Sunday, July 25, 2010
The Antiques Roadshow
I’m planning to go to the Antiques Roadshow! I’m ready to cross it off my bucket list. What should I take to the show? It would be nice to have an item worth a lot of money but I don’t. Even if I did that is no guarantee the item will be selected for television. The book Antiques Roadshow Behind the Scenes by Marsha Bemko gives an insider’s view of how the show works. She tells the story of an individual who brought to the Roadshow a Honus Wagner baseball card. This particular card is considered the most valuable of all baseball cards. Copies have sold for well over a million dollars. Yet, the card did not make it onto the show. Why? The owner knew its value. Most collectors know it is worth a fortune. So why put it on television? To do so is simply not good TV. It does not surprise, educate or entertain the audiance.
If you have watched the show long enough you realize a good story and a good reaction from the guest are both as important as the object itself. I don’t have anything of great value. At least anything I’m aware of I searched the house as soon as I found out about the tickets. Believe it or not I could not locate a single Faberge egg, Tiffany lamp, or Patek Phillip watch. I checked everywhere but no luck.
Of the objects I own that have some limited value, I generally have some idea of their worth. Thus, it is pointless to have someone tell me what I already know. Why waste my one opportunity with this caliber of antique experts to have them tell me what I already know.
What I want to bring must be rare. Yet, rare may not be enough. Some things are rare because no one wants them. There are only fifty “The Law Office of Scott Lerner” tote bags in all the world. Are they rare? Yes. Are they valuable? No. Something is valuable because there is a demand for it. It all comes down to supply and demand. Thus, even with a very low supply, without the demand an item will have little value. So yes, I’m looking for rare, but at the same time, I want to pick something someone wants.
Being old is also nice but may not be the deciding factor. Supply and demand also might explain why being old is not the same as being valuable.Some things that are old are not worth as much as the same things that are new. Think of that freezer from the 1950's in your basement. Consider the value of a Star Wars or Beatles lunch box compared to a turn of the century lunch pail. Being old in no guarantee of being valuable. There was bad craftsmanship two hundred years ago as well as today. As a general rule I would prefer a 200 year old chair to the one I pick up at Walmart, but age alone is not enough.
Being cool, trendy and generally in demand is important. Remember beanie babies? Some things simply go out of fashion. I would guess Shirley Temple collectibles and Edgar Bergen collectibles will likely go down in value in the future. The fans of these individuals are growing older and new fans have not replaced them. Thus, I assume there will be less demand for these objects in the future. The legacy of Elvis and the Beatles goes on, but the average silent movie star has been forgotten.
For all the silent movie star collectors out there, remember I could be wrong. Just like the stock market or any other type of gambling, predicting the value of antiques requires a bit of fortune telling. Also, the economy plays a role in antique values. When the economy is bad fewer people have money to spend on unnecessary expenses. Let’s face it, an antique Rolex watch is cool but my cell phone keeps better time and requires less upkeep. The economy of the United States is not the only economy that matters. As an example the Chinese people have more disposable income then in the past. I would predict antiques with origins from China will increase in value in the future. .
I want to bring an item I have no idea of the value of. If I can look it up online then I will not bring it. I’ll have a room full of experts, and I intend to use them. A watch, a guitar, or any item with a price guide is not on my list.
I want the object to be small and not breakable. I live too far away to have them pick up my furniture and I don’t want to walk around with it. I also don’t want to walk around with a clock or any object that is large and breakable. That includes a tea set or a large vase.
I want it to be a part of a collection. The maximum number of objects you can bring is two. Yet, a collection counts as one. So if there is something I collect that is small such as pens, political pins, or match safes, then why not bring them all? That way I will get much more information and appraisals.
I want it to be interesting or fun. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like a Tiffany iridescent vase from the turn of the century. Such vases are beautiful and rare. That being said I have seen them on the Roadshow before and what more can you say about Louis Comfort Tiffany? I would rather bring in a rubber spleen from a famous zombie movie. It may be worth less money and involve less craftsmanship but it’s way more fun.
I don’t care about age. Lets face it, 18th century items or earlier raise eyebrows. 19th century items not so much. I don’t have any impressive items from the 1700's or earlier. So I am going to pick the item I think is the most impressive in and of itself. If I have a better item that is not as old I’ll bring that. Obviously that is not a hard and fast rule. Any Abraham Lincoln artifact is more impressive then a Kennedy item. Yet, not all Civil War items are impressive. As an example a Union Discharge document or a spent bullet has very limited value. At the same time some World War I and II can be very impressive.
I won’t bring anything that was intended to be collected. If it was made to be a collectible odds are it’s not worth much. Anything made by Franklin Mint, Hummel, Department 56, or Precious Moments is not going to make my list. This also includes comics and sports cards. Some of these items may be worth a lot, but most are not and none that I have.
I have not made my selection yet but will soon. Maybe these rules will help others pick their items. Who knows, maybe if I do a good job you will see me on television.
Send me an email before August 6, 2010 with great ideas for what to bring to the Roadshow. My email address is on my web site. The first three emails that include a name and physical address will get a genuine rare The Law Office of Scott Lerner tote bag. United State’s residents only. The author is not responsible for misdirected mail or email. I will only respond to the winners. All entries after August 6, 2010 will be deleted without being read.