ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Priceless Memories

STORY BY

BENJAMIN LERNER

PHOTOGRAPHY

JIMMY iENNER, Jr.

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW comes to Vermont for the first time, bringing several thousand participants to the Shelburne Museum for an unforgettable event.

On a hot summer day, Shelburne Museum was buzzing with excitement. The parking lot was packed with rows of cars that stretched as far as the eye could see, camera crews were pacing the grounds and setting up cutting-edge equipment, and hundreds of people were lined up in front of the gift shop entrance. After 26 seasons on-air, the enduring PBS television show, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, had finally come to Vermont to film the first three episodes ever shot in the Green Mountain State. The landmark event served as the final stop on the celebrated show’s 27th season tour. It took place on July 12th, 2022, and drew nearly three thousand people to Shelburne Museum. Participants brought their antique artifacts, jewelry, artworks, prints, memorabilia, and many other items. Their family heirlooms and prized antiques were appraised by ANTIQUES ROADSHOW’s team of knowledgeable appraisers, who provided them with fascinating and insightful information. The appraised value of the items may have vastly differed from person to person, but the memories that many of them took home from their experience at ANTIQUES ROADSHOW’s first visit to Vermont were truly priceless.


According to ANTIQUES ROADSHOW’s Executive Producer, Marsha Bemko, Vermont was the most popular stop on the 27th season’s nationwide tour. “It was interesting to see that Vermont had the most applicants of any stop on our tour – 17,428 to be exact.” According to information provided by GBH (the PBS station that oversees the production of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW), 11,245 of the applicants were from Vermont. “The tour stop with the second-highest number of applicants was Woodside, California, and California has a much larger population.”


Bemko adds that although ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is inundated with requests from people who want the show to come visit their city, Shelburne Museum stood out for several reasons. Firstly, the

president of GBH Jonathan Abbott, has an ancestor that was a docent at Shelburne Museum. “In addition to the numerous suggestions that we received, Jon also highly recommended the Shelburne

Museum,” said Bemko.


“Receiving a significant number of suggestions for any location will cause you to look at a place. Still, sometimes after we take a good look at a location, we realize that we can’t hold an event there. Shelburne fit the bill for us in so many ways. Wherever we are, the grounds need to be able to cope with thousands of participants. Not every place can work for that kind of crowd flow. The other real clincher for Shelburne Museum was that it had history that we could talk about. There’s a lot to see there, and it had a lot of gorgeous spots where we could film.”


Once Shelburne Museum was selected as the location for the 27th season’s final stop, prospective participants applied for tickets through a ticket sweepstakes, through which winners were randomly selected. 2,000 pairs of tickets to the Vermont event were distributed through the 2022 ANTIQUES ROADSHOW sweepstakes, 1,139 of which were given to Vermont residents. Participants came from all corners of Vermont, nearby states in New England, and parts beyond to enjoy the experience.


Upon arrival, participants checked in at Shelburne Museum gift shop at the southern entrance of the museum grounds. After passing through the gift shop, they proceeded to the “Triage” tent, which was located in a field next to the Pizzagalli Center for Arts and Education. At the Triage tent, participants’ items were categorized into 23 categories. Participants were then directed towards the appraisers who corresponded to their items’ categorical designation. Although a thunderstorm briefly passed over the grounds of Shelburne Museum at the beginning of the day, the inclement weather did little to quell the enthusiasm of the crowd. Some participants returned to their cars to wait out the storm. Other participants found safe refuge inside, where they congregated and swapped stories about their respective items. After the storm subsided, many participants flocked towards the appraisal tent that was set up on the Circus Lawn outside of the Circus Building. Appraisal tables for Arms & Militaria, Books & Manuscripts, Collectibles, Dolls, Glass, Musical Instruments, Paintings, Drawings, Pottery & Porcelain, Rugs & Textiles, Sports Memorabilia, Sculpture, and Toys & Games were set up on the lawn south of Shelburne Museum’s carousel. Two additional booths for Prints & Posters and Photographs were set up in the halls of the Circus Building, as well.

