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AuctionBytes Blog
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AuctionBytes Blog The AuctionBytes Blog has been giving a voice to online merchants since its launch in 2005. Named one of the world's top 30 blogs in 2008 by "Blogging Heroes." Weigh in with your thoughts on the joys and pitfalls of selling online.
Sat Jan 21 2012 21:38:08

Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy

By: Ina Steiner
Sponsored Link
Before "Pawn Stars" and "Storage Wars," before "Cash in the Attic" and "Collector Inspector," there was the "Antiques Roadshow." The nine-time Emmy Award-nominated program that airs on PBS public television stations around the country celebrated its 15th season last year.

Now, a dispute between an appraiser, Gary Sohmers, and the "Antiques Roadshow" gives a rare glimpse into the workings of the show, described in an article in Sunday's EcommerceBytes Update newsletter. (For example, did you know that independent appraisers pay their own way to various cities just for a chance to appear on the show?)

The dispute focuses on the restrictions the show places on appraisers to do outside media appearances. But by tightening up the way it enforces this provision, the Roadshow is missing out on free publicity!

With his long ponytail and Hawaiian shirts, Gary Sohmers is a unique brand and a tireless self promoter. Kenneth Corbin mentions in his EcommerceBytes article an alleged incident in which Roadshow producer Marsha Bemko confronted Gary for appearing on a radio show in Miami. But who among us wouldn't love a small army of people helping to promote our brands on radio and TV, as long as they were clear about their relationship? The question is especially relevant in this day of social networking.

As we were going to press with the article, we learned of new developments. Sohmers sent us a letter he received from WGBH corporate counsel Eric Brass who wrote, "WGBH is revising its practice for the Antiques Roadshow website so that the contact information of past appraisers will be generally available."

In a reply Sohmers drafted, he writes that the letter from Brass failed to address "90% of the issues," and writes, "The question remains …will I be invited to appear as an appraiser this season and in an environment that is not hostile to me? "

We regret that WGBH, which produces the program, wouldn't share more with our reporter about the dispute. As a fan of the show, I hope it is quickly resolved to everyone's satisfaction.




Comments (26) | Permalink
Readers Comments

Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
       Web Site
Sun Jan 22 01:43:51 2012
Well, one of the questions could be, has Sohmers raised his profile by being an appraiser on the Roadshow? If so, undoubtedly this is all about money, and the question then would be, does Sohmers’ appearances on the Antiques Roadshow benefit Sohmers more than Sohmers’ appearances (because of having been an appraiser on the Roadshow?) on other venues benefit the Roadshow. Sounds like there is a question of contract law involved. Maybe if Sohmers offered to share his probably now better off-Roadshow appearance fees with the Roadshow the dispute would fade away.

Gee, 15 years: still a teenager; the original UK version has just had its 30th anniversary.

What a shame it is that John Donahoe will not simply fade away.
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: Gary Sohmers
       Web Site
Sun Jan 22 07:34:14 2012
Before Roadshow started I was credible as an appraiser and an expert on the subject matter I deal in. Which is why I was originally invited to appear on the show.  To make Roadshow successful the original developer of the show knew that the Appraisers would give the show credibility ... how many people would tune into a program with no credibility or only using ebay as the price reference?  The appraisers built the credibility of the program and now you may have appraisers who get all their info from wikipedia and ebay instead of deep knowledge of buying and selling items.  Sure you can find auction companies who can provide appraisers who know the values of $100,000 paintings but I deal in $1000 and under items like most people own.  The problem is not just me, as many of the most popular, and smartest, appraisers are no longer on the show including Reyne Haines, Don Ellis, Berj Zavian, Caroline Ashleigh, the Keno Brothers and many others ... this exodus of talent is because of Bemko and the management at WGBH ... we would love to come and give our best and pay our own way, if we were treated with respect for what we give ... unfortunately WGBH doesn't see it that way.  I had always hoped that WGBH would act professionally and invite me in to discuss and resolve, but now 5 months later they have just threatened ''legal recourse'' if I continue my use of the federally protected rights of Free Speech.  Thanks again for considering the appraisers side of the story.
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: Gary Sohmers
       Web Site
Sun Jan 22 07:50:40 2012
By the way ... the off-Roadshow events I do that I was threatened about were Charity events doing verbal appraisals to raise money for Red Cross and/or the American Cancer Society.  I raise and donate thousands each year donating my services.  I donated my services to WGBH / PBS for 13 years, attending in over 80 cities, and paid more than $1000 to attend the events in airfare, hotel and expenses, working 13 hour days, with no expectation of reward or guarantee of being on TV ...  only professional credit for the contribution I made.  

