Paintings, guitars and comics: 'Antiques Roadshow' brings thousands to Akron
A few thousand people brought their collectibles to Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in Akron Tuesday for a taping of “Antiques Roadshow.” The popular PBS show visits five historic sites each year to hold all-day appraisal events.
Executive Producer Marsha Bemko said the choice of the 70-acre landmark was simple.
“Not everybody wants 3,000 of our friends on their grounds,” she said, adding that it is a “beautiful” place.
Stan Hywet, which is Old English for “stone quarry,” was built in the early 20th century by Goodyear Co-Founder F.A. Seiberling. After his death in 1955, the historic home and gardens became a nonprofit museum. Today, furniture and artifacts from that era, labeled mid-century modern, are increasingly popular on “Antiques Roadshow.” Bemko said that’s a stark contrast to when she started with the show in 1999.
“Victorian furniture was hot,” she said. “Now, you can't give it away. People call it ‘the brown stuff.’ Tables that were worth tens of thousands of dollars are now worth a grand.”
Instead, pieces such as a pristine 1966 Gibson ES 335 guitar, like the ones made famous by Eric Clapton and B.B. King, have been gaining popularity. Carrie from Solon said her father traded some amplifiers for it in the 1970s, and it’s been sitting quietly under a bed in their house for years. It was valued by an appraiser in the high four figures.
“We’re just going to pass it down through the family,” she said. “I play acoustic guitar. I’ve never dabbled in electric, but I’ll be excited when it comes down to me.”
Debbie from Barberton presented a well-loved comic book, “Strange Tales” #169. It was bought new by her son in 1973 for 20 cents, and it is now valued at $100. She and her granddaughter plan to save it since the lead character, Brother Voodoo, is rumored to be in the next “Black Panther” film.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do with it,” she said. “Probably put it in a frame.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Tony from Canada brought a handwritten manuscript by Parisian watchmaker Ferdinand Berthoud from 1791. “The schematics and the diagrams are fascinating,” he said. “It pulls at my heart strings to see the handwritten drawings, and there’s the actual item in a museum.”
Tony purchased the bound volume at an antique mall for $200 and learned its value is in the mid-five figures.
“It’ll be my daughter’s inheritance,” he said.
Stories like that are what “Antiques Roadshow” is looking for. About 150 guests in attendance are filmed during the visit, and around 60 of those people will make it on the program.
“I will today turn down valuable things because the story is anemic,” Bemko said. “Or the guest, the owner, knows absolutely everything and ‘Roadshow’ has nothing to impart. So, we're not just about the money. But I have to be honest: Sometimes the story is a little anemic, but the thing is worth 500 grand. I'm putting it on.”
Bemko summed up the feel of an “Antiques Roadshow” appraisal event with memories of her very first one in Austin, Texas.
“I was addicted ever since,” she said. “This is all your journalism skills combined into this reality television moment. And we actually touch people's lives. This is a place where there’s community, there’s education, there’s love - differences melt away. And we need more of that in this world.”
Where to watch
Debuting in 1997, “Antiques Roadshow” is based on the BBC series of the same name. Each season’s episodes are recorded a year in advance. The PBS show has previously taped in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. Three episodes from the Akron visit will air next year on WVIZ Ideastream Public Media during season 28. A bonus episode, “Junk in the Trunk,” will have extra footage from Akron and the other sites visited this year: LSU Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge, the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts and the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage.