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My Experience with The Antique Roadshow


August 13, 2010
By John Anderson

Editor’s Note- The popular Public Television Antiques Roadshow was filming in Des Moines on Saturday, Aug. 7. this is Tama resident John Anderson’s first-person account of volunteering at the event.

I attended the PBS Antiques Roadshow on Aug. 7, as a volunteer, at the Hy-Vee Convention Center in Des Moines. The Roadshow had six places to meet this summer, Des Moines being the next to the last stop. Over 6,000 attended hoping to get fame and fortune from something they found in Grandma’s attic. Serious money can be made though, if you have the skill and fortuitousness to bring in the right antique.

Last year for instance a 1937 noted American Abstract Expressionist painting fetched $500,000. This year, so far, a set of four Chinese Quainlong Period (1735-1795) carved jade objects was valued at $1 million.

But I am getting ahead of the story. Let me digress. Three weeks ago I entered the Blue Grass Cafe in downtown Tama, for the auction which they have periodically on weekends. I quickly spied a really old-looking picture of two peasants sharing a cup of water. I couldn't believe my eyes. The painting looked like the real deal. The appropriate brush strokes, the aged crackled paint, even down to the incredibly ornate frame.

It was with anticipation, I literally held my breath as I bid a dollar on the picture, and to my amazement I won the bid!

Wow, what a find! But what to do next? Well I had seen sometimes, on Mondays at 7 p.m., the Antiques Roadshow on T.V. and figured their website would be a good place to start. After going on line, to my surprise I learned about the upcoming one in Des Moines. Since the tickets were by lottery and had been allotted way back in March, I was initially discouraged. Then I thought, “What about volunteering? During which time I would slide right into line, no one being the wiser.” So I got on the Roadshow website, looked up the volunteer page, and sent them an email. Just to be on the safe side I also tried to register as a member of the press, to cover my bases. The day before the show I heard from their volunteer coordinator, that they needed one more volunteer. So I was in like flint.

If you’ve ever seen the PBS Roadshow on T.V., you know people bring everything under the sun. Old chests, firearms, Indian relics, paintings, glassware, you name it. Each volunteer was assigned a specific duty. Well it was my job, with another guy, to help people off one of the escalators. It was a kick to see all the people with beaming looks on their faces as they entered. Also interesting was seeing the various menagerie of antiques they carried, pushed and pulled to the Roadshow entrance. I noted to my co-worker, Bob, that it looked like a displaced army of immigrants, which was probably close to the truth for the roadshow attendee’s forbears, whom had originally owned the stuff.

Well it turned out I outsmarted myself, because as recompense the Roadshow gave the volunteers a free t-shirt, a meal, and the all-important appraisal.

One of the people I had lunch with had brought a newspaper of the day after Lincoln had got shot. Apparently her great, great, great, great, great Grandmother had wrapped her dancing shoes up in this paper, vowing never to wear them again.

The people sitting at my table at lunch all thought I had a heck of find with my painting. Conveniently, the Roadshow even let the volunteers into an expedited line for appraisals, so they could get back to their assigned jobs that much quicker.

So about 3 o’clock, I finagled my way into the main appraisal room. Seeing the big camera boom, with Mark Walberg, the host of the Roadshow, interviewing some fortunate soul, my pulse quickened. One of the painting appraisers greeted me with solicitude deserving of my great treasure and I ceremoniously presented my prize from my duffel bag.

She noted the fine craftsmanship and in a delicately refined voice said, “It’s a part of a print of a 17th century painting".

Crestfallen, I mumbled, “So it’s not worth anything?” She shook her head and went to the next person. I thanked the appraiser and left the booth.

In retrospect, as the day finished up, I walked out feeling a little bit better. I had met a lot of people, saw a lot of antiques and had an experience that would be hard to match. As I left the Hy-Vee Center my morale picked up; on afterthought, I did come away with this all, with sort of a treasure.

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