They came dragging suitcases and pulling wagons stuffed with treasures from storage lockers and attics.
Paintings plucked from living room walls. Funky family hand-me-downs. Random stuff picked up for a song at thrift shops, garage sales and auctions.
What was it worth? How was it made? Where did it come from?
Waiting to provide those answers Saturday inside Bartle Hall were as many as 80 appraisers. Public television’s top-rated program, “Antiques Roadshow,” was on its next-to-last stop of an eight-city tour that will provide material for an entire season of episodes, three based in Kansas City. The season starts in January; the run dates for the Kansas City episodes haven’t been set.
Talk about a hot ticket. Out of nearly 19,000 requests for a chance to have their goods appraised and possibly featured on national television, only 3,000 pairs of tickets were handed out.
Bring two items you want to have evaluated, they were told. So there in the oriental art line was a middle-aged guy from Lee’s Summit named Doug. In one arm, a double-barreled shotgun. In the other, a figurine of an Indian goddess carved from an elephant’s tusk.
News organizations were allowed into the taping on the condition that they protect the identities of ticketholders, so no last name for Doug. Security reasons. Some of the stuff people had with them was valuable and might attract burglars.
Doug had no idea what his items might be worth.
“I don’t want to sell it,” he said of the shotgun that his dad bought for $75 at a garage sale 40 years ago. “We just want to know what’s it’s worth.”
Same with the ivory figurine purchased a half-century ago. It belonged to a friend, whose intentions were similar.
That’s typical, said the show’s longtime executive producer, Marsha Bemko.
Most people who come for an appraisal are there out of curiosity. After they hear an item’s value, they may want to insure it or rent a safe-deposit box.
Not that everything coming through the door is worth selling. Bemko said the majority of people bring in items that are worth less than $500 and never appear on TV.
Then there are the lucky ones.
Behind Doug in the oriental art line was Ken, a retired physician who earlier in the day learned that the carved maple cane he’d bought for $120 some three decades ago was now worth $3,500 to $4,000.
So impressed with the item’s carvings was appraiser Allan Katz of Woodbridge, Conn., that the Kansas City area doc and his cane will be featured on one of the three Kansas City episodes.
As soon as Katz saw the cane, he asked to have the appraisal filmed.
“I see very little to turn my crank,” Katz said, but this piece “had all the bells and whistles that cane collectors want.”
For 17 seasons, the formula has never changed. People file into a large open space, collectibles in hand. Appraisers tell them what their stuff is worth and provide context that might have been missing.
Bemko’s eyes lit up several times Saturday. Once was for a rare textbook. Another was when someone brought in a poster for two concerts on Feb. 6, 1955, in Memphis, Tenn.
Faron Young was the headliner, but it was the name on the bottom of the bill that earned the piece an appraisal of $10,000 to $12,000.
“What makes it valuable,” Bemko said, “is that it’s such an early poster and very rare. Coincidentially, it was on that day that he met Colonel Tom Parker.”
He being a kid with the last name Presley, and Parker being the manager who made Elvis the King.