Trash or Treasure?

“I don’t know an awful lot about it,” said Ted shaking (moving back and forth) his head, “except that it was given to the foster father (a foster parent is someone who takes care of someone else’s child) of my grandmother. It’s been lying on the back of a chair [in our house].”

“And do you know who made this weaving* (blanket)?” asked the appraiser (someone who tells the value of something). “Do you know what kind of blanket it is?

“It’s probably a Navajo (a group of Native Americans), but that’s all I know.”

“So you haven’t had anybody look at it or…?”

“Nobody’s ever looked at it that I’m aware of,” replied Ted.

“Well, Ted,” the appraiser hesitated (paused, waited) a moment, “did you notice that when you showed this to me that I kind of stopped breathing a little bit?”

“Yeah, you did!

“I’m still having trouble breathing here, Ted.”

“It took me by surprise because I didn’t think much about it,” said Ted. “It’s probably a chief’s (leader of a Native American tribe) blanket, but….”

“Exactly,” the appraiser interrupted, “and it’s not just a chief’s blanket….”

I remember this conversation. I heard it about eight years ago on the Antiques Roadshow. And even though it wasn’t a long conversation, you could feel the excitement grow moment by moment.

The Antiques Roadshow describes itself as part adventure, part history lesson, and part treasure hunt (where you try to find valuable things that are hidden). It’s the most popular weekly television program on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), and it’s been nominated (officially suggested) for many awards during its 16 years.

Every week people like Ted bring heirlooms (valuable objects owned by a family for many years), yard sale bargains (something you buy for less than it originally cost), and items found in attics (the space below a roof) and basements (the space under a house) to the Antiques Roadshow to be appraised (tell the value of). And every week, almost 10-million television viewers watch while professionals from large auction houses (where objects are sold to the people who offer the most money), like Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and independent dealers (someone who buys and sells a particular product) from across the U.S. reveal (make known) fascinating facts about these items and estimate (say approximately) their value.

I’m fascinated by the history lesson part of the Roadshow. A table that was given to someone’s grandmother as a wedding gift more than 100 years ago, that traveled with the family across the country through good years and bad, and has been handed down from one generation (all people of about the same age) to another until it reaches the present owner tells a unique story. We learn a lot about groups of people and society from these stories. And they help us understand the lives and experiences of ordinary people in a special way.

Let’s return to the conversation between Ted and the appraiser.

“It’s the first type of chief’s blanket made,” explained the appraiser. “These were made in 1840 to 1860. It’s a Ute (Native American tribe) wearing blanket. It’s Navajo-made. They were made for Ute chiefs. This is Navajo weaving in its purest form. This is the beginning of Navajo weaving.”

“Wow!” exclaimed Ted.

“And not only that,” continued the appraiser, “the condition of this is unbelievable. [And] an interesting thing: this is almost like silk. It’s made from hand-woven wool, but it’s so finely done, it’s like silk. Do you have a sense (an idea) at all of what you’re looking here in terms of value?”

“I haven’t a clue (idea).”

“Well, sir,” the appraiser paused as he looked for the right words, “I have to tell you, on a really bad day this textile (piece of fabric) would be worth $350,000. On a good day it’s about half a million dollars. You have a national treasure!”

“I can’t believe this!” Ted exclaimed.

Not every Roadshow story ends this way. Sometimes the appraiser begins with “Unfortunately” or “I’m sorry, but…” before he or she gives the bad news. Even then, in spite of the owner’s disappointment, a little more history is revealed.


  • *The word weaving is used here as a synonym for blanket. Later in the conversation it is used to describe a method of making fabric, or cloth.
  • The conversation between Ted and the appraiser was adapted (modified for this post) from the transcript found on the Antiques Roadshow web site. You can read and listen to this conversation and conversations about other great finds (discoveries) on their site.

~ Warren Ediger – English tutor/coach and creator of Successful English, where you can find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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6 Responses to Trash or Treasure?

  1. Peter says:

    Dear warren,

    I didn’t quiet get it.
    Was the show just about yard sales? 
    There is no doubt that  family  heirlooms are valuable. No argue there.
     However , my guess is ,when it comes to a family heirloom  , it is the emotional value that makes it priceless for the member of  the family not the physical value  since it is a part of their family history,somewhat their identity. 

    All is true!! 

