Roadshow experts value my treasure

It's a British institution and after 30 years we're still loving the BBC's Antiques Roadshow.The crew came to Suffolk on Thursday and entertainments reporter JAMES MARSTON joined the queues to see if he has any treasure he can use to give up the day job.

It's a British institution and after 30 years we're still loving the BBC's Antiques Roadshow.

The crew came to Suffolk on Thursday and entertainments reporter JAMES MARSTON joined the queues to see if he has any treasure he can use to give up the day job.

I'M not much of a collector of anything.

I haven't got stunning oil paintings or lovely tapestries. I haven't really got any antiques at all, so when I was told “to get yourself to the Antiques Roadshow and find out what's its like for the people who queue” I gathered together a bit of silver, an odd-looking dish and an old pair of wartime binoculars.

Arriving at the roadshow's base at Kentwell Hall near Long Melford, I was struck by the number of people carrying bags.

Everywhere you look, couples - to be frank mostly couples of a certain age - are getting out of their cars cradling things wrapped up in newspapers. Paintings, dishes, bits and bobs, you never know what's going to come out of the carrier bag next. Inside are carefully wrapped heirlooms and much cherished objects, all awaiting the eagle eyes of the TV show's 22 experts.

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The clever ones have brought fold-up chairs - because they know that queuing will take up much of the day.

After queuing, an exercise that can take up to two hours, you are met by an initial expert who takes a look at what you've got. Then you are directed to one of the better-known experts. You have to repeat the exercise for each object you've got. So it can take a while.

If your object is interesting enough, or your story strong enough, and you agree to be filmed you are discreetly led away to a waiting area. The roadshow team will chat to you for a little bit - just to make sure you are responsive enough to make interesting television - they don't want people who say nothing.

A little bit of make up is applied for the cameras and you are then taken to the expert.

The reactions though are real, as you aren't told anything about your object and especially not its value, until you sit down in front of the cameras.

My first expert is Hilary Kay. You'd recognise her if you saw her, and she sits on the miscellaneous table. She's got the job of telling me about my binoculars.

She said: “Well we know what they are. They were issued by the Ministry of Defence in the Second World War. I suspect they would have been used to spot enemy aircraft.

“The large shade extensions covering the lenses would have allowed you to look near the sun but not directly at it. They would have been used as part of the UK defence network. Where did you get them?”

I explain they were bought by my grandfather in the 1960s. They are pretty heavy and difficult to move, so I wanted them to be worth the effort of bringing to Kentwell.

Hilary added: “They are made by Ross, which is a quality maker and they are in good condition.”

She goes on to explain the key criteria for valuing antiques:

Rarity - it is scarce?

Date - is it old?

Quality - how well is it made?

State of preservation - is it looked after?

Aesthetic value - is it beautiful?

Collectability - is there a market for it?

She said: “So are these binoculars beautiful? Not really. Are they old? Not really. They are of good quality and in a good state of preservation. Sadly they're not particularly collectable and they aren't rare.”

She was letting me down gently - I realise she's been doing that to most punters for nearly 30 years.

Hilary added: “So what do we think they are worth? They aren't really valuable James. I can see someone who wants to set up a Second World War exhibit wanting them, or someone who wants to use them but I'd be surprised if they fetched much more than about £200.”

Well I'm not likely to retire on that.

So on to the next expert. I walk through the growing crowds and sit down next to ceramics man John Sandon, rummage in my bag and bring out a dish I use for crisps and dips.

He said: “You never know what people are going to put in front of you.”

John said: “Well it's painted with stylised vegetables and would have been used on the table. What do you use it for?”

“Crisps and dip and the occasional carrot baton” I reply honestly.

He added: “It's lovely to hear these pieces being used. It is a modern dish out of Poole pottery. Their designs were often inspired often by French of German Art Deco. This is from France.

“I think this particular design was by Truda Carter she was the daughter of the man that owned the factory.”

Clever man, he obviously knows his stuff. Turning over the plate, he went on: “The white glazed base tells us it was made after the war. The more valuable items by Poole are brown based and from before the war.”

I sensed I wouldn't stop working on the back of my dish.

John added: “This dates from about 1960. It used to be neglected by collectors and now Poole is highly collectable.”

So there's a market for it I thought to myself, my hopes rising.

He added: “It's worth about £50 and there's room to grow in that market. It's not a treasure but it's not bad either. It would have cost about two shillings when it was new.”

So looks like it might be valuable by the time I retire anyway. How typical. I've got a few years to go.

Undaunted I crossed the lawn, complete with a peacock and people dressed up in Tudor outfits, and sat down next to Ian Pickford - the silver specialist. He had a cold and no customers.

I rummaged again in my bag and brought out two tiny silver salt cellars.

Ian said: “Well they are silver but I think you knew that and they are salt cellars which you also know.”

I said: “But what I don't know is anything about where they were made or when.”

Ian picked up a magnifying glass and took a closer look. He said: “They were made in Birmingham in 1929, the maker's mark is DB.”

Ian looked in a reference book for a few more details.

“Ah,” he said, “the maker was Docker and Burn Ltd of Sterling Works, Barr Street, Birmingham. They would have been made for middle England. They aren't the top end of the market but they aren't the bottom either.”

Crunch time coming again. I bought them for £50 about ten years ago.

Could I buy a place in Monte Carlo and live the life of a jet set playboy on two small bits of silver? All my hopes were pinned on this final valuation.

Ian went in for the kill. He said: “About £70 for the pair. They're the sort of thing that would have made a nice wedding present.”

So I'm staying put in Suffolk then.

The Kentwell Hall edition of the show will be broadcast during the autumn and winter of 2007 to 2008.

Do you like the Antiques Roadshow? Have you discovered some treasure in your attic? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to

The show is currently recording it's 30th series.

During the past 30 years there have been 509 programmes made at 435 venues.

The show started in 1977 - the experts are now looking at items made after that date.

The show has been abroad to 11 countries.

In the past 30 years about 8 million objects have been valued with about 20,000 being filmed.

Each show attracts between 1,500 and 2,000 people.

About 24 people are filmed for each show, 15-18 of which are used in the broadcast episode.

Sir Michael Apsel has fronted the show for 7 years.

The roadshow is regularly watched by more than six million people.

N April 2004 Ipswich Corn Exchange

N July 2003 Cressing Temple Barns

N May 2001 Newmarket's July Course

YOU wouldn't believe it to look at him but Michael is 74.

I managed to catch up with the suited charmer in between filming, and he said this will be his last Antiques Roadshow.

He said: “I've been in television for 50 years and this is the 30th anniversary of the roadshow, having a neat mind I thought this was time to call it a day.

“I've been doing it for seven years, eight series and 200 shows and I'm going to be sad to leave but the travelling can be draining. I'm not sure what I'll do next.”

The former Crackerjack star has a personal love of antiques. He said: “I used to collect silver and portraits but I was burgled a couple of times so I don't collect too much now. I really like things from the Art Deco period so whenever we have something that comes up from then I go and take a look.”

The weather has proved a little bit tricky this year - with too much rain for the roadshow's liking.

Michael said: “It's glorious when it's like this and today we have been lucky. It's an enjoyable job. It fulfils the great British need to queue.

“It's a gentle history lesson, a detective story and a game show - sometimes people own very valuable things. It's got all the elements of great television.”

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