'Antiques Roadshow' rolls into Kansas City

Thousands throng the show's taping in Kansas City to learn about their personal treasures - shows to air in 2014

by Leigh Elmore

No that is not a homeless couple pulling all their belongings in a wagon down Broadway; they're just going to the "Antiques Roadshow". If there is a seismic shift going on in the antique trade concerning what's popular and what's not you would have never known it on Saturday, Aug. 10 when the ever-popular PBS-TV series "Antiques Roadshow" spent a full day examining and appraising the treasures of Kansas City area residents.  From the tremendous number of items brought to the Kansas City Convention Center, it looks as if the passion for antique and vintage object has a firm foothold in the psyche of young and old alike.

From a total of 18,673 people who applied for tickets to attend the Roadshow in Kansas City, nearly 6,000 lucky people were randomly selected by the show's producers. Each was invited to bring two items to be appraised at the taping session. The stories of some of the Kansas City 6,000 will be aired on three separate programs beginning in January of 2014, said executive producer Marsha Bemko.  The airdates will be revealed in the fall. Look for segments that highlight the Toy and Miniature Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Kansas City is included among eight cities visited by the Roadshow this year. The others are Detroit, Jacksonville, Anaheim, Boise, Knoxville, Baton Rouge and Richmond.

Andy and Jan brought a rare photograph of the George Caleb Bingham's painting "Martial Law". Signed by the artist, Andy believes it was produced in order to raise subscriptions for engraved prints to be made of the regionally famous painting. They said it's worth about a thousand bucks, Andy said. The couple operates The Red Shed a monthly vintage market in the West Bottoms.

We are thrilled to be visiting Kansas City for the third time, Bemko said. We saw about 6,000 ticketed guests with more than 10,000 items. I am confident that we found some great treasures. We will also be highlighting the community with local field segments, said.

Jim and Karl came from Hannibal to find the value of a lamp purchased from the Stark Orchard' family and a child's wooden wagon.  It's been a very good experience, very organized and we feel like we got top-notch appraisals. The lamp is worth about $750, Jim said. We're in line to find out about the wagon.

Kansas Citians certainly answered the call to collectibles and the entire cast of 73 appraisers that appear on the show were busily going through their paces on any number of items all day long.  Hopeful collectors waited with bated breath as they quickly explained the origin and value of everything from Asian art, arms and militaria, books and manuscripts, clocks, collectibles, decorative arts, folk art, furniture, glass, jewelry, musical instruments, paintings and drawings, photographs, pottery and porcelain, prints and posters, rugs and textiles, silver, tribal arts and watches.

Dolly and her girlfriend drove all the way from the Twin Cities to attend the Kansas City "Antiques Roadshow". She brought a wooden Tramp Art bowl and a Victorian Era painting created by her great-grandmother. They're not worth a lot of money, but on the drive my friend and I will hit every quilt shop between here and St. Paul, she said.

They see about 700 people and 1,400 objects an hour, Bemko said.  All ticket holders who attend receive free verbal appraisals on all objects regardless of whether or not they are selected to be recorded for television.

Behind the scenes

When an expert hears a unique story or an interesting piece of history or spots a particularly rare or unusual object, or determines that an appraisal might otherwise be of value to the audience, he or she pitches the idea to a Roadshow producer. The producer then determines if the appraisal should be recorded for broadcast consideration. So of the thousands of objects appraised in Kansas City, about 80 were recorded and only about 50 will finally appear on the "Antiques Roadshow" series, Bemko said.

On-air the assembled appraisers seem to know everything there is to know about a particular object. Bemko said, however, what viewers of the show
don't see is what happens between the time a participant arrives and the final appraisal moment – sometimes a matter of hours.

During that time, Bemko said, each appraiser examines an item for identifying marks, signatures, brands, quality and condition, apparent age, the material out
of which it was manufactured or crated,
and other telltale characteristics. The appraiser then confers with his or her colleagues, conducts research via the Internet and a traveling library of books in
order to pinpoint the origin, artist or manufacturer, the approximate period of the piece and, of course, the current market value.

Enduring popularity

The fact that "Antiques Roadshow", currently in its 18th season, remains the most-watched show on the public network with 10 million viewers a week is a testament to the eternal interest that Americans have about their "stuff."

Appraiser Ken Farmer of Quinn & Farmer Auctions peruses an item before offering an opinion.

Bemko sums up the popularity of the series this way: "First of all, there's the variety of objects, people, and stories that make up each show, so there's literally something for just about everybody," she said. "Then there's the fact that each appraisal segment involves two complementary stories: a personal history from the owner of an object and the professional analysis and context provided by the expert. Finally, we present all that useful information in a three-minute-or-less package with a little drama at the end, when a value is placed on the object. That seems to be a winning formula for good TV," she said.

After 18 years of looking into America's attics you might think the concept is running thin for some of the long-time participants. Yet, the ones who spoke with Discover Vintage America demolished that idea pretty quickly.

Leslie Keno of Sotheby’s completes his appraisal of an unusual chair for an unidentified woman.

Furniture appraiser Leslie Keno and his twin brother, Leigh, have been mainstays on the show for many years and their enthusiasm for vintage and antique furniture never wanes.  Leslie Keno, who works for Sotheby's for his day job, said, "Every Roadshow that I go to I learn something new", he said. "I'm always very interested to learn about local craftsmen in a particular locale. I've seen lots of very interesting things today," Keno said. In the Midwest I see a lot more 19th century items, that probably on the East Coast, which is natural."

