A Trip to Antiques Roadshow

What to Expect

Chinese Mud Men Figurine
Chinese "Mud" Men Figurine Taken to Antiques Roadshow. -Pamela Wiggins

When the Antiques Roadshow crew set up camp in Houston a while back, I couldn't resist making the three-hour drive over to my old hometown to see if it was still something to make a fuss over. The trip was definitely worth the time and effort.

Not only did I have the opportunity to take a couple of things beyond my usual areas of expertise to be evaluated by some savvy appraisers, seeing all the objects people were carting into the venue with hopeful enthusiasm was still a major part of the fun.

Excitement on the Set

When eager appraisal-seekers finally reached the set area (which is relatively small considering the number of people who filter through on any given Roadshow Saturday) where valuations take place and a few lucky treasure-bearers are filmed to appear on the show, there is an unmistakable buzz in the air. That part of the experience had not changed since I visited one of these mammoth undertakings close to home in Austin many summers ago.

With familiar faces like Leigh Keno and Leslie Keno earnestly examining furniture on one side of the set, and a producer conferring with Gary Sohmers about a possible poster "find" across the floor, it was hard not to just stop and take it all in. But being the well-oiled machine the Antiques Roadshow has blossomed into keeps appraisal-seekers moving right through the lines. Eventually they wind up in the area where they are screened if they would like to share a few parting words with the camera.

That last part of the Roadshow experience adds a fun element to the end of each taping.

First Stop: Asian Arts

Frankly, I have always found the various Chinese dynasties, periods of manufacture and associated geographical regions to be confusing. And being that Asian artifacts and decorative objects are not things I've studied extensively, I was glad for the guidance when it came to the little man figurine my late mother asked me to take along for the ride.

Asian arts expert Lark Mason knew what he was straight away and asserted, "Chinese mud men!"

Mason explained in the Asian arts trade that particular type of figure was made of a certain clay (rather than actually being crafted of mud) and a very recognizable type of glaze from about 1915-1925 in the Guangzhou region of China. They were manufactured for export and the value at that time was about $50-75. Considering it was included in boxes of old stuff given to my mother for helping a family friend clean out an elderly lady's garage, that is not such a bad deal.

Next Stop: Jewelry

This time I shared a shell cameo, also belonging to my mother, with appraiser Jeanenne Bell. Knowing Bell is intimately familiar with cameo jewelry, I was pleased she would be doing the valuation. This particular cameo supposedly belonged to Maude Adams, a very popular stage star in the early 1900s.

In the 1970s, my mother bought a number of items from a woman claiming to be Adams' niece who lived down the street from us back in the old neighborhood, which included several pieces of jewelry. While my mother had no reason to question the woman's word, we have nothing to prove the provenance such as a photograph of Adams wearing the cameo, or a bill of sale from a jeweler bearing her name.

Without that, it could only be valuated as a nice antique cameo rather than a piece associated with a celebrity from bygone days.

When Bell picked it up and began to examine it with her loop, her first remark was, "You know it is karat gold," which I didn't since I had never examined it closely. She also remarked on the quality of the filigree surrounding the shell carving and the nice fold-down bail that was more ornate than those she sees on most similarly styled cameos. After giving it a thorough inspection, she said it was from the early 1900s and worth about $550 at that time.

Roadtrip Conclusion

All in all, my mom was pleased with information on these objects she'd had tucked away for years, and I had a pleasant morning taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the updated Antiques Roadshow operation.