• L. Dustin Twede

Antique Roadshow

Greetings! This is a humorous essay I wrote several years ago. It's a rather long essay, but I think you'll enjoy it.

The other day I was flipping through television channels with the anticipation of something catching my attention. My attention is not picky, and can usually be caught as easily as a trout at a sportsman exhibition fishpond. But as luck would have it, not one of the 13 channels had anything worth biting. And yes, you read that correctly, only 13 channels. No cable. No dish. I only spend 30 seconds of my life finding out there is nothing on television, whereas, those of you with platinum cable or satellite subscriptions lose 30 minutes of your life flipping through 2,137 channels before you arrive at the same conclusion.

But fate must have accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up on my street, for just as I was about to skip past the public television channel, I noticed they were actually broadcasting something other than a pledge drive. I once heard of a man who claimed that his wife's mother's great niece actually watched an entire 30-minute program on public television without a single pledge drive interruption, but no one was able to substantiate the claim and it eventually ended up in the archives section of one of those urban legend websites.

The show they were broadcasting was called, "Antiques Roadshow". The premise of the show is this: The Antiques Roadshow folks travel all over the world conducting appraisals. People bring their antiques to a designated spot like a convention center or pavilion to have their valuables appraised by expert appraisers who do not appear to have anything remotely resembling a normal life. If a person’s antiques and life story seem interesting to the roadshow folks, they stick a camera in his/her face, while an expert appraiser walks him/her through the appraisal. And if his/her segment survives the editing process, he/she could end up being part of the Antique Roadshow aired on public television. I must admit when I first started watching the program I debated on whether to continue watching or go make a bowl of popcorn in anticipation of the inevitable pledge drive. But it ended up being very entertaining. I then began to wonder who would actually show up to one of these roadshow appraisals.

Clarence and Beverly Nobknee are perusing the "Slice of Life" section of their local daily newspaper when they stumble upon the following add: "The Antiques Roadshow will be in your area on March 16. If you have something that you think is an antique and you'd like to have it appraised, bring it on down to Dooley Country Fair Grounds. You could actually be on public television." *

*Public television appearance subject to broadcast availability due to programs being preempted by pledge drives.

Clarence immediately thinks of the lamp that he bought years ago at a flea market held at the very same fairgrounds where the Antique Roadshow was going to be held. Some artist/train lover/electrician had converted an old railroad lantern into a base for which to stick a light socket up through. And the lampshade was no ordinary lampshade. The artist/train lover/electrician had taken an ordinary lampshade and painted a scene of a vintage steam locomotive pulling into a rustic old frontier train depot. And standing near the depot is a train worker who appears to be holding in his hands a lantern that Clarence swears is a spot-on depiction of the lantern that the once ordinary - now original masterpiece lampshade now covers. And while most people Clarence allows in his shop to gaze at the lamp agree that the artist/train Lover/electrician probably did paint the lantern into the lampshade canvas as a representation of the very lantern the lampshade now watches over, none of them seem to appreciate the sheer brilliance of the thematic juxtaposition.

Not a day goes by that Clarence doesn't remember the day he saw that lamp. Not a day goes by that he doesn't remember with pride, how he bartered five bucks off the asking price. And since then, Clarence has been convinced the value of that lamp has steadily increased. For full disclosure, Clarence had to admit to that he did have one not-so-pure motive for wanting the experts at the Antiques Roadshow to appraise his lamp/work-of-art for a minimum of 5 figures. Years ago, when Clarence brought his prized acquisition home, he had envisioned it being the centerpiece of the living room. The current living room lamp was atrocious. A pot shaped pottery with an ordinary lampshade. It lacked all the qualities that his new lamp possessed; originality, character, personality and railroad theme. Qualities that Clarence was quick to find out were not qualities that Beverly even considered when she purchased the pot lamp. But once she heard what the real value of the lantern lamp was, he was convinced the pot lamp would immediately be relegated to the nightstand in the spare bedroom where it would live out its remaining days bitter and resentful.

Beverly too was convinced that she had a priceless treasure. It was a doll that had been passed down from her grandmother to her mother, who then passed it down to her. Clarence had no idea it held any sentimental value to Beverly until the day she caught Clarence using it as makeshift duck decoy to teach their spaniel, Penny to fetch. Once Clarence was able to reattach the doll's legs, Beverly placed the doll back into the glass case from where Clarence and Penny had borrowed it. Neither man nor dog has ever been allowed within ten feet of the glass case since. The alarm system makes sure of that. Clarence keeps a wide berth from the doll by simply never entering the living room. But Penny spends most of her life just outside the 10-foot restricted zone waiting for the doll (who keeps taunting her with those unblinking eyes) to climb out of the glass case so Penny can "finish the job".

So Clarence and Beverly show up at Dooley County Fairgrounds both carrying their treasures. With the anticipation of possibly appearing on public television, Beverly splurged and had her hair coifed by first chair stylist, Teena down at Sparkles Salon and Sub Shop. Clarence, not wanting to be outdone, is wearing his favorite western style shirt with a pattern of cowboy hats and boots. Attached to his lucky belt is a buckle the size of a dinner plate with two Clydesdale-sized horseshoes facing each other. Clarence has never been able to explain why he considers it his lucky belt, but to Beverly, it‘s lucky because Clarence rarely wears it because the buckle is so expansive that it covers his fly. And with a fickle prostrate, Clarence is never quite sure how much prep time he’s going to have.

Beverly is now seated at a table across from a woman looking and dressing like she never stepped foot on a fairground in her life. She has a monocle embedded in her right eye, and is inspecting the finer features of Beverly's doll including what appears to be some recent repairs done where the legs attach to the torso. Beverly mutters an inappropriate oath to Clarence and Penny under her breath.

Appraiser: "Do you know anything about this doll?"

