The BBC becomes an antique on October 18 as it celebrates its 100th birthday. TV has proved a wonderful format for antiques programmes thanks to the magical mix of culture, cash and treasure hunt.
Everyone dreams of having a hidden fortune in the attic. Remember Del Boy and Rodney, from Only Fools And Horses, and the great Harrison watch that brought them millions at Sotheby’s?
This mixture of hope and fascination has made the Antiques Roadshow one of the great BBC success stories of the past half century. But it is not alone in pulling in the viewers and making stars of antiques dealers and auction house specialists.
Some of you will remember the first TV star from the antiques world, a rather unlikely celeb in the form of the late Arthur Negus, who wooed the public with his knowledge of furniture in the late 1960s on Going for a Song. Negus had been an auction house specialist but attracted a cult following thanks to his popular scholarship and a smooth and calm delivery that was the vocal equivalent of a rich patina.
He also made us curious and showed how a thirst for knowledge could widen our aesthetic appreciation and understanding of history, as well as arm us better when in search of a bargain. He took that knowledge onto the Antiques Roadshow when it first launched in 1979, setting the tone and format for the next few decades
Many other experts have proven to be TV friendly down the years, helping to create healthy audience figures for the Beeb and its rivals, as well as entertaining and educating the public more widely on the greatest commercial game of them all. It is indisputable that his enthusiasm and the programmes that followed helped bring the populace en masse into the saleroom and bidding online in a way they did not do before.
So as the BBC celebrates 100, let’s salute Arthur Negus for what he started.