Roadshow Miscellaneous specialist Mark Hill goes behind the scenes of the BBC Antiques Roadshow as it celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2017…

Click here to view the 2017 dates and venues for filming the Antiques Roadshow

A set of Beatles autographs, a battered teddy bear, granny’s beloved china tea set, a diamond ring, a plastic doll, a tribal spear, a Dinky toy, a unicorn’s horn, and an old sewing machine…no, not an offbeat episode of The Generation Game, but part of the stream of many hundreds of objects a specialist may see during a typical filming day for the Antiques Roadshow. This year also sees my tenth anniversary as a specialist on the show and I’ve seen every one of those objects – and many, many more. I never tire of it, I always want more, and every filming day is like Christmas. You never know what you’ll unwrap next and you never know to which distant lands or parts of history you’ll be transported. It’s the closest to being Doctor Who that I’ll ever get to be. …

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Opalescent Sunflower Vase

It’s usually the things that nobody knows about that attract and intrigue me. If they’re of a certain (good, or fine) quality, or have an interesting look, I want to know more. Browsing around the Cambridge Glass Fair, I came upon this rather unusual looking small posy vase. Somewhat etherial, it’s also rather appealing. But it looks like a child painted it!“, I hear you cry. You could indeed say that. But look closer and think. The enamelled flowers and leaves are rather evenly applied and don’t waver all around. The sunflowers themselves are placed directly opposite each other and, most importantly, the enamel is baked on, rather than just being painted on. So unless someone had access to a kiln or furnace, this was done in a factory. So, arguably, a child couldn’t have done this. Furthermore, the colour tone of the enamel is similar to those used at Haida (Nový Bor) in today’s Czech Republic. As well as its factories, the town is known for its glass school (fachschule) founded in 1870. Then there’s the …

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1970s Pentii Sarpaneva Oy Kumela vase © Mark Hill Publishing Ltd

The many different hats I wear for my career often take me to unexpected places. Last month, I was delighted to be asked to visit Helsinki in Finland, home to many a notable mid-century modern glass factory and designer, from Iittala to Riihimäki and Alvar Aalto to Timo Sarpaneva. I don’t often get too much time to explore or go shopping on my own account on such work trips, so I was delighted when my kind host offered to drive me to a large antiques centre one morning, on the way to a location. Pulling up to a large metal warehouse on the outskirts of a deserted industrial estate oustide Helsinki, I wondered what was in store for me, but I wasn’t disappointed. My host had judged my tastes perfectly, Tattarisuon Antiikkihalli Ja Löytötori was right up my street with over 1,000 square feet filled with furniture, ceramics, pictures, rugs, household goods and, of course, glass. Quality ranged from ‘very good’ to the sort of stuff one may find in a house clearance, and dates ranged from the …

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Mossy Dwarf

As regular readers of my blog will know, I’m a huge fan of etchings and have bought them since I was schoolboy. I never spend much, I just buy what I like. The more bizarre or bonkers they are, the better. I usually buy without knowing much or anything about the etching or the artist, and I enjoy the research challenge when I get home. Most end up being professionally mounted in secondhand frames I also acquire inexpensively. My two latest purchases are both unframed, and cost me £15 and £20 respectively. The first (above) is reminiscent of a book illustration and is superbly quirky – it made me smile. It shows a line of finely dressed 17thC or 18thC ladies and gentlemen approaching a seated bearded dwarf in a hat. Behind him are two cats and a strange imp standing in a flower pot with his arms outstretched and a sun and moon above his hands. Above them is a partial face of an old bearded man, who I presume to be God or Old Father Time. The …

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