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“I was just trying to get on television,” says über-collector and longtime eBay hawker Duane Dimock. It was while haunting Kobey’s swap meet and the garage-sailing circuit that Dimock first heard that the TV program Antiques Roadshow would be filming in San Diego.

The fortyish entrepreneur and urban archivist has spent most of his adult life selling pop-culture collectibles and vintage boomer memorabilia out of his home, first in Mira Mesa and currently Morena Park. “It’s a good living, it pays the month-to-month bills,” he says. “It was a lot better before eBay came along to raid everyone’s attic and basement. Stuff that used to be extremely rare became more common and less in demand.”

A self-employed, self-described hoarder, Dimock hasn’t held an outside job in over 25 years. Mostly known as an expert in advertising personalities and TV memorabilia, he’s hosted a local internet show about eBaying, authored several collectors’ price guides; under a pseudonym, he also cowrote the Monkees Scrapbook, a biography of the pre-fab foursome that has gone through multiple printings.

His house bursting its load-bearing walls with stacks of collectibles and kitsch, Dimock was excited to learn that Antiques Roadshow would be filming at the downtown Convention Center in June 2010. As before attending any unfamiliar convention or swap meet, he began by researching the event online.

“The show officially started out as Chubb’s Antiques Roadshow, sponsored by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies,” says Dimock. “You can get all your collectibles insured by this reputable insurance company because they supposedly know collectibles and antiques. And they launched a TV show with appraisers…any insurance company can insure your treasures, but Chubb was smarter than the other companies by exploiting the value aspect on television.”

Roadshow debuted in 1997 and now claims around 11 million viewers each week, the most popular prime-time show on PBS. Value estimates on the program are provided by Roadshow volunteers, including independent antique dealers with specialty expertise, as well as auction-house employees from firms like Christie’s, Skinner, Doyle New York, and Sotheby’s.

It should be noted that “appraisal” isn’t an entirely accurate description of what goes on at the Roadshow. According to their website, the price estimates offered by volunteers, though often referred to as “appraisals” on-air, are actually “verbal approximations of value…technically, an appraisal is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.”

Around 100 volunteers are recruited to help operate most Roadshow events. According to Dimock, “Most of the 80 or so appraisers fly into town on their own dime. Each appraiser is paid exactly nothing to show up, no travel money, no food money, and no lodging money. Just plain nothing.”

This information got him wondering. “Why would any sane person leave their home for three to five days to see thousands of babbling idiots pushing stuff in front of them and not get paid a cent? Well, every time an appraiser gets shown on TV, the more exposure he or she gets, and the more well known they become. The more well known, the more appraising jobs that person can get. A qualified and recognized appraiser can make a lot of money.”

Several Roadshow vets, from both the U.S. program and its U.K. incarnation, have built up substantial cults of celebrity.

Twin brothers Leigh and Leslie Keno are frequently greeted with Beatlesque cheers when they first enter a hall being hosted by the Roadshow crew. Tribal arts specialist Bruce Shackelford, a show volunteer since its first season, is regularly commissioned to curate gallery and traveling art exhibits and to write about his interests for publications such as Southwest Art Magazine and Conquistador, a journal of Spanish horses.

Although Roadshow rules forbid volunteer value specialists from purchasing items brought into the show, working for free can pay off for the more esteemed estimators.

“Say a well-known appraiser certifies a collection as being worth around $300,000,” says Dimock, “and someone buys it. The appraiser will get from one to ten percent of that value for putting their name on the collection. That’s $3000 to $30,000.”

The high stakes occasionally lead to scandal. In 2002, frequent show volunteer Russell Pritchard III pleaded guilty to making false appraisals on the program and defrauding Civil War collectors. The antique dealer was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to repay $830,000 in illicit profits. Prosecutors allege he may have pocketed as much as $1.5 million by lowballing value estimates on air and then brokering sales at a much higher rate — for a paid percentage.

Another Roadshow rogue, the late Wayne Pratt, pleaded guilty in 2004 to tax violations related to the purchase of a condo owned by one-time Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland.

