Thursday, February 09, 2012
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.