Letters to the Editor: Is there a “Roadshow” effect? Is it good, or bad?

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In conversation with many dealers and auctioneers, as well as buyers, one phrase always comes up. At some point they talk about “the Roadshow mentality,” or “the Roadshow effect.”

roadshow trunk.jpgIn case you’ve been antiquing under a rock for the last 10+ years, PBS’ hit program The Antiques Roadshow, has made stars of its charismatic appraisers, has brought a whole different audience to antiques and, yes, has had an obvious effect on the way people view their antiques, as well as the value of them.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have worked with many of the Roadshow appraisers, and have always found them to be gracious and giving of their time and expertise. It must also be noted that what they give on the show is not an official, legally binding appraisal, but rather a professional opinion of value – much different.

The question we asked this week, then: Have appraisal-themed television shows, or appraisal events at local shows or shops, benefited you as an antique buyer or dealer? Any opinion of the “Roadshow” effect?

As you can see, we had quite a response. We’ve put in what we can, edited for space.

If you want to get in on the dialogue, and sign up for our weekly e-newsletter, then go online to www.antiquetrader.com and register.

Noah:

I am the author of “Victorian Opalescent Glass Price Guide on CD” now in its 12th edition. I can’t say that the Antiques Roadshow has or has not contributed to the increase or decrease in collecting what I deal in.

One thing that I have seen in the last 20 years is the steady decline in the number of collectors. All the cities and towns I regularly visit continually have more and more antique store closures. The older generation of collectors is dieing off. People are retiring and getting out of the business, and, the most important single reason I can think of, is the younger generations: they haven’t got a clue, and to be perfectly honest, they don’t care. This trend is going to continue unless something is done to spark their interest.

I used to write a monthly column called, “It was Grandma’s,” for The Maine Journal of Antiques and Collectibles. I once wrote an article called “The Magic 50 years.” Let’s say you’re 20 and you get married in the year 1950. You’re married for 50 years and it’s now the year 2000. You’re 70. The contents of your home get cleaned out and all your wedding gifts from 1950 now find their way back into the antique and collectible marketplace. This is the reason why people today are calling things from the ’50s antiques.

Our children today don’t care about collecting anything. They don’t want things to clutter up their lives, and this trend is going to continue. I predict in the next 10 to 20 years, the antique marketplace will be dead. Just my opinion.

Bill Banks

Noah:

My answer: Yes.

I have been collecting antiques and collectibles for 20-odd years. These reality shows must be used to gain info only. An “appraisal” is only a guestimate of that one item. Attention to all detail seems to be the key to collecting the items I enjoy. The old saying, buyer beware, has never been more true. Just because “they” say a certain item is worth “x” amount, could you possibly sell it for that?

The shows are good for info on collecting, though not accurate on dollar re-sale.

Jolene Neufeld

Dear Noah:

To much credence is given to the shows like Antique Roadshow, and to its appraisers.

A few years ago they made it to Las Vegas to tape one of their shows. My wife and I obtained tickets and, on the big day, packed our “stuff” and headed off. As you can well imagine it was a cattle call, but a lot of fun. When our turn came, we presented some art pieces we had collected and knew something about. The experts knew nothing and could not find any documentation on the Internet,” or in any books they had with them.

The occasional Philadelphia block front is always fun to see, but I feel that too much emphasis is put on the Roadshow’s expertise and its abilities to appraise, on the spot.

As collectors we must do our own homework and get as much provenance as we can before consulting the “experts.”

Thank you

Larry Tobias
Henderson, Nevada

Happy New Year Noah:

Thank you for addressing this topic. As an estate liquidator in the Palm Springs, CA area, and former shop owner (The Schlep Sisters) in San Francisco, I can share my personal experience. The Antique Roadshow has made a significant impact on the marketplace.

You stated it quite accurately from my perspective. I would like to add to that, on the human nature side of things, what has not changed with new venues is the sentimental value of items… The memory of the turkey platter that Mama used every Christmas, which has a large ding in it, might have been considered valuable without the flaw, but resale value is almost nil. Condition, condition, condition. Not age, age, age.

Old does not equate valuable… In fact, I’m finding that less and less collectors are interested in what I find more interesting and valuable – such as 18th and 19th century decorative items, including silver (plate). The younger collector is more interested in Moderne and doesn’t have the household staff to iron the damask tablecloths, or polish the silver on the sideboard, and is not interested visually in that time period.

Having said all that, it is a personal opinion based on my experience in a specific locale, and could be considered just as a broad generalization.

Thanks,

Kate Ullman
Palm Desert, CA

Noah:

As an established dealer, I feel that it has hurt to some degree, in that people that bring things into the shop to sell think they should get top dollar, since “that’s what it is worth.”

They don’t realize that they are a wholesaler when they bring it to the shop. When you then offer them 50% to 60%, they think you are trying to rip them off and generally leave in a huff. We have been in business for 40 years (75 yrs combined experience) and have seen this business slowly decline, due to the “Antique programs,” eBay, the economy, and lack of interest in the younger buyers that won’t buy anything older than themselves.

