Movies + TV

Literally the Best Thing Ever: Antiques Roadshow

Like sports for loner-y homebodies.

Like most people, I never plan to devote my Saturday night to watching people discuss the value of ancient Chinese parasols or collectable porcelain baby figurines. And yet, five episodes of Antiques Roadshow later, there I am: sprawled across the couch, gasping at the screen because I’ve just witnessed a woman find out that the commemorative bald eagle plate she bought at a yard sale for $1 is worth $25,000.

The American version of Antiques Roadshow has been airing weekly on public television since 1997. The original British version is almost 20 years older than that. In each one, a frequently changing group of antiques appraisers and museum curators travel to cities across the country, where people gather in throngs, clutching their most prized found collectibles, hoping to learn that one of their items is so valuable that selling it might change their life, at least for a little while. Basically, Antiques Roadshow is American Idol for old junk that’s been collecting dust in your attic.

It is not a cool show. No one live-tweets it. I never have to worry about accidentally reading spoilers online. But every time I watch it I am filled with undeniable AWE. I am not alone in this—there is a Facebook page called “The Adrenaline Rush You Get While Watching Antiques Roadshow” that currently has 68,529 likes. I don’t really get football, but when I watch Antiques Roadshow I think I understand the thrill a sports fan gets when their favorite team scores a touchdown.

Antiques Roadshow has also instilled in me a kind of paranoid hoarder mentality, the same way that watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie makes you suddenly wonder what kinds of secrets your neighbors might be keeping. When I go thrift shopping, I flip over ceramic plates in hope of finding the markings that the Roadshow has taught me denote high value. I’m convinced that inside every reclusive old person’s home lies hidden treasure. Like, what kind of ancient objects are just sitting idle in my neighbor’s basement? Maybe that painting being sold at the yard sale down the street was stolen from the Louvre 100 years ago! OK, probably not.

Each time I watch an episode, my attitude starts out like, “So what? It’s just a vase.” But then the appraiser starts describing some obscure detail about the piece, like how only three of them were ever made and the other two are hanging out in some distant royal palace, and then I’m like, “HOW COULD I BE SO NAÏVE? I BET THEY’RE WORTH LIKE $500,000” and then the appraiser’s like, “At auction, I believe these would go for around $3,000.” And by now I’m so invested that I feel palpably angry on behalf of the dude who brought the vase to the show in the first place.

If you think I’m exaggerating the drama of these moments, watch this woman’s life change forevermore because of a vase:

This isn’t a quaint show about casual antique-shopping on a Sunday afternoon, OK? This is X-TREME ANTIQUING for people who actually get breathless over the sight of an heirloom blanket. HEIRLOOM BLANKETS. Seriously, watch this guys call a BLANKET a “national treasure”:

Have you ever seen a blanket stir up such passion?

Often, though, people come in with high hopes, only to have them crushed. Like this guy, who gets trolled over his wood bathroom cabinet:

Watching Antiques Roadshow is a multidimensional experience. Each half hour is a history lesson, a sporting event, and a game show rolled into one. Also, it’s full of hilarious moments where people take themselves way too seriously. Like the woman at the beginning of this episode, who calls an ANTIQUE DRIED FLOWER a “poignant, evocative witness to the First World War.”

Sometimes the funnest part of the Roadshow is screaming at the people on it. Excuse me, but you just found out that your 18th-century Qianlong jade collection might be worth over a million dollars, and your response to “Is this going to change your life at all?” is “No”? Ummm.

But most of the time you’re so excited for these people! This next lady was a lifelong Elvis fan. Her friends found a old cardboard cutout in their attic and gave it her. There used to be many of these stand-up figures, but lots of them were torn to shreds by PASSIONATE TEENAGE GIRLS. She keeps it by her bed!

I also love it when the uptight appraisers aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Is your bracelet authentic? IDK, LEMME JUST BREAK OUT A GLASS OF WATER, DIP IT IN, AND SMELL IT.

This episode just left me mystified as to what a sock darner actually is, but I think I now need a dozen of them.

I’ve started to build my bucket list around this show. If anyone would like to join me on a road trip to the American Sign Museum, you’re more than welcome.

I like to imagine that when they’re on field trips like that, they kick back together at the end of the day at a Marriott Hotel bar and have passionate arguments over the worth of Fabergé eggs.

