Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Winter 2008

I wonder how much a complete set of Challenger would go for?

"So This Is The Roadshow"

Binker Glock Hughes


The great news in Louisville a year or so ago was "The Antiques Roadshow is coming!" Not quite "Santa Claus is coming to town" and not quite "Godzilla Alert", but somewhere in between.

Then, nothing. For months.

Next we heard was during the PBS fall "Pledge Week". Lo and behold, a disruptive "pledge break" in the Roadshow timeframe announced that -- for Only an arm-and-a-leg pledged -- you could get a "thank you gift" of two Roadshow tickets (leg-only for a single ticket). Each ticket allowed two appraisals. I looked at the outrageous collection of stuff here and, still being solvent, pledged an arm-and-a-leg.

A month or so later, they announced they were looking for A Few Large Items for the Roadshow. Send in your photos! If chosen, they would provide transport for the object and two tickets. I looked at the outrageous collection of stuff and knew I ought to do something, but my good cameras were stolen from the Georgia place. That meant disposables. It took several (and many delays for more pressing matters) before I finally sent photos of about 20 items as three-to-a-page color copies from my computer's wonderful printer.

That was late January or so -- late enough that I figured they'd already picked their items. In fact, I'm sure of it, since I saw the stuff at the show and some of it was easily outgunned by stuff here. I also sent a postcard to their drawing for tickets, since PBS had sent nothing but a pleasant thank you for my arm-and-a-leg (and could I send still more?)

Eventually, in mid-June, the tickets arrived. Whew! Then I had to figure out what to take. I meant to take a couple of my grandparents' oriental rugs (maybe from his parents/grandparents), and some other householdish things. Then I thought about what would/wouldn't fit locked in my vehicle. That led to a list of two dozen items that I kept trying to winnow.

Then, about a week before the Roadshow, I opened a box and found it full of prints -- maybe etchings, maybe lithos, maybe photolitho, maybe something else, but of a vintage and range of subjects that told me they were from my grandparents/greatgrandparents' day. Better take that.

Then there were my dad's golf clubs, which he got new in spring 1941. Rarely used, they include Hillerich & Bradsby persimmon woods and a complete set of Robt. T. Jones signature irons (steel-shafted imprinted woodgrain), in a canvas and leather carry bag. I had written Sotheby's about them since a local golfclub expert had seemed impressed with them and had never before seen a full set of the Jones irons (though he showed me one in a book he had). Sotheby's had asked for detailed photos, but in my photo situation, it made sense to take them to the Roadshow and see what an appraiser said.

That left one item to extract from my long list. Finally I decided on some pearls I inherited 25 years ago from my grandmother to see if they were real or fake. She was of wealthy enough family that they might be real, but had replaced some of her good jewelry with fake at one point. I put some in a bag that would fit in my purse and thought I had everything settled. Sure, I kept dithering, but this was it -- rugs, golf clubs, lithos, pearls. So there.

Then came the fatal morning. I carried the stuff downstairs and immediately had second thoughts. At this point it becomes useful to know how the ticket deal works.

The difference between PBS tickets and those from the drawing is that those issued in the drawing (about 3,400) were divided into ten hourly appointments, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The ones from PBS had no timeslot specified, so one could enter any time. I had meant to take two, leaving the other two locked in the truck; return, swap, and take the other two. As it got later and later before I could leave, though, I started thinking about taking all four and seeing if I could give them both tickets at once. I'd made a half-hearted attempt to find somebody local to come along, but was more relieved than disappointed when I failed. So I had to be able to carry All of it, All the way from wherever I could park, All through the line, and All the time I was in there. Hmmm.

I tried -- just Tried -- to sling the golf bag and purse over my shoulder, pick up the carpets with the box of lithos on top, and walk without calamity. Not a chance. Since there was measurable curiosity about the clubs and my only question with the carpets is whether I can go back to walking on them or have to hang them on a wall and protect them, the carpets stayed home. Instead, I took an odd brass ball thing, with hanging hook, separable top half, and pierced, adorned with non-glass/non-plastic fake jewels for light to shine through. Maybe they could tell me something about it. It would be easier to carry at least.

Surprisingly -- since I-64 was still closed for repairs in the critical area -- I was able to find my way downtown okay, only got Slightly messed-up by the absurd one-way system, and found the place. Next, to find parking. I found a parking meter a couple of blocks away, but it said Two Hour Parking Only. I got back into the Dunadan (the truck's name, in case you haven't met it -- it's dark gray/green and a Ranger, so the name was obvious), and went closer to the Convention Center. I saw signs for Public Parking, but the first entrance said Monthly Only. The two beside that one said Do Not Enter, so I turned into the Next one. It went nowhere in particular. A loading zone maybe? Thank God there was someone in sight, so I hollered over to him and told him my dilemma. It turned out that, by following this underneath-it-all route, I could come out on a street near an entrance. I did -- and found I could even Enter the entrance if I managed a tight left U-turn. Then it was just take a ticket and merge with the upbound string of vehicles.

Even more surprisingly, I found a parking place only half-a-layer above a "skywalk" that crosses from the parking deck to the Convention Center. That's when I started meeting Roadshow fans. Waiting for the line of cars ahead of me to move, I was cheerfully greeted by a woman unloading their car. Was I going to the Roadshow? She was Thrilled it was here! They had driven several hours from central Ohio. While she told me what they'd brought, the person parked across from them pulled out, and left me a parking space! Whee! I pulled in and we went down to the skywalk together.

