier for appraisal. Crafted of brass, pewter, copper, nickel and silver and with an ornate bas relief steeplechase scene that circumnavigated the bowl, it is an impressive piece that has served our Family well for many years. It came from Idlewild, one of the great antebellum plantation homes and ancestral home of great-grandfather John Allen Armstrong near Bardstown, Kentucky. As I brought the 25+ pound bowl into the waiting area and then onto the appraisal set there were appreciative Ohs and Ahs and then applause that both embarrassed and made me proud. Two gentlemen from Christie’s and Sotheby’s evaluated the piece which they both described as a wine chiller that dated from the early to mid 1800’s. They could not agree on its origins which is apparently either German or English.

That pot has since continued its use as a punch bowl and wine chiller and is generally seen at the annual Charlotte Steeplechase where it continues to draw admiring looks.

Another interesting sidebar was the fact that I had not been back to the Dallas Convention Center since October of 2005 where I spent a month and a half assisting in the American Red Cross disaster relief effort where we sheltered many thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. It was a little eerie going back into that environment.

So, back to the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

At the Dallas show I was asked to be a Stage Manger Guard. There were two of us who literally monitored and guarded access to the live sets when they were taping segments of the show. It continues to amaze me how many people were oblivious to those activities or just wanted their five seconds of fame. You learned to quickly recognize those with the “deer in the headlights” or the “out the other side” looks that their eyes betrayed. I am sure that I am at the top of somebody’s short list for preventing their perceived immortality.

While it was fun it was a fourteen hour tedium that reminded me after the ten hour mark that I was once again wearing the wrong shoes. Should have worn my boots.

The greatest part of the experience was getting the chance to see some Friends that I hadn’t seen for many years. That included Sean Quinn, soon to retire New York City Homicide Detective, 911 Hero and Director of Security for the ROADSHOW and Ron Milton the ever gregarious and multitalented Cheerleader and Stage Manager of the ROADSHOW. The experience was complete just seeing Sean and Ron.

I also saw Noel Barrett, Leigh and Leslie Keno, fellow Ole Miss alum Beth Szescila from Houston and new found Friend and rare book expert, Ken Sanders of Salt Lake City. I couldn’t have been more pleased when Brother John had the opportunity to tape an appraisal for what looked like an 1890’s Lakota beaded vest which he eventually appraised for a substantial sum. The gentleman looked very happy and we know that you will want to see the Dallas show for that appraisal alone.

Like living life, it’s mostly all about people and with the ROADSHOW, that’s the bottom line in spades. Their popularity and continued success (they don’t necessarily go hand in hand) is due to the incredible talent and decision making by WGBH in the persons of Executive Producer Marsha Bemko and Consulting Producer Dan Farrell. They have put together one hell of a team and continue to tweak it to ultimate efficiency. It’s turned out to be great theater, hence its great popularity.

Even after experiencing long waits just to get on set and then additional long lines for the ever popular Decorative Arts, Collectibles and Prints tables (among others), ROADSHOW guests remained primed, mostly patient and with great attitudes. Though the lines remained long they were manageable and assumed part of the ROADSHOW experience. There was an atmosphere of anticipation and adventure that permeated the set and the entire area.

So, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW remains a great voyage and I thank Brother John and all my Friends at the ROADSHOW for another great experience and opportunity to pay back and be part of something larger than life. Please watch the show whenever you can. You won’t be disappointed. Collecting is cool!


Ned Buxton

No comments: