2017-09-21 / Front Page

'Antiques Roadshow' Big Hit at Rosecliff

By James Merolla


These quality etchings earned their owner a spot on television. Here, they have just finished filming in the ballroom at Rosecliff, the first time a mansion was used as a setting for Antiques Roadshow. These quality etchings earned their owner a spot on television. Here, they have just finished filming in the ballroom at Rosecliff, the first time a mansion was used as a setting for Antiques Roadshow. Of the estimated 7,000 items appraised at the taping of “Antiques Roadshow” on Tuesday, Sept. 19, the rainproof tents might have been the most valuable.

As Tropical Storm Jose swept across the Atlantic Seaboard, bringing rain and increasing winds, WGBH-TV Roadshow producers persevered on the lawn at Rosecliff Mansion. It was the first time they have taped an outdoor show in their 22 seasons.

More than 3,000 visitors carefully protected their precious paintings, books, dolls, jewelry, furniture, photos and other heirlooms from the elements swirling around them. But the storm only teased. The appraisers did not. They were right as rain.

The only hitch to the day was that guests had to park at Ft. Adams and were shuttled to the mansion to stand in line inside several dozen tents and the lower level of Rosecliff, where the film crews had set up.


ABOVE: Appraiser Marshall Martin of Folsom, California, busy judging the value of dolls of all kinds. This woman's doll was vintage and highly sought. The next doll brought before him, however, didn't make the cut and was a reproduction, disappointing its owner. LEFT: Stuart Whitehurst, a book appraiser from Florida, and Boston bibliophile legend Ken Gloss, appraise the reporter's historic books from 1812-1828. (Photos by James Merolla) ABOVE: Appraiser Marshall Martin of Folsom, California, busy judging the value of dolls of all kinds. This woman's doll was vintage and highly sought. The next doll brought before him, however, didn't make the cut and was a reproduction, disappointing its owner. LEFT: Stuart Whitehurst, a book appraiser from Florida, and Boston bibliophile legend Ken Gloss, appraise the reporter's historic books from 1812-1828. (Photos by James Merolla) The numbers were impressive:

•Producers gave away 1,650 pairs of free tickets out of 10,309 ticket applications.

• Every ticketholder was invited to bring up to two items for a free verbal approximation of value.

• Sixty appraisers from across the nation covered 24 different categories, ranging from large furniture, tiny dolls, folk art and maps to paintings, tribal arts, rugs, toys, games, vintage clothing, jewels and sporting items.

• Approximately 150 locals volunteered to help dozens of show staff members tape the episode, which will be part of the Emmywinning show’s season that will air nationally on PBS next year.

Because the shuttle only had a 30-inch-wide window, guests were urged to bring smaller items. Some listened; others didn’t.

One such hopeful was Janet (no last names were given or specific towns named for privacy’s sake) from western Rhode Island, who brought folk art, namely a compass in a box. “They said it was worth $400 to $500,” she said. “Now, I’m in line to show my decorative art, a Gorham bronze thermometer, only the thermometer is missing. It’s an old mercury one. I couldn’t bring mercury here.”

Indeed, certain items were carefully scrutinized before they were, well, carefully scrutinized. As I arrived with my photographer, I was asked by a female staff member if I had an item to be appraised.

“Yes,” I said.

“Any guns?” she asked.

“Um, no. I wouldn’t bring a gun to the Roadshow,” I said.

“Well, people do,” she said, pointing to the gun table. “And sometimes they forget they still have some buckshot in it.”

I brought books. I am a boxing historian with nearly 800 boxing books dating back more than two centuries. Producers said that as a media member I could receive the firsthand experience of having a prized possession appraised.

At the first table was the dapper Ken Gloss, whose family has run the legendary Brattle Book Shop in Boston, which was founded in 1825, since 1949.

I brought a four-volume set from 1812 to 1828 called Boxiana by British writer Pierce Egan, one of the prizes of my collection. It was Egan who first called the sport “The Sweet Science.”

Gloss knew the set. “I haven’t had one of these in a while,” he said. “You are missing the fifth volume and the binding has been redone. The condition is wanting (brown spots called “foxing”). It might fetch $500, up to $1,500, depending. The set would be worth more if it had the original binding.”

I paid $150 for it in 1989. I wilted a bit. I had seen vintage sets selling online for $5,000. If that had been the price, I might have been a Roadshow star.

“If you had that million-dollar item, we’d call the producer and ask if you want to be on TV,” said Kathy Burke, who served with another WGBH staffer, Caitlin Walsh, as our guides from station to station. “If you said, ‘Yes,’ we’d whisk you away to the green room. You’d have to wait a bit. We wouldn’t give you an appraisal here. We want that authentic reaction on the air.”

In addition to being the show’s first outdoor attempt, it was also their first on the grounds of a real mansion. “It makes for a unique episode,” said Burke. “You think that in Newport you’d get all kinds of nautical things. But as one of the appraisers said to me, ‘You get anything, anywhere. Things travel.’”

One woman brought a vintage doll that excited Marshall Martin, a doll expert from Folsom, California. The woman consented to appear on TV. She held the doll on her lap and waited.

She was followed by a woman who brought a wooden doll that seemed authentic. “What do you know about this doll?” asked Martin.

“It was a gift,” the woman said. “I saw one like it that was appraised for $9,000 on this show.”

“This is a newer piece, more of a decorative piece,” Martin said, matter of-factly, deflating her dream.

“I thought it was the real thing,” she said.

“It’s not,” he answered, a common refrain to the congregation from the experts.

Up the stairs opposite her in the main level of Rosecliff, AR had set up its brilliant studio lighting and myriad cameras and microphones, where the most valuable were filmed. A petite elderly woman had brought a pair of prints that dazzled appraiser Gene Shapiro. They were set up on easels and he assessed their value.

The polite woman didn't seem fazed either way by their worth.

Another lady, also not fazed by value, presented antique jewelry she had inherited from her mother. The appraisers blanched when they saw the set, knowing it was worth a good amount of money, and, seeing its uniqueness, immediately asked her if she would appear on television.

The woman was humble and politely refused the appearance.

Someone brought in a ball signed by both Babe Ruth and teammate Lou Gehrig. They were asked to be on TV, too.

Perhaps the amazing once-ina quarter century experience was best summed up by Nancy, who drove all the way from western New York.

“I brought some glass globes from my grandfather’s home and some door knockers,” she said.

I asked if it was too long a drive. “God, no. I had great company and a perfect GPS. Heaven!”

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