Philip, what do you do for charity each year?
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
This user has validated their user name. by: Al G
       
Sun Jan 22 10:07:39 2012
Unfortunately a sad state of affairs when people's livelihoods and passion conflict with desire for control.

Then again, what else is new in this post-20th century world?
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: Reporter Dru Sefton of Current , the newspaper of
       Web Site
Sun Jan 22 10:09:25 2012
Update here:

http://currentpublicmedia.blogspot.com/2012/01/wgbh-modif
ying-roadshow-web-contact.html
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
This user has validated their user name. by: Stockmiser
       
Sun Jan 22 10:45:53 2012
I think PBS wants to have it's cake and eat it too.

They don't want to actually compensate their appraisers - or even reimburse them for expenses - yet they want to control their ability to mention the appearance when doing outside non-PBS work.

That's like saying you'd be happy to have me cater your charity event - and allow me to buy all the food too - but I am not allowed to take credit for my charity work when I cater paid events.

Given that the only compensation these appraisers get is the professional credit for having contributed, not allowing them to benefit from that kudo sounds contrary to the purpose of the original agreement.

I think it's actually similar to a non-compete agreement - which to be valid must compensated for.  Given there is no monetary compensation at all here, no actual employment, I don't see the quid-pro-quo.
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: Ted Perkins
       
Sun Jan 22 10:57:15 2012
I just checked the Antiques Roadshow website, and Mr. Sohmers name and email do appear on the list of appraisers; and the "more info" link provides a short bio along with a contact phone number + website  link
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: Gary Sohmers
       Web Site
Sun Jan 22 11:07:27 2012
Hi Ted ... thanks for looking ...

Yes, my contact info was returned to the alphabetical list this week after being removed in May of 2011 ... that was all that WGBH was willing to do to relieve the situation.

They are revising their ''practices'' but refuse to cure the problems that caused my name to be removed.

They originally removed it and said (in writing) that I was not ''in good standing'' or currently appearing on the show even though dead appraisers remained on the list.  All of this has been documented over the course of the past year trying to get this resolved.

None of this was made public until Dec. and would never have come to light if WGBH had acted professionally or with some rational reasoning.
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: John Buxton
       Web Site
Sun Jan 22 12:16:28 2012
Although I have been on Antiques Roadshow since the first year, I can not speak in any official capacity for the show. I have not sought permission to respond to this article and what follows is my personal opinion. Everyone that appears as an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow signs the same contract. We do this voluntarily. The point that seems to be missing is that any appraiser that feels that this participation is not in their best interest can quit. So let's be a bit more honest about the fact that while the show has the option of inviting us, we have the option of turning them down. In my opinion Gary Sohmers was well aware of of the terms he agreed to when he signed the contract. Gary could have quit, but he didn't. Gary is looking out for Gary and trying to re-write a little history and it is not becoming. PBS is being generous and gracious in taking the high road which contrasts dramatically with some of the offensive statements Sohmers has made publicly. Antiques Roadshow is a great team that has become a family. It is personally disappointing to me that Gary has chosen to sully some of the great work he has done on the show. So before any critics or viewers decide to carry Gary's banner, it might be wise to consider the source and the circumstances. I don't intend to make this a discussion, for I have said all that needs to be said. JB
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: Gary Sohmers
       Web Site
Sun Jan 22 13:18:01 2012
I have great respect for Jon Buxton's opinion and expertise in his field.  His credibility was given to Roadshow and Roadshow has benefited from that. For what I have learned from him I am very thankful. But with all due respect our experiences with Roadshow may have been different.

Maybe Jon's off-Roadshow appearance schedule was different than mine, I don't know.  Maybe Jon's contract was different than  mine, no way for me to know.  Maybe Jon's relationship with the Executive Producer was different than mine.  I don't know if Jon appears on over 50 radio shows per year and has hosted a weekly radio show since before there was a Roadshow.

Publicly speaking, I am only referring to my personal experiences, and the personal experiences shared with me by other appraisers who had similar situations.

