Are We in the Golden Age of Collectibles on Television?

For those of us who are antiques and collectibles enthusiasts, this has to be the Golden Age for us, as least where television is concerned.

In 1979, the granddaddy of antique shows—“Antiques Roadshow”—premiered on British television. At first, we here in the States were treated to reruns of the BBC version until 1997 when an American version of the show began airing. Now, well, you can flip through basic cable on most any evening and be treated to stories and images of fascinating pieces of history.

The “Roadshow” model is perfect for the sort of armchair suspense many of us love about the Great Find: A woman has brought some Prior-Hamblin School portraits that once belonged to great-granny. Who knew they were worth—“conservatively, at auction” of course—several thousands of dollars each.

Prior-Hamblin School portrait of a young child

Prior-Hamblin School portrait of a lady

Prior-Hamblin School portrait of a gentleman

Among the antiques and collectibles shows that are currently airing, the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers” has caught the attention of several WorthPoint readers, who have noticed that many of the rarities that pass through Rick Harrison’s Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas or a rusty, dusty piece of Americana dug out of the rafters of an Iowa barn by Mike Wolfe and his buddy Frank Fritz are also located in our Worthopedia.

“Pawn Stars” Items:

1940 WWII U.S. Navy Quartermaster 16 Power Spyglass

Kiss Pinball Machine

1861 $20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle

Howdy Doody Wonder Bread Ad

“American Pickers” Items:

1954 Schwinn Jaguar Bicycle

Hula Girl Lamp

Buick Radiator Cap/Hood Ornament

Antique Crescent Bike

There is now a new show on Spike TV called “Auction Hunters” that is all about the “Great Find” with a twist, as Allen Haff and “Ton” Jones “patrol the unique and exciting world of storage auctions.” Yeah, storage auctions . . . bidding to purchase the contents of storage lockers whose rent is in arrears and the owners have forfeited all that is inside. It premiered earlier this week, but a quick check shows that, yes, the stuff found in storage auctions can also be found in Worthopedia. For example, Allen and Ton picked up a Juki industrial sewing machine Episode 1similar to this one:

Juki Industrial Sewing Machine

So, what is the fascination with watching these shows? Do you race to identify and appraise the object in question before the experts show up or the pickers can settle on a price with Farmer Brown (after the commercial, of course)? There are many more shows dealing with art, antiques and collectibles… what are your favorites? Leave a comment at the bottom of this page… we’d love to know. Maybe we’re missing one that we need to see.

Gregory Watkins is the editor of WorthPoint.


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  • Megan Carman

    My “new favorite” is “If These Walls Could Talk” on HGTV. My main interest is in the history of items, though value is always good to know too!

  • Mike Mattis

    There are so many of these shows on TV I can’t keep track but here are some you might have mentioned: Hollywood Treasures (Syfy); Cash In the Attic (HGTV); TV Oddities (Discovery); Pawn Queens (TLC); History Detectives (PBS), and there is another odd pawn store show the name of which I can’t recall.
    As a dealer for more than 20 years, I find most of thse shows offensive rather than informative. The value of actual items owned by viewers is skewed completely off the chart. If I hear one more these blockheads say something like “This thing could be worth thousands!” I think I’ll puke.
    History Detectives on PBS at least gives us some real background of this stuff and mixes in a good bit of history. I think it’s the most honest of the bunch but sometimes I wonder if they don’t take the long way around to learn the background on a piece.
    In any case, I find I have pretty must stopped watching these shows because I find their manner insulting and boorish. And in some cases, bullying. American Pickers is fun when they run across this odd bit of junk in an out of the way place and find some grouchy old character in the far outback who doesn’t care about the vlaue of his stuff –he just likes it! My kind of guy.
    Have a nice day.

  • Michelle

    Mike has noted above the majority of the shows but I think Auction Kings may be another new one. Boorish….maybe to some, but compared to most rubbish on TV today I find them fun, different and short of jumping in the car and going to an auction, somewhat exciting. TV is what it is, the public doesn’t see the whole transaction or conversation so they are bound to be skewed.

    For me as a dealer, I am on average attending one auction or sale per week, but seeing what has been forgotten in someone’s attic or barn keeps things fresh and keeps us searching. Antique Roadshow will continue to be my must see each week.

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