I Like Antiques Roadshow A Lot


Antiques Roadshow is a program aired by Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in which we watch a touring group of antiques appraisers stop in major cities across the United States and determine the value of antiques that locals bring to the tour.

A typical initial appraisal area of Antiques Roadshow, where the locals flock to determine which kind of appraiser will appraise their item.

Antiques Roadshow is formatted in a predictable, simple, and perhaps minimal structure, consisting almost entirely of a repetition of two basic scenes. The first shows the appraiser and the owner of the antique sitting or standing on opposite sides of the antique in question. The appraiser is animatedly describing the fine points, the flaws, the history, and his/her overall vision of the antique. The owner of the antique is typically nodding his/her head and making small sounds of affirmation in an endearing old-person manner.

Locals standing in line to have their antiques appraised.

We enjoy the meter, accent, and extreme interest with which the appraiser is speaking, as well as the facial expression—often characterized by a shit-eating grin—on the owner of the antique’s face. We wait in anticipation of the actual numerical appraisal, as the appraiser will sometimes appraise it after only a short, rapid-fire discussion of the antique or an excruciatingly long, anticipatory discussion. Personally, during this scene, I can usually be heard muttering “I bet this is worth something like $50,000,” or “god damn this person.”

A local wearing a shit-eating grin having an antique appraised on air. Locals are typically old and bring in items such as paintings, sculptures, correspondence, toys, and furniture.

When the appraisal is given, we are often in disbelief about the antique being “tentatively,” worth $30,000 “at auction,” and we watch, with a vague disdain, the owner of the antique relish in the delight of discovering something he/she’s been using as a coffee pot for 20 years is actually worth $30,000. We wonder, in secret, how antiques ‘even’ are ‘worth anything at all, how could anything like that be worth anything it all,’ as well as where these auctions they speak of ‘actually happen.’

A local in disbelief about the value of her clock.

We move to the next scene, which is possibly the most delightful part of Antiques Roadshow: a close up of the antique with fancy text rolling out on the screen describing the item’s name and value, coupled with a ‘jingling’ sound that reminds us of money. We look at the item for about ten seconds, with no sound but the muffled noise of the crowd in the background, then move on to another antique, antique appraiser, and antique owner.

Images via