This was originally a ''whistleblower'' attempt to facilitate a needed change in what was once a wonderful environment ... that change is occuring to the benefit of appraisers in the future
http://currentpublicmedia.blogspot.com/2012/01/wgbh-modifying-roadshow
-web-contact.html
... and if WGBH had responded professionally we would not be discussing this.
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: Joe Doetz
       
Sun Jan 22 13:28:24 2012
Just to make sure I understand, Sohmers was on the show for 13 years, at $1,000 per show, for which he seemed to get a lot of appraisals. I understand ARS tapes 6x a year, so if he did all the shows, he was out of pocket about $75,000. Accordingly, if he taped once during each of those shows (and this is not considering those special segments they run), and each taping ran for 4 minutes, he received about 5 hours of virgin tv time, and they replay the heck out of those shows. I'm not a tv person, but I'm thinking that it costs well into 7 figures to get an hour on PBS once, not to mention those ceaseless reruns.
In addition, didn't Sohmers (and a lot of those other appraisers) get unprecedented credibility from being accepted as a PBS associate, a very small and fortunate cadre in the vast antiques world?
And finally, if you're going to be a faded hippie with a grey pony tail, a Hawaiian shirt, and orange sneakers, can't you use all the credibility you can get?
Sounds to me like the rantings of a fevered ego who just didn't quite grasp who was doing who the favor. JDoetz
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: dan
       
Sun Jan 22 14:48:09 2012
glad to see some dirty laundry is being cleaned...maybe ratings would go up if they put some of this on the air
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
This user has validated their user name. by: Tula
       
Sun Jan 22 14:49:11 2012
Sounds to me like The Roadshow folks are being a little overzealous in their desire for control. I can understand that they want to protect their brand, but I don't see how Mr. Sohmers appearances did any harm to that brand, especially since he did notify them about the appearances beforehand. And hey, free advertising for the Roadshow is a good thing, so why would they object to that?

Not having seen the actual contract, I can't say definitively, but it sounds like each side is interpreting it differently. As a consultant, I've seen my share of non-compete agreements and some have been so broadly-worded that they would have restricted me from working in my field entirely. Those could lead to different interpretations from either party and would probably be unenforceable anyway.

At any rate, it seems rather ungrateful of the Roadshow to expect these folks to spend their own money to do appraisals for the show, then not be able to use the additional credibility gained by that affiliation, where that's the only compensation they receive. After 13 years, I'm sure Mr. Sohmers knows how to run his own business without incorrectly using the Roadshow brand. Perhaps Roadshow needs a more specific and detailed contract, so the appraisers can properly determine if it's worthwhile to do business with them.
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: Gary Sohmers
       Web Site
Sun Jan 22 16:39:49 2012
To Joe Doetz

Thanks for your opinion ... although you claim to have no knowledge of TV biz you appear to chastise me for what you think are my business practices and involvement with Roadshow.

Please try to recognize that I had credibility prior to Roadshow. If you've never bought something from me, had an appraisal done by me or sold something through me then you are not aware of my skill or practices.  

If we appraisers were not credible the program would be as factual as Pawn Stars and American Pickers ... those guys need to go to ''experts.''

I did spend over $75,000 over the course of 13 seasons to appear on the program, and have had 65 appearances on TV during that time, plus many in repeats ... currently 30 of my appraisals appear on the Roadshow website benefiting both the program and me.

Obviously for some reason I am not aware of, you have prejudged me without full knowledge of the situation or the process that has been undertaken to try to get WGBH and Roadshow to discourage bad behavior.

BTW, you may see me as a ''faded old hippie'' but I am recognized wherever I go for the credibility I built, earned and work daily to maintain ... because that is who I really am.

What do you do for a living and what is your credibility to offer such a judgement of me?  

I have a brand that also needs protecting, and your attempt at insults are not credible, immature and not based on knowledge.
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: John
       
Sun Jan 22 17:11:51 2012
I myself try to stay away from Vexatious people. Not mentioning any names but by initials alone JD has no creditability around here.

Personally I like Gary. I like his dress and I like the fact that he is an old hippy. If I saw him at a show I would stop at his booth and check out what he is selling or appraising.

