It should probably come as no surprise that Mr. Razor and I are huge Antiques Roadshow fans. So when they started advertising that they'd be visiting Boston, there was much nerdy flailing in our living room. I signed us up for the ticket lottery, and we improbably won two tickets for the June 9th taping.
After joking that we should head to Goodwill and buy the ugliest painting we could find, we decided to bring gold bracelets that came over from Syria with Mr. Razor's relatives, an old copy of Anne of Green Gables that belonged to my mother, and a brass lamp we'd found at the thrift store. I really wanted to bring the antique chamber pot my mother uses to store napkins in her kitchen, but she vetoed that one.
The day is split into five entrance times, each two hours apart. We had the first entrance at 9 a.m. I figured we'd be the youngest people there (we're in our thirties, in case my obsession with comic book characters and dumb internet shit has misled you) by at least a decade, but there were a good number of under-40s there.
Which brings me to a point that I had not considered until I got there: every single person at an Antiques Roadshow event is a massive, massive Antiques Roadshow nerd. No one wakes up and goes, "Oh, huh, that could be fun. Let me go look in the attic for something old." We applied for the ticket lottery four months before the event and spent a month of Sunday dinners with our families debating what to bring. All 6,000 people in the convention center had chosen the antiques most likely to get them either on TV or close to their favorite appraisers.
(We wanted to get on TV. We did not, but the piece that I thought could do it still has a very interesting story that I want to tell at a later date.)
So the first thing that happened was we got in line. At the front of the line, a general appraiser looked at our stuff and gave us cards naming the appraisal section they fell under. We had Books, Jewelry, and Metal Work. It's not an exact science, though. While we were getting our cards, two appraisers at another table were trying to decide if a handmade Freemasons's apron should be Textiles or Folk Art.
Then we went into a huge room that was mostly empty, but in the center had a roughly circular setup of tall blue screens. Above the screens were large stage lights. The lines for each section were behind the screens. When you got to the front, a volunteer checked and stamped your section card and either held you in place or directed you to another, shorter line inside the set.
Our first two lines moved really quickly, so I didn't get to see much of what was going on around us, but the book line was like molasses and we saw all kinds of cool behind the scenes stuff. From what I could tell, if an appraiser thinks you have something TV-worthy, he or she pulls aside a producer and shows it to them (we saw the music guy do this with a viola). If they deem it worthy, the person goes back outside of the screen and is interviewed by the crew, who take notes. We also saw a couple of the appraisers come out to look more closely at the pieces and talk to the owners. I imagine that's the research portion of the process, where the appraiser figures out what he or she will say during the taping.
When we got into the set for the last time, the line continued to move slowly because two of the three book appraisers were talking to producers. But I didn't mind at all because we got to watch a bit being taped. The center of the set holds the cameras and boom mics, and around them are three appraisal stations. They were setting up to record an old rifle at one table, while at another a slightly shellshocked-looking woman with an antique toy was waiting for the appraiser to come sit across from her. The third spot was being set up with a contraption that ended up holding up a really cool looking rug.
We got the book appraised and were out almost three hours exactly after we'd arrived, exhausted despite the fact that we'd spent 90% of our time just standing in line. (Very well managed lines, I should add. Roadshow volunteers are On It.) The appraisers we spoke to were all friendly, upbeat, and happy to tell us in detail about our pieces (Peter Shemonsky in particular was super informative). They didn't seem fazed by the crush of people or seemingly endless lines, and it occurred to me that you'd have to be quite an extrovert to sign up to appraise for a television show.
I think my favorite moment came near the beginning of the day, when the woman at the metal work table was politely telling us that our lamp wasn't anything special. Another person walking onto the set looked at her and exclaimed excitedly, "Oh, it's Kerry Shrives!" Ms. Shrives briefly looked confused, then smiled and waved. It must be awfully strange to be a nerd niche celebrity.