If you grew up in America in the late 1990s, chances are high that your parents had the family-friendly program Antiques Roadshow playing in the background while dinner was cooking. The still on-air show, famous for bringing the antiques appraisal business to people's homes, isn't as squeaky clean as its sanitized subject implies. In fact, Antiques Roadshow appraisers' scandals and continuous fraud affairs linger in the show's hidden histories. Take some time to peel back the curtain on America's favorite traveling program and see what dishonorable things lurk behind it.
Antiques Roadshow's First Major Scandal
Antiques Roadshow remains to be one of the PBS network's most famous educational programs in its historic and current lineup. With thousands of hours of tape and countless appraisals made, the show's become a beloved late-night staple. Yet, everything isn't as it appears behind the scenes, as you'll discover with this scandal, and the several others, that stretch across the show's many seasons.
Pritchard and Juno's Civil War Thievery and Deception
Russell Pritchard III and George Juno were a truly dastardly duo who were charged and indicted on counts of theft and fraud multiple times. Interestingly, these two used Antiques Roadshow as a platform to give themselves greater credibility as Civil War appraisers. In gaining respect, the duo were able to swindle people out of their family heirlooms by undervaluing the items, convincing the people who owned them to sell, and then re-selling the items to private collectors or institutions for significantly larger amounts of money.
The Antiques Roadshow team cut ties with the duo once they discovered some of their on-air appraisals were staged. Among these was a sword brought in by a Mr. Sadtler. While the sword was authentic, its owner wasn't actually Mr. Sadtler--a man who turned out to have gone to high school with Pritchard. Following their dismissal from the show, the two continued to defraud people of their items, going so far as to falsely identify themselves as members of a museum to encourage a particular family to sell their precious ancestral artifacts relating to the famous Confederate General George Pickett. Similarly, the two also worked together to steal a Zouave uniform from an actual museum's collections in order to replace it with a similar Belgian uniform so that they could sell the original to a private collector.
Ultimately, the two have faced exorbitant fees and increasing amounts of jail time because of their exploits, with the most recent allegations coming in 2020.
Antiques Roadshow Does Damage Control
When the duo's story first aired, Antiques Roadshow was in its second season, and the scandal threatened this unique television series' popularity. Producers for the show moved quickly to address the problem; they wanted to make sure that these false appraisals were isolated incidents and that the show's credibility remained intact.
The show's producers opted to deal with the issue publicly. They explained to viewers through various media outlets that the show didn't approve of the decision of signing on these two appraisers. Mr. Juno and Mr. Pritchard were then banned from the show, although in later interviews Mr. Pritchard claimed that he didn't intend to hurt the show, and that he only wanted to let viewers know that they could have exciting finds among their attic and basement storage bins.
The show also enacted a few new policies regarding appraisers to prevent this time of situation from happening again. Going forward, the show's appraisers had to undergo extensive training and background checks. Additionally, the show's producers also began requiring signed contracts, indicating that no such staging would happen in the future. Investigations also indicated that only those two appraisals were staged in the show's first season.
Additional Scandals From Subsequent Seasons
Unfortunately for the famous PBS program, the Pritchard and Juno incident wasn't the last scandal to take a stab at the show's reputation and ratings. Two relatively recent scandals from the same year illustrate how there might still be a bumpy road ahead for this American show.
Keno Brothers' Improper Bidding
The popular appraisal-duo who'd been featured heavily on Antiques Roadshow, twins Leigh and Leslie Keno, were accused of improper bidding and failing to pay for their winning bids at two separate auction houses in 2016. Both in New Orleans and in Philadelphia, the brothers bet against each other, raising the prices of goods like furniture and paintings significantly and then failed to make the steep payments on their collective wins.
While there doesn't seem to be any reported resolution to the lawsuit that was filed for the unpaid sum, it appears as though the brothers haven't faced any repercussions from the network itself. In fact, they still seem to be giving appraisals on the hit tv show as of 2021.
High School Project Appraisal Failure
Also in 2016, antiques appraiser Stephen Foster was criticized for his $50,000 appraisal of a 1970s high school pottery project. Alvin Barr, the man who'd purchased this 'Grotesque Face Jug' bought it for a mere $300. When Foster looked it over, he concluded that it was "probably late 19th or early 20th century" and that it was likely worth "$30,000 to $50,000" in a retail setting. Unfortunately for Barr, a friend of the unsigned artist recognized the mug as Betsy Soule's high school piece.
Soule notified the show, and they corrected their appraisal to $3,000 to $5,000, making it a far cry from the original value. Despite Fletcher's good spirits about his mistake, this mishap could belie other mistaken appraisals from past episodes that've gone unnoticed.
Antiques Roadshow Survives the Scrutiny
In spite of the multiple scandals to have come out of the pleasantly calming television program pertaining to both cultural and legal accusations, Antiques Roadshow continues to not only survive, but thrive. With twenty-six seasons and counting, its dedicated fan base refuses to give up on the team that drives around the country and looks over their thrift store goods. However, the show's perseverance in comparison to other modern reality television shows racked with scandal does bring up interesting questions about whether the roadshow could have survived these scandals had the show come out in the post-reality tv world. Thankfully for you, it continues to defy expectation, and you can watch Antiques Roadshow and its British spin-off as well, on your local channels and streaming services.