A quiet day in the countryside looking at antiques—some trash, some treasure—may not sound like riveting television to a lot of us. But it’s certainly proven to be a winning formula for Antiques Roadshow.
Running since 1979, it initially started as a British television show, but has spawned a number of international versions, as well as special events that see them touring other countries. The format is simple: the show tours a different town or location and local people bring along their prized possessions and heirlooms to be evaluated for authenticity and interest—and an approximate valuation is given.
Often, the professional evaluators will share something of the historical, craft or artistic properties of an antique, explaining why it is, or isn’t, a genuine ‘find’. It’s truly fascinating, giving context to the different factors that go into making an item valuable, as well as often illuminating day-to-day life in different historical periods.
The thing I find most interesting is watching the interaction between the experts and people bringing the items along. It can be high drama, running a gamut of emotions from high to low. Often, people convinced that their family heirloom is worth a fortune, or has a storied history, struggle to accept that it’s not what they thought it was—and can take it out on the evaluator.
But what I enjoy seeing is something more positive. Seeing the look of surprise and joy on someone’s face when they find that the value of some undistinguished-looking object will be enough to help change their life or allow them to realise some dream makes for uplifting television. With the record for most valuable item sitting around £600,000 (approx. A$1 million) there have been some exciting moments.
To their credit, the producers generally avoid showing the moments where people discover that a treasured possession is a fake, and the show is not built around trying to embarrass people. Its emphasis is more on the positive outcomes, as well as educating and informing people about the history that can be found in their very own homes.
It’s a reminder that sometimes things of great worth can be right under our noses without us knowing, and that we can go years without realising the true value of what is around us. This is as true of people as it is of heirlooms. The lesson that appearances can be deceiving, and that judging something by its exterior can mean us missing out on a life-changing encounter, is something well worth taking into all areas of our life.