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Case Number 22470: Small Claims Court

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The Best of Antiques Roadshow

PBS // 2011 // 160 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // October 8th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Josh Rode found a picture he thought might be worth a lot, but it turned out to be a print tinted with colored pencils.

The Charge

Not all antiques are created equal.

The Case

Long before Storage Wars and Pawn Stars, a little show on public television got people wondering what treasures might be hidden in their own homes. Stories abounded about amazing finds hidden in everyday junk; people started ripping apart their pictures after someone found an original copy of the U.S. Constitution behind a cheap painting. Turns out a lot of people are antique collectors without even realizing it, and that's the power behind Antiques Roadshow.

For those who view their PBS station as the annoying channel they have to click over to get from CBS to ESPN, Antiques Roadshow is hosted by Mark Walberg (not Marky Mark) and a bevy of antique experts. As they travel to various cities, people line up out the door with anything and everything they hope might be appraised as valuable. In fact, some of the best moments of the show are the owners explaining how they came to possess these items. Though most of the appraising happens off camera—because the bulk of the stuff is junk—there are enough surprise finds to fill years' worth of episodes. Along the way, the experts provide detailed lessons on the items, including condition issues, historical context, and examples of similar items, along with how each of these aspects affect their worth. Each item then gets a price reveal, as the expert estimates how much the item would sell for at auction.

The regular television show focuses on one city at a time and, while they naturally make sure to highlight the best items, they don't hesitate to show things that have no real value. As one might expect from the title, The Best of Antiques Roadshow does not follow that formula. Here, everything is worth at least a few hundred dollars.

The disc is split into three parts. The first is titled "Simply the Best," which is a bit misleading, as they're not the most expensive items, nor the most interesting stories. They're simply the best examples of various items that have been shown. An old banjo is the "most stunning" example instrument expert Frederick Oster has come across "in a long time." A women's suffrage poster is akin to the Holy Grail. A nineteenth-century rifle is literally one-of-a-kind.

The second section, "Trash to Treasure," features items destined for the garbage but saved by fortuitous chance. This includes a set of glass slides used during the days of silent films that a man recovered from a dump as a child. There is also a bunch of boxes filled with photographs and personal items that once belonged to Albert E. Schaaf, the General Manager of Fiat at the turn of the twentieth-century; the lucky new owner found them on a curb on his way to work.

The third and final section, "Politically Collect," features politically-themed items, such as the chair John Quincy Adams was sitting on when he died, a court affidavit asking the state of Maine to allow James Earl Carter to be put on the 1976 Presidential ballot under the name Jimmy Carter, and multiple items autographed by one or more presidents.

Though the stories and explanations are usually compelling, the show suffers from a dichotomy between experts who are very excited about the items they're discussing and owners whose reactions are usually less than enthusiastic. Only a few provide truly shocked and excited reactions; most just say, "Oh, that's great," without betraying any real emotion. They were obviously expecting a great deal more.

Part of the reason for the owners' disappointment is that they often have no idea what the items' price curve should be. Expert Rafael Eledge might know that $4000.00 is an excellent price for a Confederate spur, but after he waxes eloquent about how amazing this particular specimen is, it's no wonder the owner grunts at its revealed worth.

The Best of Antiques Roadshow comes in both Full Screen and anamorphic 1.78:1 options, and the picture is fine in both. The items are clear and their detail is easily observed. The Dolby 2.0 stereo sound is more than sufficient; everyone is easy to understand, which is all that's really needed. Other than links to relevant websites, there are no extas.

Antique Roadshow has a low-key atmosphere, which is a pleasant break from the loud, frenetic feel of most reality shows. Unfortunately, the anticlimactic price reveals tend to sap the show of its already placid momentum. This would be a much more enjoyable show, if it could find a way to sustain its energy. Still, you'll likely feel the urge to survey your belongings—and the side of the road every trash-collection day—once you've seen how much collectors are willing to part with for an ugly, worn-out wooden doll.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 84

Perp Profile

Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 160 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Reality TV
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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