Nerding Out at Antiques Roadshow

posted in: Adventures | 3

“You did really well!” she exclaimed, as she turned the small silver-embellished glass vase over in her hands. She smiled brightly and explained a little bit about the piece, and said she thought it was worth about $125. This surprised me a little; in my online research, I had found similar pieces selling for much more. But she is the expert and it all comes down to what you could sell it for anyway. But for an investment of zero dollars (it was given to us at a yard sale along with a purchase of $15 worth of DVDs), it was a still really good buy!


We had been giddy all day, getting up early to drive to Albuquerque that very morning. We had no idea what to expect, but were not disappointed. The moment the excitement really hit was walking into the convention center. None of it had any glitz or glamour, but there was a large, brightly colored entryway that led us into a giant room with a very long and snaking queue line. Most people had their stuff in boxes or bags, so you couldn’t see much, but there was a beautiful, slightly rusted and fading red tricycle from the ‘40s that looked kind of like a spaceship with its curvy lines. I saw a small cane (Bill called it a leprechaun club?) with a marvelously carved head – a bald-headed fellow with tiny eyes and a large nose. We kept passing our friends, Robert and Holly, who were just a little bit ahead of us in line. From what I could see, they were just as excited as we were. Robert would share the occasional observation: “There’s a lady two lines over with a large rabbit.” I never saw the rabbit.

There were several steps to go through: the initial ticket check, the second ticket check, the general appraisal booths where you receive your category tickets – and then they set you loose. The set was a large circle in the middle of the room, the exterior a bank of curtains. Inside those curtains was where the magic happens. The first line we picked was “Glass,” because there was no one in line. A piece of tape on the floor indicated the start. After standing a minute or two, one of the volunteers came over, smiled, checked our category tickets, and ushered us through the curtains. And there they were! All of our favorite appraisers from the show – the ones we watched every Monday night. The Keno brothers were to our right, Suzanne Perrault (Bill’s crush) to our left, and Nicholas Lowry (mine) across the crowded room. Waiting in line afforded us a good look around at the tv cameras and the action being filmed in three different locations (look for us in the background). It was quite an unusual feeling to be on the opposite side of something that felt so familiar.


One of the guests in line ahead of us moved away from the table and a brightly smiling Meredith Meuwly ushered us over. What astounded me throughout the day was that everyone we spoke with was friendly, helpful and informative. These appraisers see hundreds of people and objects throughout the day (most of them probably not worth much), and yet they greet you very graciously. I had mistakenly assumed that we would be meeting with “low-level” appraisers – that the celebrity appraisers would only be available for the high dollar items. But this was not the case. At the silver table, David Walker took his time looking at and talking about our items, even turning to a fellow appraiser for help in identifying one of them. And it turns out they weren’t worth much, but he still took the time. At the jewelry table, we met with Rosalie Sayyah, who was also very sweet (and her hair did not disappoint, sprouting from her head in a wild spray of curls). She told me one of my rings was a synthetic sapphire from the ‘60s, worth about $125 and my other ring, a Panetta found by my mother in a Houston garbage can, was worth about $250!


At this point, we had one more item, a beautiful Native American rug, but the tribal line was probably about a two-hour wait and we were ready to get some lunch at a local brewery. But there was one more stop we had to make first: The Feedback Booth, our best chance at our fifteen minutes of fame. I don’t want to say too much – I want it to be a surprise when it airs (and oh yes, it will) – but I will tell you there was a small bit of rehearsal involved. And when we got in front of the camera, we were ready: our delivery and timing spot-on. The cameraman’s mouth opened in laughter – not audible, of course – but he was definitely tickled, and as we exited the booth, Bill heard him say to the lady with the releases at the table, “That was a good one.”

3 Responses

  1. Robert Cafazzo

    Wellllll, I was in the “Tribal Arts” line from 9:30-2:30, a FIVE hour wait!!!!! Was it fun, you bet! A little known fact is all 36 appraisers are there on their own dime, they pay their own way with airfare and hotel accommodations!

    • Mel A. James

      FIVE hours? Holy cannoli. You know, I had heard that about the appraisers, but I find that almost unbelievable. What an amazing group of people.

  2. Yvie

    I had always assumed “low-level” stuff gets treated quickly and casually. Thank you for dispelling that misperception! Now I am EVEN MORE IN LOVE with the Antiques Roadshow!