1863 Stowe Community Church weathervane

Allan Katz appraises the 1863 Stowe Community Church weathervane as part of Antique Roadshow’s visit to Shelburne Museum.

Antiques Roadshow made a stop at the Shelburne Museum in July 2022 — the first time the show has made its way to the Green Mountain State.

Nearly 3,000 people attended the all-day appraisal event where they received valuations of their antiques and collectibles from specialists in the country’s leading auction houses and independent dealers.

“That was our first time in Vermont,” said Marsha Bemko, executive producer of PBS’s most-watched ongoing series. “Up until we started producing in historic outdoor locations, which the Shelburne Museum is, we were in convention centers for many, many years — Vermont doesn’t have (a convention center) so, we were not able to do the show until we started going to outdoor historic locations.”

These hour-long segments, which air April 24, May 1 and May 8 on PBS, are jam-packed with some of New England’s most hidden treasures with some making antique history including one appraisal for $6,500 for the original weathervane for the Stowe Community Church dated 1863.

“In the third hour, the show starts with the Stowe Community Church,” Bemko said. “Allan Katz appraised it for $6,500.”

The church holds a deep history since it was built in 1863 and acts as a photogenic staple of Stowe’s Main Street. In 2019, The Stowe Reporter likened the church’s quintessential spire to the Statue of Liberty saying, “The imposing white church tells visitors, ‘You’re in Stowe’; it tells the rest of us we are home.”

Although not every piece seen in the show is specific to Vermont history, most do act as an ode to New England history in some capacity. For example, another segment features a briefcase that once belonged to President John F. Kennedy that was appraised for more than $20,000.

“JFK had left the briefcase in her uncle’s cobbler shop on Beacon Hill (the historic neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts),” said Bemko, adding that this piece resonated significantly with her because while he was the president, “he also happens to be a Bostonian,” just like herself.

The show has stood the test of time for more than two generations with a cult following comprised of a wide variety of audience members, and appraisal events that focus much more on storytelling than just on antique treasure hunting. With more than 20 years of experience with the show, Bemko says that antiques offer a special glimpse into history, and history, more than anything, teaches all of us a little bit about humanity.

“I think history is a great teacher,” she said. “I would like to see a kind and gentle world, and if we understand where the others are, we are more accepting of one another.”

When asked to paint a visual picture of what a day at the event is like, Bemko said, “It’s a joyous day,” with people lining up in child-like wonder anxious for their story to be told. “They’re 80 years old looking at you with five-year-old eyes.”

Although the show doesn’t perform an actual sale of the items being appraised, to the surprise of many, Bemko said that it’s more of a rare occurrence for people to actually end up selling the items they bring to be appraised.

“When I first started doing the show, it blew my doors away,” she said. “If I owned that painting, and it was half a million dollars, I’d sell it in a heartbeat, but it wasn’t my grandmother’s. There’s a lot of attachment to things and very often when people have one very good item, the family keeps them unless they have a need.”

While it’s hard for her to pick a favorite location in the five-city tour, Bemko did admit, “I have favorite people that I meet along the way,” explaining that antiquing often brings with it a very emotional experience. “I have stories where I sobbed with people or very emotional moments that stick with me more than the place.”

Nonetheless, being in Shelburne was a special experience since this is the team’s first time in Vermont in the show’s 20-year history, and though she has toured a slew of incredible places throughout her career, Bemko explained that there really is no place like Shelburne.

“I loved being in Shelburne and the history of the museum and live grounds are beautiful,” she said. “I mean, who the heck puts a steamship on land like this?” she exclaimed. “It’s an amazing place.”

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