A leather pelt found in Hitler’s bunker.
A rocking chair originating from 19th century Venice, Italy.
An Alaskan totem pole worth $4,000.
These rare treasures came together in Portland earlier this month for the filming of PBS’s longest running program, “Antiques Roadshow.”
The reality series made its fifth pit stop Saturday, Aug. 12, in the City of Roses for the 22nd season’s six-city tour. Of 23,000 applications for tickets, roughly 3,000 people were randomly selected to attend.
The last stop on the tour is Newport, Rhode Island, on Friday, Sept. 22. Previous locations: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Green Bay, Wisconsin; St. Louis, Missouri; and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Three Portland episodes will premiere during the 2018 season of “Antiques Roadshow,” which airs 8 p.m. Mondays on OPB and PBS affiliate stations.
‘Jesus is here!’
Everyone at the Roadshow shares the same excitement, eager to learn the answer to their question: What is the story behind my items?
At the Oregon Convention Center on Aug. 12, people on set know they are in the presence of history. Strangers talk with each other about what they brought. They have come to meet appraisers and experts from across the country.
From the entrance, two women wheel a 6-foot Jesus sculpture to the “metalwork and sculpture” appraisal table.
“Jesus is here!” Heather, the sculpture’s owner, announces.
Jason Preston, from Jason Art Advisory & Appraisals in Los Angeles, inspects the sculpture and finds it is made of plaster and wood. With its aged appearance and use of materials, Preston said it could sell for about $1,500.
“I watch TV with Jesus everyday,” Heather said. “As soon as you come in the door, you see him right in front of you.”
The sculpture has been in Heather’s family for several years, she said. Her sister visited a friend in New York City when she saw a church being renovated. Jesus was sitting on the sidewalk, and she asked the construction workers if she could take him home with her.
Heather doesn’t plan on selling the sculpture; it wouldn’t feel right in her home without him, she said.
After meeting appraisers, guests can stop at the Roadshow feedback booth to share their experiences.
A one-of-a-kind item belonging to a woman named Katy stumped the appraisers.
The leather pelt found by her Grandma Edna in Adolf Hitler’s bunker in 1945 has a Hungarian stamp on the back, and without someone on staff who knows Hungarian, Katy was told to continue researching the pelt after leaving the roadshow.
Grandma Edna worked as General George S. Patton’s nurse, Katy said, clasping newspaper clippings about her grandma’s story. After Hitler’s death and bunker invasion, Edna found the pelt and took it back home to the United States following the war.
“She was a tough lady from Missouri,” Katy said. Her family plans to keep the pelt regardless of its worth because it was passed down.
About 125 people are chosen per event to have their appraisal filmed; 30 will make it to air each episode.
A wooden rocking chair with carved gargoyles and two devils under each arm was among the items handpicked to be filmed by the PBS crew. Its owner, Robert, purchased it for $60 at an auction.
To his surprise, the chair turned out to be from a Venetian furniture company, Fratelli Testolini, and could be worth thousands of dollars.
The chair’s appraiser, Karen Keane from Boston, said the item is a “conversation piece and showstopper.”
“It had this ‘Game of Thrones’ look,” she said. “In the early 20th century, people decorated wacky. In this item in particular, it has signature griffins, devil heads and mythical creatures.”
Learning as you go
Forty to 70 appraisers travel with “Antiques Roadshow” each summer to film and participate. Most work as auctioneers and antique collectors in their spare time.
Katy Kane, an appraiser and textiles specialist from Pennsylvania, started buying and selling collectibles in 1978.
Kane holds a real tortoiseshell hair pin in her hands. Rotating it slowly, she explains the accessory originates from the late 1800s and can be sold for about $200.
“You learn as you go,” she said. “Clothing has evolved so much. People used to be looking to collect clothing from the prairie days with high collars, and now people are searching for vintage from the ’70s and ’80s.”
While on the road and visiting each city, Kane said she wishes to see more French couture. “As an appraiser, you really want to see something that takes your breath away and is unusual.”
‘Smart reality television’
Eight and a half million viewers tune in to watch “Antiques Roadshow” each week, Executive Producer Marsha Bemko said.
“Even beyond your beautiful city, there is something very special about Portland and its love of public television and education,” she said about returning to Portland after 13 years. “I want to ask residents: How do you get a town like that?”
Why does the show stand out from the reality television crowd? Its fun and educational content, she said.
“You learn as you watch the show; you’ll learn when the Civil War happened by accident if you tune in. You can’t help it,” Bemko said. “That is smart reality television. There are no actors on this set.” She said the immediate results and the connection with the guests make the show’s viewers return every season.
Worth the wait
A man named Dave leans against a wall, guarding his item while his nephew stands in line for him.
The painting by N.C. Wyeth, titled “Alaskan Mail Carrier,” previously hung in Dave’s tavern he owned in North Bend. It depicts a postman with a gun and snowshoes on a frozen lake, with eight dead wolves at his feet. It isn’t the original, but Dave wants to learn how who painted the copy.
Before buying the tavern in the 1970s, the previous owners had the painting above the bar since before Prohibition.
The painting is a reminder of his old business. “I still go to the tavern to shoot pool,” Dave said.
While the journey to “Antiques Roadshow” was long for some people, guests like Dave who entered many times over the years to win tickets said it was worth the wait.