Beverly: "Not really. It was passed down from my grandmother to my mother and then to me."

Appraiser: "What you have here is called a Dorothy Doll, named after Dorothy Plemmel, who created this line of dolls in the late 1800's."

Appraiser takes a small metal pointer and aims it at one of the doll's eyes.

Appraiser: "As you can see, the eyes are made of glass, and they are blue, which was not altogether common during that period. The hair was made from the fiber of a South American Camelid, which is essentially a non-domesticated Alpaca. The gown was made from a sheer gauze-like fabric called Gossamer. And the boots are hand-stitched Chrome-tanned leather. These dolls are very rare. Have you ever had it appraised?"

Beverly: "No."

Appraiser: "The value of these dolls has gradually increased over time, however, within the last few years the value has skyrocketed due to all of the publicity surrounding the Narflander Kidnapping. I'm sure you remember hearing about it."

Beverly looks like a blank sheet of paper.

Appraiser: "Two kidnappers broke into the Narflander mansion in the dead of night and kidnapped Baby Narflander - or so they thought. However, instead of picking up the infant, they accidentally picked up Mrs. Narflander's Dorothy Doll. But by the time the kidnappers realized their mistake, they had already sent a ransom note demanding $2 million dollars for the release of the child. Mrs. Narflander, making the same mistake as the kidnappers, thought the baby in the nursery was her Dorothy Doll, quickly paid the $2 Million dollar ransom. Since then, I've seen Dorothy Dolls in mint condition go for around $20,000 at auction."

Beverly's jaw drops into her cleavage.

Appraiser: "However, there is a very limited market for this type of doll. If it's not in pristine condition, the value drops dramatically."

Appraiser flips up Dorothy Doll's gown. She takes her pointer and aims it at the recent repair tethering Dorothy's legs to her torso.

Appraiser: "However, due to this recent repair using staples and duct tape, I would estimate the value of this particular Dorothy Doll to be in the neighborhood of $50 dollars."

Beverly's looks like a volcano ready to spew. She immediately starts scanning the rows of tables occupied by appraisers and their short-term clientele. Her scan skids to an abrupt stop.

Clarence suddenly feels this overwhelming sense of impending doom, immediately followed by the excruciating pain of a million Beverly eye-daggers puncturing the soft tissue of his body. Clarence tries to keep his focus as an appraiser approaches the table and sits down across from him.

Appraiser: "I've been discussing this lamp with a few of my colleagues. It is definitely a one-of-a-kind. The railroad lantern, which is a Fowler model 245, was manufactured in the early 1900's. They're still fairly common, with an auction value of about $250 dollars. However, since the lantern has been compromised by cutting a whole in the bottom of it, and turning it into a lamp, there would be no auction value because...well to put it bluntly, no one would bid on it."

Clarence tries to conceal his disappointment by pretending the fluorescent lighting was responsible for his leaking eye ducts.

Appraiser: "However, the painting on the lampshade is what piqued my curiosity. Can you see the signature below the painting?”

Clarence looks at where the appraiser is pointing. He always thought it was a small outcropping of sagebrush.

Appraiser: "That signature belongs to Kendall Lladnek one of the country's most prolific artists of western-themed oils. Few people know that Kendall got his start painting lampshades before he switched to the more traditional canvas medium. If you were to bring this lampshade to auction (minus the lamp), it could fetch in the neighborhood of $15,000 to $20,000 dollars."

A vindicated grin spreads across Clarence's face. By the end of the day, there would be a new lamp in the living room. A lantern lamp with an original signed Kendall Lladnek lampshade.

Later, both Clarence and Beverly are standing in front of a camera, each holding their newly appraised antiques. The camera operator motions to Clarence.

"We're here at the Antiques Roadshow. I just found out my lamp is worth $15,000 - $20,000 dollars...and I only paid $70 dollars for it. They were asking $75."

The camera turns to Beverly.

"This doll was worth $20,000, but because of a recent...incident, it's now only worth as much as my husband."

I have often wondered what a person would do if they found out that something that's been lying around their house is actually worth a bucket-load of money. Would they keep it or part with it? I think the real value of something is based on sentimental value, not auction value. Case in point - if I look around my den and pick out something that is very valuable to me, I wonder what it would appraise for?

Appraiser: "Okay Mr. Twede, I hope you don't mind, but we'd like to record this appraisal. I think we have something very special here."

Mr. Twede looks over at the camera and smiles nervously.

Appraiser: "So let's take a look at this amazing ceramic. How long have you had it?"

Mr. Twede: "About 47 years. It was given to me as a gift."

Appraiser: "Fascinating. Someone must really love you. This piece is quite remarkable. Kind of resembles a mug but obviously very primitive. The shape, style, and markings would indicate perhaps pre-Columbian. Possibly Peruvian. The rudimentary markings on the underside of the ceramic look like letters or numbers, but I don't recognize the language. I can't quite make out what the symbol on the side is. Perhaps one of the many gods...?"

Mr. Twede: "It's supposed to be a lighthouse."

Appraiser looks befuddled.

Mr. Twede: "It's a lighthouse. And the rudimentary markings on the underside of the ceramic are my son's initials. It's a coffee cup he made for me for Father's Day when he was in 3rd grade. Isn't it the coolest thing? I've never actually used it because I'm too afraid I'll break it. I keep it in a glass case in my den. So what do you think it’s worth?"

In my den I have very few possessions an appraiser would even crack open a pricing guide to investigate. But when I look at the possessions I have, there is a reason why I've kept every one of them. Each of them represents a connection to my past. They are keepsakes that preserve all of my sentimental (and priceless) possessions. My memories.

#Antiques #Roadshow #PBS #Memories #Possessions #Treasures #Railroad #Dolls #Keepsakes


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