Antiques Roadshow experts share their highlights

Fiona Bruce of the BBC Antiques RoadshowAs the BBC Antiques Roadshow celebrates 40 years on our screens with an episode from the magnificent Castle Howard in Yorkshire, we catch up with the show’s presenters and experts to chat about its ongoing success and stand-out moments. First up, Fiona Bruce shares her high points, followed by art expert Rupert Maas, furniture expert Lennox Cato, and miscellaneous experts, Paul Atterbury, Judith Miller and Mark Hill.

Fiona Bruce

Congratulations on 10 years of the Antiques Roadshow! What has been your personal highlight from working on the show?

I feel incredibly lucky to have spent the last ten years working on the Antiques Roadshow. I love doing it and I’ve had so many highlights from over the years. My personal favourite would probably have to be when a man of the cloth turned up with a painting, which he thought might be a Van Dyck. I looked at it – and I was making a programme about Van Dyck at the time – and I thought it had the look of the genuine article. And so we had it examined and my hunch turned out to be right. It has been proven to be the case and it is now being exhibited as a Van Dyck. I can’t imagine that will ever happen to me again in my lifetime and it’s definitely a highlight for me.

Why do you think the show continues to be so popular?

I think it’s amazing that the Antiques Roadshow is essentially the same as it has been for 40 years and it’s still hugely popular. What makes it eternally popular is probably what I love about it – that we all hope that we could have something gathering dust on the mantelpiece or in the attic that either turns out to be very valuable, or has an amazing story. It happens week-in, week-out and you’d think that the world would begin to run dry and it hasn’t. We still find amazing things every week.

What is your earliest memory of the Antiques Roadshow?

I still remember watching Antiques Roadshow as a child with my parents, on a Sunday night, sitting in our 1970s living room. Then I suppose when I was in my 20s I dipped out of it for a while (I was probably going out – or at least I certainly hope so!). I gradually came back to it and then I was asked to present it, which I had no idea was coming! I was absolutely thrilled. It’s not often that you get asked to work on a programme you’ve watched for so long and genuinely watch at home.

Has any of the experts’ knowledge rubbed off on you?

I’ve certainly learnt more about antiques. I have my own collections. I have paintings. I collect things called “samplers” which are Victorian pieces of needlework usually done by children in a workhouse to show that they have a skill which can be used in service, stitching household linen or that kind of thing. I think they’re very humble and very beautiful. But our experts are like walking Wikipedias! They’re incredible. And they just fish knowledge out of their brains which is a marvel to behold.

What is the most surprising item someone has brought to a valuation day?

If I had to pick the most unusual thing that’s turned up in the time that I’ve been working on the show – could it be the man that turned up with an Attache case full of loo chains, just a small sample of his collection? Could it be the man that turned up not once, but twice with a foetal membrane dried onto a piece of A4 paper that had belonged to his great-grandfather. It’s called a “core” and it used to be a talisman against drowning and it used to have some value! Or could it be the lady who brought along a potty that had a picture of Hitler on the bottom and when you did a little “tinkle” into it, it played its own little tune. And because it was rare, I think it was worth over £1000 from memory.


Rupert Maas of the BBC Antiques RoadshowRupert Mass

What has been your personal highlight from your time working on the show?

I think my personal highlight from working on the show was the first one that I did. I was thrown in at the deep end by the producer. He asked me what I thought of a picture and I told him – and then he asked me, do you think you can do that on camera? I was absolutely terrified but I realised you’ve either got to sink or swim. And I swam, thankfully! I loved it, it was wonderful.

What would be your one tip to look out for as a future antique over the next 40 years?

Antiques of the future are a very difficult thing to predict. I would look for something that is very much of its time, something that really represents our time now. Make sure that it’s well made and get one!

Why do you think the programme continues to be such a big hit with viewers?

Antiques Roadshow is the only antiques programme where the object is star. Not the owner, and certainly not the expert, but the object itself. And that’s a great formula.

What would be your dream item for someone to bring along to a valuation day?

My dream item would be a painting I know absolutely nothing about! One I can only posit the existence of, but when it came across the desk I’d know it was a great painting by a great master simply because of the quality that shows in the picture. Simply, I wouldn’t know anything about it at all, but I’d make it up as I go along – as I always do!


Lennox Cato of the BBC's Antiques RoadshowLennox Cato

What has been your personal highlight from your time working on the show?

My personal highlight was finding a desk at Lulworth Castle, Dorset. It was an amazing find and one of the most valuable pieces of English furniture that the Roadshow has ever found.

What would be your one tip to look out for as a future antique over the next 40 years?

My one tip if you want to buy is to invest in what you like. If you buy what’s in fashion, it will inevitably go out of fashion. Don’t be influenced by trends.

