Meadow Brook Hall hosts 'Antiques Roadshow'
They came from all over southeast Michigan, toting wagons, baskets and bags filled with family treasures.
Their goal: find out how much their antiques and collectibles were truly worth -- and possibly get a chance to be on TV.
More than 2,500 antique-lovers flocked to Rochester's Meadow Brook Hall on Thursday to be part of the beloved PBS show "Antiques Roadshow" as it filmed episodes for its 23rd season. Tickets were given away through a random drawing earlier this year.
Guests brought everything from vintage maps and art to old bicycles, dollhouses, jewelry and furniture. Some of the most unique items -- ones that caught both appraisers' and producers' attention -- had a unique Detroit or Michigan spin.
Sixty-five appraisers fanned out in tents across Meadow Brook's grounds, divided into roughly 25 categories. If an appraiser found an item especially interesting, they would pitch the idea to producers to consider filming it for the show.
Eric from Wayne County -- media was prohibited from asking ticket-holders their last names or hometowns for security reasons -- found himself in front of the cameras on Thursday after he brought an old trunk believed to have once belonged to the Temptations. Eric, a longtime collector of black memorabilia, said he got it from a local collision store about 15 years ago.
"He (the owner) knew I collected memorabilia and he asked it was interested," said Eric. "I paid $500."
Appraiser Gary Piattoni inspected the trunk for its authenticity, looking at stickers adhered to it. In the end, he appraised its value at $2,000-$3,000 and possibly up to $5,000.
"Is it 100 percent ironclad" that it definitely belonged to the Temptations? Piattoni asked. "No, but I think it's very, very close... It would be great to see some period photos of them traveling with it."
Thursday's venue -- the 1929 former home of auto royalty Matilda Dodge Wilson and her second husband Alfred Wilson, which was named a National Historic Landmark in 2012 -- marks a new format for "Antiques Roadshow." Usually filmed at convention halls, producers decided to take a different approach for their newest season after testing out the concept at the end of last season at a historic venue in Rhode Island. Viewers loved it.
"The convention centers, they worked (for filming)," said Executive Producer Marsha Bemko. "They're very efficient. There's an efficiency to the day but there's something you don't get. I compare it to going from a three-ring circus to a fair. This is such a friendlier environment... We've never had a prettier show."
Bemko said she first visited Meadow Brook five years ago for a Detroit Public Television event after "Antiques Roadshow" visited Detroit in 2013. So when she and her team were brainstorming ideas for locations for the new season, Meadow Brook came to mind. And when producers asked the estate if they'd be open to the idea, they said yes, Bemko said.
Shannon O'Berski, Meadow Brook's director of external relations, said "it was just a natural fit."
"We were honored and flattered," she said. "What this will do for us -- the visibility -- is very exciting. People are passionate about their collection items, their art and their antiques. And we love that they are here, against the backdrop of the home that feels the same way."
Guests milled about the grounds Thursday after first going through a "triage" area where volunteers inspected their items and gave them a ticket based on the type of item they brought. From there, they got into lines to see appraisers in one of 25 categories, including collectibles, sports, rugs and jewelry.
Film crews, meanwhile, filmed in at least three locations, only one of which was inside the estate. By the end of the day, appraisers would likely look over around 6,000 objects.
The items that are eventually filmed for TV area a selected for a number of reasons -- and isn't just the value, said producers. It's the story behind the object and what the owner is learning about it for the first time. One of most popular items from the 2013 "Roadshow" visit to Detroit was a Marvin Gaye passport.
"I love it when an object tells a story about the place that we are," said Bemko.
Mike from Wayne County brought on old ceramic plaque that belonged to his wife's grandmother that depicts a gnome eating porridge, surrounded by mushrooms and a fairy.
"We're not sure where it came from," said Mike. "I just remember it hanging in my mother-in-law's house. My wife, Donna, always liked it."
Appraiser David Lackey answered Mike's questions while cameras rolled Thursday. He said it was made in Germany and artist Heinrich Schlidt used a technique in which the colors won't fade. He valued the plaque at auction at around $3,000-$5,000.
"It's pretty exciting," said Mike. "We had no idea. We tried last time to get tickets and we were unsuccessful. This time we hit the jackpot."
But not every piece with a great story will make it on TV.
Bethany and Wendy of Oakland County brought four pieces of memorabilia from the Detroit Curling Club (of which they are both members) to be appraised, one of which was an 1890s curling stone with a hand-hammered metal handle. They also brought two silver-plated trophies, a vintage curling hat and a 1916 photo of the curling club, standing in their gear on the frozen Detroit River. Among the group is Horace Dodge, John Dodge's brother. John Dodge was Matilda Dodge Wilson's first husband.
Appraiser James Supp liked the items enough to call over a producer to possibly have the items appraised on air but because they were not owned by an individual, producer Sam Farrell declined.
"I broke your heart," Farrell said to Bethany and Wendy, apologetically. "It's fantastic local stuff but we don't do institutional stuff."
Bethany and Wendy were disappointed.
"Somebody has to own it," said Bethany. "We wore our (curling club) shirts and everything."
Still, there was an upside. Inspecting the etching on one of the trophies, Supp, the appraiser, valued it $400-600. The story for the antique curling stone was even better. Supp said a curling stone in 2008 sold for $550. He valued Bethany's and Wendy's stone at double that amount, $1,200.
"Well done, well done pieces," Supp said.
Three episodes will be gleaned from Thursday's visit. The new season of "Antiques Roadshow" begins airing in January.
'Antiques Roadshow' by the numbers
6000: Approximate number of items appraised Thursday.
5: Stops on the show's 2018 Tour.
65: Number of appraisers on hand Thursday.
3: Episodes that will filmed from Meadow Brook Hall visit.
150: Number of appraisals recorded live at each tour stop.
4: Number of times show has visited Michigan since 1996.