This season of Antiques Roadshow on PBS is star studded. Where regular people would be showing their family heirlooms, we get to peek at some of the treasures hanging around celebrity homes.
The May 3 premiere episode featured former The Tonight Show host Jay Leno, Chicago Med actress S. Epatha Merkerson, author Jason Reynolds, former Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, and pro golfer Dottie Pepper. Everything from precious collectibles to history-making memorabilia got appraised by Roadshow experts. Let’s take a look at what they discovered.
Jay Leno’s Eclectic Pieces
The story of how Leno acquired his seaside vacation home in Newport, RI, is nothing short of celebrity status. He and his wife, who normally live in Los Angeles, bought the 16,000 square foot estate, called Seafair, on a whim while driving through the area. It came fully furnished and chocked full of treasures that the experts got to appraise.
A small model of a ship, The Revenue Cutter Service, was appraised for $2,000-$3,000. And, a massive Blanche-Augustine Camus painting that hung in the foyer was appraised for $100,000-$150,000 at auction. But, of course, they’d go for much more with Leno’s name on it.
Some items were highly sought after, like a pair of Japanese Meiji bronze elephants, with massive rock crystal obelisks, that were appraised at $20,000-$30,000 for both. Others were rare finds, like a custom weather vein, valued at $15,000.
Leno found a personal connection to one item that was appraised—a peacock statue with a quirky story. A storm swept it away from the estate in 1947, but washed it onto the lawn 20 years later. A symbol of resurrection, it’s also the symbol of NBC, the television broadcaster that Leno retired from. It’s valued at $10,000-$15,000 or more.
S. Epatha Merkerson’s Black History Memorabilia
The award-winning Law and Order actress invited the experts into her Harlem apartment to appraise several pieces of art with incredible ties to the past.
A poster called The Georgia Smart Set Presents the Brown Skin Mamas of 1930 was gifted to her by Law and Order co-star and close friend Jesse Martin. Merkerson was drawn to the sass and movement of the dancers. Amazingly, it has a connection to Ma Rainey, the mother of blues, who formed The Georgia Smart Set. Playwright August Wilson wrote Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom about the end of the star’s career. An adaptation of the play was created for Netflix and stars Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman. The poster could sell for $1,000-$1,500 at auction.
Merkerson also collected several pieces of Black female figures, known as mammys. One was a small white clock that she bought for $95. It was created by Red Wing Stoneware and Pottery in Minnesota and is worth $250 today. The other figure is a detailed, German-made ash tray that Merkerson bought in Albany, New York. Today it could sell for $95-$125. The last figure was a front-load cookie jar that she owned for 10 or 15 years. Although the figure has deep American roots, it was made in Japan and is worth $125 today.
Jason Reynolds Literary Collection
Author of Long Way Down and young adult fiction writer, Reynolds is also a collector of work by great American authors. They were in Washington, D.C. for the show.
He bought a letter written by the poet and civil rights activist Langston Hughes at auction. In the letter Hughes responds to a fan’s disdain for an adaptation of the play Mulatto, produced in the Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio in 1917. Reynolds paid $800 for the letter, which is now worth $2,000-$3,000 at auction.
He also owns an advance copy of Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land and a first edition copy of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. He paid $200 for Brown’s book and $1,000 for Morrison’s. Today they’re each worth $300-$1,200 at auction. But, his collector’s hobby doesn’t stop at books.
Reynolds also collects vintage watches, like his super rare Rolex GMT, which he paid $30,000 for. It’s worth $20,000-$45,000. Roadshow also appraised his silver officer’s trench watch by Rolex, which he bought in London for £5,000. Today it’s worth $1,500-$10,000.
Nancy Kerrigan’s Olympic Memorabilia
Kerrigan had a legendary figure skating career that took her all the way to the Olympics, and she had several pieces from her career appraised.
First, was an Olympic torch from 1996. It had been sitting in her living room for years. Designed by Malcolm Grear, it was made with Georgia hardwood for the Atlanta games. That year, Muhammad Ali carried the torch along with 12,000 other people from around the world. Kerrigan bought hers for $300. Normally, it would be worth $2,000-$3,000, but Kerrigan’s fame rockets the value to $5,000-$7,000 at auction.
Her 1992 bronze medal, which she won in Albertville, France is worth $30,000-$40,000. And, her 1994 silver medal, which she took home in Lillehammer, Norway is worth $40,000-$50,000. But, she wasn’t only an Olympian. Kerrigan was also a trendsetter.
She had two costumes appraised. One was the iconic Vera Wang figure skating dress, which was featured on the cover of Life Magazine in 1994. The seamless shoulders signified a new kind of fashion couture in figure skating, the Roadshow expert said. Today, it’s fashion history and one of the most famous—if not the most famous—figure skating outfits to date. It could sell for $20,000-$30,000 at auction. Her Michael Jackson “Thriller”-like jacket, which she’s worn for “Halloween on Ice” for over 20 years is worth $500-$700.
Dottie Pepper’s Trophy and Family Heirloom
Pro golfer Dottie Pepper rounded out the show with a bit of sports history and a family heirloom. Roadshow met Pepper in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she started playing golf as a kid. She had to petition the state to play on the men’s golf team because there was no women’s team. Since then, she’s won a score of golfing tournaments and trophies, including the Solheim Cup—a women’s version of the Ryder’s Cup.
In 1990, a trophy was made for each team captain and player. Afterwards, the Waterford Crystal company broke the mold, leaving only 18 in existence. Today, it can reasonably be insured for $35,000 and remains in women’s golf history.
Her family’s marble Rococo Revival smoking table from 1880 was also appraised. It was originally given to her great-grandparents and is worth $300-$500 at auction.
Among the celebrities featured in this season are chef Carla Hall, humorist Mo Rocca, journalist Soledad O’Brien and designer Christian Siriano. Stay tuned for new episodes airing May 3, 10, 17, and 24 on PBS.
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