Why do you think the programme continues to be such a big hit with viewers?

Because it makes people feel comfortable; it has empathy, it works for all ages – the young, the middle aged and the mature. It’s just a great programme.

What would be your dream item for someone to bring along to a valuation day?

That is difficult – even though I’m a furniture specialist I like silver, I like jewellery, I like pictures – so I don’t have one particular thing. I just like things of beauty.


Paul Atterbury BBC Antiques RoadshowPaul Atterbury

What has been your personal highlight from your time working on the show?

Quite a long time ago we went to Belfast and I saw some photographs brought in by two ladies, who were the direct descendants of two girls who foxed the world with fairy photographs in 1917. They were the daughter and granddaughter of one of those girls. They had the camera that had been used and the photographs. It was a story I knew very well but to actually touch it was wonderful.

What would be your one tip to look out for as a future antique over the next 40 years?

If I knew that I wouldn’t be sitting here! However, the future is going to be technology. And although it sounds a bit ridiculous, people are going to start collecting interesting diesel cars.

What highlights can viewers look forward to when the new series returns?

I like stories rather than objects and I often get wonderful love stories with a military background. For example, a couple who met in extraordinary circumstances and have made it through difficult times kept together by letters or by some gift. It’s just magic because you can bring those stories back to life.

Why do you think the programme continues to be such a big hit with viewers?

It’s a very simple thing – it does what it always has done. It shows an interesting and apparently private conversation between two people, a conversation that is often highly personal. And the fact that they’re being overheard by 5 million people disappears completely.

What would be your dream item for someone to bring along to a valuation day?

For me, wonderful things and wonderful stories are what I enjoy. I try not to sit there thinking “One day, I wonder if…”


Judith Miller BBC Antiques RoadshowJudith Miller

What has been your personal highlight from your time working on the show?

I think it would be four posters that I saw quite a few years ago for London Transport by an artist called Jean Dupas. The owner bought them for 50p in 1972 and I valued them at £40,000.

What would be your one tip to look out for as a future antique over the next 40 years?

Don’t look out for anything in particular – just buy something you really love. Don’t think of it as an investment. Just buy something that you’ll look forward to seeing when you wake up every morning.

What highlights can viewers look forward to when the new series returns?

If I told you, I’d have to kill you! But we do have some fantastic things coming up that we’ve already seen at one of our roadshows. I had a particular favourite in Kelso where I saw a Murano bird – but I can’t tell you any more!

Why do you think the programme continues to be such a big hit with viewers?

I think the programme is a hit because it combines so many great things. It’s the stories, it’s the valuation, it’s the people, it’s their family connections – it’s not all just about money. It’s about the stories that people have to tell you.

What would be your dream item for someone to bring along to a valuation day?

Something that I could genuinely say was owned and used by Bonnie Prince Charlie.


Mark Hill of the BBC Antiques RoadshowMark Hill

What has been your personal highlight from your time working on the show?

I think every object is incredibly special in its own right, but my personal highlight was a train ticket I saw at Walthamstow. The lady herself wasn’t even that interested in it – she was asked to queue with it by her husband. But her interest piqued when I told her it was worth £1,000!

What would be your one tip to look out for as a future antique over the next 40 years?

My tip for an antique is studio glass. This is glass that is made by the artist directly, anything made from 1960 onwards. It’s an incredibly vibrant market – great colours and fantastic forms. Many of the names are historically important for the history of decorative arts. We’ve seen huge rises in studio ceramics in terms of prices paid, desirability and popularity. But, my hot money is on digital. Anything connected to computer games, popular films, pop culture. Nostalgia is a key driver to collecting and that’s what’s going to be popular in the future.

What highlights can viewers look forward to when the new series returns?

I think my favourite find so far has been a Steiff clown. It was brought in by a lady who bought it in the 1970s and it was part of her collection of dolls and stuffed toys. She had absolutely no idea it was by Steiff and hadn’t even noticed that magic button in the back of the ear. She was absolutely delighted when I told her it could be worth £800-1,000, especially when she had only spent £6 on it.

Why do you think the programme continues to be such a big hit with viewers?

I think the programme is eternally popular because people love a good story. It starts when you’re young and being lulled off to sleep by your parents telling you a story. You’re transported to other times and other cultures and your mind just starts drifting away and is expanded. That only gets better as you get older. You can find out more exciting and varied stories plus of course, we’re all a little bit greedy – we are human of course! So it’s about money and stories combined.

What would be your dream item for someone to bring along to a valuation day?

My dream item would be a Dunhill Namiki fountain pen. They are fountain pens that were produced in the 1920s and 30s which are lacquered with all sorts of creatures like dragons, birds and fish. They are fantastically detailed and often took many, many months to create. So that for me, especially if they didn’t know, would be an extremely special object.

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