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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Even the priceless has a price

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

Get the nalo greens out of tutu's wood bowl. At least until you know what it's worth.

The quirky and beloved PBS television show "Antiques Roadshow" is coming to the Hawai'i Convention Center this summer. The show producers are lining up experts in a variety of Island objects and collectibles and are particularly interested in looking at a few large pieces of furniture.

This is not the edgy-edge of reality TV. The show's format is simple. Earnest, somewhat nervous owners put their treasures on the line for a gentle but authoritative expert to evaluate. There's usually a little story that goes with the pieces:

This butter dish belonged to my great-aunt, who knitted it during the war.

My mother bought this painting in a yard sale for 50 cents, but she always thought it was lovely.

There's a brief discussion of that nick or this ding, the authenticity of the finish, the hidden signature of the artist; and finally, the pronouncement of the approximate value at auction. Five thousand dollars! Really? Wow. Some people get teary-eyed and hoarse.

The catch is, you get the sense that few of these good folks will ever sell these things.

And that's the sweetness of the show.

There's something about the show's ability to navigate the heights and depths of American materialism. So often, the people who drag great-grandmother's dresser to be appraised aren't doing it because they plan to sell the old thing they are looking for outside confirmation that, yes, this thing that has been carefully guarded in the attic is a special, beautiful thing and you were right to keep the kids from climbing on it all these years. They walk away with a new resolve to buy a dehumidifier or get a safety deposit box, and maybe have a new depth of aloha for the hands that cared for that object over the years.

One of the appraisers coming for the Hawai'i show is David Bonsey, an appraiser with Skinner Boston, a leading auction house for musical instruments. According to their Web site, in 2002, Skinner auctioned a pristine 1930s era Kamaka "pineapple" 'ukulele for a record price of $1,645 and in 2004, got $5,581 for a Martin soprano koa 'ukulele.

In the past, objects from Hawai'i have turned up alongside the Civil War pieces and the French Rococo stuff, and experts like the late Jim Bartels were called in accordingly.

Requests for tickets for the Aug. 26 event are now being accepted. You need a ticket to enter, and though tickets are free, they are not available at the door. You also need to bring one or two objects to be appraised. You can't just go to look.

To apply for a ticket, go to www.pbs.org or send a postcard with your contact information to:

Honolulu Roadshow
Box 249
Canton, MA 02021

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.