When I moved away from home without a TV, I worried that I wouldn’t get to binge-watch Roadshow anymore. But now that I know every episode is online, I am no longer afraid. To me, Antiques Roadshow is a timeless classic whose value will never diminish in my heart. ♦


  • missblack October 1st, 2013 7:41 PM

    i agree with this 100000%

    i’ve been watching Antiques Roadshow since my birth basically and i still love it soooo much.

    however i did not know that there was a British version so i will be watching that asap.


  • Ariella95 October 1st, 2013 7:53 PM

    My dad loves this show! He’s great at guessing how much things are worth, too – he nearly always gets it.

  • dime October 1st, 2013 8:06 PM

    I thought I was the only one :0


  • deemary October 1st, 2013 8:26 PM

    uuuuuh-uh this ma shit this ma shit

  • deemary October 1st, 2013 8:30 PM

    also hellllooo can you say victorian horsehair necklace that weighs virtually nothing and was worn by mourning widows. i think sooo. ty brit’ehn

  • threelittlebirdies October 1st, 2013 9:15 PM

    Ahhhh you guys feel me! Growing up in a family surrounded by antique dealers and enthusiasts (My Gramma, Great Grandmother, Great Aunt, and Mother all deal) I have been watching this show since birth, and no one else gets what I love about it so much! Thank you Rookie!(:

  • spudzine October 1st, 2013 9:41 PM

    I used to watch this when I was little in both fright and delight. Delight because…well…old things were being sold for BIG money. Fright ’cause it always came on at those moments where nobody was around. Like when everyone else was sleeping, or when I was at mah grandma’s house.

  • Dana Maria October 1st, 2013 9:59 PM

    i love this show omg my dad and i watch it together all the time

  • JadeTayla October 1st, 2013 10:52 PM

    Antiques Roadshow is the best. I have so many memories of watching it at my Grandmas’s house growing up. I also used to have the song that plays over the credits of the Britsh version as my ringtone for a good two years:
    It always used to make people so confused when my phone started ringing!!

  • taste test October 1st, 2013 11:00 PM

    holy crap! I was not expecting this article at all, but I was so happy when I saw the title! I feel like antiques roadshow is one of those things most people know about and have watched but nobody talks about because it’s Uncool. fuck that. antiques roadshow is super interesting. although I kind of wish I had never found out that all the episodes are online because of the hours and hours of procrastination potential.

  • Floraposte October 1st, 2013 11:53 PM

    So much yes. Also, Bargain Hunters anyone?

  • Ellen October 2nd, 2013 12:51 AM

    Best. Roadshow. Reaction. Ever.

  • Emily October 2nd, 2013 1:08 AM

    <3 <3 HELLO THIS IS MY JAM. This is absolutely my all time favorite show. <3 <3

    Two months ago me and my sister were watching a rather rough looking southern man in faded coveralls bring in a DIAMOND AND RUBY SCIMITAR THAT WAS GIVEN AS A GIFT FROM THE LAST TSAR OF RUSSIA. He paid *500 DOLLARS* for this thing and it was like 200k.

    My sister and I were absolutely SCREAMING at the tv, saying things like "HELLO of course it's DIAMONDS!" and for the next week we would just pause for a long moment, and say "JESUS CHRIST; THAT SWORD" to each other.

    And one more brilliant thing- the presenters name is "Mark Walberg." I follow Antiques Roadshow on facebook and everytime they post a picture with him in it, all the comments are old ladies saying hilarious things like "Ooo look at those buns" or "What a handsome young man mark is i'd like to appraise him ;)"

    Everything is great!!!!

    • mariasnow October 2nd, 2013 3:16 PM

      Depending on how long ago that episode was, I might have seen that scimitar in person at this art exhibit called “Gifts to the Tsars” I went to for an art field trip. I was disappointed that it wasn’t some awesome artist but a bunch of stuff but then I walked in and blinked because of all the stuff GLEAMING INTO MY EYES. I saw a Topaz as big as my head, among other things. There was just so. much. stuff. Here’s a link to a book about it but it’s just not the same as seeing a diamond the size of your fist in the mouth of a solid gold eagle or whatever-

  • Taffy October 2nd, 2013 1:44 AM

    Hell yeah! I just watched 2 hours of this with my mom last night. It’s like a tradition every Monday.

  • Lillypod October 2nd, 2013 5:56 AM

    i used to choose this show over my friends when I was 8. now i’m an antique dealer.
    livin the dream

    • Lillypod October 2nd, 2013 5:58 AM

      oh and the british one has a whole different level of fandom..looooads of people live-tweet it!

