The Roadshow? Love it/Hate it (Circle one)

It’s hard not to have an opinion about PBS’s venerable Antiques Roadshow television program. It’s been around for more than a decade now, and has done more than any single thing – more than even eBay – to raise the profile of the antiques business with the general American public. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on you.

For some, the story on our front page this week about The Roadshow’s 2008 season will be welcome news. Get out the popcorn, sharpen your prognosticating skills and see it you can match opinions of value with the show’s appraisers. Maybe you’ll think about that piece of glass Grandma gave you, or that box of dusty things Uncle Louie in Pacoima left you years ago.

For some, however, you’ll be better suited to check out this week’s Letters to the Editor. In the weekly question of Trader’s Jan. 16 issue, we asked a thinly veiled question about The Roadshow’s effect on everyday buyers and sellers. No readers who responded were ambivalent, and some were quite vehement. All, however, had to agree that the show has had a serious impact on the consciousness of buyers as to the worth of their antiques, and their ability to determine such.

I have no opinion, but I will tell you that I’ve had many occasions to work with different Roadshow personalities, and have always found them to be gracious, dedicated and serious. This does not, and should not, dull the swirl of attitude around the show, or my desire to probe reader opinion of it.

What cannot be ignored is the fact that the show has made stars out of its appraisers and auctioneers – it’s hard to believe I just wrote that sentence – and that it has brought the idea of antiques to a much larger audience than it has ever reached before.

Good? Bad? Has it brought new blood into the business? Has it skewed public reasoning on the value of antiques? Has it made antiques just another potential cash grab for the greedy? Or has it shown the business of antiques that there is a broader interest in the subject than previously thought? Has it then pointed to our failure to capitalize on it?

Who can say? I’m here only to point to the dichotomy of the thinking around the show within the business, and to try to create a dialogue to understand it.

One thing is for certain: The Antiques Roadshow is not going to go away anytime soon. PBS has never had a more commercially successful series, and that’s what it’s about. It’s a numbers game for the network; love and hate have nothing to do with it. Who can blame them?

For us, however, the people that live and die by the business, Roadshow love and hate can mean a lot; they are the collective yardstick by which we measure our own involvement in the argument, and – trust me, after reading this week’s letters – there is no in-between.

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