Friends, Phone Calls and Surprise Trip to ‘Antiques Roadshow’

I was surprised by a phone call I received a few weeks back from a regular reader. Wheeling resident Ray Pritchard noticed my recent column on Hall China’s Autumn Leaf pattern and called to inform me that he was a former Jewel Tea salesman!

Jewel Tea sold household products through salesmen traveling the country until 1981 and supplied housewives with everything from grocery items to cleaning supplies, linens, cookware and china.

I enjoyed chatting with Pritchard as he explained a little about his experience. He started out as a Jewel Tea salesman in Pittsburgh. Then, in 1964, he was promoted to manager of the Wheeling division.

Pritchard visited homemakers throughout the Ohio Valley until Jewel Tea sold the business after experiencing some financial issues. About that time, after working for Jewel Tea for 34 years, he moved on to selling furniture at Reichart’s in Wheeling.

Pritchard’s wife preferred the Cameo Rose pattern of china distributed by Jewel Tea. It was in production from 1951 to 1973 and featured white roses and rosebuds with a gold dotted trim. Though not as popular as the Autumn Leaf pattern, Cameo Rose enjoys a strong following with vintage china collectors.

Another surprise phone call from a reader recently offered me a chance to see first hand the most popular appraisal event around – “Antiques Roadshow.” Antiques collector Joan Carrigan of Wheeling called me and invited me to take her place at the Charleston taping of “Antiques Roadshow,” which occurred yesterday.

Apparently, she didn’t really think she’d get tickets when she wrote for them so she double-booked herself for Saturday, Aug. 16, and was disappointed to realize she couldn’t attend.

I was thrilled to go in her place and spent this week thinking about what two items to take with me to the Roadshow. So many antiques to be whittled down to just two treasures, but that’s all you’re allowed to bring.

Too bad I don’t have rare baseball memorabilia! If you are up on the antiques news, you probably saw how the PBS series ran into a rare collection of 1870s Boston baseball memorabilia worth $1 million last Saturday in New York City.

Lynn Elber of The Associated Press reported, “A trove of signatures and rare baseball cards from Boston Red Stockings players was appraised at $1 million for insurance purposes, ‘Antiques Roadshow’ series producer Marsha Bemko said. She said it’s the largest sports memorabilia find in the history of the 19-year-old public TV show, which travels America looking for varied heirlooms and treasures.”

The owner inherited the baseball memorabilia from her great-great-grandmother, who ran a Boston boarding house where the team lived in 1871-72, PBS said. The owner’s identity was kept private for security reasons.

According to ”Antiques Roadshow” appraiser Leila Dunbar, the ”crown jewel” of the items is a May 1871 letter to the Boston landlady that includes notes from three future Hall of Fame members: Albert Spalding, the future sporting good magnate, and brothers Harry and George Wright. The letter included the players’ appreciation for their host’s cooking.

“Antiques Roadshow” is broadcast on Monday nights; if I get lucky, I might just get a spot on the series. The way it works, guests (about 5,000 at each event) bring two items each and then line up for their own individual verbal appraisals. If you have an item that is interesting enough, you may get a chance to be taped for TV. It’s up to the show’s producer to select the TV guests after the appraiser deems them interesting.

Even if I don’t get filmed, I’ll enjoy seeing the excitement of the real thing in action and having a chance to tell my treasure stories to the pros. After all, “Roadshow” is PBS’s highest-rated series, seen by around 8 million viewers each week, according to pbs.org.

Check back with me next week to hear the result of my appraisals and to find out what I took to the event. I know I’ll enjoy the adventure!

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at: zambitomaureen@hotmail.com or by writing in care of this newspaper.