I have had the pleasure to work with the PBS television show Antiques Roadshow for the last 8 years as a musical instrument appraiser. The show visits six cities per summer, setting up in large convention centers where about 5,000 guests bring in their family heirlooms, collectibles and unknown objects to be looked at and evaluated by ‘experts’ in the particular field. My specialty is fretted stringed instruments, guitars, mandolins, banjos and some violin family instruments. Out of the several thousand items that show up on the day of the show, only fifty or so actually have the “right stuff ” to be filmed for a television broadcast. A good day for me would be to look at 200-300 items and find one or two that make for good TV.
This year’s itinerary took me to San Diego , Calif., Biloxi, Miss., and Des Moines, Iowa. It was a great year, where I saw many interesting items, met lots of new people and found camera-worthy musical instruments in each city. The most interesting, but not the most valuable, was found in Biloxi. The guest brought in a large travel trunk with lift out, stacked trays full of percussion and sound effect instruments that were used by his grandfather behind the screen during the silent movie days. The instruments ranged from cow bells, train whistles, to coconut shells to make the sound of the clip-clops of horses. Great stuff and still owned by the original family.
The show affords me the opportunity to look at several hundred items in a fairly short 10-12 hour period. It’s great fun and a great way to learn. At Mass Street Music we find that we are doing more and more with instrument appraisal, restoration and buying and selling of vintage instruments. I have found the experience from the Roadshow to be very helpful in determining the direction to take with customers’ instruments.
The six shows that were filmed this summer will be produced and edited during the fall and will air after the first of the year. Some of my past appraisals can be viewed by accessing the Antiques Roadshow website and viewing online. I won’t know which cities will be selected for next summer, but I always look forward to finding out and having the opportunity to visit new places, have some fun and hopefully see a few great treasures. – Jim Baggett