Resolved to get himself and a handful of rare goodies into the filming, Dimock watched several dozen episodes, hoping to gauge what sort of items (and item-bearers) tend to make the broadcast cut. “By watching the show, you can figure out why certain appraisals end up being taped and broadcast…I wasn’t interested in value, I didn’t want information, and I wasn’t going to play ‘stump the appraiser’ with some obscure item or jump up and down over their appraisal while claiming, ‘I only paid a nickel for that.’ My one and only motivation was to see how many items I could get on TV.”

To that end, he attended two Antiques Roadshow tapings in San Diego, the first on June 30, 2001, the second, and more recent, on June 12, 2010.

Obtaining tickets can be difficult. “Between 6500 and 7000 passes are given out free for each show,” he says. “[You get them] by calling a phone line on the on-sale date. Most cities sell out in 10 to 30 minutes. Each household can have four tickets, which means it might take only 1750 calls to exhaust the ticket supply. Nobody is allowed into the taping without a ticket, each ticket holder can only bring one or two items, and no children are allowed unless accompanied by an item.

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nan shartel Jan. 19, 2011 @ 12:51 p.m.

did not know and this is great background for San Diego's visit from the Antique Road Show

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 19, 2011 @ 3:11 p.m.

Antiques Road Show used to be my favorite PBS program, but History Detectives replaced it.

Both shows are top notch IMO.

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nan shartel Jan. 19, 2011 @ 3:30 p.m.

i love that one 2 Pupster...but my faves r the British Masterpiece Theatres

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Jay Allen Sanford Jan. 19, 2011 @ 8:11 p.m.

It's getting harder to find treasures in trash, ironically in part because Antiques Roadshow's successful formula has educated so many people about memorabilia markets and auctions. ARS's own popularity is making it difficult to find unraided attics, basements, thrift stores, and yard sales --

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David Dodd Jan. 20, 2011 @ 3:41 a.m.

Jay Allen, I really liked this piece! I've watched the show over the years from time to time, always wondered about how it was put on, great to read the behind-the-scenes stuff. Who would keep old cereal boxes? I get the Roy Rogers stuff, but cereal boxes? I worry about humanity in general. The formula is simple: Eat the corn flakes, dispose of the container.

I have a priceless memory of Gene Autry. I can't sell it at the Antiques Roadshow. I never saved much from my youth, but getting tossed out of Anaheim Stadium with my little brother by Gene himself, well, I can't imagine what that appraisal is worth. He was my brother's idol.

Great stuff, Jay, I hope you get another feature here when ComicCon comes around this year.

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nan shartel Jan. 20, 2011 @ 7:02 a.m.

JAS when i think of rhe value of all the Kewpie dolls i got as a kid and never played with i could retch

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redpaper Jan. 20, 2011 @ 11:57 a.m.

Yes, cereal boxes, I remember reading about some people collect them like stamps, but they dont fit into stamp books very easy. Kinda funny, from around the same I read about cereal collecting, I did see those Beatle boxes on ebay in 2008 and they were for sale for $12,000.00. I supposed he sold them to that the ebay seller who was reselling them. That month, I was a little short on cash to buy them, so I went down to the grocery store and bought some Frosted Flakes instead.

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dwbat Jan. 20, 2011 @ 12:05 p.m.

RE: "...the TV program Antiques Roadshow would be filming in San Diego."

Filming? No, the show is shot on video so it's taped, not filmed.

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bohemianopus Jan. 20, 2011 @ 2:16 p.m.

Great article! Right up my "alley."

Being a "garage sale hag," my biggest find was a champion heavyweight boxing belt signed by Muhammad Ali. I bought it in Florida for $1. The woman was going through a divorce and wanted to get rid of all her ex-husband's "valuables."

Coming from a family of former fighters and boxing fans, I knew it had to be worth more than a $1. It was. In fact (without documentation) I sold the belt to Grant Elvis Phillips (the designer of Grant boxing attire) for $1,000.

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Jay Allen Sanford Jan. 20, 2011 @ 4:27 p.m.

Wow, a boxing belt signed by Ali for a buck!!!! Awesome!