He has a unique selling/appraising attire which would attract people which I think he is aware of. It is also his uniqueness that attracts people to the ARS.
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
       Web Site
Sun Jan 22 17:32:36 2012
Now, let’s get one thing straight. Ultimately, it is always about money. Have you ever asked yourself why a “brand” is fuzzed out in TV shows. It’s because the brand has been offered to be left visible but only if a fee is paid. No fee, no see! The simple fact is, no “brand” appears anywhere in any professionally produced movie or TV production without the brand having agreed to pay some sort of benefit to the producer. It’s just another form of advertising, or some would say paid “advertorialising” whose sole purpose is to deceive consumers. That’s how “it” works …

Similarly, at business conferences, speakers rarely are paid by the producer for their contribution, indeed I suspect that some speakers pay the producer to appear, because the speaker knows he is going to gain a benefit from such an appearance.

Nevertheless, WGBH’s attitude to doing business sounds a little like the way eBay does business: with total self interest. If you don’t like it, lump it. So, what’s new.

On the matter of credibility, any appraiser that claims that appearing the Roadshow would not have further raised their profile to the viewing general public is being as disingenuous as we have come to expect from the likes of John Donahoe.

Regardless, have any of you in the US ever seen the (original) UK version of the Antiques Roadshow? I’m sorry, but it leaves the US version for dead.

@Gary Sohmers,

Sorry Garry, I did not mean to offend you, I was simply trying to explore why WGBH would take such an attitude, and it’s invariably about money.

But let’s get to the nub of the matter. Is it not most likely that if you are indeed recognized everywhere it’s precisely because of your appearances on the Roadshow?

As far as “charity” is concerned, in my retirement I donate my efforts to my local community when it needs defending from petty bureaucracy; I receive no benefit therefrom except the satisfaction of occasionally sending a petty bureaucrat away with its tail between its legs; I also expend some ongoing effort attempting to expose the eBafia and PreyPal for being the clunky, unscrupulous (in the case of eBay, criminal) entities that they in fact are.

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: boo
       
Sun Jan 22 18:33:00 2012
hey joe doetz! what's wrong with being a faded hippie? i'm one and i'm proud of it and proud to say gary"s my friend.(at very least on facebook)lol. you should look in the mirror and ask "who am i to judge". the answer may shock you.
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless
       
Sun Jan 22 20:33:02 2012
I know exceedingly little about antiques or its insider politics, but I do have more than a passing familiarity with whistle blowing and the post revelations dynamics that typically follow.

It's been my experience that those who have the greatest investment/benefit in a corrupt or patently unfair or even illegal system are the most critical of the whistleblower and will use about any form of warfare and propaganda to discredit the whistleblower.

It's also been my experience that few are interested in determining the truth or the accuracy of either side's statements.

Instead the whistleblower is subjected to many forms of ad hominem attacks and can easily become a pariah for the audacity of telling the truth.

We only have to look to ebay's reaction to justified seller discontent beginning in 2005 -- "emotional sellers," "disgruntled sellers," "failed sellers," and so on followed by a covert net wide social engineering operation that Joseph Goebbels would have envied.

Whistleblowers know they're burning bridges, and we should each ask ourselves why someone would risk all these problems if they weren't telling the truth.

Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: Buck Efay
       
Sun Jan 22 22:53:49 2012
I've known Gary since 1991, and have done business with him for years. Used to drive up to Boston for his show which was one of the hottest on the East Coast prior to Ebay. Anyone that knows him remembers him for his unique voice & hippie persona. He ran shows around the country & was known long before the Roadshow. Other appraisers I know from the antiques circuit told me they are very restricted in even giving cards to the people they appraise goods for, even ones that state right on air they wish to sell the item! Seems to me if they are under such constraints & receive nothing but facetime on air, they would be fools not to capitalize on the show. Perhaps Gary has been to successful in leveraging his time on air BECAUSE he is such a character? When people talk roadshow to me & I mention the appraisers I know in collectibles, invariably they all remember Gary, the others not as much. Which seems like it would be a good thing to the station. Keep up the good work, old buddy.
Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy   Antiques Roadshow Embroiled in Appraiser Controversy
by: sparklements
       
Mon Jan 23 15:06:48 2012
"Instead the whistleblower is subjected to many forms of ad hominem attacks and can easily become a pariah for the audacity of telling the truth."

As we all know, evilBay "employs" thugs thru a 3rd party called Liveworld to bully whistleblowers with rude and harassing comments in forums such as this one (and hence avoid the relevant FTC fine of $11,000/message)...I'm curious if WGBH has a secret 3rd party whom John Buxton and Joe Doetz are being hired thru to post such nasty messages...?
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