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Hidden Secrets of Antiques Roadshow that Fans Won’t See on TV

Even folks that don’t regularly find themselves tuning in to PBS are often fans of Antiques Roadshow. The series got it’s start as a British program that first aired on the BBC back in 1979. Which in turn based on a 1977 documentary. The American incarnation of the series debuted in 1997.

The show is this kind of suspense thriller/history lesson that features a myriad of collectors. And everyday people and their frequently disappointed and sometimes dumbfounded reactions to learning the value of their possessions.

When filming locations are announced on the show’s website, various small to mid-sized cities often receive a boost to their profile. Over the years, Antiques Roadshow has taped on location in places like Biloxi, Mississippi, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Rapid City, South Dakota. What’s interesting about the show jumping around the states like that is seeing the diversity of items that represent the area’s rich cultural and historical backgrounds.

Since it’s inception, Antique’s Roadshow has been a reliable, albeit low-key, moneymaker for the network. For more than two decades, fans of the series have tuned in to see what things such as vintage sewing machines, paintings, toys, firearms, and jewelry are worth. Sometimes, what people believe are genuine historical artifacts or priceless treasures end up being worthless replicas. Other times, what unsuspecting owners think are just novelty knick-knacks turn out as one-of-a-kind and extremely valuable works of art.

Anitques Roadshow is currently on it’s 26th season. The series’ simple yet irresistibly charming premise has earned it a devoted following over the years. But not everything you see on-screen is exactly as it appears. In this video, we’ll be taking a look a few hidden secrets from behind-the-scenes of Antiques Roadshow that fans won’t see on TV.

Your Chance Of Getting On The Show Are Quite Low

Througout each season of Antiques Roadshow – at least before the COVID-19 pandemic threw a major kink in it’s gear. The show’s production team visits six cities for taping between June and August. At each one of these events, organizers appraise between 6,000 and 10,000 items.

About 4,000 people are selected randomly from a pool of online applicants for a ticket. Each lucky ticket holder can bring up to two objects for evaluation. Of these 4,000 people, only about 80 are actually chosen for inclusion in the episodes filmed in their respective cities.

In 2019, the average was roughly 30 items per episode out of a pool of about 5,000 pieces. Items that have the greatest chance of featured on the show are typically intriguing with a fascinating backstory. On top of that, the appraiser also needs something riveting to say about the items.

Unlike most other reality shows, there isn’t some kind of board of producers that makes the decisions about what content makes it on the air. It’s the appraisers themselves that petition the producers to feature the items based on how interesting they find them to be.

An item can’t simply be valuable. It also needs to be compelling enough to make for good television. Previously, the show has passed on featuring valuable pieces of art worth upwards of $500,000 just because their backstories weren’t very appealing. So, what that means is, if you really want to make it on to Antiques Roadshow. You both have to be extremely lucky and have something super unusual tucked away in your attic with one heck of a history.

In 2020, the producers of the show forced to switch up their tried-and-true formula after COVID took the world by storm. That year’s tour ended up canceled. Instead, the show’s appraisers visited a number of celebrities to discuss and appraise their belongings. Four episodes made in this format which aired in 2021.

For the 2021 tour, the appraisers returned to working with everyday people. But segments not filmed on location at large crowded events. Instead, guest at each tour stop invited to have their items appraised on closed sets.

A Set Of Dealers Accused Of Fraud In 2001

In March of 2001, a duo of antique dealers indicted on federal mail and wire fraud charges after they accused of staging phony appraisals on Antique Roadshows. And in order to boost their reputations as Civil War-era weapons and military artifact experts.

Russell Pritchard III and his associate George Juno of Pennsylvania accused of faking the televised appraisals of several items in 1996. It is by arranging for their friends to come on the show and present the objects. In reality, they had already rehearsed the entire thing and knew full well the value of the antiques.

During 2009, Pritchard pled guilty to the scam and sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence. In 2020, Pritchard pled guilty to additional theft charges for stealing antiques worth more than $100,000. If convicted, he could face up to 24 years in jail.

