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Taking His Show On The Road

Taking His Show On The RoadFor two years, Tufts graduate Dan Elias has been traveling the country looking for undiscovered treasurers as host of PBS' hit series "Antiques Roadshow."

Boston [02.21.02] Dan Elias never knows what he'll find when he goes to work. As host of PBS' wildly popular "Antiques Roadshow," the Tufts graduate has seen everything from garden-variety junk to rare and unique collectibles. Regardless of their actual value, every object has a great story that keeps Elias -- and the show's 15 million viewers -- coming back for more.

"I don't think anybody expected that it would have the kind of following that it has had," Elias told the Bergen Record. "It goes to show you that people are interested in their own culture and objects that trace the development of that culture."

The top prime time show on PBS, "Roadshow" is entering its sixth season and will air its 100th episode in May. Elias, a relative newcomer to the program, is in his second season as host of the series.

"The astonishing thing overall about the 'Roadshow' is how rich the country is in material culture," Elias told the newspaper. "We see the history of the U.S. as told by the objects that these folks bring in."

With thousands of people lining up to have their antiques appraised at each city visited by the show, Elias and the "Roadshow" crew have seen it all.

Elias told The Boston Globe that he was amazed at what was brought in during a recent stop in Tulsa, Okla. -- where 7,500 tickets to have items appraised were taken in less than an hour.

"The stuff they brought in, the quality of the furniture ... there was a 1765 chest of drawers from Boston sitting in some guy's den in Kellyville, Okla., worth $15,000," he told the Globe.

While filming this year's episodes, the "Roadshow" encountered the most valuable item every appraised on the show -- a rare Navajo blanket worth between $350,000 and $500,000.

But not everything brought in is worth a lot of money. Sometimes the most valuable aspect of an object is the story that comes with it.

"In all these places around the country, all these great objects just pour out, and they really do tell the story of the country," Elias told the Bergen Record. "We have never hit a dud. Never happened. And I don't think it's going to."

There's no doubt that "Roadshow" has made antiques a very big part of Elias' life. But that wasn't always the case.

The owner of an art gallery in Boston, Elias focused on contemporary art after graduating with a degree in fine arts from Tufts and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

"While the worlds of contemporary art and antiques, in many people's minds, don't overlap very much ... on the television show, the appraisers spend a lot of time giving people context and reasons for value, and certainly in a contemporary gallery, I do that as well," he told the Record.

The experience, Elias says, is constantly educational.

"[My interests have] certainly expanded to include more antiques," he told PBS in an interview. "But I'm also fascinated to see the other kinds of things that come in to the 'Roadshow,' including contemporary objects that excite appraisers."

That excitement seems to have spread to the general public as well, giving the series a broad fan base.

"Even TV characters are 'Roadshow' fans: Niles and Frasier Crane, Will and Grace. Then, there are the countless average Americans it has inspired to scour garage and estate sales in search of that $25 table worth six figures," reported the Record.

Though some dealers have complained that the increased interest in antiques makes "good finds" even more allusive, Elias says most people are thrilled with the show's impact.

"I find that if I get in a conversation with folks and ask them how many people they're seeing in their shops now versus five years ago, their volume has tripled," Elias said. "They never complain about that."

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