“Antiques Roadshow’s” stop at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville will air in 2025. Photo by Bob Robinson.
Category: Features

Popular PBS series returns to Arkansas

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville is renowned for housing a world-class collection of priceless masterpieces.

On a day in May, it accommodates treasures of a different kind.

Crystal Bridges is hosting a day of appraisals for “Antiques Roadshow” — the most-watched, ongoing primetime public television series — during the show’s third visit to Arkansas. The Bentonville event will be featured as part of the show’s 29th season, which airs in 2025.

Executive Producer Marsha Bemko says, “We seek a location with a sense of history, place and community to host the ‘Antiques Roadshow.’ We found the Bentonville area fit the bill for everything we were looking for.”

Lights! Camera! Action! Bentonville is ready for its “Antiques Roadshow” closeup. Photo by Bob Robinson.

The show, which airs locally on Arkansas PBS Mondays at 7 p.m., has about 5 million viewers each week. So, it’s no surprise when registration for the Arkansas show totals over 10,000 applications. A random drawing narrows the field to more than 2,000 lucky people to receive a ticket.

With a giant spider sculpture, “Maman,” lurking in the background, Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art serves as a unique setting for “Antiques Roadshow.” Photo by Bob Robinson.

My girlfriend, Dalene Ketcher, is a “vintage seeker” herself and a big fan of the show. I score major points when I tell her I have tickets. All she must do is sort through her “she shed” to select two items to take for a free appraisal.

From Elvis Presley to pickles

From the moment we arrive at Crystal Bridges, the organization is impressive. Guests have been assigned staggered arrival times, and the impact of 2,000 attendees is never an issue. With the show’s road crew, and over 100 local volunteers, answers to attendees’ questions are just a couple of steps away.

The Triage Room greets us as we step off the elevator. Inside, experts perform the first evaluation of everyone’s items. They assign them to one of 25 categories, ranging from Asian arts to furniture to musical instruments.

Vintage seekers bring family heirlooms for appraisal and a shot at being featured on the popular “Antiques Roadshow.”

As visitors patiently stand in line to await their assignments, they peer about, observing the treasures of others. There are people with paintings, glassware, odd-looking lamps and wagons stacked high with assorted objects.

Tommy and Bobbie bring a dog statuette to “Antiques Roadshow,” in hopes that it’s Elvis Presley’s dog, Nipper. Photo by Bob Robinson.

Bobbie and Tommy (“Antiques Roadshow” only allows media to use attendees’ first names) are in line behind us, pulling a wagon with a tall white dog statuette, fireplace andirons and a reddish glass bowl stacked on top.

“We hope this is Elvis Presley’s dog, Nipper,” Bobbie cheerfully explains.

She describes a famous performance, during which “The King” had playfully danced about the stage with a white dog — the spitting image of their own figurine.

The colorful glass bowl was something they picked up at Goodwill for $20 for their son. He has red hair and likes red knickknacks around his apartment.

Once Dalene’s items are categorized, we leisurely meander through Crystal Bridges in search of the tables with the Tribal Art and Jewelry flags behind them. We also make new friends along the way.

“Did you see that one?” our newest friend, June, whispers as she eavesdrops on a nearby appraisal. “They brought in a 179-year-old preserved pickle.”

It’s showtime

When it’s our turn at the Tribal Arts table, we are greeted by a smiling Ted Trotta. Although he has been appraising one item after the other all morning, he enthusiastically examines Dalene’s tomahawk and asks about the history.

Native American art appraiser Ted Trotta of “Antiques Roadshow” shares the history of a warrior ax with Dalene Ketcher. Photo by Bob Robinson.

“My late husband was a full-blooded Cherokee. His father was Deputy Chief to Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller,” Dalene begins. “This was passed down from his father, my husband’s grandfather.”

Trotta specializes in early Native American art. He inspects the tomahawk intently from all angles before expertly sharing the weapon’s history.

“This was crafted some 200 years ago,” he says. “It is an authentic warrior’s ax intended for close combat.”

Fingering the heart cut out in the ax head, he explains, “It is often referred to as the weeping heart ax. There is a lot of myth and lore associated with the heart.”

In the end, he concludes that it is in great condition. With what appears to be the original handle, it could bring about $600 at auction.

The Triage Room is where experts evaluate items and assign them to one of 25 catagories. Photo by Bob Robinson.

Our next stop is Jewelry, where Dalene shows Kevin Zaviar an Egyptian necklace her father had brought back from World War II.

Zaviar is a third-generation jeweler. He is very gracious in evaluating the piece, but in the end, he concludes it has no monetary value.

Dalene responds, “The rich story of my father bothering to bring it home during the war to give to my mother makes it priceless.”

Amazing appraising

From start to finish, the all-day “Antiques Roadshow” appraisal event is a first-rate operation. Many of the crew have been with them for years. The appraisers are not paid for their services. When I ask Zaviar why he does it, he replies, “For the friendship of the (‘Antiques Roadshow’) associates and the love of what I am doing.”

Back to Bobbie and Tommy, their dog is not the original Nipper. It is just one of many RCA mass-manufactured figures, worth no more than the $50 they paid for it at a garage sale.

However, the glass bowl is worth $1,200, and the fire andiron is worth over $1,800.

For more information on “Antiques Roadshow” and the Bentonville episodes airing in 2025, visit myarkansaspbs.org.