The article's cover photo should be explained -- the woman with rug was part of the San Diego 2010 taping. She's holding an asmalyk rug from Turkmenistan, circa 1900. The Turkoman nomads wove asmalyks for both utilitarian and ceremonial purposes, and examples from this time period are extremely rare. Rescued from a dumpster, the rug was valued by an ARS volunteer at $125,000 to $150,000.

Other San Diego 2010 high ticket items included a 1907 portrait of one guest's aristocratic grandmother, painted by Ashcan School artist Robert Henri -- valued at $250,000 to $350,000.

Also, an original Hortus Eystettensis book, a groundbreaking collection of oversize botanical illustrations published in 1613 -- valued at $250,000 to $300,000.

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bohemianopus Jan. 20, 2011 @ 6:58 p.m.

Hmmm...I have a rug that's over one hundred years old. It's from Balochistan. Maybe I should have it appraised.

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arttrak Jan. 23, 2011 @ 1:35 p.m.

Let me say from the beginning that I am not a spokesperson for Antiques Roadshow and am not in any way representing how the show might respond to this article. I have been on Antiques Roadshow as an appraiser for 15 years on the Ethnographic table, so I do consider that I know something about the show. If Mr. Sanford was going to do a piece on Roadshow, I am soemwhat bewildered that he never interviewed any of the appraisers or producers of the show. We are all very reachable with addresses posted on the Roadshow website.

Some of these facts are just wrong. For example Mr. Dimock was quoted as saying: “Say a well-known appraiser certifies a collection as being worth around $300,000,” says Dimock, “and someone buys it. The appraiser will get from one to ten percent of that value for putting their name on the collection. That’s $3000 to $30,000.”. In 36 years of appraising tribal art I have never heard of this and have never been offered a percentage of the appraised value. That is considered to be not only unethical but it no doubt opens up potential civil and criminal problems for the appraiser.

Mr. Sanford has extensively quoted Mr. Dimock as being an expert on the Roadshow as a result of his two attempts to get on television. I wouldn't give immediate credibility to his story of what happened on these two ocassions. The appraisers have been selected to participate on the show because they have over years demonstrated their credibility in the marketplace. We certainly, like everybody on this planet, are capable of making a mistake. But I can assure you that Antiques Roadshow is committed to getting it right. If an appraiser was consistently making mistakes, they would not be asked back. And even though we do volunteer, it is by invitation only.

If you are really interested in how this show works, our Executive Producer, Marsha Bemko, has written a great book which is available either on the Roadshow website or on Amazon. JB

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Founder Jan. 24, 2011 @ 8:36 a.m.

Great comments! Thanks for adding to the story!

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David Dodd Jan. 23, 2011 @ 3:31 p.m.

Let me say from the beginning that I am not a spokesperson for Jay Allen Sanford and am not in any way representing how the Reader might respond to this article.

But Mr. arttrak, it's sort of easy to see that the article is presented from the point of view of a certain participant. I don't know a tinker's damn about antiques or appraising, but when you write an article the idea is to present the story from a certain angle. Most of the time, the angle isn't intended to have the reader draw a certain conclusion, but rather to enable the reader to reach their own conclusion based on the attitude of the piece. In this case, I'm unsure of how you are seeing the "show" represented in a negative manner. I really enjoyed this article from the aspect of someone who so desperately just wanted to get on television that he actually waited in line to get something appraised. Why should that involve yourself? In other words, if the "show" was presented from your point of view, it would bore me to no end. Not that you're not a wonderful human being and quite interesting in your own right, but the idea isn't thrilling to me.

In other words, I don't want to read about how a bank works, but I'm keen to read a story about a bank robbery, know what I mean?

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Jay Allen Sanford Jan. 23, 2011 @ 4:42 p.m.

There have been countless articles written about Antiques Roadshow, many offering detailed "behind the scenes" insight into the program production.

However, this article is about Mr. Dimock and several attending San Diegans, documenting their personal experiences, observations, and insights from the other side of the curtain.

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arttrak Jan. 24, 2011 @ 7:05 a.m.