The changing marketplace

Keno noted that younger people are attracted to the vintage trade, acknowledging their preferences trending to mid-20th century modern lines. "We saw a very rare Eames chair this morning in a rare color. That's a style that will live forever."

Tara brought a silver necklace that has been in her family for four generations, brought to America from Scotland by her great-great-grandfather. "They said it's worth about $100. There's a lot more sentimental value in in for me though."

"And, in fact, you can mix and match furniture from different eras, you don't have to create a museum in your home.  I'm all for setting Chippendale chairs around an Eero Saarinen table frankly. Mixing a matching is the way to go in this market," Keno said.

Leslie and his brother, Leigh, have recently launched a line contemporary furniture of their own designs manufactured by Theodore Alexander.

"The market will always evolve and things that were bringing top dollar 10 years ago, might not be today," Keno said. "But you know what? This is a great time to be buying 18th  and early 19th century furniture. There are bargains out there crying out to be found. For example American Empire furniture from 1810-1840 is a great place to be buying right now."

Most Roadshow attendees that we spoke with weren't increasing their insurance policies, but they all were having a lot of fun. (Editor's note: Roadshow producers requested that attendees be mentioned by first name only, to minimize the potential theft.)

Nail biting time

I still love the painting - and the monkey even more

by Leigh Elmore

I suppose every person who ever took items to the "Antiques Roadshow" for appraisal hoped they would return home and have to re-write their homeowner's insurance policy.  Yours truly was no exception.

My wife is the true collector in our house and, unfortunately, she didn't get tickets to the Kansas City taping of the Roadshow even though she applied for them almost the minute they were available.  By nature of my job with Discover Vintage America I was privileged to get in on a press pass. Even so, the producers encouraged working journalists to bring items for appraisal so we could undergo the experience.

Here's what I took:

This portrait of a woman by Kansas City painter Daniel MacMorris, from the editor’s collection was appraised at about $1,000 by Roadshow appraiser Betty Krulik.

The painting

Leroy Daniel MacMorris is well known in art circles in Kansas City. Originally from Sedalia he was trained at the Kansas City Art Institute. MacMorris was a nationally known portrait painter, muralist, illustrator, decorator and designer from Kansas City. Primarily a portrait artist in his later years, he also executed many murals, the most notable in the Kansas City area are in the Nelson Art Gallery (Rozzelle Court loggia ceilings), the Liberty Memorial Building (restoration of the
World War I mural "Pantheon de la Guerre"), and the Kansas City Public Library Missouri Valley Room (History of Kansas City). He also painted murals at
the State Library Building in Columbus, OH and the Houston, TX City Hall ceiling murals.
His first teachers were George Sass in Kansas City,
and Alphonso Mucha in Chicago. He spent two summers with Leon Gaspard in Taos, and was to
remain a pupil and friend for the rest of Gaspard's life. He served in both world wars: in the first war he was sent to France in the signal corps;in WW II he spent over three years teaching camouflage in Utah. Following his first assignment to France with the army, he returned to spend five years as a student and artist with his own studio on the right bank. He studied with August Gorguet in Paris and before leaving had an exhibition at the Durand-Ruel Gallery. MacMorris returned to the States and set up a studio in New York City above the Carnegie Hall. While there he studied with Joseph Pennell, Robert Henri and George Bridgeman. He exhibited at the Durand-Ruel Galleries in New York and Newport.
After 1945 he resettled in Kansas City, Missouri as a portrait painter, muralist, and teacher. He died painting a mural while at age 89 years on August 27, 1981.

We purchased the portrait about 20 years ago for $500 from Suzanne Cooper's shop at 45th and State Line. I expect that his reputation is greatest in Kansas City, because Roadshow appraiser Betty Krulik of Betty Krulik Fine Art Limited in New York was unfamiliar with him. Sigh.

But a quick check on her computer showed that one of MacMorris's portraits recently sold for $1,200. "She has an interesting, introspective look," Krulik told me. "Unfortunately, portraits that don't have a greater context, probably price a little lower. So, I'd say this is worth somewhere between $800 and $1,000," she said.

Well, at least we got twice the original investment out of it. Lesson learned: If we sell it, sell it in Kansas City, where people know about the artist.

The monkey

This portrait of a woman by Kansas City painter Daniel MacMorris, from the editor’s collection was appraised at about $1,000 by Roadshow appraiser Betty Krulik.

On to the monkey.  Some background: My wife inherited the fuzzy monkey perfume bottle from her great aunt after a brief argument with her father: "I
want the monkey," he said. "NO, I want it," Lorraine corrected him.  She was right.

It didn't take doll appraiser Marshall Martin an extra second to tell me all about it.

"This item was made in Germany in the 1930s by the firm Schuco.  They were famous for making all kinds
of toys and novelty items. This little ape is made of mohair and has little felt ears and foot bottoms sewed on. It is designed to hold a bottle of perfume atop
one's dresser. It's probably worth about $250.  If it
had been in the form of a bear, it would have been worth more."

Now that was a pleasant surprise for me.

Leigh Elmore can be contacted at editor@discoverypub.com