Behind the scenes of Antiques Roadshow's Vermont episodes
Last July, Antiques Roadshow visited Vermont for the first time since the show debuted in 1997. More than 3,000 people came to the Shelburne Museum to learn what their collectibles were worth.
In one day of appraisals, the Roadshow team filmed three hours’ worth of material. Those episodes are now beginning to air.
But the first local visit by the popular PBS primetime series also gave Vermonters a unique look at how Antiques Roadshow is made.
The first episode filmed in Vermont makes clear that the Shelburne Museum was a perfect fit. The site’s founder, Electra Havemeyer Webb, was a collector herself, and Webb’s selections of antique Americana are on display throughout the grounds.
But the site mattered for practical reasons, too. Antiques Roadshow locations need ample indoor and outdoor space to accommodate the thousands of appraisals that take place during production.
Most of those interactions don’t even get taped for the show, according to Marsha Bemko, Antiques Roadshow’s executive producer. But the show still wants those visitors to have a positive experience. “So we need some land, some acreage, to spread out our over 20 categories we have,” Bemko said.
About 75 appraisers who are experts in different types of collectibles participated at Shelburne. Those appraisers are volunteers, Bemko told Vermont Public. Not only are they not paid, but they have to pay their own expenses to attend Antiques Roadshow events.
“I would say collectively, in a season, the appraisers contribute over $1 million to public television,” Bemko said.
All items brought to the event first go through triage, where they’re assigned to a certain category. Then, appraisers in each area examine the items and make their assessments.
Check out this behind-the-scenes appraisal from Vermont Public’s Anna Ste. Marie, who brought two antique books to the Shelburne event.
Members of the Antiques Roadshow team told Vermont Public that it was impossible to predict what visitors would bring to be appraised.
The first episode alone includes a 1999 Pokemon Card collection, a 1930s mixed-media portrait of the model known as Morning Star from artist Winold Reiss, a beautiful Raymond Yard platinum and diamond ring ca. 1940, and a surprise discovery worth up to $100,000.
“It’s never what you expect. It really isn’t,” said Alasdair Nichol, an appraiser who specializes in paintings and drawings. “The strangest things will turn up from all over the world. But it’s always some fabulous stories behind it.”
What sets Antiques Roadshow apart from other reality shows in the antique genre is that no transactions take place during the process, Bemko said. It’s about the stories behind the objects. “This show is pure information,” she said.
Most of the people who bring their objects don’t ultimately sell them, Bemko added. They find out what their objects are worth, then take them home to better insure or safeguard them.
“Much of what we see are inherited objects,” she said. “And the day you sell it, you can’t afford to get it back.”