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Tales from the Road

Tales from the Road

Rago’s Olivia Tornick on What It’s Really Like To Attend A Taping of The Antiques Roadshow

25 June 2018

By Olivia Tornick, Assistant Director of Digital Marketing

Rago partners David Rago and Suzanne Perrault have appeared as appraisers on Antiques Roadshow since the show’s inception in 1996. Over the years, they’ve been joined by a growing roster of Rago Specialists: Sebastian Clarke, Meredith Hilferty, Sarah Churgin and most recently, Katherine Van Dell.

Through the years, we’ve shared behind-the-scenes stories from our appraisers on the road. But what is the experience like for someone on the other side of the appraisal table? Rago’s Assistant Director of Digital Marketing, Olivia Tornick, shares her personal experience from the Road.

Acquiring Tickets

The first question many people have is, “How do I get tickets to the Roadshow?” It all starts with a lottery. Tickets cannot be purchased, so hopeful participants submit entries for their chance to win two free tickets. (According to the welcome guide, “16,000 households entered the drawing and 3,000 were selected at random to win tickets, meaning over 13,000 lottery applicants were not selected.”)

Though I’ve entered the lottery in the past with no success, my persistence was rewarded last year with a pair of tickets to the Antiques Roadshow taping at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. How my heart fluttered when I opened my mail and discovered the holographic tickets!

I gave the second ticket to my mom, a life-long collector and garage sale-enthusiast who instilled in me the “passion for the hunt” from a young age. In the two weeks between receipt of the tickets and the taping, she labored over the decision of which items to bring along. Knowing we would be standing and waiting in lines for the better portion of the day, we chose to bring smaller items, all four of which could fit snuggly in a piece of rolling luggage (along with snacks and water, of course).

Arriving in Harrisburg

As we entered the PA Farm Show Complex, full of helpful volunteers eager to direct us, we were overcome with excitement. “This is a dream come true,” my mom exclaimed.

We were not alone in our excitement. The crowd was a mass of giddy conversations and warm pleasantries; a sense of comradery permeating the cohort of collectors. Despite suffering a long day of waiting and standing, variables which would normally add up to sum of irritability, every person we met was happy, excited, social and talkative. “What’d you bring?” “Have you been before?” “This is my fifth time!” “I hope this family heirloom is a treasure!” “I took this chandelier down from above my kitchen table, let’s hope it was worth it!”

Upon entry to the appraisal floor, guests were again greeted by volunteers who directed them based on the categories of their items.

My mother and I brought four pieces: a holy water font and an architectural fragment (both fell under the Decorative Arts category), a miniature painting of Mozart and his sister at the harpsichord (Paintings & Drawings), and a spelter bust of an unknown military man, hoping the experts could identify him (Metalwork & Sculpture).

Appraisal Results

Though we were excited for each appraisal, none of our family treasures turned out to be hidden gems.

We learned our Catholic holy water font is made of onyx, brass and bronze. The specialist explained a better quality one would have been made of alabaster and all bronze.

Appraisal: $250

The female bust, which we’d always imagined had come from the mast of a very important ship, turned out to be a mass-produced architectural fragment made of terra-cotta.

Appraisal: $50

We were told the small painting of Mozart and his sister has more decorative value than artistic value.

Appraisal: $100

The appraiser in Metalworks told us the bust of an unknown military man was probably Admiral Dewey. It would have originally had a bronze patina which has since worn off.

Appraisal: $20-30

While none of our items revealed itself to be an undiscovered treasure, and we were not selected to be taped for the show, the experience was unforgettable all the same. More than anything, I’ll remember the friendliness of the community of collectors and the excitement in the air.

My suggestion for prospective attendees is to travel light. Understand that you’ll be standing in line for several hours and unless you bring and carry a folding chair (which some people do), there is no place to sit.
But it’s all worth it to be a part of the fun!

You can learn more about Antiques Roadshow on the PBS website, here.

Or apply for a chance to win a pair of tickets to see the Roadshow in person, here.