My Fifteen Minutes

My husband and I are huge fans of Antiques Roadshow. They do their filming in the summer, traveling to venues all over the country. Every time we get notice that the show is filming within 200 miles of us, we try to win tickets. It’s a lottery. You fill out the online form, and if they pick your name, you’re IN! Or you can buy the tickets. For a $500 donation to your local station. *ahem*

Long story short (too late?), we won tickets. There might have been some joyous leaping about and a few high fives. A low moment followed soon after as we remembered that everything we own is crap. And the rules on the ticket are pretty explicit. If you want in, you have to bring something to appraise.

We agonized. We know our stuff is worthless, so the real challenge was to find things that were the least likely to embarrass us. Our decision was made, of course, as we were walking out the door, as all critical decisions should be. The most important requirement for us was that the items not be too heavy because the free parking is always at least half a mile from the door.

The setup was really amazing, and there were already tons of people there.

That is what is known in the business as a long line.

That is what is known in the business as a long line.

It was amazing to see what everyone else brought with them.  Click the images to enlarge.

No cameras were allowed on set, so I have to take you there in my imagination. The set itself was built of blue panels at the center of a giant pinwheel shape. There were openings every 20 feet or so, and three lines fed into each opening. We got tickets for each appraisal line we needed to be in. Since we like each other, my husband and I opted to stay in line together.

Our first stop was jewelry since I had a perfume ring handed down to me by my great-aunt. When I say “handed down,” I mean I swiped it from her jewelry box because no one else wanted it. It looks rather like this.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

When we were finally called for our appraisal, my stomach dropped to my shoes. I was terrified he was going to tell me my prized possession was Avon, circa 1982.  He didn’t, though. He was polite and told me it was a nice piece from the 1940’s with “probably a lot of sentimental value.” Translation: “What you have there is a gen-yoo-ine piece of crap. And the perfume stinks.” Value : under $20.

Next up, porcelain. The line was mercifully short. I brought a small collection of tea cups that same aunt had gathered on her jaunts around the world. Turns out, people don’t buy random tea cups anymore. He indicated that if I had a matching collection with a teapot, it might be worth something. Yes, and if a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its behind on the ground when it hopped, either. Having expected no better, I wasn’t terribly disappointed. We moved on.

We were left with only our stack of old books and a single comic book from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The lines for both Books and Collectibles were daunting, so we decided to split up. I took the books. And I waited. After about an hour, it was my turn. I brought up my beloved books.

Why are old books so pretty? Ever notice that?

Why are old books so pretty? Ever notice that?

The appraiser was one I see on TV every now and again. A friendly type to be sure. He looked at my books like I had just handed him a turd sandwich and opened them one by one. After a moment, he said “Looks like you picked them up at a library sale.” I admitted that a couple had come from a giveaway bin. He made excruciatingly painful eye contact and said “The free bin is pretty much where they belong.” I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t that. I knew my books were not worth anything. I had no idea they were worth nothing.  He went on to say “I can go over them one by one if you like…”

Please don't...

Please don’t…

I took my books and slinked off to join my husband in line.

We met the nicest people. The folks in front of us had an old gramophone. We chatted for a good hour and a half.  Actually, it was a great hour and a half. The best part of being there was talking to people and seeing what everybody brought, guessing who was going to be on TV when the show premieres (again, a hint: not me). I even got a peek at one of the Keno brothers! They wouldn’t let us take pictures, so my rendition will have to do:

keno twin

I feel that I have captured the essence of unidentified Keno twin

Finally, it was our turn at the table. The appraisers were super-busy and were doing all kinds of research on the items that were brought in, so we had to wait a little bit more. Our gramophone friends found out their player was worth $500. The lady in front of us was told that her silver is a national treasure and was worth $10-15,000. The guy at the next table had a pair of Muhammad Ali’s autographed shoes and was signing the pre-filming paperwork. With each appraisal, my husband’s whimper grew louder. How do you follow up Muhammad Ali’s shoes with a comic book?

With an apologetic smile, he presented his book. The appraiser slid her glasses down her nose and told him the book wasn’t exactly old enough to be an antique. Time to go, honey!

Walk of shame, With my shoebox. Turns out if I dropped it, the stuff wouldn't be worth much less than it already is.

Walk of shame, With my shoebox. Turns out if I dropped it, the stuff wouldn’t be worth much less than it already is.

Was our time at Antiques Roadshow mortifying? You betcha! Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. I haven’t laughed that hard in I don’t know when, and the line about the free-bin was priceless. We’re getting a lot of mileage out of it. But we’d take some different stuff.

Let's do this again sometime. After the scars heal.

Let’s do this again sometime. After the scars heal.


If there’s enough interest, I may do a giveaway of my appraised books. They were worthless before. Now they have provenance.

58 thoughts on “My Fifteen Minutes

    • All the good stuff is still in the possession of the older members of our family. And they won’t put you on TV if you don’t own it outright. It was a really interesting experience.

  1. I am so incredibly jealous of you!! I want to go to Antiques Roadshow. I too would front up with worthless junk and try not to be too disheartened. I would also like to be on Bargain Hunt, the host is hilarious!

    • It was the coolest! Check their website next April to see where they are going to be. It never hurts to try!

      I think the reason we had such a great time was because we knew we didn’t have anything of value and therefore no hopes of being on television. One guy we talked to was told his stuff was fake. That would be so much worse!

  2. Okay. So your stuff might have been ‘free bin’ quality (did he have to say it like that?! Geesh), but this reenactment? Priceless. Seriously. I’m so glad they didn’t allow cameras, because this was a riot.

    • He did have to say it like that. But I read a quote from him in the AR magazine. and he basically said “First editions aren’t automatically valuable because most books don’t go into a second printing, and most never should have been published in the first place.” So I didn’t take it personally.