  • Chloe22 October 2nd, 2013 9:13 AM

    that episode where that guy brings in the Interview magazines that Andy Warhol had drawn all over though!

  • Saana V October 2nd, 2013 1:06 PM

    This is gonna sound so poor but we have a show here called “antiikkia antiikkia” which is finnish for “antique antique” and it’s the most disappointing show ever because old people come there with their treasures and expect to have a lot of money but everything is valued to like, 5 euros. and the experts seem really excited before telling the value and the person who has brought it in seems really disappointed and oh god

    • Anaheed October 2nd, 2013 1:11 PM

      this show sounds awesome to me

  • mariasnow October 2nd, 2013 3:19 PM

    My favorite roadshow episode ever was where this lady brought in this painting that was hanging in her trailer home when she moved into it and it was worth a ton of money and she was so shocked that she accidentally swore a few times and the expert was all, ‘madam please control yourself’ and then she just started laughing in shock. she had no idea it was worth anything.

  • elliecp October 2nd, 2013 3:33 PM

    I don’t watch it that often but when I do I find it really relaxing…it’s my comfort show to curl up and watch with a cup of tea and some cookies ^_^

  • whiskeytangofoxtrot October 2nd, 2013 3:54 PM

    Sock darners are items from way back in the day (not so long ago) when people used to sew up (darn) the holes in their socks instead of just buying a new pair. You slide the darner inside your sock, and it gives you a hard surface to sew against as opposed to poking your fingers with a needle trying to hold the holey sock with your hand. My grandma used burned out light bulbs for this purpose.

  • Pocket Cow October 2nd, 2013 4:08 PM

    I adore Antiques Roadshow. I’m always excited when I see it’s on. I find it especially exciting because I thrift shop seriously all the time, and I always come away from a show with a brand, artist, or product name that I know is valuable and I should look out for.

    On a side note: sock darners. So. Useful. I inherited my aunt’s husband’s grandmother’s sock darner. It’s wooden and over a hundred years old, with tons of gouges in it from so much use. My aunt cut the handle off, but it’s still useful.

  • maxrey October 2nd, 2013 5:57 PM

    My college roommates made major fun of me for watching hours upon hours of Antiques Roadshow one night, but by the end of the night they were completely absorbed.

  • rachelle October 2nd, 2013 6:36 PM

    First of all I love Antiques Roadshow, and I love that this article was written. However, I do have to disagree with you saying in that Fiona Bruce is taking herself too seriously in regards to that poppy. I don’t know what it’s like in the US, but I know that in New Zealand (and England and Australia) the poppy is so extremely important to us when it comes to war remembrance. Our ANZAC day is sometimes called poppy day. Not only is it a poppy from the wartime, it was actually picked in Flanders Field itself, by a wounded soldier for his loved one! That is so incredible. I have grown up knowing the place of the poppy, so maybe you would consider reading the very famous war poem “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae. “In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses row on row” as a little excerpt. To my mind, if it was any flower picked by a soldier to send back home It would carry great significance, but being a poppy! and being picked in Flanders Field! means that it is significant, not just to the recipient, but to everyone. And I certainly agree that it is a poignant, evocative witness to the First World War.

  • zoeevelyn October 2nd, 2013 7:00 PM

    This made my day

  • peppermintmoo October 2nd, 2013 10:13 PM

    Antiques Roadshow came near my home and my whole family went to it! There was a lot of waiting around to get our stuff appraised, but it was a real adventure. Many, many people were there but they only film a few select people who hit the mother load. We brought a painting that my grandmother bought on the side of the road for $20 that ended up being worth $300, some glass fishing floats that my mother’s father got when he was a merchant marine in Asia, a few things made of ivory that my mother inherited, and a pearl engagement ring that my great-grandmother kept when her engagement was broken off. While waiting in line for our ring to be looked at we met a woman who was about to be filmed because her Tiffany lamps and panels were the real deal! The experts were so excited about the stuff and the people who came were so hopeful about their stuff and EVERYONE LOVED STUFF and it was great.

    • peppermintmoo October 2nd, 2013 10:14 PM

      Also, my friend insists on calling Antiques Roadshow “Antiques Rodeo”

  • Pearl October 3rd, 2013 12:32 PM

    I loved watching Antiques Roadshow on BBC Entertainment before they went defunct here in India. Seeing these little clips of the show definitely piqued my interest in it again.