'Antiques Roadshow' Mines the Treasure Valley

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- The Treasure Valley more than lived up to its name Saturday as the PBS television show "Antiques Roadshow" raised the curtain for the first time in southern Idaho. The venue was the Expo Idaho pavilion and it was jammed from morning to night with dreamy collectors hoping grandma's silver tea set or grandpa's old flintlock rifle might be judged a valuable antique.

"Roadshow" is produced by Boston PBS affiliate WGBH and has been one of public television's most popular programs since it first aired in 1997. Each summer, the crew hits the road and visits 8 or 9 cities, inviting fans of antiques and collectibles to bring two items each for a free appraisal. The once-over work is handled by experts like New Jersey's David Rago, who specializes in porcelain.

It's been fantastic," Rago said during a brief break in the action. "We have been surprised by the number of quality pieces showing up in Boise. We're very pleased we came." He also gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to Idaho in general. Rago said he and his wife had spent a few days in Stanley, riding horses and fly-fishing.

"We didn't want to leave," he said wistfully.

Experts like Rago pay their own way to these summertime stops. And they aren't allowed to solicit customers during their time in the tent. Tent is a misnomer because "Antiques Roadshow", after so many years, has the set-up down to a science. The production crew arranges a makeshift TV studio inside a circle comprised of tall fabric panels. The cameras and interview sets are located dead-center. Ticket-holders are directed to individual lines outside the circle, depending on what type of antique they've brought to be scrutinized.

And there was everything you could imagine, much of it wrapped carefully in blankets and newspapers. The crafty "Roadshow" fans, usually by design, carry in their belongings in wagons or on dollies. One man had a large framed campaign poster from Chicago that was valued at $1500. Another brought a 1918 globe that had been a fixture in a Caldwell classroom for decades. It was appraised at $1800.

The truly wondrous finds, though, are rare. A British-made sterling silver teapot turned out to be silver-plated and much of the silver had been worn away "by too much polishing," according to the appraiser. Final value? "Maybe $50."

A lot of stuff being trundled throughout the pavilion were thrift-store finds--cute, collectible and kitschy. On the other hand, there were spectacular examples of attic treasures, like a 19th-century apothecary cabinet boasting exquisite hand-lettering in gold leaf. A rustic version of Disney's Pluto turned out to be from Paris by way of Belgium. Big enough for a small child to sit on, it might well turn out to be one of the stars of the show. The owner simply wanted more information about provenance--origin, in layman's terms.

Back in 2001, during a visit to Tucson, experts valued a very plain Navajo blanket at somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000. It later sold for considerably more. And that's why the show's' producers design their annual tours to include some of America's less-visited cities. Judging by the surprises that greeted them on their first visit to Boise, it's a sure bet they'll be back.

In the meantime, eager "Roadshow" fans will have to wait until early in 2014 to see what the Treasure Valley had to offer. But if a co-worker walks into the office on Monday with a huge grin, he or she just might have an heirloom that will pay for a new car or an in-ground pool.