Trust members Forbes and Sara Maner would not call themselves “collectors.”. They say they live with family hand-me-downs and have “bought some used furniture we like.” This assertion belies their serious interest in the decorative arts. They’re heavily involved with Winterthur Museum, where Forbes is on the board as well as the Executive Committee for the Delaware Antiques Show. You can read his advice pamphlet for new collectors here. One of their hobbies is following Antiques Roadshow. Avid watchers of the show for many years, Forbes and Sara are now minor Roadshow groupies. When the show happens to be filming in a nearby location and they can get tickets, they plan day trips with mementos or family knickknacks in tow. Thanks to three visits thus far, they have slowly learned more about these heirlooms and how they fit in with their family history.
The Maners bring items that are not inherently valuable from a market perspective. Some, like an Etruscan vase Sara took on their first Roadshow trip to a Washington, DC, filming, are fairly common finds. They were popular souvenirs in the era when antiquities moved freely across international boundaries. Others, such as two sets of Confederate uniform buttons from Forbes’ great-great-grandfather, may be more collectible for Civil War enthusiasts, save the fact that the buttons were initially buried with his ancestor in 1861 and recovered when he was reinterred several years later, which may well scare off the more squeamish among us. Other items they’ve taken to tapings can be seen in the gallery below.
Their most memorable appraisal from Antiques Roadshow, and only television appearance thus far, occurred two years ago. While Forbes was away on a business trip, Sara drove to Charleston, WV, bringing along a pair of silver candlesticks and a small rug that, depending on whom you ask, was either an engagement present or a dowry payment from her parents to Forbes. As it turns out, the producers of Antiques Roadshow are just as interested in an unusual story as they are in a valuable object. As soon as Sara jokingly mentioned to the appraiser and then to the producers that the rug was part of her “dowry”, she found herself in the Green Room with astonishing rapidity to await a taped appraisal.
Fortunately, this episode is archived on-line, and can be viewed above. Sara’s appraisal begins around the four-minute mark.
Before the uninitiated begin to question Forbes’ character, it would help to know that he starts his version of the story with the disclaimer that Sara’s father was, as he puts it, “not self-deprecating.” After asking for Sara’s hand in marriage—“I told him I was really interested in the whole package and not just her hand; but if all they were willing to part with was her hand, then so be it”—he settled down to the business of asking for a dowry. Sara’s shocked father had no idea how to respond until Forbes uttered a legendary line: he would settle for “a goat and three chickens, but nothing less.” The tension evaporated, and Sara’s parents produced the rug to accompany their daughter.
As a result of her appraisal, Sara learned that the long-running joke was more accurate than either she or Forbes realized. Woven by the Turkmen Saryk tribe as part of a bride’s dowry payment, this specific form of rug is called a Chuval, and was meant to decorate the camel for the procession of the bride from her family’s home to her husband’s. Had Forbes known this at the time of their wedding, the resulting camel rental probably would have garnered a longer announcement of their nuptials in the New York Times, as well as closer proximity to the front page. A camel rental after the fact, just to really get into the spirit of things, is not out of the question.
Both Forbes and Sara highly recommend the Antiques Roadshow experience although it’s comparatively rare to land in a taped appraisal and even then there’s no guarantee that the segment will make it onto the episode. Their advice is to choose a meaningful object, ideally in reasonable condition and as “un-mucked with” as possible. Just be prepared to tell the story of how it came to your family, and have fun!