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Antiques Roadshow
Presentation to the Annandale History Club
February 6, 2012
Aloys Olson

Aloys Olson and her husband Bob started attending Annandale History Club meetings in 2005.

PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) created Antiques Roadshow in 1997 based on an earlier version airing in the United Kingdom since 1979.  The American version is produced by WGBH in Boston.  There have been five hosts since 1997; Mark L. Walberg has been host since 2005.  Events are held only in June, July and August.  Antiques Roadshow became a “ratings gem” for PBS.  The show has been described as “part adventure, part history lesson and part treasure hunt.”  2012 is the sixteenth season of Antique Roadshow.

The record highest appraisal occurred in July 2011 in Tulsa when five late 17th century Chinese carved cups made from rhinoceros horn were valued at between 1 and 1.5 million dollars.

Aloys Olson said that Antiques Roadshow is her favorite TV program.  When a Minneapolis date was announced, she and her daughters, Ruth and Debbie, all applied for free tickets. They sent for tickets by April 18 and checked the application number on May 6 to see if they’d won the lottery.  3,000 out of 35,000 entries were chosen.  Aloys was fortunate to get a ticket for herself and a guest. The tickets arrived three weeks before the event.  The time on the tickets was 8 a.m., July 9, 2011.   

Guests could choose two items to bring to the show.  They must bring at least one.   Aloys Olson’s daughter, Ruth, chose a Victorian desk and her grandmother’s cameo.  Aloys chose antique carpenter planes and Norwegian boxes carved by her husband Bob’s great-great grandfather in 1844 and brought to America in the late 1880s when Bob’s grandparents emigrated from Trondheim, Norway, to Minneapolis.

Aloys and Ruth borrowed a dolly and practiced loading the dolly and desk into a Suburban, so they would know if they could transfer it at the Convention Center.  They arrived at the Minneapolis Convention Center at 7:30 a.m. for their 8:00 check-in time.  They moved through a serpentine line to a triage area where generalists looked at the items and gave category tickets.  A volunteer took them inside to the first appraiser. 

The appraisals are done in a large circular tent-like area with blue sailcloth panels for walls.  There are 22 categories with two or three appraisers at each table around the perimeter of the structure.  Categories include furniture, folk art, jewelry, paintings, silver, guns, pottery, etc.  There are lines in front of all the category tables, and each person has their special appraisal.  There are several cameras in the center to film the featured interviews.  The interviews are on closed-circuit TV and there is no sound in the event area, which explains why there isn’t a crowd around the appraiser and the person being interviewed. 

The furniture appraiser said that Ruth’s desk was machine made and sold by catalog in the late 1800s.  Hundreds were made.  It was described as a ladies desk with writing surface, cubby holes, and a large drawer.  The appraisal was $300 to $500.  The jewelry appraiser said that the cameo was not unusual and hundreds were made.  The cameo was appraised at $100.  The woodworker planes from Bob Olson’s tool collection were described as interesting, nice old carpenter planes.  One was marked Williamstown, Mass.  There are thousands around and the value was $15-$25 each.

The dowry boxes carved by Bob’s great-great grandfather in Norway and dated 1844 generated more interest.  A producer was called.  The producer is also called a “picker,” because he picks the items for taped interviews.  They usually tape 90 segments, but use only 55 on the actual TV program.  A crew from KSTP (Channel 5) came by just as the producer was looking at the boxes.  They taped the appraiser showing a box to the producer and saying, “This box is particularly beautiful.  It has great surface.  It’s a great piece of folk art.”  This exchange was shown on KSTP News that evening.  

The producer asked about the history of the boxes and asked Aloys if she would be willing to be “web-cammed” for bonus features online after “Antiques Roadshow – Minneapolis” is on TV.  Aloys and Ruth were sent to the “green room” to wait to be called.  There were long tables in the green room and closed-circuit TVs.  They could watch interviews being taped in the appraisal area (no sound).  There was a make-up area.  Complimentary snacks, coffee, bagels, fruit and yogurt, were available.   

The appraisal took place in an outer area and was much like the earlier TV interview.  The folk art appraiser, Stephen Fletcher of Skinner, Inc., said that the boxes were used to store small items.  He pointed out the intricate carving and the date.  Aloys asked him about the silver spots on the boxes and was told it was lead used to join the wood.  Other boxes would have had covers.  The medium box would have had wooden posts to connect the cover to the box.  The small box was valued at $400, the medium box at $600, and the large box $800-1,200.

After the interview, there was lunch in the green room of croissant sandwiches, pasta salad, chips in bags, assorted cookies and beverages.  Aloys said that it was a fun day.  It was interesting talking with other people and admiring their antiques.

Notes by Annandale History Club Secretary