Whether you are thrilled for the woman whose grandmother’s old hallway vase that she filled with candy turns out to be a real relic of the Ming Dynasty, or cringe at the guy whose supposedly authentic painting by a famous artist turns out to be a cheap copy, there’s plenty of drama, suspense, and laughs in any episode of PBS’s long-running “Antiques Roadshow.”
And since the U.S. version debuted in 1997, quilts and textiles have made frequent appearances on camera at the appraisers’ tables.
“We’ve always had quilts since season one, and they’ll go to the textiles or folk art table. We see hundreds of quilts at every ‘Roadshow,’” says Executive Producer, Marsha Bemko. “We also see needlework—both European 
and American—and a lot of vintage clothing, especially some worn by [famous] people.”
A frequent quilt and textile appraiser for the show is Nancy Druckman, Senior Vice President and Director of American Folk Art at Sotheby’s. Her love of American decorative arts stretches back to elementary school, where visits to Colonial Williamsburg and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller made impressions, as did an art history class she took in college.
After graduating from college, she went to work as a sales assistant at Goldman, Sachs and also attended New York University Institute of Fine Art. When she realized that a career in finance was not something she 
had the talent or the interest to pursue, Druckman applied for a 
job at Parke-Bernet Galleries, acquired by Sotheby’s in 1964, 
and was hired in the American Decorative Arts Department.
Druckman has been involved with “Antiques Roadshow” since its inception, when producers came to Sotheby’s to “audition” Leslie Keno and herself. “We had to present pieces that were on view for the upcoming Americana sale taking place in a few days,” she says. 
“We both made the cut.”
As to what makes a quilt valuable in a monetary sense, Druckman says the beauty of the design, authenticity of the materials, provenance, history, and—most importantly—condition. Her most memorable appraisal, she notes, was “A wonderful Victorian Crazy Quilt, backed with Chinese silk. It was made in gratitude by a Chinese family who were rescued from a fire.” 
In Savannah, Georgia in 2003, Druckman also appraised the still to-date largest value ever assigned to a quilt on the program—a 19th-century slave-made piece she pegged at being worth between $40-$60,000.
Another frequent appraiser onscreen at the “Roadshow” is Beth Szescila of 
Szescila Appraisal Service, whose love of quilting and sewing began at an early age. 
“My mother was a wonderful quilter and made quilts for every member of our family, which we all cherish now that she is gone,” she says. “I have also collected quilts for many years. 
I started in the antiques business by selling animals I made out of cutter quilts in an antiques mall.” 
When that mall was robbed in 1992, causing her to lose most of her inventory, Szescila was struck with the idea of becoming an appraiser instead of a dealer. After meeting indifference from appraisers while seeking tips on how to start, the husband of one told her about a course in appraisal theory that 
was being offered. 
After passing the course and a 
period of intense study, and gaining membership into the International Society of Appraisers, she was asked to be an appraiser on the first U.S. season of “Antiques Roadshow,” which of course was not as familiar 
to viewers as it is today.
“I can remember asking about a script and being told that there was no script—that we would simply talk about the objects that people brought in. Some of us practiced a little in front of a camera the day before the show to attempt to get over any stage fright, since none of us were television personalities, and this 
was new to us,” she recalls.
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“I think we were all amazed at the instant success of the show.”
In determining the value of a quilt, Szescila feels that it’s all about “condition, condition, condition,” though aesthetic appeal, the quality of workmanship, age, and rarity are also factors. Normal wear and tear is to be expected, but she says major wear and tear can greatly diminish the value of a quilt.
“Quilts which are pristine and/or have never been washed are always more desirable,” she 
adds. “And with older quilts, knowing the identity of the quilter does not have as much effect on value, unless the quilter was a famous person.”
Still, she sometimes has to let people down…gently. “Because 
so many quilts have been made by family members, many times they have more sentimental value than monetary value. I try to explain to people that sentimental value is a genuine value even though it is 
not one which appraisers can 
take into account.”
As for her most memorable quilt
—it was as crudely-done map of Arkansas from the late 19th/early 20th century. Major towns and counties were labeled, and rivers and railroad routes included. However, oddly, the upper 
western border was incorrect.
“The quilt left me with many questions as to the reason for 
the inaccuracy.  Did the quilter 
not have access to correct maps?  Was there hope that Arkansas would claim more territory to the west than it actually had?  Of course, Oklahoma did not become a state until 1907, so it is possible that the border between those 
two states simply hadn't been established when the quilt 
was made.”
Finally, what viewers see in the actual show does not even begin 
to show what goes on “behind the scenes.” According to Druckman and Szecsila, anywhere between 5,000-7,000 people show up at each taping—and all are allowed 
to bring two items. 
“We see quilts all over the country, but we probably see more in the South, the Midwest and along the East Coast,” Szecsila says. “I've never found that many in the Southwest or even the Northwest.”
Druckman adds that “Each show is filmed from 7:30 a.m. until after 8 p.m. And from the time that an appraiser makes a ‘find,’ talks to the producer, gets the guest into the green room, and then gets to film the piece—it could be three hours…that’s a long day!”

CLICK HERE to find out more about “Antiques Roadshow.”
CLICK HERE to find out more about Beth Szescila. 

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Photo 1 Marsha Bemko


Photo 2— Nancy Druckman


Photo 3— Beth Szescilla


Photo 4 Slave Quilts
              

In Savannah Georgia, Nancy Druckman appraised this 19th Century slave quilts‘ value at between $40-$60,000.



Photo 5 American Album
               

In Biloxi, Mississippi, Beth Szescila appraised this c. 1850 American Album quilts’ value at between $8-$10,000.


 
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APPRAISERS FROM POPULAR SHOW ON QUILTS, TEXTILES

SURVEYING STITCHES WITH
PBS’ “ANTIQUES ROADSHOW”

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