One Thousand Words on Antiques Roadshow

I watched an episode of Antiques Roadshow earlier this week.

Just to be clear, I don’t like junk. This hasn’t always been the case. I come from a long line of collectors. My great grandmother collected owls, buttons and dolls. My grandmother collected salt and pepper shakers. Even my mom has had collections over the years… China tea cups, my great grandmother’s dolls. I’ve had collections too. Typical little girl things like unicorns or Barbie dolls. Now I stick to books and music, the important things in life.

But three years ago I moved and got rid of a basement full of junk. Literally. We got a dumpster and filled it up. I didn’t even open some boxes. I figured it was best to just pitch it instead of opening it and getting all sentimental. They’d been in the basement so long that nothing in those boxes could possibly be missed.

Now I’m pretty much junk free. The rule is that if something is purchased, something has to go. I’ll never go back to a basement full of junk.

So when I watch Antiques Roadshow, I can’t help thinking about how much crap those appraisers have to look at to find the ten items that are worth talking about on the show.

Just look at the people standing in line behind the people with the valuable stuff. Those line standers have wagons full of Great Aunt Daisy’s mantle clock, the vase they bought at a yard sale for five dollars and letters from Mark Twain that have been handed down through the generations.

How many times do the appraisers have to say that Aunt Daisy’s clock is a reproduction, the vase isn’t even worth five dollars and that it isn’t Mark Twain’s real signature?

And how many people walk away with their treasurers diminished? They may have cherished Aunt Daisy’s clock dearly, not because it was worth money, but because they loved Aunt Daisy. Now every time they look at it, they’re going to feel foolish for having dragged it down to the civic center just to learn from some hoity toity auction house that it isn’t worth a dime. Suddenly Aunt Daisy’s clock isn’t as pretty as it was before.

And those letters? They probably have happy memories of their grandfather telling them about his grandmother getting a letter from Mark Twain praising her blueberry pie recipe. That letter had been kept in the family bible and made it through five generations. Then they get the wonderful idea of having it appraised and learn that letter wasn’t from Mark Twain at all. Suddenly the whole family seems a little bit foolish and even the blueberry pie recipe doesn’t taste as good as it did before.

I wouldn’t want the job of ruining family histories like that.

I wonder how many of the people who do find out their item is valuable, turn around and sell it right away. They always say they are having it appraised for insurance purposes, but are they really?

On this episode, a woman had a big, embroidered Indian linen. I couldn’t tell if it was a tablecloth, bedspread or tent. She said she had purchased it at a museum rummage sale for ten dollars. (I’ve never heard of a museum rummage sale. She didn’t really explain, so I don’t know if the museum was getting rid of things from their collection or if it was a fundraiser where people donated stuff to sell. I hope it was the latter.)

The appraiser said it was beautiful, but it certainly didn’t translate well onto the television screen. It was stained in a couple of places and had some holes. I’m sure it was well embroidered, but it just looked ugly to me. I wouldn’t have paid the ten dollars for it in the first place.

The woman nodded and pretended to look interested while the appraiser pointed out details and explained some of the linen’s possible history. You could tell she was thinking “just tell me how much it’s worth” the whole time.

Finally the appraiser told her she could probably get $15,000 for it. The woman lit up. She said, and this is an actual quote, “Well, color me happy!” I love that phrase. I think I need to use it on a daily basis.

You know that old piece of cloth was going on the auction block as soon as physically possible.

One of the best parts of Antiques Roadshow are the stories people tell about the pieces.

One guy had a very ugly statue (but I think almost everything on the show is ugly.) It was a representation of Salomé, the woman who demanded John the Baptist’s head. The base was bronze, her skirt was some type of rare glass and she was ivory from the waist up, including her naked boobs. God know why Salomé had taken off her top, but she had.

The man who owned Salomé said he had been at an antique shop and somehow ended up walking through the owner’s house. Hopefully he was invited. He spotted the statue and offered to buy it. The owner said that her daughter had always like Salomé so she wanted to check with her first. She tried calling, but the daughter didn’t answer so the owner said, “If she really liked it, she would have said something sooner “ and sold it.

First, what kind of person goes walking through someone’s house and offers to buy something sitting on one of their end tables? “Gee, that’s a pillow on your couch. I’ll give you five dollars for it.”

And second, can you imagine how pissed off that daughter must have been when her mother told her she had sold Salomé for twenty-five bucks? I just hope she wasn’t watching when it was appraised for $10,000.

I don’t think I’ll be lining up for Antiques Roadshow anytime soon. I wouldn’t have anything to appraise. I threw Aunt Daisy’s clock in the trash years ago!

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