    It is a whole different story ,when you discuss a family heirloom out of the family turf. That way,family heirlooms are nothing but perhaps some pieces of antique objects,unless the family heirloom belong to a significant family for example a dynasty or sth.
    Other than that , for an outsider they might just knick-knacks  ones can find even in a corner pawn shop.
    You know what I mean.

    For example, there is this silver -plated ring with a ruby installed on it that has been around in my family for generations my dad gave it to my older brother at his wedding. It was an emotional move my dad did. all got Welled up !!!
    We value the piece more than a jwerely.  But, is it really sells that much ,I highly doubt it!

    I mean , I m baffled , totally perplexed . 

    I guess you understand my confusion.
    I gotta tell you,a TV show or talk show whose plot developing and revolving around a weekly yard sale sounds pretty lame to me.
    How on earth did  the show  survive that long.

    Perhaps ,I didn’t get the post 

    I better look it over 

    Catch you later

    The Lunkhead:)) 

  2. Ziba says:

    Hi Warren,

    As always you choose an interesting topic and useful words in it. I didn’t know that there is a TV show like that, there.

    I think most families have something which is valuble for them in terms of their family history and it goes through hand by hand in families. Maybe it doesn’t cost a lot but I is important and valuble for families.

    Here in my country there is no show like that but I believe most family have heirlooms to be proud of them. They are not always an object; it maybe is a noun, glory, pride or even a person in the family history.

    By the way the heirloom in my family is a an old hand writing book with a very good work of art.

  3. Peter says:

    Hi again me,
    Dear warren ,

    Very interesting point you brought up here. I mean ,It totally interested me
    You know ,i m of the opinion that the family herloom of a prominent family are somewhat annexed to the family line. By laws , you are not allowed to barter or sell them. You may found some of them in some museum around the world.
    They are like national inheritance

    I read the post through one more time and I realised it is like auctioning off pricy furniture and objects that have antique values because some of them are from century ago. But,do u know that the values of antiques Is directly related to the history they carry.
    By that I mean, u may find some valuable antiques from England,but they are just valuable in Emland not somewhere in the Middle East ,for example.
    Like stamps, you know ,old stamps are valuable in just the country they come from.


  4. Peter says:

    It is amazing how minds work.
    Here, In Ealpod we are flooded with a lot of expressions, words ,and so on.
    We try hard to commit them to my memories. But, chances are we forgot most of them within the first month unless we get back to them over and over.
    However,some times it happen that you hear sth Jeff says in passing and months after out of nowhere you hear in in some sort of Engkish settings like movies,books,commercials ,or as people talk. The councidence better say the happy coincidence makes you remember that once Jeff said about it. Then, from that day forward u never ever forgot the term.

    It is amazing how minds work.


  5. Peter says:

    Dear warren ,
    I have to tell you , your posts are different. 
    There is some quality in ur piece of writings that makes them different from the conventional  ones.
     I don’t know how to put it.
    You know , the difference between your works and the conventional ones  are the exact difference between classic  and traditional furniture,  classic painting and modern painting like” cobism ”

    I like to call your posts modern posts as opposed to routine styles .

    I like it.

    In a way,It gives us the variety we need 

    Yours ,

  6. Betty says:

    Dear Warren

    Thank you for introducing this popular TV show to us.

    When I read your articles, I always go away to do lots of research work on the topic and at the end I run out of energy.  I was too tired that I sometimes miss the momentum to write something related to the article.

    I hope to write something here today before I miss the tide again.

    At first I thought you were talking about the Antiques Roadshow in the UK.  I was surprised to read that it has been around for 16 years only.  I thought it had a history far longer than that.

    Anyway, after some research, I found that this TV program Antiques Roadshow (US) was originated from the UK Antiques Roadshow.

     I also notice that there are 8 countries altogether that have their own versions of “Antiques Roadshow”.

    We do not have any heirloom in our house.  If I ever bring any ‘suspected antique’ to one of the antique roadshows, I will fall into the category of:

    “Conversely, many items brought before the experts are worthless. However, these are seldom shown in the broadcast episodes, in order to spare embarrassment for the individuals involved”.

    Thanks again, Warren, I am an antique illiterate, but I enjoy watching the Antique Roadshow because I like to listen to their way of speaking English.  They use many ‘classical’ words.

    Best regards

    Betty 🙂

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