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Behind the scenes at the Antiques Roadshow

Roadshow guests wait in line for an appraisal by the appropriate table
Roadshow guests wait in line for an appraisal by the appropriate table
Jodie Jacobs

The scene was a familiar one to anyone who watches the Antiques Roadshow on PBS. Folks of all sizes and ages are toting pictures or wrapped packages, pushing a piece of furniture or clasping a lamp, a vase a sculpture. All are aiming for the correct tables identified by such banners as Toys, Furniture, Dolls, Photographs, Decorative Arts, Glass, Paintings, Collectibles, Asian Arts, Ancient Art, Folk Art, Tribal Art, Jewelry and more. The Roadshow had come to Chicago.

Taped 8 a.m. to about 6 p.m., July 26, 2014, at McCormick Place’s Lakeside building, the Chicago visit would air as three regular, hour-long segments in 2015 and probably have enough left over to be on a couple of “Junk in the Trunk” segments.

After hearing from Hannah Auerbach, a Roadshow national marketing executive, that 3,000 pairs of tickets were given out and two items were allowed per person, the question was can the experts see 6,000 people and appraise 18,000 items in one day?

“Yes, everyone is seen. We don’t leave until the last person is seen,” Auerbach said.

She pointed out that about 72 appraisal experts of the Roadshow's bank of 150 were on hand in Chicago. The surprise was that the experts did not receive a stipend. “They pay their own way out here,” she said. “We’re PBS. We couldn’t afford to do the show if we had to pay them.” And guiding everyone from a convention center entry downstairs, up to a vast partitioned hall and to the right tables, were more volunteers. They came from local PBS stations.

What viewers usually see on TV are people lined up near appraisers in an area that looks the same no matter where the show has set-up its tables and banners.

Before they reached the appraisal area, however, they were in the timed lines that had begun with 8 a.m. ticket holders and ended with the 5-o-clockers. After that, was a controlled entry where volunteers funneled the crowd into another section. Then, a volunteer sent guests into the appraisal section where someone pointed them where to go with an object.

Once inside the appraisal room, an expert may have talked to the guest and pointed to a table or may have asked the person to wait. If waiting, it was because the expert wanted to pitch the guest's story and object to a producer, known on the floor as a “picker.” The picker would agree or not that this was appropriate for taping.

“It doesn’t have to be valuable. It may be a teaching opportunity or an interesting story,” Auerbach said.

When done, a guest can stop at the Feedback Booth near the exit outside the main area for another chance to be on television.

On the way out, two Fort Wayne women (asked their names not be use), stopped to put back their treasures. “They weren’t worth much,” said one woman. “But we had fun,” said her friend, smiling.

For more Roadshow information visit Antiques Roadshow.