Is my heirloom worth taking on "Antiques Roadshow"?

Patte Bogart, left, makes her way past Angelina Orona, right, during the "Antiques Roadshow" event in Los Angeles Saturday, Aug. 13, 2005. "Antiques Roadshow" has experts appraise the treasures people bring for evaluation.
Patte Bogart, left, makes her way past Angelina Orona, right, during the "Antiques Roadshow" event in Los Angeles Saturday, Aug. 13, 2005. "Antiques Roadshow" has experts appraise the treasures people bring for evaluation.
AP Photo/Kim D. Johnson

You love "Antiques Roadshow," the beloved PBS program that's been on the air since 1996. And you have an heirloom that you think might be worth something. Remember, this is the show where you could find out that the photo you bought at a garage sale for 50 cents is really an Ansel Adams original. But don't quit your day job just yet. First, you'll need to get tickets and choose an item that can stand up the to the appraisers' scrutiny.

Going to the Show

If you've ever wanted to attend an "Antiques Roadshow," you're in good company. The show only travels during June, July and August, which leaves the rest of the year for throngs of people to try to land a ticket. The good news is the tickets are free. The bad news is there are far fewer tickets than there are people who want them. The application process is pretty easy -- you find out if they're coming to your city and apply before the deadline. But they choose ticketholders through a random lottery; whether or not you get one is pure luck.

Everyone is allowed to bring one guest, and you each get to take two items for appraisal. Unfortunately, even if you hold the golden ticket, you may not make it onto the actual TV show. Items for taping are selected based on what the appraisers and producers find to be rare, valuable or interesting. If you have a piece that isn't particularly valuable but has an interesting story, you may still have a chance to appear on air. The selection process is very subjective, so there is no hard-and-fast rule about who will be chosen. Appraisers see around 10,000 items for each show, and they only pick 80 to record. You do the math.

Once you have your ticket, how do you know what heirloom to take with you? Keep reading for tips.

Should I Take My Heirloom?

You're the lucky duck who snagged a ticket, and now you're trying to decide if your heirloom is worth taking on the show. How much do you already know about the piece? Have you been told by other family members that it's valuable, or do you just suspect that it is? What kind of condition is it in? Is it a 1960s limited edition Barbie that's never been taken out of its mint condition box, or is it a Louis XIV chair with a patched-up leg and a reupholstery job? The show's appraisers will give you a verbal appraisal for anything you bring -- as long as it fits through the door and you can carry it.

You really don't really have anything to lose other than your hopes that your heirloom may fund your retirement. You could get some great news that it's worth more than you ever suspected, or you may be disappointed and find that it's only worth about 50 cents at a garage sale. If you don't want to go and feel embarrassed by your high hopes, you can always hire an appraiser to give you an idea of its value beforehand. Unfortunately, there's no way to get one from the Roadshow folks unless you attend a show. But chances are you'll find out more about your heirloom than you knew before, which is always great information to pass along to your heir.

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Sources

  • Antique Appraisal Guide. "More About The Antique Road Show." Oct. 9, 2005. (Aug. 20, 2010) http://www.antiqueappraisalguide.com/content/view/13/27/
  • Antiques Roadshow. "On The Road: Frequently Asked Questions." 2010. (Aug. 20, 2010) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/faq_02.html#appraisals_00
  • Dictionary.com. "Antique." 2010. (Aug. 20, 2010) http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/antique