Thursday, February 09, 2012


by Joyce

Last year, as soon as I heard Antiques Roadshow was coming to Pittsburgh, I dashed to WQED’s website and promptly signed up to volunteer. I’d been a fan for a long time. I routinely bore my hubby by insisting we watch the show almost every Monday night. While he makes comments like, “I can’t believe that ugly thing is worth that much!” I daydream about the yard sale I’ll go to one day and pay a dollar for some other ugly thing that’s worth thousands. Or the day I find an unknown letter written by Abraham Lincoln tucked into an old book I pick up at a used book sale. Or…well, you get the idea.

After waiting not so patiently for months, I finally got the notice that I’d been accepted as a volunteer. When Roadshow arrived in August, I’d be there on the set. Be still my heart! The night before the big event all the volunteers were required to turn out at the convention center for training. We walked through the set—which is a lot bigger than it looks on TV—and the producers gave us our instructions. These guys and gals were some of the nicest people I’d ever met. They really seemed to like their jobs. They told us to be sure to wear padded, comfortable shoes as we’d be standing on concrete for over twelve hours, and gave us pointers to make our jobs go smoothly the next day. They stressed how much they appreciated us and that they couldn’t pull this off without the more than one hundred volunteers.

All the volunteers arrived bright and early the following morning. We gathered in a banquet room where they had a breakfast buffet set up—they also had snacks, coffee, and lunch for us. After breakfast, we got our final instructions and headed to our assigned spots. Right before the doors opened to the public, the staff and volunteers gathered in the center of the set for a Roadshow cheer. And we were off.

The day passed quickly. My job was to direct people to the lines for prints and paintings. Most of the attendees were friendly and cordial. Every once in a while I had one who complained about having to wait in line and I explained that even though the tickets were timed, the appraisers could only go so fast. And if they found a gem among the junk, everything stopped. Those little minute or two appraisals that you see on TV can take an hour to set up.

The appraisers were all very modest and down to earth. During some slow times, I even had a chance to chat with a few of them. Nice guys. And when the host, Mark Wahlberg made his appearance, you’d have thought a rock star walked onto the set. The ladies went nuts having him autograph their tickets. He was all smiles and seems like a nice guy. And I heard he liked the Primanti sandwiches.

Volunteers were permitted to bring two items to be appraised. I took a German beer stein and a gold expansion bracelet that had come from my mother-in-law’s house. Neither was worth very much. The stein was WWII vintage—a souvenir that soldiers usually bought by trading a pack of cigarettes. It was only worth about $25, but it has a good story. The bracelet was European, circa 1860s and worth about $200. Not too shabby. I know the appraisers do this for a living, but I was still amazed that they could come up with information and values in a matter of seconds.

Before I knew it, the day was over and my feet were killing me. I had a blast, though and would do it again in a heartbeat.

The Pittsburgh shows air on PBS for three consecutive Monday nights beginning next week, February 13th. Be sure to tune in—maybe you’ll see me in the background passing by a camera. I’ll be tuning in for sure (wearing my official blue Roadshow polo shirt). Even though I was there, I missed a lot. I gotta catch up!

In the meantime, check out these links:

And if you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow @RoadshowPBS, @marklwahlberg, and @NichoLowry for live tweets of the show on Monday nights.


Paula Matter said...

I love Antiques Roadshow! We watch it every Monday night. When something I consider really ugly comes up, I'll shout to my husband," Cha-ching!" I'm right 9 times out of 10.

I'm gonna start buying only really ugly stuff at auctions from now on.

I'll be looking for you next week, Joyce!

C.L. Phillips said...


What a treat! Can't wait to hear the story of the beer stein.

I tried to make reservations for Boucheron yesterday - did you know the conference hotel is already FULL? Are any of the STIFFS going? Suggestions on where to stay? I've never been to Cleveland!

Take care.

Joyce Tremel said...

Cindy, Annette and I are going--we're rooming together. I think Martha is going, too. Check the list of attendees on the B'con website and see if anyone you know wants a roommate.

The story of the beer stein is only what I posted: these steins were WWII souvenirs that soldiers usually traded cigarettes for. Too bad it wasn't a souvenir from the Eagle's Nest or something. Now that would have been a story!

C.L. Phillips said...


I went to Eagle's Nest when I was six years old. Big place. Didn't have the slightest clue why it was so famous, but I still remember the trip.

Thanks for the tip on B'con. Headed to the site now....

Annette said...

Joyce, Hubby and I watch Roadshow all the time. He drools over the antique guns and powder horns and such. Every time something is appraised at some astronomical figure, we look at each other and ask, "Do you have one of those hidden away somewhere?" Sadly, the answer is always, "No."

I'd intended to volunteer for this, too, but it slipped off my radar and I forgot. :-(

We'll be sure and keep an eye out for you.

Patg said...

AR just finished up in Eugene OR. There was a very nice powderhorn there, but they had some ugly that went beyond ugly.
It really is a fun show, and I used to like to watch the one from England. That one was unbelieveable.
My absolute favorite one was a small marble, Eygptian funeral statue found among a bunch of rocks at that 100-mile yard sale in TN that someone bought for a few bucks. The best part was the buyer knew exactly what it was.

Mary Sutton said...

Very cool. We used to watch AR all the time, and then it fell off our radar. I may have to watch next week just 'cause it's in Pittsburgh. I'm always amazed at the history of stuff, even if it isn't worth very much.

Cindy, I will email you about BCon.

Sarah J.Swanson said...

There is clearly a bunch to identify about this. I believe you made certain good points in features also.
Kamik Women's Jennifer Rain Boot