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Television show causes problems for W.Va. dealers

June 18, 2000

From staff and the AP

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - More than 14 million viewers tune into the "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS as appraisers put a dollar value on treasured keepsakes and other attic finds.

But a recent episode took West Virginia dealers Jackie Horvath and her husband, Don, by surprise when an appraiser valued an antique apple butter kettle at $1,200.

"My husband had two kettles just like that earlier in the year, and he had problems finding someone willing to pay $350 for them," Horvath said.

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That's just one of the problems local antique dealers are experiencing because of the hit series, which airs on PBS at 5 p.m. Saturdays and 8 p.m.

"It's blowing everything out of proportion," said Joe Clutter, manager of Race Zone NASCAR Collectibles and Flea Market in Fairmont. "Everybody's looking for that lost treasure. Maybe only about 5 percent of every antique is worth some real money. That's the part the show doesn't tell you.

Mel Allen, owner of Antique Workshop on West King Street in Martinsburg, said the "Antiques Roadshow" has helped convince some people into thinking that furniture is valuable just because it is old and unfinished.

"They don't want to restore it," he said. "They think it's more valuable if it has 50 years of grease and grime and chipped paint."

Those same customers don't hesitate to have furniture fixed, unaware that repaired pieces are no longer considered to be in original condition, he said.

Allen, whose shop focuses on formal mahogany furniture, said there is also a mistaken belief that items are collectibles just because they're from the 1940s. In fact, mass-produced bedroom suites were common after World War II, he said.

Price inflation takes place throughout the antiques industry, Allen said, from the appraiser boosting an item's value for better insurance coverage to the auctioneer who promises a high-priced sale in order to get a consignment.

Specialists from leading auction houses and independent appraisers and dealers from across the country give free on-the-spot appraisals to people who bring antiques and collectibles to the traveling event.

While the show has spurred more people's interest in antiques and collectibles, it's also creating a few headaches for dealers.

"Everybody thinks they have that item worth hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Margaret Headlee, who works at Antiques Walk in Morgantown. "All merchandise is only worth what people are willing to pay for it."

While there is no real way to predict what will become the next collectible, the laws of supply and demand usually play a part, said Tom Smith, a dealer at Antiques Walk.

"The more available something is, the less collectible it is," he said.

That's why the idea of collecting something to sell for a profit in the future is such a tricky proposition, he said.

Knowing what the market will bear will also affect a price.

"When you see those quotes on 'Antiques Roadshow,' you need to understand that this is West Virginia," Headlee said. "This isn't New York or Los Angeles or Chicago. You simply aren't going to get those prices in this area."

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