As a child, having tea in front of the Antiques Roadshow on Sunday evenings was a weekly treat. Of course, 32 year later, and still an avid viewer, it has long been an ambition of mine to attend a recording but the opportunity had never arisen, until now.
So what could I take? Who were my favourite experts? Who would be there? Well, I put Hilary Kay and Geoffrey Munn at the top of my list. Hilary because she is so enormously enthusiastic about toys, which I seem also be drawn to (I have reached that age where you suddenly start to hanker after toys that were about when you were young) and Geoffrey because I love the way he talks about Russian craftsmanship, especially Fabergé.
My partner James suggested that I take a teddy bear that looked old but had no identifying buttons (worse luck) or fabric labels. I bought it for £9 at a local car boot sale recently and it caught my eye because its head was very unattractively sewn onto its body and it didn’t have any ears! He sounds awful, but I could see that if I repaired him and put a hat on him he would look quite cute. I did lots of research but couldn’t find any bears like him which could only mean two things: one - he wasn’t worth anything at all; or 2 – he was very rare and therefore worth thousands! For Geoffrey I took along four old brooches I’d picked up for pennies, but I wasn’t sure if they were really precious metals or not.
On the day, as we shuffled along slowly, and I mean slowly, we gradually approached the umbrellas shading the experts. I was expecting unfamiliar faces that I had not seen on television but suddenly, there was John Bly the furniture expert and then, a few moments later, we realised the tall, elegant woman standing with her back to us was Fiona Bruce looking very elegant in a flowery, feminine blouse and a crisp white skirt. Wow - it was really going to be worth the wait to get in!
After a couple of hours, it was my turn with Hilary. I put my teddy on her table and I could see in her eyes that she wondered why on earth I had brought it along. Oh dear. She told me that it was about 1930s, not from a well known maker and made from the cheapest material – cotton plush. Her valuation is between £5-10. I leave disappointed that I have not found an expensive rarity but I am pleased to have met Hilary – so pleased in fact that I decide to name my bear after her! I’m not sure how the real Hilary will feel about that, but it will remind me of my day!
Then it was into the jewellery queue to see Geoffrey Munn. Again we waited for such a long time; he was being so very nice to all his expectant visitors. The girl in front of me sat down with her family jewels, clasping four jewellery boxes obviously all original to the pieces within. Oh, I thought, here comes something expensive. She explained that she would show them to him in order of importance and the entire queue leaned in to listen closely. When finally the last box was opened, it revealed a platinum brooch, sparkling with diamonds. On seeing it, Geoffrey picked up one of those magic pieces of paper that signify an imminent filming and escorted her off to the green plastic chairs. At this moment I realised how fortunate some people are to inherit such beautiful pieces of jewellery.
When Geoffrey came back it is my turn. He explained to me that my first brooch is made from bog oak and dates from the Victorian era. The next is jet and he told me the meaning of each of the carved flowers, and how Queen Victoria made mourning jewellery popular. My cameo is made from vulcanite material and lastly he explaind that my gold-coloured brooch is of Etruscan influence – a new term for me. He valued two of my brooches at £100 each and the other two at £30 each. To me this is treasure. And better - Geoffrey treated me with the same care and respect as the previous lady, even though my pieces are not of much monetary value.
But the most enjoyable part of the day was unexpected, when I found myself in the audience for a recording by Andy McConnell of a set of glass balls. Andy was full of fun and really involved us in the proceedings. The balls were glass, from the 1960s and not terribly valuable but it was remarkable that they had survived, being pretty easy to break. He was directed to hold them together for the opening shot and his banter about these dangling balls was really funny.
It all just shows you that, in the words of Andy McConnell in the August 2009 issue of Homes & Antiques ‘I couldn’t care how much things are worth. Everything and everybody has a story to tell’. I will now go away and find out more about Etruscan styles of jewellery and who knows, maybe one day I will find something worth thousands of pounds.
Claire Randall, Bedford, Bedfordshire