Antiques Roadshow, public TV’s most-watched ongoing series, aired the first episode of its 20th season Jan. 4 with a show taped in Spokane last June. What’s It Worth? was at the production and interviewed three of Roadshow’s well-known, senior appraisers.
Alan Fausel is vice president and director of fine arts for Bonhams, the international auction house. Rafael Eledge owns Shiloh Relics, specializing in Civil War items. Christopher Lane is president of the Philadelphia Print Shop West in Denver. The trio represents a total of 53 years of appearing on the popular program.
In question and answer format, here’s what they had to say about the changing knowledge of American collectors, Antique Roadshow’s impact and what it feels like to be recognized — or not — as a TV personality.
Q. Roadshow has been around for 20 years and is watch by millions. How has the show affected your businesses; auctions and retail sales?
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Alan Fausel — “The Roadshow has had a big impact in that it has educated people about values and changed the landscape of how people approach values. They now have a better idea of what’s an auction price, a gallery price or an insurance value. The growth of ebay and the Internet have also had a major impact.”
Christopher Lane — “People have certainly learned a lot more about what an ‘antique’ is. That’s it is not just old furniture and old paintings, but items such as the prints we deal in. That’s good. On the other hand, they now tend to think anything old is valuable and I see a lot of people who are disappointed when told their very nice print is great, historical, and it is worth $500. They’d been thinking a lot more.”
Rafael Eledge — “I think the Roadshow has made many viewers more aware of what they have and that it may have both market and historical value. The Internet has had as much if not more effect on my business. We’ve gone from a large ‘bricks and mortar’ store which we ran near the Shiloh Battlefield to strictly an on-line operation. So our business model has changed, but the things we buy and sell haven’t changed at all.”
Q. Viewers see an item valued on Roadshow for a big price and may think they have something very similar or exactly the same that turns out to be not really valuable at all. Have we been creating overly optimistic viewers with inflated expectations?
Fausel — “You might think so, because what airs on TV focuses on high value items with good stories. Actually, I think we have been doing a good job and a valuable service in letting viewers know about values in general. So, they are more realistic than optimistic. By the way, we often hear comments our values are really high, but when things we see here do go to auction, they generally sell for more than the values owners received at a Roadshow event.”
Lane — “It's a little bit of both, I think. Yes, we may build some optimistic expectations, but at the same time people have learned there’s some really great stuff out there that’s worth only a few hundred dollars or less. Just because something isn’t worth a huge amount of money doesn’t mean it is not interesting.”
Eledge — “I see that somewhat less than perhaps many of the other appraisers might. Firearms collectors are generally pretty knowledgeable about values and many of them want me to confirm or refute what they feel they know about their items. On the other hand, we do have many people who come in with weapons and artifacts they have absolutely no idea of value, history or historical importance. I think what we tell them, of those items that are aired on Roadshow, really can help other people out there with similar things in their families.”
Q. You all appraise on the Roadshow at least a few times each year, but in real life you have other careers. Yet, like it or not, because of the Antique Roadshow, you’ve become a TV star. Ever think of yourself that way?
Fausel — (after chuckling a bit) “No, I blend into the background so much I could go directly into the Witness Protection Program and no one would recognize me. Others, like the Keno Brothers and Nick Lowry who wears the loud suits, they are really recognized. I can stand next to them and people will ask me who I am, if they ask me anything at all.”
Lane — “Actually, I never have even thought about that at all. I’ve never been stopped on the street and I’m always surprised when someone recognizes me - anywhere. That’s in general. But at an antiques event somewhere, when people are thinking about antiques, they might feel they know me from somewhere and come up with the Roadshow connection.”
Eledge — “I’ve never thought of that, either. I will tell you, though, when someone asks my momma in Tennessee, ‘What’s Rafael doin’ these days?’ she says, ‘He’s on the Roadshow, you know, you see him all the time. I’m so proud of him.’ I’ll tell ya, that makes me feel great, and so I’ll keep doing the Roadshow as long as they’ll have me.”
Terry K. Maurer, Tri–Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America.