Appraiser Allan Katz closely inspects a piece of Folk Art

Inside of the Circus Building, seasoned appraiser Nicholas D. Lowry held court over the Prints & Posters appraisal table with flair and panache. As president of Swann Auction Galleries in New York City, Lowry is well-versed in the history of prints and posters. In addition to running the company, he is also a working auctioneer who directs the auction house’s Poster Department. Dressed in a sharp multicolored suit, Lowry stepped away briefly from the desk to share some fantastic advice for prospective ANTIQUES ROADSHOW participants. “The best things that you can bring to ANTIQUES ROADSHOW to be appraised are the things that you want to know the most about. Don’t try to hit a home run. I’ve heard people come in today and say, ‘I’ve been wondering about this for years, and I’m so happy to know the answer.’ Oftentimes, it will be an inexpensive piece, so they won’t walk away rich. However, they will walk away fulfilled, and will learn something new about an item that they’ve had for a long time without knowing the story behind it.”

The Round Barn at Shelburne Museum.

Outside the Circus Building, two native Vermonters, John and Carol, were waiting in line to have their items appraised at the Collectibles table. Standing in the middle of a grassy field, John was clutching a three-dimensional mounted display. It was unique, to say the least. “What you’re looking at is a display that was in England at the first fair where toilets were shown,” said John. “My grandfather got it back in the 1920s. In the 1800s, Sir Thomas Crapper invented the toilet. I brought it to Sotheby’s a few years ago to get it appraised, but they couldn’t put a price on it, because they had never seen anything like it. My goal today is to find out whether it’s an original or a duplicate. I’m quite sure that it’s an original.”

Antique photographs at an appraisal table.

Further up in line, Carol held a second artifact that had been passed on to John by his grandfather: a miniature wooden canoe with beautiful pieces of birch bark folded to the inside. “A lot of salesman samples of similar boats were made back in the early 1900s,” noted John. “Still, I don’t think that this is one of those, because it has artwork on the side of it. That’s what we’re here to find out today.”

An ANTIQUES ROADSHOW participant holds up an antique pocket watch.

At the front of the line, Collectibles Appraiser Travis Landry was deep in thought as he held a timeworn collectible in his hands. Landry is the director of the pop culture department at Bruneau & Co Auctioneers in Cranston, Rhode Island, where he also works as an auctioneer. “Most kids want to be a football player or a doctor when they grow up,” said Landry. “I literally grew up with the idea that I wanted to be on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW as an Appraiser.” Although Landry is only 26 years old, he has been volunteering as an Appraiser for the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW for six seasons. A passionate connoisseur of pop culture memorabilia, Landry has also appeared as a recurring guest on Travel Channel’s well-received show, Toy Hunter. After delighting several participants with a series of obscure and intriguing facts, he stepped away from the table to share his thoughts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW’s first visit to Vermont and Shelburne Museum.


“This place is absolutely beautiful,” said Landry. “From a production standpoint, you couldn’t ask for a better background. We had a little scare with the rainstorm earlier in the day, but it gave me the opportunity to go inside some of Shelburne Museum’s buildings and check out all of the cars and carousel horses. It was a bit of a sensory overload, but I absolutely loved it.”


ANTIQUES ROADSHOW’s filming equipment at Shelburne Museum.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW’s filming equipment at Shelburne Museum.

Up the hill from the Circus Lawn, the basement level of the Red Barn was filled with video production gear. Inside, several members of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW’s production staff were busy at work, overseeing the logistics of the filming process. Upstairs from the Red Barn’s basement level, several appraisal tables for Clocks, Folk Art, and Furniture were set up on the main floor of the Red Barn. Several feet from one of Shelburne Muse- um’s beautiful antique carriages, veteran appraiser Allan Katz inspected a series of Folk Art items with a discerning eye. Katz has volunteered as an Appraiser on 18 seasons of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW. He has also served as a Board Member and Trustee for the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, and as the Treasurer of the Board of the Antique Dealers Association of America. “We’ve seen a lot of what falls into the Folk Art category here today,” noted Katz, “more than any other city this year.” When asked about what qualities set Vermont Folk Art apart from Folk Art from other states, Katz offered the following: “Vermont Folk Art tends to be more creative and less rigid. There was more of a sense of freedom to do what they wanted, because they weren’t necessarily trying to copy the fancy pieces from Newport or Boston.” Speaking on his experience at Shelburne Museum, Katz was grateful for the spirit of positivity that participants brought to their interactions with him. “Expectations are not high,” noted Katz. “No one’s coming in with any demands. All of the people are just wonderful. They love coming here, and they don’t mind the wait. It’s all positive energy.”