Appraisals Are Provided Free Of Charge

While it might be difficult to actually get on the show even if you do manage to secure one of those coveted tickets. All ticket holders still receive a free appraisal for their two items. Antique appraisals typically cost somewhere between $250 to $300 dollars per item. So this still ends up being a pretty decent benefit even if ticket holders don’t get selected for airtime.

Appraisers Are Given Time To Research The Items

While clearly the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow are experts in their respective fields who really know their stuff. It would be impossible to know all of the little details about each and every item that ends up coming their way.

Once an antique has selected to featured on the program. Appraisers are given somewhere between five and thirty minutes to do a bit of fast research in order to come up with information to share when the camera’s are rolling.

The Appraisers Aren’t Always Right

With so many items to look at every year, it would be impossible for the appraisers to not make a few mistakes every now and then. After all, they are only human. In 2016, the show experienced a little bit of embarrassment after a jug featuring a disfigured face presented for appraisal by expert Stephen Fletcher.

After identifying the jug as a rare piece of collectible pottery dating back to the late 19th or early 20th century, Fletcher declared it be worth between $30,000 and $50,000. In reality, however, the jug which acquired at an estate sale for $300. And it turned out to be a Oregon High School student’s art project from the ’70s.

After a friend of the actual artist, Bend, Oregon resident Betsy Soule, told her about the jug’s appearance on the television show. She contacted PBS to inform them about the mistake. Fletcher later reevaluated his estimate and valued the jug between $3000 and $5000.

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The Most Valuable Antique Ever Featured On The Show Might Surprise You

Throughout it’s 26-year history, many valuable and priceless items have found their way on to Antiques Roadshow. So it’s a bit difficult to determine what actually constitutes as the most valuable. Would this determined by the value of it’s appraisal or what the object eventually sold for? Some items might never listed for sale at all.

Regardless, a few items have appraised on the program that clearly are something special. For example, in 2018, a 1904 painting entitled El Albanil or The Laborer by Mexican artist Diego Rivera valued at $1.2 million to $2.2 million by appraiser Colleene Fesko.

When originally evaluated in 2012, Fesko appraised the painting at $800,000 to $1 million. But she updated that value to reflect the prices of other works by the artists. One of Riego’s paintings entitled The Rivals has even sold for $9.7 million.

They’ll Move Bulky Furniture For Guests

A rare baseball card or painting might be easy enough to pack up and take it a taping of a show. But you might be wondering how giant pieces of furniture end up getting to these Antique Roadshow events. If the appraisers find an item to be interesting enough, they’ll request that the show move it for the guests for free.

Ticket holders are able to submit photos of their belongings to the show’s producers prior to a taping. If they end up getting selected for the show, a crew will come and pick it up for them at no charge provided that they live within a 60-mile radius of the taping location. And yes, they’ll pack it up and deliver it back for them afterward.

There’s A Strict Dress Code

Producers of Antiques Roadshow have one rule for guests on the program that they aren’t about to break anytime soon. If selected for a taping of the show, a guest can not wear any item of clothing that incorporates a corporate or brand logo. This is because the show would have to petition the company and obtain clearness to display these logos. You might have a genuine Van Gogh that you found at a flea market in Albuquerque. But if you’re wearing a Nike-branded jersey, you’ll probably have to put something else on.

Some Items Are Forbidden

An item’s high value doesn’t necessary mean it’s a shoo-in to be featured on the program. Appraisers are free to refuse to assess an item if it’s something that falls into one of several categories. Prohibited items include fossils, tools, currency, motor vehicles, stock certificates, stamps, explosives, ammunition, or anything else that’s potentially hazardous.

One of the most interesting prohibited items are glass fire extinguishers. These fragile objects, also known as fire grenades, were thrown into fires back in the 1800s to help extinguish blazes. Inside, they contain the poisonous chemical carbon tetrachloride which probably shouldn’t by handled by anyone. Even so, some fire grenades have been sold at auction for up to $2,000.

Well, we’re just about out of time for this video, but hopefully you’ve enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at the Antiques Roadshow.

Did you know that one of the Antiques Roadshow appraisers went to prison for fraud in the early 2000s. And were you aware that the most valuable item to ever appear on the program was a 1904 painting by Mexican artist Diego Rivera appraised at $1.2 to $2.2 million? Let us know in the comments section down below.

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