I totally get both comments. Readers enjoy sharing experiences of others which is in fact one of the compelling draws of Roadshow itself. Many of us look at the car accident when we drive by or maybe we take pleasure in enjoying the discomfort of the train wreck called Jersey Shore. We are curious creatures. That wasn't my point. What if Mr. Dimock didn't quite tell the whole truth? And what if maybe Mr. Sanford didn't quite do enough research on what he presented as fact. Why couldn't Mr. Sanford interview people from the show? I think that might have been interesting if Mr. Sanford was really sincere about sharing the experiences of San Diego attendees. I was just looking for a little balance. And what really set me off was Mr. Dimock's assertion that we as appraisers took a percentage off the appraised amount as a fee for making the property more saleable. Again I can't speak officially for the Roadshow but if you are going to call me a crook don't expect me to sit around and not at least attempt to offer some perspective to the discussion.

I have talked to thousands of Roadshow visitors and heard countless stories which I personally find fascinating. And in fact because we are all working, the first time I see the shows is when you see them. I know nothing about collectibles, furniture, or paintings; however, I love to hear the stories and to educate myself on a new area. That is what Roadshow is all about. It is not about let's trick the appraiser or let's see if we can get on television to make our antique worth a bit more. The Roadshow is about people where the vehicle for telling the story just happens to be art and antiques. And let's hope it stays that way.

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incognito Jan. 30, 2011 @ 2:17 a.m.

Regarding "That rug you found", thank you to Mr. Dimock for taking the time to write this expose. I attended the recent show and both myself and my companion came away from it saying the same thing, "What a complete waste of time and energy." Dimocks account of his experience accurately depicted our interactions with several appraisers. The fact that we had different items is inconsequential because the appraisers were, in every instance, dismissive, condescending, disinterested and demonstrated a total lack of expertise. But the moment of truth, the moment when it became crystal clear that if only I would have stayed home, I could be doing something productive like laundry or taxes, that moment came when you got to the actual dollar value that this esteemed know-nothing proclaimed -- suffice to say they pontificate that your crap is way crappier than you could have imagined. Pshaw! I can still enjoy the weekly shows but there must be a better way to solicit the snippits of staged spontaneity than to compromise and misinform thousands of hopeful people....Ava Bianca

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RTBARON8888 Feb. 12, 2011 @ 10:31 p.m.

I experienced the same thing when I wanted to appear on a collectible appraisal TV show. On the 1st anniversary of the FX: The Collectibles Show, they celebrated with what they called an APPRAISE-A-THON. The location was in my city, and I decided that I was going to be on TV. I chose an item that was large and colorful. I had a standup advertising display of Mr. T, which was promoting Mr. T cereal. I also had a full box of Mr T cereal.

I was picked to be on camera. I went backstage and the appraiser looked at it for a few seconds. Once the camera was running, the appraiser said that the collectible had several different groups of collectors that would be interested in it. Advertising collectors, black memorabilia collectors & cereal box collectors would be interested in the display. She then qualified her positive opinion of the desirability of the item by stating her opinion of the value. She said that the standup display was worth about $30. I could of disagreed with her on camera, but I just kept my mouth shut. The host asked if I wanted to take bids. I told him I would listen to offers. The offers were in the same price range as the on air appraisal. I didn't take the offers.

I felt the appraiser purposedly made an incredibly low appraisal so that an accomplice could make a bid.

As a side note, I found it interesting that Duane Dimock sold his two cereal boxes for $5,000. A little over a year ago, I sold a Frosty O's cereal box with Dudley Do Right for $1,200 at TV TOY MEMORIES (http://www.tvtoymemories.com/) I had wrongly believed that I held the record for the highest priced collectible cereal box that had been sold.

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JohnnyJ Feb. 13, 2011 @ 4:45 p.m.

FUN STORY TO READ. MINDY, IF ARTIST WAS PETER MAX, WHO ALWAYS GIVES DRAWINGS INSTEAD OF PAYING PEOPLE FOR THINGS, NOT WORTH ALL THAT MUCH.

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