The Roadshow More Traveled, Pt. I

Jesus, I’m glad we didn’t bring a painting to the Antiques Roadshow this weekend.

OK, we did have a print of Jesus in hand – not Jen and myself, mind you, but Jen’s aunt – so we ended up waiting in the Prints and Posters line for a rather long while to have it appraised fleetingly by one of the Roadshow’s experts. But that line was nothing compared to the Hands Across America state of the queue of show-goers who spread themselves across the inside the Palm Springs Convention Center yesterday, their greedy hands mostly festooned with Red Skelton clown paintings. While some lines weren’t even really lines at all – one could just slide immediately up to certain areas without waiting behind a single soul – if you brought a painting to the event, you were going to be standing for a couple of hours at least, even with most appraisals taking a mere two or three minutes apiece.

Fortunately for us – Jen, her mom Sande, Jen's aunt Sue, and myself – we only had that devotional print of Sue’s, Jen’s pair of jewelry items, Sande’s awesome collection of Beatles albums (including UK editions and that famous “baby butcher” cover) and my pair of antique books and an old 8mm movie camera. Our lines, comparatively, were reasonably brief (outside of the prints queue), and in the case of my items, no wait at all. We also were able to skip another potential major time-killer through the use of an insider: Sandy’s old pal Rod, who now occasionally works for Antiques Roadshow and was able to score us a quartet of tickets that enabled us to skip the usual process of timed entrances. Most patrons of the event (which is free, by the way) have specific times printed on their tickets at which they have to arrive well before that time, line up, and then they will gain mass entrance with that particular group sometime around the appointed time. That “time” group then moves forward to join the main entrance line already in wait, which is already rather lengthy itself, but moves along at a fairly rapid clip. Our special tickets allowed us merely to be considered “generic” – their term – and we went immediately into the main entrance line.

Inside in less than an hour, when we went into the main hall, our items were inspected briefly for type. We were then each given tickets for whatever category into which our items fell. Sande’s albums fell into the Collectables group; my camera was considered Science and Technology, etc. We initially sought to all stick together as a group, going to each line in succession. We first hit the Jewelry line, also seemingly long but nothing compared to those around us, and once we arrived at the front, we discovered the snag in the plan.

Due to the mass of people swirling around us, and the noise level such a gathering engenders, it was hard for all of us to hear what the appraiser was telling Jen about the pearls and ring she had brought. We were so used to watching the show and seeing the detailed appraisals – miked, clear, and unfettered by the clutter of humanity – which I guess we just assumed that standing at one of the tables, we would have a similar experience. But the truth is that often you are at the mercy of the personality of whichever appraiser you happen to meet when you get to the table. Some of them are extraordinarily quiet and reserved, while others jump about and are clearly more used to entertaining with their opinions. (The ponytailed burst of energy at the Collectables table was a particular joy to behold, and very sincere in his appreciation of his genre.) The appraiser that we happened upon of the three seated at the Jewelry table was very helpful and knowledgeable, but due to the noise of the place, only Jen and I were really able to hear her comments. We decided that splitting up to various areas might be a good way to go, since the Collectables line was somewhat lengthy, and my two weren’t at all.

Sande’s albums were pretty damn cool, it was agreed by all (especially by women of a like age in the Jewelry line), but as we expected, the main one of note was the justly infamous “baby butcher” cover of Yesterday and Today, the one featuring the Fab Four covered in doll parts and chunks of raw meat. Controversial for the time – in fact, probably even now in some areas – the supposedly gory cover was replaced with another less interesting one, only on the early pressings, Capitol merely slapped the new picture over the original. Enterprising teens like Sande and Sue during those days of the British Invasion knew full well what to do: steam the boring new cover off to reveal the disgusting old one. Which they did indeed do, and it was an act that Mr. Ponytail recognized right away, with a tremendous grin on his puss, the very second that Sande held it up. Our joy was mitigated by three factors: 1) the albums were much loved in their time, and therefore, not necessarily in the greatest condition, 2) the appraiser barely looked at the remainder of the albums, except to comment that if Sgt. Pepper’s read “mono” at the top instead of “stereo,” it would have been much better, and 3) there was a guy in the line about twenty people ahead who also had the “baby butcher” cover. The appraisal came out to about $15-20 for each of the albums, except the “baby butcher,” which he said could go easily for between $600-800, even in this condition.

As said, my lines were nothing. The Science and Technology table was a wait behind a single person, and if there had been more than one appraiser there, no one at all. The Tools and Instruments appraiser offered to help me, depending on what I had, but he didn’t know anything about old movie cameras. (He was exceedingly bored, and had only appraised a dozen items all day long, so he was desperate to talk to anybody at all.) My great pal Alexis had given my Bell and Howell Filmo Double Eight camera to me several years ago (I can’t remember if she found it at a garage sale or an antique store), but I didn’t know anything about it otherwise. Chiefly, I wanted to know the date, but the appraiser (kind of a tall cross between Doctor Who’s David Tennant and Freddie Mercury’s overbite, and with a soft British accent to boot) merely told me what I knew already: basically, all of the production information that I too could glean from the trappings of the camera itself, and a production date between the 1930s to the ‘40’s. (I suspect investigating its serial number elsewhere would get me more information.) He said there was no real market for 8mm, since they were so widely manufactured in those days, but that I could probably fetch $50-60 for it. Since I will always keep it as part of my film collection anyway, it doesn’t matter.

Which now brings me to The King In Yellow

[To be continued on Tuesday...]


Andrea said…
What?! You turn up your nose at Red Skelton clown paintings?

I wouldn't mind a Gacy clown. Friend of mine in LA had one, sent to him straight from Gacy himself. It really was creepy.

What I'd really like is some original artwork from "Night Gallery." Have seen repro's on eBay but even they are a little steep.

Am on the edge of my seat to hear about The King in Yellow.

Miss you.


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