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W.Va. painting wows ‘Antiques Roadshow’ appraiser

By By Anna Patrick
Staff writer
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Sunday Gazette-Mail
Appraisers for PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow” study the details of paintings brought before them during Saturday’s filming event at the Charleston Civic Center.
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Sunday Gazette-Mail Objects of every shape and size could be spotted inside the Charleston Civic Center on Saturday morning during the “Antiques Roadshow” event. Attendees were allowed to bring in any item, as long as they could carry it.
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Sunday Gazette-Mail Sgt. Mike Chapman (left) and Cpl. Scott Dempsey (right), both with the Charleston Police Department, inspected all antique firearms for live rounds before allowing attendees to enter the filming of the “Antiques Roadshow.”
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Sunday Gazette-Mail Kathy (left) of Richmond, Virginia, makes her way through the crowd Saturday with her antique weather vane on the large set of “Antiques Roadshow.” Three hour-long episodes will be generated from the show’s visit to Charleston.
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Sunday Gazette-Mail Ruth (center) and Bruce (right), of St. Albans, bring in their barbershop horse to the Charleston Civic Center on Saturday morning. An estimated 5,000 people attended Saturday’s day-long “Antiques Roadshow” event.
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Sunday Gazette-Mail Guests appearing on “Antiques Roadshow” received make-up in the green room before appearing on camera.
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Sunday Gazette-Mail “Antiques Roadshow” officials estimated that 5,000 people attended Saturday’s show in Charleston.
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Sunday Gazette-Mail “Antiques Roadshow” host Mark Walberg prepares to tape an opening for one of the Charleston episodes that will air on PBS in 2015. The show, which is produced by WGBH in Boston, finished filming its 19th season in West Virginia on Saturday.

“Antiques Roadshow,” the national PBS show that invites people to bring in their old items and find out how much they’re worth, kicked off its first visit to West Virginia on a high note with the appraisal of an original Edward Beyer landscape painting of Charleston valued at $250,000.

Declared a “painting trifecta” by “Roadshow” appraiser Colleene Fesko, the painting of what was then Charleston, Virginia, was created in 1854 and predates the Civil War and West Virginia’s statehood. Fesko said she was so amazed when she saw the piece, that she had to pull out her glasses to fully examine the detail of the panoramic painting.

The painting’s owner, Helen, a West Virginia native, said her grandfather won the painting after he was part of a group that commissioned Beyer to produce it. (As a condition of covering Saturday’s event at the Charleston Civic Center, “Antiques Roadshow” officials

insisted that items’ owners not be identified by their last names.)

“A bunch of Charleston businessmen wanted it done and chipped in money,” Helen said. Since her grandfather won the painting, it has been passed down in her family ever since.

She said she always knew the painting was valuable — it had been previously appraised at $125,000 — but she never imagined it could be so high.

Fesko said Beyer created 40 panoramic landscape paintings of Virginia towns in the mid-19th century. She said $250,000 is an appropriate value, considering the time it was produced, the limited number Beyer produced and its impeccable beauty.

Helen said she has tried to get the painting in front of “Roadshow” appraisers for years, but had always failed to get tickets until now.

Although it took years for the Beyer painting to finally receive the attention it deserves, Helen said she couldn’t have picked a more perfect location to showcase it.

“This is where it should be. It was meant to be in Charleston. I’ve had it for a long time. It’s just nice to show it and let other Charlestonians see it.”

Helen said she would carefully return the painting to her home, but that, eventually, it deserves a more stately residence: “I think it should be in the Capitol or Governor’s Mansion.”

The painting was one of thousands of antiques hauled, carried or carted Saturday into the Charleston Civic Center for the opportunity to be appraised by one of approximately 70 appraisers on the show’s set.

Thousands of people entered into a lottery in April to win tickets to attend the event, but only 3,000 pairs of tickets were distributed.

Hannah Auerbach, publicist for the show, said the staff anticipated 5,000 people to attend Saturday’s all-day appraisal event. Since every ticket holder is allowed to bring in two items for appraisal, the show’s appraisers could be appraising up to 10,000 items in one day.

The 12-time Emmy Award-nominated reality show is produced for PBS by WGBH in Boston. The show chose Charleston as its final destination in its eight-city summer tour to film its 19th season. This is the show’s first visit to West Virginia, and from its time spent in the Mountain State, three hour-long episodes will be created and aired on PBS in 2015. The episodes’ air dates have yet to be released.

Charleston’s episodes will showcase a variety of appraised antiques, as well as site visits to historical locations across West Virginia. While in town for four days, the show’s field crew visited the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley, the Huntington Museum of Art and the Rosanna A. Blake Library of Confederate History at Marshall University.

Halfway through Saturday’s appraisal event, the show’s executive director, Marsha Bemko said she was thrilled at the treasures people have already brought in and with the history they’ve been able to uncover while visiting those three locations.

She explained that the field pieces help to establish a sense of place for the episodes because it’s hard to do so when filming indoors. The field pieces also highlight areas of West Virginia history in a way that might not be covered with the antiques that ticket holders choose to bring.

Bemko said, “I’m thrilled to be here . . . . It’s a great state. I know we’ll see great treasures. We’re situated geographically in such a way that we will see, as we have, Confederate hand guns and we’re going to see things from the Union.”

Dan traveled from his home in Loudoun County, Virginia, to learn the value of a pistol that once belonged to his great-great-grandfather, who served in the Confederate army.

After consulting with appraiser Chris Mitchell, Dan learned that his Spiller & Burr pistol, which was produced in 1864, was in excellent conditioned and valued at $25,000.

“This is the first time I’ve ever had it appraised,” Dan said. “I didn’t realize it was in as good a shape as what he said.”

Although thousands of antiques were taken to the appraisal event, the crews only have enough time to film the appraisal of about 90 items in one day, Auerbach said. She said the appraisers notify a producer when they find a valuable or unique item that would be worthy of filming. Throughout the day, appraisers have to make a “pitch” to feature the items and, if successful, the appraiser and the item’s owner are then set up at a center appraisal table for filming.

To keep reactions authentic and real, appraisers must wait until camera crews are filming to reveal an item’s history and value to its owner.

Carol, a resident of Hurricane, said she was shocked to learn about her item’s origins. When she was living in Peru many years ago, she bought an old, skinny tool from a local person selling goods from door to door. For years, the piece just sat in a Peruvian pot in her home.

After appraiser John Buxton got hold of the item, he knew it deserved to be filmed.

He estimated that the tool was produced in Peru between 300 and 900 A.D. and said it would have been owned by an important leader.

“I think this is earlier than Inca,” he said. “I think it could be the Moche civilization.”

He valued the tool, in the shape of an awl, between $3,000 and $7,000.

Carol admitted that she just paid $10 for it. Holding the tool after Buxton’s appraisal, she said, “I think I’ll take better care of it now.”

Reach Anna Patrick at anna.patrick@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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