“It’s not about the money, money, money,” sang Jessie J, “forget about the price tag.”
Wise words, no doubt, but (for all its attention to brushstrokes, hallmarks and patinas) not ones you would necessarily apply to Antiques Roadshow.
Of course, it’s fascinating when a member of the public brings in a long-lost old master, or a letter written by Admiral Nelson (or, indeed, Nelson Mandela). But when that does happen, there’s only one historical fact we’re really interested in – how much is it worth?
Tonight (7:30pm, BBC1), viewers can enjoy one of those priceless big-money moments when a “stunning” silver travelling set is revealed to have an equally stunning value.
It’s shaping up to be a good year for the Roadshow. In March, a 10th century apothecary table became the most valuable piece of furniture seen on the programme in over a decade, at £200,000.
And in 2006, a collection of official silverware belonging to the Mayor of Arundel was estimated to be worth around £300,000.
But that doesn’t come close to the highest valuation in the show’s history. In a 2008 edition, a bronze prototype scale model of Antony Gormley’s sculpture Angel of the North was given a price tag of a cool £1 million by expert Philip Mould (Alan Shearer must be so proud).
Unfortunately, for every member of the public who walks away ecstatic, after announcing with a straight face that sentimental value is far greater than financial, there’s another who goes home disappointed.
In 2009, a glassware enthusiast who’d spent more than £1,000 on a new addition to his collection was told by the expert examining it “I’m afraid it’s an empty olive oil bottle, Tesco, circa 2008. It’s worth nothing at all.”
Antiques Roadshow bosses took pity on the man and decided not to include the incident in the show. “I suppose we could have broadcast it,” said presenter Fiona Bruce, “but it was just too cruel.”