Antiques Roadshowitis – or why we hoard

It\’s the middle class nightmare and it happens squirmily on screen in every time the  Antiques Roadshow is broadcast.

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Just in case you haven\’t got this show where you are, this is a very long-running and extremely popular BBC show in which experts on all kinds of antiques go around the country and set up in various picturesque and historic places. Then ordinary people for miles around bring in things they\’ve got in their houses that they think might be worth something. The experts give an assessment of the more interesting items, which is filmed, and hazard a guess as to the value and the owners say, \”No, it\’s a family heirloom and we\’d never sell it\” and everybody pretends to believe them. There are basically two archetypal scenes.

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Archetypal scene I: ordinary person brings in an odd-looking pot from their loo that they think might be interesting or even a Ming vase and it isn\’t, but then the weird- looking ceramic owl they bought when hungover at a boot sale for 50p turns out to be a rare kind of Elizabethan thingy worth £20,000.

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Archetypal scene II: ordinary person brings in a big painting that they bought for quite a lot because they thought it was a rare work by somebody famous but the experts tell them it\’s probably a fake and their world, finances and marriage collapse.

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And you know what? It\’s scene I that scares everybody, not scene II. Scene II isn\’t frightening because everybody watching knows that they would never be so silly as to think they could pick up a Picasso for a mere couple of grand and that that snotty know-all deserved the humiliation he got.

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Scene I is the stuff of nightmares because the joy of the ordinary people who bought the weird-looking £20,000 Elizabethan owl for 50p at a boot sale will be outweighed ten times by the agony of the ordinary people who sent Aunt Mildred\’s weird-looking owl to a boot sale in the first place. Families all over the land will be shuddering at the thought and wondering if there was anything like it in the boxes they took to the charity shop ten years ago.

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That, in a nutshell, is why neither I nor anyone else who watches the Antiques Roadshow can ever throw anything out. Because you Never Know. It Might Be Worth Something.

4 thoughts on “Antiques Roadshowitis – or why we hoard

  1. To be brutally honest, how much of your clutter is really in that potentially valuable category? I’d bet we’ve all got things like twice as many baking tins as we’ll ever use, or the remnants of past and passing sporting enthusiasms, plenty of stuff we bought from new that really isn’t fulfilling it’s purpose or isn’t as attractive now as it felt when we bought it. Get rid of that, and unless you and your antecedents are a whole lot posher than mine, I bet all the It Might Be Worth Something stuff left (which you can check on eBay or send photos of to any auction house) would fill no more than one large housemoving box.
    Of course, then you’ll really need that 12-hole muffin tin (that still had its sticky label on it) next week. Bet some friend has one you can borow, though.

  2. You are, alas, brutally right. In fact the Might Be Worth Something stuff filled exactly two smallish cardboard boxes and wasn’t actually worth much anyway – see my next post for the embarassing details.
    And yes I did need the muffin tin the week after I sent it to a charity shop.

  3. I have a lot of IMBWS around my house-a basement crowded with things, so I totally understand. There are optimists, pessimists and realists. If you are in the first group, there is nothing to be done with you. The second group will get rid of anything without even thinking it might be worth something. The third will never, ever be in a position to expect auntie’s china vase to be worth anything,but might try to sell it to an optimist.

  4. So we’re all optimists – staggering under the load of stuff that we daren’t throw out. I suffer from this just as much as everyone else. I do know people who just throw things out without thinking about it and I can only reel back in admiration.

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