Local news

Treasure hunters on prowl

THURSDAY, AUG. 2, 2007

It’s the kind of extravaganza that could inspire out-of-town visitors to spend money.

But local antique store operators are more excited about going to Saturday’s “Antiques Roadshow” event than they are about potential customers bursting through their doors.

“I’m actually going to close the store and go to the show myself,” said Patrick Bennett, who works at Antiques Northwest, a store on North Monroe Street that’s owned by his parents, Michael and Dianne Bennett.

The “Antiques Roadshow,” PBS’ most popular program, brings everyday folks and their antiques, collectibles and family heirlooms together with expert appraisers, who estimate the value of, and share history about, the items.

On Saturday, about 6,000 ticket holders will come to the Spokane Convention Center bringing with them a massive assortment of old paintings, family silver and garage-sale grabs in hopes of finding their fortunes.

But Jan Richart, owner of Vintage Rabbit Antique Mall, said in 20-plus years of buying, selling and appraising antiques, she has yet to come across that one amazing find.

“Most of the time the things that I see in the store are run of the mill – nothing that’s really uncommon or worth $20,000 or $50,000,” Richart said.

The storeowner, who earns $35 an hour estimating antique values, said while huge windfalls are uncommon, people regularly learn that things they thought were junk are actually worth $500 or $1,000.

She tells clients that the appraised value represents what they could make selling the item to an individual or collector. If they sell to a dealer, she explained, those clients would make a third to half as much.

Richart’s best personal find happened during a buying trip to Massachusetts years ago, when she purchased a child’s tea set made in Japan at a junk store for $65. She initially thought the set was worth about $200, but later sold it for $1,500.

“That was the best thing I’ve ever found. It was pretty exciting,” Richart said.

Richart is a big fan of the “Antiques Roadshow” and although she’s hoping some tourism dollars will flow into her shop, she plans to volunteer at Saturday’s event. Last fall, the storeowner volunteered as an appraiser for Antiques Quest, a road-show style antiques event that raised money for KSPS. The fundraiser aired on local television.

While the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates that people attending the road show will spend about $190,000 locally, the city will reap the benefit of three episodes that will showcase Spokane to a national audience.

During the next few days, crews will visit areas of interest in Spokane, including the Carrousel at Riverfront Park and E.J. Roberts Mansion, said Judy Matthews, a Boston, Mass.-based publicist for the program.

Matthews isn’t sure whether the show will create a surge of interest in antiquing, but said after the Boston Marathon airs, she notices more runners on the streets of Boston.

Still, the segments seen on national television could be Spokane’s version of found treasure. The show has an average audience of 10 million viewers, Matthews said, adding, “That’s 20 million eyeballs watching Spokane.”

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