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WHAT'S IT WORTH TO THEM? WE'LL FIND OUT WHEN 'ANTIQUES ROADSHOW' COMES TO TOWN.

Byline: Steven Rosen Correspondent

Precious metals, jewelry and rare paintings are the stuff antiques are made of. But so are pop culture items, including horror movie posters and PEZ candy dispensers.

``Antiques Roadshow,'' the venerable PBS series that provides professional appraisal of viewers' treasures, has seen it all. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the show is taping episodes in cities across the nation. Today the production crew stops in Los Angeles, its last destination, where up to 6,000 people - valuables in tow - are expected to descend on the Los Angeles Convention Center.

During the 10 years its been on the air, the show has encouraged viewers to dig into their attics and find out how much those old treasures might be worth. It also spurs amateur treasure-hunters to start their own collections.

Because of that, we asked several ``Antiques Roadshow'' appraisers - all of whom plan to be at today's event - for their advice on how to start collecting.

``While there are exceptions, as a homeowner the things that bring the most money are precious metals, jewelry and paintings,'' says Brian Witherell, of Witherell's Americana Auctions in Elk Grove, Calif. ``When you get into toys and even furniture, there's a much smaller percentage of those things that are rare.''

But be forewarned about paintings, says appraiser Ramona Hillier-O'Hara, of Wilmerding & Hillier - a lot of what people own is mediocre. ``There certainly is valuable artwork, and regional artists are becoming more and more popular - certainly California Impressionists,'' she says. ``But unfortunately, a lot of people have prints, and the vast majority is decorative. It's something that looks great in your house but doesn't have real commercial value in the marketplace.''

Nevertheless, she says, there are ways to proceed with finding the value of an already owned object. The ``Antiques Roadshow'' Web site (pbs.org/wgbh/pages/roadshow/) maintains links to the appraisers and auction houses it uses. And the Appraisers Association of America (appraisersassoc.org) also has contacts.

``Or you can go to a local auction house - there are plenty of secondary auction houses that are decent and honest,'' Hillier-O'Hara say. ``They're usually willing to look at an object - and often they have appraisal days because they're looking for consignments. The implication is you might be interested in selling the item, but they'll give information in the process, and you don't necessarily have to sell it.''

These days, unusual 20th century pop-culture items are very collectible. They are featured at auction sites like eBay and frequently have their own Web sites maintained by devotees. That creates a market.

``When a PEZ dispenser sold for over $5,000, truly I thought it was the first sign of the apocalypse,'' Whitehurst says. ``I think it was a Donald Duck PEZ dispenser in the original bag. Always, a market will establish itself around items that are kind of cool.''

In Los Angeles, especially - but also throughout the world - movie posters have become an especially hot pop-culture collectible. Because of that, ``Antiques Roadshow'' is filming a special segment for its L.A. visit in which appraiser Rudy Franchi visits the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science's Margaret Herrick Library, which has massive archives for posters, movie stills, costume-design sketches and other material.

``They want a one-sheet (movie poster) for every film that won best picture,'' says the L.A.-based Franchi, who represents Dallas' Heritage Galleries on ``Antiques Roadshow,'' but also is a part-owner of the poster-dealing Nostalgia Factory. He and his wife, Barbara, also wrote ``Miller's Movie Collectibles.''

``When I was doing poster auctions for Christie's, I found on consignment the only known copy of 'Grand Hotel,' one of only two gaps they have,'' Franchi says. ``And they eventually bought it for $50,000 at auction.'' (``Grand Hotel'' was 1932's best picture; the other missing poster is 1933's ``Cavalcade.'')

Genuine movie posters are limited-supply promotional material rarely if ever sold in stores as new merchandise. Franchi says the greatest risk for poster collectors is in purchasing unmarked reproductions sold by unscrupulous dealers. (By law, reproductions must be so labeled.)

He recommends either buying from reputable dealers or scouring flea markets for finds.

``If somebody has an 'original' `Casablanca' poster and wants $500, it's just the wrong price. It's either going to be $15,000 or $10 - $500 just screams 'reproduction.' If they know it's valuable, why wouldn't they know how valuable it really is?''

Oddly enough, the most valuable posters are of horror and science-fiction movies.

``A good horror film outgrosses 'Casablanca' or `Gone With the Wind' any day - as will a major science-fiction film like 'The Day the Earth Stood Still,' '' Franchi says.

That's because baby boomers who were intensely affected by 1950s horror and sci-fi (and their antecedents, like 1932's ``The Mummy'') can now afford to buy memorabilia from those films. Because their demand exceeds supply, prices are driven up.

``So if you come out of theater now and say, 'That movie changed my life,' buy the poster today because in 30 years you'll be paying 100 times that amount,'' Franchi says.

``Antiques Roadshow'' is taping today at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Roughly 6,000 tickets have been distributed. Although tickets are no longer available, you can catch the episodes on KCET between January and May 2006. Check your local listings for details.

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3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) Treasure hunt

Experts at `Antiques Roadshow' come to town to appraise the finds

(2 -- 3 -- color) Movie poster specialist Rudy Franchi, left, will help determine the valuable of Hollywood collectibles today when ``Antiques Roadshow'' tapes in Los Angeles. Below, when the PBS show stopped in San Francisco recently, this woman thought the Picasso jug she got as a present in 1965 was worthless, but it turns out the piece is worth $5,000.

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 13, 2005
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