John Nye had excellent news for an Idaho couple about a Chippendale chest that's been in the family since the 18th century.
The appraiser said their piece would bring up to $20,000 at auction and sell for two or three times that at retail.
"Maybe my hearing aid isn't working," said the owner, Nancy of Whitebird, with a laugh. "I didn't quite get that."
Nancy and her husband, Bruce, scored twice at Saturday's taping of "Antiques Roadshow," the PBS series that draws 10 million viewers a week and made its first-ever Idaho stop. The chest of drawers and two domed wood boxes and their contents were among about 90 items picked for on-camera appraisal.
Nancy presented the tiger maple chest, which she uses to store heirlooms including papers and photos. Bruce presented the boxes, which date from 1822, with his future daughter-in-law, Starr from Boise. Inside was a 200-year-old needlework sampler, stitched by a relative, Mary Churchill, and found in a New Hampshire attic.
"We have nearly a museum in our home," said Nancy, illustrating why Roadshow producers ask that guests be identified only by first name and town. "We're a family of hoarders ... well, treasure keepers."
Nancy was thrilled their stuff was singled out, but watched an ancient bubble burst: A family legend about a relative, Edward Holyoke, who was president of Harvard University from 1737 to 1769, appears to be wrong.
The story goes that Holyoke either owned or crafted the chest. Alas, the style of the piece puts it 30 years after Holyoke's death. "The timelines don't jive," said Nye, of Bloomfield, N.J.
At the show's core are the narratives behind the objects, but Roadshow's appraisers don't hold back from debunking them, said supervising producer Sam Farrell. "Family stories are often colorful and interesting, but they're frequently not accurate," she said.
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An estimated 5,000-6,000 people patiently waited Saturday, typically for 90 minutes or so. A lottery entered by 15,000 people distributed 3,000 pairs of free tickets. About 500 people made a contribution of $200 or more to Idaho Public TV for tickets, and a few others went to VIPs, including Sen. Jim Risch and Lt. Gov. Brad Little.
The event was held at Expo Idaho on the Western Idaho Fairgrounds, an unusually small venue for the program, now taping its 18th season. Tents were added and a second building used. "The people at Expo Idaho have risen to the challenge," said associate producer Jill Giles.
The things people carried were schlepped in on a dizzying array of conveyances: wheeled luggage, baby strollers, 150-quart Igloo coolers, oxygen carts and wagons. One handmade dolly looked like the Joad family truck in "Grapes of Wrath," with a huge bench topped with two chairs and a painting strapped to the side.
Jon, a school custodian from Garden City, carried an oak Mission-style rocker on his head. Made around 1910, it belonged to his grandfather and was appraised at about $300. The ticket to the show was a birthday present from Jon's mom, who contributed $200. "She called Public TV and got the last ticket," he said.
At the heart of the show's geometry are 24 specialty tables staffed by 70 volunteer appraisers - all from out of state - who pay their expenses in exchange for invaluable exposure. Everyone gets an oral appraisal, but tongues stop when a special piece emerges, drawing producers who cull items for airing. Those guests are then herded to a green room and isolated from crew and appraisers so their on-camera reactions will be spontaneous.
A Boise potter named Rick brought a pair of 17th century Chinese porcelain jars that were estimated to bring $12,000 to $18,000 at auction. "I had no idea," he said.
Appraiser Lark Mason asked Rick, recently retired from Boise Parks and Rec, to talk about how the jars were made, including the cobalt glaze. "He didn't disagree with me," said a gratified Rick. "I've been watching the show for years. It was a big long shot to make it, when you figure there's 5,000 people and everybody brings two pieces."
Appraisals are filmed at four locations in a circle inside the specialty tables, with blue carpets outlining off-limit zones.
Though crowds meander in eyeshot of cameras, guests displayed a reverence for the program that would make any photo-bomber a heretic of the worst order.
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Donna, a retired ballroom dance studio operator from Boise, was glowing after her encounter with one of the show's best-known appraisers, Leslie Keno, a furniture expert.
Keno appraised an 1835 child's rocking chair at $500 to $800. "Leslie said he loved the patina," Donna beamed. "All the kids in our family have used it."
Keno's twin brother, Leigh, specializes in folk art. Both wore European cut blue suits, Leslie with a blue tie, Leigh with red.
"I got to meet the Kenos!" said Dea, of Enumclaw, Wash., whose 19th-century drop-leaf side table was purchased in Connecticut expressly with the plan of attending the Roadshow. Twice, Dea failed to win tickets in the lottery for Seattle tapings; she got lucky in Boise.
Leslie Keno said it was too bad the table was missing its original brass casters, but having paid $1,000, Dea was pleased with the $2,000-$3,000 appraisal.
Traveling with her mother, Dixie, both said the trip was well worth the time and expense. "We felt like Thelma and Louise coming across the mountains," said Dixie.
The crew from the show's producer, WGBH in Boston, numbers 45, supplemented by 15 local technicians.
"But we couldn't do it without the volunteers," said Ron Milton, the stage manager who warmed up the 120 local volunteers at 7:30 a.m. with a football-like pregame scrum, shouting "Roadshow!"
Among the volunteers was Boise architect Jeff Shneider, who got to wear a headset as Quad 4 Leader. "It's like I get to hear secrets," joked Shneider. "It's been a kick in the pants."
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics