The Roadshow Comes to Sacto
Quite an adventure to the antique's road show in Sacto. We were a group of 12 out of 6,000 to visit the road show on one fine day in July. Thanks to Sue and Co. for camping out on the phone lines for hours to get tickets. Outside was a short line to enter the hall. We were grinning as the doors opened to let us in.
Across the foyer, through some more doors, and we were in. In the hall where you wait to get in to the show that is. This was a long, long, serpentine line. Long like a summer day at any new Disneyland attraction. The 8:30am line was right in front of us, but our 9:30am tickets had us walk half way down the hall to enter the appropriate cord bounded line. Beyond us there were already people in the 11:30am line, and beyond them a very few in the 1:30 line. We were committed.
The volunteer crew did an excellent job of keeping us moving. Fill up one aisle only half way, then when the line has packed up, let the line move all the way down the aisle. This kept us moving, halting, moving, halting. We all felt like we were making progress, when we really weren't. It didn't matter. We were all in such good spirits.
Everyone had to bring something to show - they won't let you in empty handed. The guys behind us had a baseball bat from some famous event, and a ball glove. His friend was carrying an old rocking chair from the mid-1800's (and boy was it big). Other people carried little books, little tables, red wagons, dolls, paintings - all rolled up -, a plethora of old rifles and swords.
One guy had a five foot tall artillery shell from WW2. The brass casing had been hammered into an intricate representation of a hillside scene; the polished silver projectile in the top had two light bulbs sticking out the sides like horns on a Viking helmet. I wonder what that's worth?
There was even a woman trailing a good sized, ugly, carved elephant. Looked like late Pier 1 variety.
A ripple of excitement ran through the crowd as we moved along. Each advancement let us see someone else's treasure; let us exchange knowing glances with each other about someone else's trash. Many people had brought their children, but few were allowed to carry these family jewels.
Our own group had met in the hotel the night before to show our wares. Sue had a small medicine bottle from who knows when - the stuff still in it. Julia had several beautiful items: an old Coptic cross her father had brought back from Eastern Europe, a lovely solid gold broach, and an interesting book that showed a painted scene on its edges when the pages were fanned out. There were funerary items from China; beautiful art deco prints bought on eBay; and an old, crushed Hummel doll. An old art deco swag lamp of a cherub dangling a globe.
The only old thing in my possession is a 3L beer stein that my grandparents used as a flower pot in their beach house. Angela, being more refined, brought the most hideous plate you have ever seen. It is thick with extruded clay "seaweed" topped with a couple of bull frogs and lizards. Some eating the tails of others, some hiding among the "seaweed". All covered, in direct opposition to good taste, with a range of blue, blue-green, and brown earth tones; applied with a heavy hand. The bottom of it has a crude, warped footing. Ugh! (It's even uglier in detail. See the big photo.) She also brought a small Marquetry box which I find very nice.
I pleaded with Angela to leave the damn plate at home. "It's a high school art project from the 50's. It can't be worth more than a few cents. I'd throw it away rather than put it out at a garage sale." All to no avail; she brought that piece of junk along anyway.
As we passed around the wall from line to studio, the whole event changed. A quick stop at the generalists' table provided us with a red card for each of our items. Two said "Ceramics", one "Arts and Crafts". We headed to the Ceramics line together.
Just as you see on TV, the place has an air of quiet excitement. The appraisal tables are set purposely, but appearing jumbled, in a loose circle around the center production area. There, in the very center, we could see three cameras, two on tripods, one on an articulated boom. They were bobbing and weaving around a small set with two people and an art work on easel. They were doing the pre shooting work to get camera angles and movements planned. There were three or four of these little sets in a circle around the cameras. We all stood in snaking lines between sets and the appraisal tables. If we were lucky enough to be in a line while a shoot was going on, then we'd be on TV!
