Monday, July 28, 2014

Behind the Curtain - the "Real" Antiques Roadshow

One of PBS' all-time, most-watched television programs is Antiques Roadshow (AR), and its 18th seasonal tour will be wrapping up with a stop in our home town, Charleston, WV, on August 16, 2014. While this is exciting, I have already been to two different AR program city tour stops, and I want to share with you a little about the "real" Antiques Roadshow - the proverbial "Oz behind the curtain" tour.
Mark Walberg, host of Antiques Roadshow, and I, outside of Pittsburgh restaurant (2011)
I love AR, but once you've been through the process, the true reality of the whole thing really is a little disappointing and anticlimactic. Perhaps I'm just still feeling a little scorned that my items weren't the talk of either the towns of Washington, DC in 2010, or in Pittsburgh, PA in 2011 {jk}.

Tickets are not sold to the Roadshow stops, but you enter your name early each year on their website for a chance at a random drawing, selecting your preferred city stop and time you'd like to have your appraisal of two items (max).  Sister M and I entered our names and were drawn in 2010.  Sisters M, J and I - all three - attended in 2011, with a little finagling. I am mixing photos taken from both cities to demonstrate the process clearly.

When you arrive at your city's venue near your designated time, the entry will look something like the photo below.
Entry to Antiques Roadshow city tour stop
You may find yourself going through a maze of various floors by escalators or elevators, but can get information if you feel uncertain or lost.
AR tour city stop information desk
There are signs along the course of the proverbial yellow-brick road to see Oz....
Signage, pointing the way at an AR tour city stop
And then you may see a welcoming sign, validating you are at the right place, at the right time...
Sign designating ticket time at AR tour city stop
Finding our spot to get in line at the AR tour city stop
Then, the waiting lines begin in earnest....
AR tour city waiting lines - in the midst
Here's what the waiting lines look like from an aerial view (below).  This is all BEFORE you get anywhere near the appraisers' tables. Outside of the black curtain is the main line, spilling over into another taped off line.  Two huge projection screens are visible in the line-standing waiting area. I'll explain what's inside those black curtains a little further in the post.
Arena waiting lines setup for typical AR tour city stop
There are a multitude of volunteers designated with jobs of trying to entertain the crowds while waiting, and those huge screens are continuously projecting previously recorded airings of the AR programs while you wait. Volunteering through your local PBS station would be another way to try to get to AR in your town.
Huge projection screens with programs running for attendees while waiting
Once you make it past these "outside the black curtains" lines, each attending person is funneled into a "triage" table. It is at the triage table that your collectibles are categorized, so it pays to know, in advance, the type of category and/or the AR appraiser names of who typically appraises an item you are bringing so you can "suggest" it.  If your item is a cross-collectible, you risk getting a less-than-accurate initial assessment at the triage table, so try to have a pretty good understanding prior to this point.
AR "triage" table
From the triage table, you receive a ticket for each item being appraised, and you herd into another line.
Triage category ticket
What you see in the photo below, within the circle of blue banners, is the set you are familiar with seeing on the television program - that is Oz behind the curtains!  All of the lines outside of that circle designate the triage categories - Dolls, Paintings, etc.  Once you have your category ticket, you circle the wagon of blue banners to find your next line (there are signs and volunteers everywhere).  At this point, you either split from your party, or all stay together and go to each station together. Photos are not allowed from the triage point and beyond, but the photo below was taken (in Pittsburgh) where my vantage point was entirely outside the arena, looking down, through a glass structure.
AR city tour stop television program set (behind the curtains), with waiting lines surrounding 
The next photograph is inside the constructed set I mentioned earlier. This is the cordoned area visible in one of the photos above, near where the big screens were entertaining folks standing in line waiting, at the beginning of the process. It is the holding area, or green room, for those attendees who are selected to be videotaped with their items. When invited here after an appraisal, one does not know if it is to be made fun of for bringing a fake, or to be delivered great news of "the" item that caught the appraiser's eye in a good way.
Holding area, or green room, at an AR city tour stop
In spite of any negative overtone I may have projected in this post, I love Antiques Roadshow, and so do my sisters.  We had a blast (both times for M & I) going to DC and Pittsburgh for our appraisals.  We made each trip a buying trip and sightseeing event for ourselves.

Panoply sisters outside of Pittsburgh AR appraisal ring
We even did a little star-gazing at each city.  Each time, we stayed at the hotel adjacent to the appraisal site, anticipating that the crew and appraisers would likely stay there also.  We were right each time, and both times we saw plenty of foot traffic by the AR appraisers, conversing with each other, and heading out for meals.  We even ended up eating at the same restaurant as Mark Walberg and Marsha Bemko.  That's how I ended up with a photo with Mark (at beginning of post).  Surprisingly, he's not very tall!
Mark Walberg, host of AR, and Marsha Bemko, executive producer of AR, heading out for a meal
If you pick up a copy of Antiques Roadshow Behind the Scenes  (Amazon), there's a whole lot more insider information, quite apart from what I shared in this post.  It's a fun book, and very informative.  It's a must-read, in my opinion, if you plan to attend an AR appraisal event anytime.  My number one takeaway and piece of advice if you plan to go?  Plan to have fun in the experience, and take an item either: a) that you hope to learn more about than you already know or b) that has unique family history/story that you can share with the appraisers that may be of interest to them and/or others.
"Antiques Roadshow Behind the Scenes" book
Have you ever been to an Antiques Roadshow tour stop?  How was your experience?  Were you surprised and/or let down by the "Oz behind the curtain" phenomena?  Please share!

NOTE:  This is a no-ad blog, and no sponsorship was provided for this post.  All opinions and photos are mine, strictly for my readers' pleasure.

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