Outside of the Red Barn, a participant standing in line with an antique Shaker pitchfork said that she was thankful to be participating in an ANTIQUES ROADSHOW event for the second time. “I got to go to the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW in Middletown, Connecticut in 2021. I had been trying to get tickets for a long time, because my mother had always been such a huge fan of the show. The best thing about coming back to the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW again is being able to spend more time with my parents – and making more memories with the people I love.”


In the middle of the South Lawn, an additional appraisal tent was bustling with activity. Appraisal tables for Ancient Art, Asian Art, Decorative Arts & Silver, Jewelry, Tribal Art, and Watches were staffed by many time-tested Appraisers, such as Jewelry and Watches Appraiser Kevin Zavian. Zavian works as a Consultant Appraiser for Doyle New York, a renowned auction house that specializes in the world’s finest jewelry, fine art, furniture, coins, and Asian Art. “I’ve been doing this since the beginning of the show,” said Zavian. “I’m a third-generation jeweler, and my father, Berj, has also volunteered as an Appraiser on this show since the first season. He was the person who first got me involved with ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.” Zavian adds that although he had not seen any items that were specifically made in Vermont at the time of the interview, the history of the region is almost always reflected in the items that participants bring with them “In states like Vermont, you’ll have people whose ancestors were in industries like mining or lumber. Those families have heirlooms that are passed down generationally. That kind of regional stuff filters in everywhere we go.”


To that end, an ensuing conversation with a former resident of the Green Mountain State further validated Zavian’s observations. A seventh-generation Vermonter named Richard, who currently lives in New Hampshire, had journeyed back to Vermont with his wife, Deborah, to attend the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW. “I brought my grandfather’s watch with me,” said Richard. “It’s exciting to bring it to the appraisers, and it’s also great coming back to Shelburne Museum. I went to Shelburne Museum twice a year throughout my childhood, so it feels good to be back and see all of the cool exhibits while I’m here at ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.”


Several hundred feet from the tent in the middle of the South Lawn, two participants were standing in line to speak about their experiences at ANTIQUES ROADSHOW at the on-site “Feedback Booth.” Cheryl and Debbie had come to Shelburne Museum from New Jersey to participate in the event. They had brought several interesting items with them to be appraised, including Russian Tsar

Nicholas-era earrings and an abalone letter opener. “It’s wonderful to be a part of this community,” said Debbie. “We’ve been introducing ourselves to so many people and finding out what their treasures are. It’s fun to meet everybody, and everyone we’ve met has been in such a good mood.”


Reflecting on her experience, Cheryl added the following: “It was great to learn a little bit more about these pieces, because they’re sentimental to me. It was amazing to see how much everyone values their treasures and antiques— usually things that they had stored away and not paid much attention to. We learned a lot from coming here.”

Directly adjacent to the feedback booth, an informational tent sponsored by Ver- mont Public was set up just south of the Pizzagalli Center for Arts and Education. “Vermont Public was our partner in the production at Shelburne Museum,” said Marsha Bemko. “Once we decide where we’re going and we’re able to commit to it, we immediately get in touch with the public television station in that market, which for Shelburne Museum was Vermont Public. They helped us with the promotion, and we also worked with their marketers. Stations that we work with supply around 100 volunteers for every event, which they recruit for us. Without the volunteers, we couldn’t do the show. Vermont Public was a real partner in getting the event done. They played a huge part in it.”

When asked whether or not there was a possibility that ANTIQUES ROADSHOW would return to Vermont in the future, Bemko was open to the possibility. However, she pointed out that ANTIQUES ROADSHOW’s policies would prevent a return in the next several years. “A big consideration when we’re choosing where to go is that we can’t go to the same city for five years. I always joke that when someone has worked at ANTIQUES ROADSHOW for a little bit and we’re looking for places to go, they will end up saying things like, ‘Wow! The country is really small,’ because our options are limited. We won’t be coming back to Vermont in the next five years, but we definitely do want to come back in the future.”


ALL THE DETAILS:

pbs.org/show/antiques-roadshow


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