It was fairly elaborate to get from that entrance to the Roadshow area -- down an escalator, find a hallway to the other end and back up another escalator -- but there were signs, and enough people carrying odds and ends, that it wasn't hard. They did let me show both tickets and take everything in at once.

Entering the main waiting area, I was given a program and directed to the end of the 1 o'clock line since my ticket didn't have a set appointment. That sounded great until I noticed the line wound back and forth across the full width of the large hall like a giant fanfold serpent. I traversed at least 5-6 of these across-and-back loops before getting to the door to the appraisal area.

The line Did keep moving, but there was more than enough time to become acquainted with everybody in the vicinity. Chairs at intervals, anchoring the Antiques Roadshow banners that separated the sections of the line, let me put down the box and brass ball at one point. Some people snagged banners as souvenirs -- some just sat and rested their feet. Very kindly, the husband of the couple ahead of me -- about old enough to be my kids -- carried the bag of clubs much of the way when he saw how clumsily I was managing it.

As distraction for those waiting, they had large projection screens with close-captioned episodes of past Antiques Roadshows and occasional Roadshow trivia, mostly of major appraisals; but the neighborly what-did-you-bring and how-far-did-you-come and have-you-been-to-one-before mostly filled the time.

Then -- at last! at last! -- the door to the appraisal area hove into view. In the last half of the last line section, volunteers came and tore stubs off tickets -- and we were at the door. To right and left, they had rows of tables where we went to have our stuff categorized. For me, that meant Prints & Posters, Metalwork, Jewelry, and (for the golf clubs) Arms & Militaria, of all things. They gave me theatre-ticket size tickets with those names on them and turned me over to another volunteer to lead me to the right line.

Inside the main room, beyond the general-assignment area, they had the Actual appraisal area curtained off, with openings near the corners. Lining outer edge of that appraisal area were 6' to 8' refectory tables, each with 2 or 3 appraisers sitting side by side. Behind them hung signs identifying subject areas such as you may have noticed on broadcasts.

The volunteer put me in the longest of my four lines -- Prints & Posters. It wound clear to the other end of the appraisal area and back again, behind the place where Mark Wahlberg (the host they've returned to this season) was trying to keep from breaking up while filming a promo for the new series of shows. As my part of the line neared his location, those of us less than eager to have our mugs on TV turned away.

The real oddity about it all was recognizing people -- not people in line, but appraisers. To someone who has watched the show at all regularly, these people are as familiar as co-workers routinely passed in the hall. The "usual suspects" were all there -- all looking a trifle more "real" than they look on TV and both "larger" and "smaller" than life. Some of the tall ones are 4+" taller than they appear on TV and some of those who seem "ordinary" height are 2-4 inches shorter than I expected. Most strange. In repose, some look much older than they appear when animated giving an appraisal on TV; while others look almost callow, so enthralled have they been with their subjects that perhaps they've put off the rest of life. That, to me, was the most interesting aspect of being there in person.

As for the appraisals, the lithos are photolithos of great art, not with any major value, but I suspect I can sell those I don't keep to a frame/art gallery inexpensively, then let them frame them up and resell them at a decent price. I'll be scouting for suitable buyers as convenient. The pearls are mostly fake, but a couple of strands are worth going to the trouble of x-raying, which turns out to be the only way to really tell. The golf clubs may have been misappraised -- clubs didn't seem to be the guy's forte and he didn't recognize the oddity of the Hillerich & Bradsby clubs or the complete set of signature irons -- but he said about $100 for the bag and about $50 each for the H&B woods, with about $25 each for the others. I've passed those remarks on to Sotheby's, assuming that puts them out of range for any of their (high-priced) auctions, but will try to sell the bag, maybe on e-Bay, since there's a group that does that not far from here. Carrying it in line convinced me I would Never want to use it on a course! At such low prices for the others, though, I'll probably hang onto them to duff around with if I ever get time to mess with golf again.

And the absurd brass ball? It stumped the appraiser as much as it stumps me! He said the piercings and general appearance reminded him of some Czechoslovakian metalwork he'd seen, but we don't know if it's an incense burner (best guess) or what.

After leaving the appraisal area, there was the Feedback Booth -- which I avoided like the plague. There was also a table with a spinner to get a souvenir (e.g., T-shirt -- I still haven't dug into the small box of whatever I got to see what it is), and there were a couple of tables with the business cards/etc. of appraisers (I collected a few).

Then it was trying to retrace my steps to the skywalk -- a challenge, since it turns out there's more than one. Thanks to one of the Convention Center's people, however, I got there, then back to my truck and home.

So there you have it, sportsfans. A Day At The Roadshow. Surprisingly, I had only been parked 3-4 hours when I emerged. If I had taken more easily carryable things, it would have been possible to spend more time just hanging around watching or -- as some people did -- collect appraiser autographs. No cameras or other recording devices were allowed, but I expect we'll see all we want when it's finally shown.

The new season will begin in January, with episodes taped in Baltimore June 16, Orlando June 30, San Antonio July 14, Louisville July 28, Spokane August 4, and Las Vegas August 18. They won't decide the sequence in which they'll air the different cities until all are taped.

The real heroes of this affair are the volunteers. They were everywhere, knowledgeable, helpful, and patient with those who -- like some behind me in line -- only wanted to be on TV or had other demands that were beyond the volunteers" control. They did everything -- helped the film crews, kept lines moving, and kept appraisers from being needlessly hassled without giving offense. Hats off to them!


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