  3. I feel like you kind of know how obsessed I am with everything related to PBS, so I don’t need to tell you how jealous I am that you got to go. So cool! I have always thought about what I’d bring if I got a chance to go to AR, and like you, I would probably end up panicking and bringing something essentially valueless.

  4. Awww…you should’ve told me beforehand. I’ve got lotsa Ancient Chinese Snuff Bottles, mismatched teacups, bronze figurines and Ming Dynasty vases — all made in Taiwan circa 1982.

  5. My face felt warm with embarrassment as I read your description about the value of your books! So sorry to hear that! However, just because they’re not worth much didn’t mean the guy had to be so rude about it. After all, how many times has someone presented what they thought might be valuable on Pawn Stars or even Roadside Antiques, and it turned out to be worth A LOT like $20,000 or something? You’re no expert, so I say – don’t beat yourself up about it. Glad you had a good time! 🙂

    • I am now kind of glad he was the way he was because we have laughed so hard over it ever since. Even the nice people in line for collectibles said that was their take-away. When the show airs, I will be the one in the background roaring with laughter. That was me!

      Most people we talked to were told their stuff wasn’t valuable. Some appraisers were just nicer than others.

  6. Totally impressed that you made it there. The closest I got to the show was when my friend Lynn was on it and they filmed her! That’s it. I can say I know someone that appeared on the show. At least you got to go and hang out. How I envy thee……

      • Actually turned out to be a pretty cool jewelry from her mother. One of those things like…”Uh, you actually wore that out in public and no one killed you for it? Wow!” stories. I’m thinking of looping the audio and making it her ringtone!


    This made me think of an episode of “Will and Grace” where Grace and Jack were trying to trick the Antiques Roadshow people and purposely brought on junk and pretended they thought it was worth so much money just to be told it was worth nothing because the funniest thing in the world to them was seeing people’s little crushed faces when they were disappointed. (I think that’s funny, too, but only when it’s someone pompous who goes on with such an attitude. When it’s a cute little old lady, I feel TERRIBLE for them.)

    I have nothing of value whatsoever so I wouldn’t even try…unless…wait. HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK DUMBCAT IS WORTH?

    Priceless. Priceless, would be their answer.

    • I missed that episode, methinks.

      We talked to a couple of people who found out their items were fake. And they were nice folks, so it was sad. There were a few people who were strutting around in fancy-dress because they *knew* they were going to be filmed (*ahem* antique dealers who weren’t supposed to be there in the first place).

      • I watched one once with this arrogant man who collected meerschaum pipes, and he was all, “I spent $1,000 on this one, but I KNOW it’s worth TWENTY TIMES THAT, I totally tricked the person I bought it from” and he was SO JERKY and I laughed SO HARD when the appraiser was all “Um. This is made of plastic. So….no. It’s worth about $20. Sorry.” That guy got SO SPUTTERY. Heh.

  8. Is a perfume ring basically what it sounds like? How do you apply the perfume? This is intriguing.
    Also, your face is priceless in the “Please don’t” photo XD

  9. Glad that you had fun. So many times meeting up with the real people behind the shows doesn’t meet up with expectations. Sounds like yours did and you had fun. A bonus.

    My hubby is a huge fan of Pawn Stars. I told him it is like Antique Roadshow without the antique. Maybe they would have liked your books? I am sure the comic book at least. 😉

  10. I’m imagining the book guy to be like the fancy bear in the freecreditscore commercial. “This… belongs in the trash.”

  11. I so enjoyed your adventure. As for me, I have TONS of stuff to take: The antique gaming table — it just has a few specks of paint where my dad forgot to cover it when painted the living room. Or how about the Lenox teapot — if you hold it just right, the chip doesn’t show. Oh, yeah, lots of stuff..

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  13. This is great! I work in public TV – so it’s wonderful to read about people’s experiences with “ARS” (as we call it in ‘the biz’ – and because I’m too lazy to type it out all the time). I rather want to go and bring something purchased at Wal-Mart 🙂

    Whoo hoo – the KINO BROTHERS! Looks like you drew Leslie there – hee hee… JK – I’d not know one Kino from another. I just run the ratings data!

  14. Thanks for that peek behind the scenes of AR – hilarious! Bargain Hunt would be much more fun I think (and saves having to bring something of your own) – I love it when the experts bomb out. Nothing has any monetary value unless someone wants to buy it. Your experience though: priceless.

  15. coolest weekend adventure ever! How fun, I love that show. A few years back I inherited my sisters couple dozen antique beaded purses when she passed away. After a few weeks I took them to a local antique shop where I lived just to get a good idea of their value and how I should protect/preserve them. The woman (not the owner, a consultant with a clothing booth) was so horrifically rude. She seemed offended to even talk to me, I told her my story (sister JUST died) and she flipped open my boxes, picked up and tossed aside half of them (despite how carefully they were packed) and told me they were essentially worth nothing, although she’d (sigh, if she MUST) take a few off me, repair them herself at (huff, puff) great inconvenience to her, and maybe sell them, maybe. I’ve never ever wanted to punch out a middle aged woman in an antique store surrounded by elegance and history so badly in my life. Horrid woman with no class and zero sympathy. wow. At least on the roadshow they seem humorous and/or your neighbors in line care. Will you go again? Buy something in a local shop to take with you! 🙂

  16. I too have a small collection of tea cups & saucers which were my great-grandmother’s. No one else in my family has kept any of them. When I told my daughter I wanted to pass them down to her she looked at me like I had grown a 3rd eye in the middle of my forehead (she’s over 30 BTW). Apparently NOBODY collects anything like this anymore. Here in Canada we don’t even have the Antiques Roadshow to bring them to either.

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