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This Weekend: Chicago hosts Antiques Roadshow

An inherited work was valued at $5,000 the last time Antiques Roadshow was in Chicago
Jodie Jacobs

Lucky ticket holders to the Antiques Roadshow will be lining up at Chicago's McCormick Place, July 26, 2014, to learn if their yard-sale painting and Aunt Harriet’s favorite vase are worth enough to fund a vacation or college education.

The show is sold out but Chicagoans, and those folk who snagged tickets but have to come in from surrounding cities and states, can catch the episodes on PBS stations in early 2015. According to Roadshow Executive Producer Marsha Bemko, the Chicago 2015 airings are likely to be decided in September or October.

Bemko suggested checking WGBH’s site and newsletter or the WFMT and PBS Chicago sites for information. She also noted that some Chicago bits will be in a couple of "Junk in the Trunk" segments that are leftovers from city visits that didn’t fit into the regular three-episode format.

Before leaving her Antiques Roadshow headquarters in Boston to come to Chicago, Bemko offered insight on the popular show during a phone interview.

Q. When you lecture to groups across the country, what are the questions that most often occur and how do they differ among business groups, colleges, community organizations and the public television stations where you speak?

A. One of the interesting things is whether its business or another group, 20 year-olds, 60 or 80, they have a question in common: what happens to the objects after a person leaves the Roadshow. I tell them it’s about the relationship. It does not matter what the object is worth. They never sell the objects…. There are exceptions. People have parted with some. But I’d gamble that most would not sell them. They keep their treasures. It makes sense. If it’s valuable and you sell it, you can’t buy it back. It’s too expensive. You can’t sell it at what it will sell for later. That’s commerce. However, some have sold the item if bought at a yard sale. People are curious across the board and are surprised by this answer. But think about it. If your grandmother talked to Frank Lloyd Wright and has his drawings, would you sell them. You might say yes, unless it was your grandmother. Or if you have items from the 1600s, if you have something like that, you keep it in the family.

Q. Having traveled to towns across the US with Antiques Roadshow, you and your appraisers may arguably have an idea about what treasures to expect in the Southwest as opposed to New England but what surprised your group?

A. I think it’s hard to surprise us. We know stuff moves. After our doing the show for so many years, this is our 19th season, people know - don’t sell that plate, don’t sell that, whatever. We expect a predominance of items made in an area but we know people and their items move. In Chicago, we expect to see items from the (World’s Fair: Columbian) Exposition and other items related to Chicago’s history.

Q. What story comes to mind that might bring tears to the eyes and or that stand out in your mind?

A. There was a sentimental one we just recorded. A man came in with Bohemian vases. He and his wife got tickets. They were very excited about coming. Between getting the tickets and the show, the wife passed away. She had wanted to bring the vases. So he did. Kathy Bailey talked with him. He not only had tears but she teared-up too. This was only the second time in the history of the show that this happened. The vases turned out to be worth $5,000. That is good for vases. But it is the human stories that I love. A favorite happened last year. A boy picker came in with a painting. The appraiser was David Weiss. The painting was a Neuhuys. The boy was about 11 or 13. The kid was a real picker. He goes to auctions Friday after school. He buys glass, silver and paintings. His father wanted to leave but the boy wanted to stay until the end. He was adorable and interested. That’s how our experts started, as kids. They often are the kids of people in the antique business. Those kind of experts come with passion. The kid had no desire to hang on to the painting. It’s what he does. He buys and sells. He paid $2 for it. It was worth $1,500.

Q. How do the appraisers select what they want to show and discuss on TV?

A. Unless it’s jewelry, they see it coming across the room. It’s what jazzes them. Their hearts go pitter-patter. They’re not just saying that. Then they pitch it to a producer like myself. We get excited. It’s not just about value, though value plays some part. But we see the item as exciting. With jewelry, people wait in line. The expert sees it when the box open, then the expert gets excited.

Q. Museums and experts in different towns have been interviewed during the show. For the Chicago show, are your experts visiting a place to feature with items related to the city?

A. Yes. Those are Field segments. We do three of these because we have three episodes per town. They give a sense of place because the Roadshow is in a convention center. For Chicago, we are going to the Art Institute of Chicago to talk about architecture fragments. Leigh Keno and Mark Walberg will do that. We’re also going to do Vintage Railroad Posters at the Civic Opera House with Nicholas and go to Crab Tree Farm for Arts and Crafts period furniture with David.

Q. What else do people want to know?

A. People interested in antiques ask insightful questions. They’re at the next level. They want to know why an appraiser says "at auction" or "retail." They’re not antique aficionados or they would know. (Note: at auction is less than retail unless there is a bidding war. Also, "for insurance purposes" the value is higher than retail). They also want to know if our experts are stumped. They’re not, or seldom. I’m in awe of what they know.

For more Roadshow information visit Antiques Roadshow. Warning: going to the site may hinder getting anything else done that day because it contains episodes, good antique information and Roadshow FAQs.

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