CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) – It’s sort of like sending your attic and yard sale finds to Cinderella’s ball.
The 13th season of Antiques Roadshow starts airing this month on PBS, once again giving everyday people the chance to learn if a particular possession is treasure or trash. But the filming for the folksy treasure hunt happened months ago.
When the reality TV program stopped in Chattanooga, hundreds of ticket holders were waiting at 6 a.m. on a Saturday in July, some with children’s wagons and dollies carrying the two items _ newly dusted antiques, heirlooms or collectibles – they are allowed to bring for appraisals.
The main requirement: Items to be appraised must fit through a standard door.
The sun rose with dozens of the randomly selected ticket-holders in line outside the downtown convention center, rehearsing over and over, Welcome to Antiques Roadshow! and after repeated prompts by the production crew to say it louder for the TV microphones, repetitive screams of Welcome to Chattanooga!
That frenzy of appraisals will be shown three straight weeks – March 30, April 6 and April 13 – as PBS’ highest rated and six-time Emmy nominated series starts its new season tonight at 8 p.m. EST. There are 20 episodes, including a 2008 lineup of stops with host Mark L. Walberg and a cast of thousands that includes collectors from Chattanooga and five other U.S. cities: Palm Springs, Calif.; Dallas; Wichita, Kan.; Grand Rapids, Mich. and Hartford, Conn. The Hartford stop will be shown on three episodes in May.
One of the more than 70 appraisers, Shiloh Civil War Relics owner Rafael Eledge of Savannah, Tenn., said between meetings with collectors in Chattanooga that Antiques Roadshow is the best gig there is in the antique trade.
“When you make it to this stage and you have your name go across the bottom of the screen with that little Antiques Roadshow chest, that’s the pinnacle of what you could hope for in our business,” Eledge said.
He said the real reason for the show’s success is the makeup of the 3,400 recipients of the two free tickets.
“If you noticed the line, this is one of the few shows that brings out every walk of life,” Eledge said. “You’ll have somebody in a three-piece suit, you have somebody with a Dale Junior shirt and the next person will have a nose ring and chains hanging off of them. There is no other show that can do that.”
Seventy-six-year-old Barbara Barker of Chattanooga coursed slowly through the crowded convention center pulling an antique children’s wagon. Her cargo of mask face Santas and a straw-page book – a publication from about 1915 she found in an attic box at an estate sale – did not get her on television. But an appraiser said the book would probably sell in the $800 to $1,200 range to a “very specialist collector.”
Barker handled the book as if it was priceless.
“This is written on straw and at that time rags were popular,” she said. “You see how well preserved?”
Barker said just attending the show was a thrill.
“I have collected since I was in high school,” she said.
Also in Chattanooga, one top-dollar collectible picked for appraisal was Creig Moore’s French Louis XV-style clock from around 1850. It appraised for $20,000 to $25,000.
Moore, who owns Sagetown Collectors Gallery in Scottsboro, Ala., said he was shocked that the appraisal was twice what he thought was the value.
A longtime collector and antique dealer, Moore said he had bought the brass with gold overlay clock about six months earlier from a buddy in Birmingham, without even knowing if it works.
“I had gone to his house and saw it in his garage in a huge basket,” Moore said. “He said, ‘That’s an old clock I picked up in New Orleans about 10 years ago…I’ll sell it to you.'”
Moore, 45, said the clock “ran perfectly” when he got it home and he thought it was worth about $10,000.
“Once they looked at the clock, they didn’t tell me anything about it except to ask if they could put it on the show,” Moore said.
Moore said the appraiser told him it was the “best made clock of that era he had ever seen.”
He is still trying to sell it.
“I call it my lucky garage sale find because it was in his garage,” Moore said.
Moore watches the program regularly and is looking forward to the airing of the Chattanooga shows, which is the first time he’ll know if he made the final cut.
“I’ll definitely be watching,” Moore said.
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