Attending an estate/garage sale, one would hope to find furniture, antiques and perhaps even jewelry. But an artifact from an iconic and classic television comedy?
That’s what one very lucky person found rummaging through what she later found out was the estate of late All in the Family actor Carroll O’Connor.
In an appearance on the PBS reality program Antiques Roadshow, she reeled at discovering its stunning monetary value.
‘Antiques Roadshow,’ like ‘All in the Family,’ was influenced by a Brit export show
All in the Family was an American production of the British 1960s and ’70s comedy called Till Death Us Do Part. Likewise, the PBS program Antiques Roadshow has its origins in a UK series by the same name that began airing in 1979. The show quickly became a huge viewer favorite in the United States.
And it takes its appraisals seriously.
In 2000, Peter McGhee, a vice president for WGBH-TV, which created the American version of the show, was concerned about the authenticity of a 17th-century Milanese parade helmet. The woman who brought the helmet in to the roadshow discovered it was worth $250,000. While she claimed she found the helmet in her attic, she wouldn’t return McGhee’s calls at that time.
“The woman owner’s story of finding it in the attic; that’s the part we weren’t able to get her to verify for us,″ McGhee told the Associated Press. “There was at least a cloud of doubt about that. Here’s a case where doubt persists and we couldn’t eliminate it, so we withdrew the program.″
‘Antiques Roadshow’ is ‘reality TV at its finest’
Produced for PBS by WGBH Boston, the public television program hasn’t lost any of its steam over the years. Despite practically no changes in its style of presentation or format, it has sustained loyal viewership in its decades on the air.
The series’ executive producer Marsha Bemko remarked on Antiques Roadshow‘s lasting appeal at the start of its 22nd season in 2019.
“We are the first in our genre—a genre we can say we started—reality TV built around material culture,” Bemko said. “We’re the only show of this kind where there’s no commerce. We are strictly there to provide information, to educate our guests and our viewers. Roadshow is reality TV at its finest. The conversation that you see on screen between the appraiser and guest is the first time they’ve talked. It isn’t staged—it’s an authentic interaction.”
Archie Bunker’s coat was worth more than 350x the purchase price
At a 2016 Antiques Roadshow event in Palm Springs, Florida, appraiser Timothy Gordon was made aware that a yellow plaid coat, the very familiar stage prop that Carroll O’Connor wore frequently in episodes of All in the Family, had been brought in for evaluation.
The woman who brought the coat in explained to Gordon that she “went to an estate sale in Malibu, California.”
She was apparently unaware, until she was told by another sale visitor, that she was at the home of the late All in the Family actor Carroll O’Connor who died in 2001. His wife, Nancy, died in 2014 and the sale was held after her death.
“I went in the house, I went upstairs, and the master bedroom closet was filled with men’s clothes,” she explained. “It was actually his daughter-in-law that was having the sale.” O’Connor’s only child, Hugh, died in 1995 at age 32.
The Roadshow visitor said she immediately noticed and bought the item, Carroll O’Connor’s coat with the lived-in appearance and American flag pin still on its lapel, “because I was just going to give it to my dad.”
She paid $40 for the iconic outerwear, which Gordon confirmed was Archie Bunker’s and that Carroll O’Connor “took it home.”
Stunned to learn that the coat, in “fabulous” condition, had a value at auction of up to $15,000, its new owner remarked that it reminded her “of a time when my whole family was together, laughing and having a good time.”