Sincerely,

Bob Mitchell
Hidden Acres Antiques
Joplin, Mo.

Noah:

As much as I love Antiques Roadshow, I have found that, with the general public getting educated from same, it is much more difficult to find “treasures.” Whereas previously one could pay a great price for a piece that, ultimately, had much greater value (thereby allowing for a more than fair profit), today everyone looks for top dollar even if the item has little or no value. People who never cared before are on the hunt for that one piece that will make them rich. Not just dealers or true lovers of antiques… like everything else today, it’s all about money.

Ilenne Tyman
Las Vegas, NV 89106

Hey Noah:

I love reading all of the antique and collectables publications and watching the various “antique roadshow” television shows, and they do influence what my customers will pay for something when they buy it from me. Those same things, though, also hurt me too, especially when it comes to buying. So I’m not sure if “ignorance is bliss” or not.

I guess it all depends on whether you’re on the receiving side or the selling side. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be putting myself, or my customers, into the “victim” category (ignorance) and try to keep it in a positive sense: the value of something is only what somebody is willing to pay for it.

Terry Wert
Terry’s Treasures
Greensboro NC

Hi:

My business has not benefited from The Roadshow and, in fact, has been hurt by it.

I handle late 1800s to early 1900s furniture. Most of it has to be refinished due to condition, or it has been painted. The Roadshow always says not to refinish a piece, because it takes away from its value. That’s hogwash! Good restoration, in my opinion, always enhances the value, not the opposite.

I recently sent an email questioning the appraisal of a sugar chest. It was in excellent condition because it had been well cared for, but not refinished. The appraiser said if it were in poorer condition, it would be worth another $100,000. Why take care of a nice piece of furniture? The Roadshow replied that they were on the road and the appraisers were somewhere else. Consequently, no answer.

Don Hurta

Noah:

The Antique Roadshow has been nothing but detrimental to the antique business as a whole from the get go. It sensationalizes everything, Hollywood-style, with no regard to the long-term affect it may have on the antique business.

I’m sure there has been some good from it showing the hand picked few people with items that have some treasure that is worth mentioning on television, but it makes it hard to deal with the average person who now wants more for their item than any retailer could possibly get in their shop. I will be glad when the day comes when this “Roadshow” finely comes to an end.

Rick Wilkins

Noah:

I was in an antique mall in the early 2000s – I asked the owner if she would like to run a special after hours “Roadshow” event. She said yes, if I would do some of the appraising. I rounded up another dealer and set the time for an hour after closing, 4 p.m. At 3 p.m., people were lined up with their arms full – we went until 8 p.m. Everyone was very patient, no one left until they had their turn. Everyone wanted to know when we would do it again.

Maggie Abbott
Norton, Ohio

Hi Noah:

My husband and I “enjoy” the Antiques Roadshow, but look at it as entertainment only. After seeing a very high appraisal given on an item, my husband says “Sold!” half in jest.

The Roadshow makes for good TV, but are the items shown really worth what the appraiser offers? We collect antique electric fans and oyster plates. We’ve never seen any of these items on the show. I don’t feel that the Roadshow really gives a true cross section of items people collect or the reality of antique values.

Debi Sherrill

Hi Noah:

As a former storeowner and mall manager for many years in Southern California I would absolutely, unequivocally, say that the Roadshow effect has hurt the business.

It was, however, inevitable. Add to the Roadshow effect the eBay effect and the Craigs List effect – the whole Internet effect – and the dissemination of information and the shrinking of the global village and you’ve got a whole heck of a lot more folks who think they know at least a little. As Ben Franklin said, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!

I’m sure they’re out there, but I don’t know offhand any other business that’s been hurt as much by the Internet. I don’t think that the “Roadshow” could have done as much damage without it.

What those very nice and very available Roadshow appraisers don’t tell their guests, or the audience for that matter, is that though their item has been appraised – by sight, mind you, not a full-fledged, researched appraisal (something else the masses don’t know the difference between) – at some astronomical price, you then must find an auction house willing to sell it, and they’ll take 50%.

What the public DOESN’T figure out is that not only are there many layers and levels of selling and buying (and collecting) antiques, it’s just as valid a business as whatever it is they do!

Maybe Antiques Roadshow did bring more people into my shop, and maybe, just maybe, they might buy something. Usually not.

So yes, the Antiques Roadshow effect linked with the Internet effect has hurt the business beyond repair. The 1980s and 1990s (and even the first few years of the new century) were the salad days of the antiques business, never to be seen again. If one wants to stay in the business, one either has to have loads of cash (of course that’s always been true to an extent) or be very Internet savvy and willing to sit behind your computer for hours upon hours every day… Something I’m not particularly willing to do.

Best Regards,

Phil Fabian, Owner
Collective Past & Presents
Huntington Beach, CA

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