Behind the Scenes at the Antiques Roadshow

I got to cross a fun item off my bucket list just over a week ago, when I was invited to attend the Antiques Roadshow! Yes THAT Antiques Roadshow!

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The Antiques Roadshow is watched by around 9.4 million viewers every week, has been nominated for 12 Primetime Emmy® awards, and has conducted nearly 1.4 million appraisals in its 20 year run.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of AR and the first time they have filmed in Omaha since 2004, so it was very exciting. (Oh, did I mention they have a new set this year? Very cool to see!) They pick their locations to include a diverse mix across the country, and have to ensure that the venue selected is available at the time they need it, and also that it can accommodate several thousand people, while allowing for quality filming conditions.

Overall, the Roadshow gave away 3,000 pairs of free tickets to the June 27th Omaha event (which was held at the CenturyLink Center), out of the 12,604 ticket applications they received. Admission to AR is free, but you have to have a ticket to get in, and there are always more applicants for tickets than tickets available. Recipients are selected at random from all applications received.

They expected around 5,000 people to file through the Omaha event throughout the course of the day, and that one day of filming will be used to create three separate one hour episodes of the show, as well as a Junk in the Trunk special. The episodes will air nationally on PBS stations in 2016. Additionally, items were being filmed for an online webisode (the image above was of the crew getting their equipment set up for one of those online segments), and NET had their own film crews there for a special on the making of the show. So there was a lot going on!

The Roadshow is aired in my area in cooperation with NET (Nebraska’s PBS station), and I was invited to attend as a local media representative (yay, blogging!!). I got the inside scoop on the filming of Antiques Roadshow, including a tour from an NET representative (thanks MJ!) and an interview with Roadshow executive producer, Marsha Bemko, who has been with the show for the past 16 years. So if you’ve ever wondered how the show is made, keep reading, friends!


You guys!!! #antiquesroadshow

A photo posted by Dawn Sailors (@designingdawn) on


My experience started when I got to the show at 2:00pm, my items to be appraised in tow. It was a difficult task trying to decide what to bring to what will probably be a once in a lifetime experience. You have to be able to carry what you bring in (In case you’re wondering, large furniture items are submitted via photos several months before taping. The appraisers select which items will be evaluated and transportation is arranged in advance of the film date.) I settled on these 1934 Fortune magazines that we got from Brett’s Grandmother a few years back. They are in near perfect condition and we have the whole year in our collection, so I was interested to see if they had any value, besides the sentimental value to us. Looking through the advertisements and illustrations from that time is absolutely fascinating (especially for this graphic designer!) and I knew that some of the cover illustrations, in particular, were done by famous artists of the time.

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Each guest is allowed to bring two items with them, so the other item I took along was this Turkish ceremonial robe that I have had since my Grandma Joyce passed away a couple of years ago. She brought it back from Turkey in the 1960s when her family, including my mother, were living on the Naval Base there during the Cold War. My Grandfather worked in Naval intelligence during the war, monitoring Russian submarine action, so they were stationed there for a few years before returning to the States. The back-story on this piece is fascinating to me, but my mother never knew the true value of it. As a child, she thought that the embroidery was real gold, so we were interested to see what it was really worth.

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Each person is given a time to show up, which helps filter the crowds through the appraisers more efficiently. There are over 70 appraisers in 24 item categories. The first step is to go through triage, which determines which category your items fall into. The pieces that I brought were grouped into Collectables (the magazines) and Textiles and Rugs (the robe).

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This is probably a good time to talk about the lines. People everywhere! Luckily for me, being a media representative meant that I was able to jump to the front of the appraisal line and talk to the appraisers without waiting… because the LINES.

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This was just the line for triage, where people were then sectioned off into more lines depending on what category their items fell into. We asked a couple of patiently waiting folks how long they’d been in line and they told us it had been about 3 hours. Eeek! Hopefully once you get up there it’s worth it and you find out you’re a millionaire. Or at least a hundredaire. Apparently though, that’s usually not the case. I asked Marsha, the executive producer, about the average value of items brought in (and obviously this is a rough estimate) but she put it at under $100. So for the majority of people waiting in those lines, their items are only valuable for sentimental reasons. But despite all that, the experience is still pretty awesome.

Another interesting thing I found out from Marsha is that even when an item is very valuable, it is extremely rare for anyone to sell their treasures. She could only remember a handful of times that someone had decided to let an item go after discovering the value. I love that. People really do come just for the experience of learning more about their personal treasures.

Speaking of treasures, I got the scoop on a few of the more valuable items that came through the Omaha taping! One of the most interesting items was a very rare ladies Wooten desk. This cute little desk was described as “diminutive” and was so unique that all the appraisers there, with a combined experience of more than 100 years, had never seen one like it before. The insured value was appraised at $12,000. Wowza!

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As for me and my items, I definitely am not a new millionaire, but I did find out some interesting things about my own treasures.

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Here I am having the robe appraised by Steven Porterfield. He confirmed that it was Turkish and from the Cold War era. I discovered that the lining had been replaced at some point, probably by my grandmother or her sister, and that while the embroidery work didn’t contain real gold (just a metallic wire) it was all done by hand and is very intricate. He told me that pieces like this are typically collected as textiles, rather than garments, but at the time it was made, it was used as a men’s ceremonial robe. He valued this piece at between $300-$500 and recommended framing it for display.

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And here is appraiser Kethleen Guzman, looking over my 1934 Fortune Magazines. She was impressed by the condition they are in, since many printed dating back to the 1930s aren’t very well preserved and tend to fade easily. As I suspected, she told me that the covers are the most valuable part of these magazines, because of the artists who created them. Generally, people cut the covers off and frame them, discarding the rest of the magazine. She valued these at about $25 each, so $300 for the full set.

Probably the most interesting thing I learned on set was that nearly the entire Roadshow production is created with volunteer hours, and would not be possible without the generous donations from those involved (7 figures worth!!). The necessary funding for the show is provided by its sponsor, Liberty Mutual Insurance, as well as donations from public television viewers. Most of the staff on hand (around 125 people) were volunteering their time. In return, they are provided with food throughout the day and two free appraisals for items of their own. Obviously all the people bringing in items is also a valuable resource, but I was surprised to learn that even the appraisers are volunteering their time to be there, traveling on their own dime, taking time away from their own businesses, and spending the whole day doing free appraisals (about 1,000 per hour!). The benefit for them is obviously exposure should they find a treasure that makes it onto the show. As I mentioned earlier, there are 70 experts at each filming. A handful of those travel to every city, but they have around 150 experts in their talent pool, and usually there is a variety depending on their availability.

If there is an item the appraisers think would make a good segment, the person waits while the appraiser pitches their find to one of the producers. Remember, the appraisers are volunteering their time in hopes of exposure, so they want to be filmed just as badly or worse than the people who bring items in! If the producer thinks it’s a go, the film crew gets to work prepping the person, appraiser, and item for filming.

Unfortunately I was not selected to be filmed for the shows (how cool would that have been!), but be sure to watch the Omaha episodes on NET or your local PBS station when they air next year, and look for me walking around in the crowd! Thank you so much to NET and the Antiques Roadshow crew for showing me such hospitality during the event. It was an experience I’ll never forget!

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P.S.~ I was not reimbursed for writing this post, however I was provided with a tour of the set and item appraisals as an inside look at the making of the show. All opinions and experiences are 100% my own. :) Have a great day!



  • Jacklyn

    This is awesome! This is SO on my nerd bucket list!


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