Antiques Roadshow landed on the grounds of Winterthur today to greet 2,000 American collectors eager to learn more about their family heirlooms and garage sale finds, hoping that their treasures might hold exotic stories and fetch lofty values.
The popular, long-running PBS television program taped three episodes in 10 hours of appraisals today, filming only the most valuable and storied antiques for episodes that will run sometime next year.
Ticket holders were given precise windows for their visit. Starting at 6:30 am, hundreds lined the sidewalks outside of the galleries with anticipation, their arms full of old paintings, furniture, jewelry and more. Long queues didn’t seem to matter much, as fellow show fans enjoyed sharing stories behind their antiques with each other while they waited.
This was the first time the hit show– with 7 million viewers weekly – has visited Delaware. Last year the show introduced new venues – other than convention centers – to its lineup, and Winterthur Estate and Garden, home to one of the nation’s most famous and extensive collections of American antiquities, furniture and decorative arts, was understandably tops on their list. (In April, we explained why Antiques Roadshow chose to film at Winterthur.)
Roadshow-goers at Winterthur today traveled to Wilmington from all over the U.S. – we encountered antique-enthusiasts from Indiana, Texas, Virginia and California. A common theme was the added bonus of being able to visit the spectacular gardens now in bloom at Winterthur.
Local show watchers were of course well familiar with Delaware’s landmark, and they were thrilled that one of their favorite TV shows came to their home town. Winterthur’s Mark Nardone said, “These are our people. It’s an amazing opportunity for our members.”
Beth from Wilmington brought two watches she inherited for appraisal, and she was surprised to learn that her mother’s Swiss watch was nearly as valuable as her father’s Hamilton watch. “I didn’t think it was that valuable. I think he said it was between $700 and $900 and I had no idea it was that expensive because I was with my mom when she bought it, and I know she didn’t spend a whole lot on it,” she said.
Like the thousands eager to learn from the professionals at some of the top auction houses and antique shops in the country, Beth found her appraiser to be extremely knowledgeable. “He explained things to me really well, and he seemed really interested in the articles, too.”
The watch appraiser was particularly enamored with her father’s mid-century Hamilton Watch Company wristwatch, which he said was in ‘fabulous’ condition and seemed undamaged. “This was the first electric watch, and the body style of it sort of has this space-age look. It was just totally different than anything that had been produced in the watch world up to that period. So, it’s sort of that George Jetson style – like the old TV show. It was made in Lancaster, Pennsylvania probably around 1957.”
Donald and his wife Debbie live right across the street from Winterthur and are huge fans of Antiques Roadshow. (Lovers of history, Donald also volunteers aboard Delaware’s Tall Ship the Kalmar Nyckel.) They brought a Springfield trap door gun from 1897 (appraised at $600 – $700), a 1920’s Tiffany clock (appraised at $150), a decorative Chinese enamel foo lion from 1915 (appraised at $1,000) and a small glass container – part of a vanity set that Debbie found in her grandmother’s attic – that was appraised at $10.
Donald inherited several guns from his uncle, who used to collect guns when he was an officer in the Marine Corps. He appreciated hearing from the experts today. “I thought it was very informative. I thought this part of the gun (the tip) was a bayonet, but actually, it’s a cleaning method. All these years I thought it was a bayonet.”
Seventy appraisers covered 23 specialties ranging from Ancient Art to Clocks, Dolls, Pottery & Porcelain, Rugs & Textiles and Watches.
Nick Daws, with Heritage Auctions in New York, evaluated pottery and porcelain today. “At Roadshow, we each have our own specialties – we sit at different tables. But it’s a fraternity, and appraisers will bring things from one table to another because they know that there’s a strength of knowledge at a particular table. I sit at Pottery and Porcelain, but I just talked about an automobile mascot to someone, and I actually wrote a book about automobile mascots.”
Each person could bring two items for appraisal. For most, that made deciding what to bring difficult.
Appraisers who found an item to be interesting or have a good story then pitched show producers. One of the appraisers told us that the crux of the show’s popularity rests on the stories behind the objects. “Don’t assume that your object is worth $35,000! When we pitch something, it’s not necessarily about the value. Sometimes we pitch something because it’s a fake, and we can learn from discussing it. But many times, we’re pitching something because you have a really interesting story to tell. And sometimes we have some really great information to share about your object that we would love to tell you on camera.”
Several made this a two-day experience by purchasing tickets to the Antiques Roadshow cocktail party and Q&A session at the Delaware Contemporary last night. For those like Donald and Debbie, that opportunity to hear from the show’s producers and a few of the auctioneers made the experience more complete. “It’s been just fantastic. What a great opportunity. We went to the event last night and then today – it’s been wonderful.”
His wife Debbie added, “We were just super excited that it was going to be taped in Delaware. I mean, we’ve watched the show for years, and you love it. And to have it here at Winterthur, on the grounds, I think makes it even better. Because Winterthur is a jewel of Delaware. So for them to come here is really awesome.”