“That means up to 14,000 items [for a given event]. Even if I could get my four tickets and recruit three more people to carry in items with me, I’d have only a .057 percent chance of air time. Not very good odds. They get even slimmer with only about 50 pieces being shown on the three broadcast episodes edited from each day of shooting.
“At this point, I would have to consult a mathematician to assess by how many decimal points my chances of getting on TV had declined.”
At the 2001 Roadshow taping, ticket holders lined up outside Convention Center Halls A and B. Dimock’s antiquing accomplices included his wife Susan Mendolia, his sister Diane Murbach, and her husband Monte Murbach.
He had chosen four items he felt had the best odds of landing him airtime: a 36"x40" framed oil painting of Kirk Douglas that was featured prominently in the 1957 film Top Secret Affair; a set of 1960s Nabisco Rice Honeys and Wheat Honeys cereal boxes featuring the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine; a Tarzan pulp-art oil painting with lettered title Tarzan and the Jungle Queen that was published in a 1956 magazine; and a Big Loo toy robot from 1962, three feet tall and in the original Marx box, considered one of the most desirable items in the sci-fi and robot collector’s market.
Says Dimock, “Susan had the Tarzan painting, Diane had the Beatles cereal boxes, Monte was carrying the Kirk Douglas painting, and I was wheeling my three-foot-tall robot.”
Susan describes taking the Tarzan artwork to Paintings and Drawings. “They said, yes, it was an oil painting, but they didn’t know anything about it. So, since it was Tarzan, they sent me to Collectibles.”
A woman at that table performed a brief inspection (“less than a minute”) and informed Susan that she wanted a co-volunteer to examine the painting. “He looked at the front and said it was the original art for a movie half-sheet and then typed the title Tarzan and the Jungle Queen on his laptop.”
At this point, at least four Roadshow volunteer appraisers had handled the painting, without anyone checking the backside to read the signed and dated publisher’s stamp, clearly identifying it as coming from the July 1956 issue of Male Magazine.
“The volunteer couldn’t find the movie title on his computer, so he looked up the artist’s name but couldn’t find that either. Then he told me it could be from a book or periodical and that they weren’t very collectible.” Around this time, the volunteer was approached to do an on-camera appraisal nearby.
“He became very distracted, and that’s when I finally turned the painting over and showed him the writing and stamp on the back. Still acting distracted, he said, ‘Oh, it must be from one of those old men’s periodicals, $200 to $400,’ and then he walked away from me to start taping something.” None of her encounter was filmed.
Next up was Diane at the Collectibles table, with the Beatles cereal boxes. She recalls: “An older gentleman started checking them out, and I told him the boxes had come from the original owner in San Francisco, were sold to a man in Boston, and then made it back to San Diego. He told me that the cereal box market had fallen, so the boxes weren’t worth that much, maybe $50 to $100 for the pair.”
When I talked to Dimock about the Beatles boxes, he smugly retorted, “That [later] became my biggest collectible sale of all time, when I sold the pair for $5000!”
Back at the Roadshow, Monte carried the Kirk Douglas movie prop to the Paintings and Drawings table. “They sent me away with ‘The frame and painting are not in good shape, very little value as a painting, maybe $100 to $200, but make sure to take it over to Collectibles.’”
Doing as instructed, Monte says, “A woman did a quick look and tried calling over another man, but he was doing a videotaped interview with someone else and clearly preferred that [being on camera]. This time, I was able to explain that the painting was an original prop from the 1957 movie Top Secret Affair.
“Kirk Douglas is painted as his character, a two-star general, and I told her the artwork was seen in the film quite a bit…she told me she really didn’t know a lot about Hollywood props but that, with verification of the facts, she would give a value of $400 to $600.”
Once again, the inspection and estimate wasn’t filmed. Three items down, one to go.
“Finally,” says Dimock, “it was my turn, with my three-foot-tall robot. Big Loo is futuristic, towering, and the big colorful box should be perfect for television. I even had a great childhood story of always getting mad at my sister for dressing my menacing Big Loo in her dolls’ clothes. Robot blasphemy!
“I wheeled Loo to the first appraiser that took me but ran into an immediate hitch. I had met the appraiser before at a toy show, and he also recognized me, which meant he wasn’t allowed to appraise my item. He passed me to another volunteer, but that guy didn’t want to look at it either, saying it was out of his area [of expertise].”
Dimock says, “My plan had been thwarted by a chance encounter with someone who knew me. However, even though the guy had a conflict of interest that prevented him from doing the estimate, he motioned the roving camera to come over anyway. Pretty soon, they decided that shots of the robot itself were good enough for a one-minute roll, even though there wasn’t going to be an on-camera appraisal.”
That meant Big Loo might appear on the eventual TV broadcast. But what about Dimock?
“I signed a release form, still photos were taken, and I was videotaped for a possible spot. But that still didn’t ensure I would be getting on TV.”
Dimock returned to the convention center later that day with one more item to run through the guessing gauntlet, having scalped an additional entrance ticket. His final broadcast bait: a 1917 box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix, unopened and in mint condition.