The value of the ‘Antiques Roadshow’

He was born to Even and Clara Johnson. They named him Edwin, and in time, he married Lydia Elvera Sorenson. Together they farmed north of Williston and raised their family of six children. In his spare time, Edwin liked to whittle. His greatest efforts of this craft came when he completed statues of Abe Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin. He also crafted a covered wagon with a team of horses. He had an incredible gift for detail, stance and expression. In time, his daughter, Delores came to have the 28-inch statue of Lincoln. She brought it to Ray, where her family continues to enjoy it. Delores explained that her dad made this statue out of wood that was salvaged from old farm equipment. At that time, there would not have been money to purchase new wood; Edwin’s aptitude brought forth this very suitable, weathered hardwood for his creation.

We have admired this piece of folk art created on the prairie of North Dakota by Jan’s grandfather. You could not walk into a room where this was displayed and not be drawn to it. This past weekend, Jan and I took this family treasure to the “Antiques Roadshow” in Bismarck. We have been devoted fans of the “Antiques Roadshow,” which airs on Prairie Public Television with the host Mark L. Walberg. Bismarck is the first city on their 19th season tour as the search continues for America’s hidden and displayed treasures.

We submitted our names to be volunteers. We felt charmed that we were among the 120 volunteers chosen from across the country needed to complete the show in Bismarck. We arrived on Friday afternoon, May 30, for our training. We were warmly and enthusiastically greeted by Marsha Bemko, the executive producer. Right from start, she expressed how important volunteers are and how the show simply could not happen without this team of antique devotees.

We were divided into teams to help in the many areas. Handling these assignments with humor and guidance were the production coordinators, Nina and Chris. Nina informed Jan and I that we would be “generalists,” which boiled down to the fact that we would be assistants to the appraisers. That assignment had us dancing on the polished Civic Center cement floor!

The crew has every detail finely tuned. They take the time to be organized and interested – that is the common beat while this show is being taped. We were instructed to realize that all ticketholders would be bringing objects they treasure. All objects were valuable – either sentimentally or monetarily. Perhaps if their house were on fire, these items would be heading out the door real fast. The team also articulated that people were the most important. Volunteers are the first voice and face of the Roadshow. Our smiles and friendly manner was central to the “Antiques Roadshow” experience for the thousands who attended.

Ticketholders had the following areas from which to choose: metalwork, decorative arts, furniture, rugs and textiles, arms and military, prints and posters, Asian arts, ancient art, tribal art, photographs, paintings, collectibles, sports, toys, dolls, books, musical instruments, pottery and porcelain, glass, silver, jewelry, folk art, watches and clocks. These items were creatively hauled into the center on garden carts, wheelchairs, baby strollers, wooden hand carts, handmade dollies, auto dollies, and one even arrived in a lime green bag with hot pink polka dots.

In every city they visit, 5,000 to 6,000 people will attend – each with two objects to be appraised. More than 4,400 people applied for the 3,000 pairs of free tickets to Bismarck’s “Antique Roadshow.” Folks from all over North Dakota and the U.S. applied for tickets. As you can imagine, tickets in more populated areas would be harder to come by. It was great to see smiling folks from Texas, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, South Carolina and more! Many of them made a mini-vacation out of this adventure. Interesting to note that for several, it was their first visit to North Dakota.

We arrived at the Civic Center on Saturday at 6 a.m. to start our day with a hearty breakfast and final instructions. By 7 a.m., guests were starting to arrive. One could feel the excitement as they carried or towed their treasures to be appraised. After a couple of hours of conversation and viewing hundreds of items, the appraisers enjoyed a much-needed boost. Jan and I made our rounds to the appraisers bringing them refreshments. True to form – they loved a bit of salt and sugar! The morning also gave us the opportunity to meet, visit and have our photo taken with the gracious, kind, attentive and humorous host, Mark Walberg. We worked beside him part of the day, and it was easy to see that people come first – even when they interrupt his taping! He knows and realizes that the best antiques are old friends. He has a number of long-standing friends because he has been doing this show for some time and his patina of patience is certainly valuable.

My grandmother, Lydia Wagner-Christensen, had made her 1918 wedding dress, and she tatted the bodice. During the Depression, her dress had to be taken apart to make white shirts for my grandfather, Fred, and their sons. The bodice was saved and this story was often told to us by my mother. I became aware of tatting through this family story and was amazed at its intricate and delicate beauty. Several years ago while shopping at Antiques on Broadway in Williston, I purchased a hand-tatted bedspread. I have always treasured this purchase and have used it a time to two at the studio for portrait sittings. Each time, I realize the tremendous amount of work that went into producing this one-of-a-kind heirloom.

Jan and I delighted in hearing the fine appraisals we were given about these two treasures, both were simply amazing. When we walked out of Civic Center at 6:30 p.m., my reflections of the day centered on the excitement; however, by far the graciousness of Mark and production team made this experience one that we will never forget. It also created in us the desire to return as a volunteer when “Antiques Roadshow” comes near again. Now that has value way beyond any antique appraisal; and I’m sure you too will notice this when the three shows air in January 2015 – all created from the May 31 taping.

Included is a recipe that I am going to bring next time if we are asked to serve as generalists for the appraisers. It is both sweet and salty.