No such luck. The ceramics line was short and moved quickly. I came up to the table first and handed over my stein with an apologetic look. I didn't want him to think that I believed this to be some great family treasure. It was all I had and I brought it to the experts. He was very nice. Hefting it up he said, "Would be worth more if it was filled with beer. We see lots of these, but rarely so big!" We tittered a bit as he turned it over in his hand. The mark on the bottom was non-descript, the date of 1911 was probably true, but Germany turned out thousands of these steins in the early part of the century. They were tourist items. "About $70 dollars." Whew. More than I expected and at least he didn't start with, "Well I'm sure it has great family value..." The sure sign of a $1.00 appraisal.
As I stepped back, Angela withdrew her plate. I winced as she presented it with an "I have this..." I stood by to console her. At least she still had the box to show.
"Hmmm." the appraiser said, turning the plate from side to side. "Pallisy ware. Don't see much of it."
Huh? He tilts it to the light, looking at all the small creatures. "And a pretty good example too."
What? He runs a finger over the bottom, "No mark, but I think this isn't the low quality stuff from Portugal. This looks like the good stuff from France. About 1850."
He lifts the plate up and to the side and grabs the attention of another appraiser down the table. "Fred!"
"Oh, Pallisy ware. Nice looking piece."
He sets the plate on the table, rocks his head from side to side. Fingers the spot where the head of a lizard had been repaired. "I like this. It's a nice composition. Maybe $850. A bit more if you find a collector who enjoys reptiles."
My jaw was hanging.
Angela turned from the table beaming. In an attempt to cut my loses and eat as little crow as possible, I immediately told her, "I was wrong. You were right. I thought it was junk. You knew it was a treasure."
She smiled that angelic smile at me and I thought this would all pass quickly. I should have known better.
As we moved from the table Angela took the bubble wrap from me and re-shrouded her Pallisy ware. With a small sigh she looked up at me and sweetly said, "So, my plate is worth, let's see, more than ten times what you stein is worth. A-hah!"
Oh no. I'd given her a lot of grief over that plate and it was my turn to be on the receiving end. Shit.
The marquetry box was of some value. The appraisers absolutely drooled over the book. The gold broach was a work of art, listed in some catalogs as worth $900. The funerary items were declared fakes. The doll was worthless. The medicine went unidentified. No one knew what to make of the art deco prints or the swag lamp. Overall we had a great time.
While the others chatted, I left the hall to stand in the foyer, watching the people leave. This was a more somber crowd than when we were waiting to go in. Here I could see dashed hopes. Hopes of value, or hopes of a TV spot. Hopes that the doll or wagon or missile lamp would be worth a kings ransom.
It was quiet as the crowd dribbled out. Perhaps it was just the remains of spent adrenaline, having worked to a fever pitch in the excitement of the event.
I saw only one group leaving that was energized. Renewed almost. It was those kids. Those kids who had to stand quietly in line with their parents. Observing, but not touching. On the backside of the Antiques Roadshow these kids were the winners. As families came out, parents looking dour, the kids were alight. Each was now carrying that very thing they had never been allowed to touch. The dolls, the rocking horses, the wagons. Instead of being the expensive possessions of adults, the Antiques Roadshow's appraisers had turned them back into kids toys.
I think it's for the best.
We made it! The show finally aired a year later. Sacramento made it into three segments. The gang gathered for pasta and drinks in my Saratoga digs.
ReplayTV had the honors of presenting us the show. Deb made us drink every time one of the hosts said "value" and we made up a little game ourselves. Before they present the estimated value we paused the recorder and each of us had to guess at the worth. Then start the tape and see who guesses correctly.
We were a bit drunk perhaps, but this was a great Roadshow party!
Where were we? At one point Toni can be seen walking quickly behind the table of stuff that was being featured. Deb's eagle eyes then picked up Sue's back in the crowd, facing away from the camera. Only a fleeting glimpse, but Sue was wearing the same blouse that night so we know it was a positive id! Yahoo!
Jim Schrempp is a sometimes freelance writer (only Vanity Press will publish his work) living in Saratoga, California. His writings have appeared on numerous pages on his own web site. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of anyone else (although Jim wishes more people shared his opinions)