Glenwood family's treasures in spotlight for 'Chesapeake Collectibles'

The Baltimore Sun

For viewers of “Chesapeake Collectibles,” a Maryland Public Television spinoff of PBS’ long-running “Antiques Roadshow” series, it’s all about the reveal.

Monday’s episode of the program, which will conclude the series’ eighth season, will offer examples of the show letting people at home listen in as ordinary folks learn the value and backstory of their unique antiques.

Glenwood resident Peter Adams will appear on camera when an expert tells him about the mid-19th century Japanese scroll he and his wife, Linda, own, part of a half-hour episode set to air March 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Only 10 percent of the approximately 500 antique owners who showed up at Turf Valley Resort in June were selected to appear on the TV program.

“For our viewers, the show is a treasure hunt,” said Susanne Stahley, a Howard County resident who serves as producer of the series.

“Chesapeake Collectibles” films an entire 12-episode season — composed of 40 to 50 segments — in a single weekend, using 20 appraisers and three camera crews.

“Every year I say we’ll surely run out of people, and every year we get really fascinating items,” she said, noting that Season 9 will also be filmed at the Ellicott City resort, on Aug. 18 and 19. Reservations are required to get items appraised. To register, call 1-800-222-1292 or go to mpt.org.

“The sense of promise is the appeal of the program, but equally important are the people’s stories with their elements of surprise and suspense,” Stahley said.

Before being chosen to appear on camera, the Adamses had told an on-site expert in Asian art about their quest as young newlyweds to buy a piece of authentic Japanese art nearly a half-century ago. Their story intrigued Dennis G. Harter, an independent evaluator and Japanese art collector from Manassas, Va., who then conferred with Stahley.

Stahley approved Harter’s recommendation and instructed him to invite one of the Adamses to be on-camera, which is the show’s rule. Peter Adams accepted. The couple said they were told the value of their scroll at auction would be about $5,000 or so in the U.S., but $12,000 or more in Japan.

“It was a great day for us,” Peter Adams said.

Linda Adams, who didn’t mind staying off-camera, said she’d “do it all over again” if given the chance.

“It was worth the price of admission to see all the people and all the things they brought,” she said.

The couple, who marked their 50th wedding anniversary last year, met in 1966 during a brewery tour in Denmark.

It was a damsel-in-distress situation that brought them together. Linda, who was traveling with girlfriends to celebrate their recent college graduation, was having trouble with her camera. Peter offered to assist. The chemistry was immediate.

“We spent time together for all of 20 days, but we just clicked,” Linda Adams recalled, noting that they were married just over a year later, in September 1967.

Now 74, Peter Adams went on to become a history teacher; he taught at Laurel High School for 28 years before retiring in 2000. Linda Adams, who is 73, retired in 2001 as a special education teacher after having worked at the elementary level in Montgomery County schools, and then as a home hospital teacher.

The couple’s hunt in 1969 for a reasonably priced piece of authentic art took place as Peter Adams was approaching the end of his two-year tour in Japan as a communications specialist with the U.S. Army stationed on the island of Kyushu.

“The U.S. was still in Vietnam, and a year earlier [Martin Luther] King and Robert Kennedy were both assassinated and we had no TV and no phone” to keep up with events taking place in America, Linda Adams said.

The couple sought out a friend who was fluent in Japanese and versed in Asian art to help them make a purchase.

“We were taken into the bowels of the city,” Peter Adams recalled with a dramatic flourish about their adventure in Fukuoka, a city on the north shore of Kyushu that Linda Adams described as decidedly not modern.

They visited several shops before coming upon the scroll.

“We liked it immediately,” recalled Peter Adams, who has a master’s degree in Japanese history.

The work hangs vertically and measures 14 inches by 45 inches. Though the drawing is mounted on cheap rice paper called shoji paper, which is also used in Japanese folding screens, “the value was in the pen-and-ink drawing,” he said.

The subject is a large, barrel-chested man with a ferocious stare who is brandishing a sword and striking a combative pose.

The couple’s friend, who believed the drawing to represent a Japanese god of war known as Hachiman, bargained with the shop’s elderly proprietor and negotiated a low price, Peter Adams recalled.

Once Adams agreed to be filmed for the MPT show, Harter said he couldn’t yet provide an estimate of the scroll’s value — that information must be revealed for the first time on camera so that owners can react spontaneously for the viewing audience.

“During the taping I had said something like, ‘That’s not a bad investment for $20,’ ” Peter Adams recalled of his response to Harter’s valuation. “I had a suspicion it might be valuable, but I really had no idea.”

Aside from the valuation — which Stahley notes doesn’t constitute a legal appraisal for insurance purposes — Harter said he believes the drawing may represent the Chinese general Guan Gong.

“It’s a very dramatic rendering in bold strokes, and it’s a stylistic representation to show power and forcefulness” and not necessarily a physical likeness, Harter said.

Stahley said many antique owners are surprised when they learn their items’ value. Most of them tell appraisers they have no intention of selling the item.

“Viewers are still fascinated by the quirkiness of some of the items that appear on the program,” she said. “They walk away thinking, ‘Who knew?’ ”

Peter and Linda Adams said Harter advised them to upgrade the scroll’s mounting, which uses plastic weights at each end instead of ivory, for example, and to consider keeping it in the family to pass down as an heirloom.

For now, the scroll hangs on the wall in a corner of the couple’s home where direct sunlight can’t hit it, but Linda Adams speculated about where the scroll might eventually end up.

“We’re thinking we might someday give it to our 13-year-old grandson Henry, who is interested in history,” she said.

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