For the treasure seeker in us all

As I see it, there are two reasons why Antiques Roadshow’s popularity has secured the show’s spot in PBS’s programming roster for the last 14 years.

The thrill of the hunt appeals to the treasure hunter in us all. Stories of priceless antiques narrowly avoiding death by trash can or forgotten heirlooms snapped up at a rummage sale for pennies on the dollar keep us on the edge of our seats. I love watching an expert on the Roadshow excitedly explain a rare piece – its history and important design aspects – to its owner who then blurts out that she almost threw it away after using it to make popsicles for the neighborhood kids for 30 years.

Stories like these give us all hope that we, too, may someday discover an item that is truly rare and truly an antique.

This trash-to-treasure mentality piqued the interest of visitors. They logged a record number of visits to Anne Gilbert’s ASK AT appraisal last week of a Tiffany desk box. The owner purchased the box, decorated with what’s believed to be a hard-to-find “pine needle” pattern, for a mere $40 at a local rummage sale. Gilbert set the value at more than $1,000. More than 900 visitors have already logged on to read about the discovery.

On page 18, a collection of Chinese jade recently appraised at a Roadshow stop has just such a story. The collection broke the record as the most valuable item ever appraised in the history of the American version of the British-adapted television show. One woman’s father spent years searching for the jade pieces while stationed in China for the U.S. military. One bowl in the collection (that was likely carved for an emperor) was stolen from her brother’s Florida home and then sold to a man for $3,000. The family managed to track it down but had to pay $5,000 to get it back.

Our coverage of the July 11 Madison, Wis., Roadshow stop on page 16 offers a classy, behind-the-scenes look at the controlled chaos that takes place during tapings. It’s easy to see why antiques shows are still relevant and important ways to buy antiques. Our coverage of the July Brimfield Antiques Show on page 22 is all about the thrill of the hunt.

The second reason Antiques Roadshow is so popular is rooted in the objects themselves. Appraisers take the time to describe eloquently the craftsmanship, materials and methods artisans used to create the objects. Who doesn’t get excited watching the Keno twins practically quiver when they talk about the practice of Colonial furniture experts? Their careful selection of pine, maple or cherry made sure the furniture looked spectacular and help it survive hundreds of years. Careful descriptions of how pieces are made build appreciation of lost arts, such as hand chased silver, Native American weaving and hand carvings.

Take some time to research your favorite antique and collectible or write down how it came to your family. Who knows, by the 100th season it may be your ancestor on the other side of that podium, Antiques Roadshow 2095.

Eric Bradley