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Talking with Leigh Keno About Buried Treasure

Talking with Leigh Keno About Buried Treasure

Leslie and Leigh Keno will be hunting for buried treasure all across the country on a new show that is called just that: Buried Treasure. This is the newest TV venture for the Antiques Roadshow stars.

Buried Treasure, which starts on August 24, is a new reality show on FOX, with the Keno brothers visiting people’s homes to discover the true value and worth of their precious, and sometimes undiscovered, valuables.

Leigh Keno provided some details about the upcoming show and offered some tips for new collectors.

Tell us something about Buried Treasure. How is the show different from Antiques Roadshow?

Well let me set up the scenario. This show is a reality show where we go to someone’s home after looking at photographs. And we often find many more objects than we originally saw in the photograph. We never know what’s going to turn up in a closet, the attic, the basement, or even the barn.

The next stage is to let them know what they have. This takes time and a lot of different techniques and cutting edge technology to determine if something’s authentic or not. We check with the world’s best experts and specialists in different areas, such as Asian or Tribal, or Old Masters pictures to confirm whether or not they are original.

Then the next phase is to get the money for them, to sell the objects at the best price. In almost all cases that money will have a meaningful impact on their lives.

What are you looking for in the Casting Call?

In the Casting Call we’re looking for any objects that people think are valuable. It could be anything, like paintings or jewelry. We will have a jewelry specialist here. Really, it could be anything that’s valuable. They can go to and a producer will get right back to them.

What makes a piece of furniture valuable? Is it craftsmanship, is it the age?

In terms of quality we look into construction, what it is made of, and is it made well.

Then rarity, is it common? How many examples can you find with all the bells and whistles? If it is the only one you’ve seen, then is it right or did somebody just make this up. You always have to ask this question and sometimes the red lights go off.

The third thing we look for is its condition which is a big factor. At an auction, you could have a chest worth a million dollars, with a nice finish that is like an archeological site in itself. Let’s say it’s a Chippendale Boston chest, but if you refinish it, remove the old finish, clean it up and polish it, that chest is worth just $150,000. You’ve taken off about 85% of the value along with the grungy finish. Let’s say if a drawer front were replaced instead, it would be $50,000, and you’ve taken away 95% of the value. So condition is crucial with furniture, and you can apply that to every other item.

What gives a piece a sense of presence? What makes it sexy?

Les and I designed our line of furniture, and I just mention that because the whole line is designed to have curves. A piece reflects the human body, the curves we have in ourselves and nature. Curves are the reason we are here, if you catch my drift, so that’s where it all started. And that’s the essence of great pieces.

It doesn’t mean that rectilinear pieces don’t sell well. But the record prices in the millions of dollars are for Queen Anne and Chippendale pieces, and those have curves. Even with Mid-Century Modern pieces, for instance, a small table by Carlo Mollino brought a million, too. The table had S curves all over the place. So no matter what period, people are attracted to curves.

Do connections with a different time, different age make any difference?

I think furniture, antiques and collectibles, inspire us for the reason that they have gone through time and have stories to tell, or will continue on.

Do you have any tips for collectors who are just starting out?

In furniture, both Leslie and I love 20th Century furniture, and there are many good pieces you can find. In the 18th Century furniture, single Queen Anne chairs from 1750 or 1760 can be bought at auctions between $500-$2,000, and that’s for a 250 year old chair where they have great finishes.

Certainly the masterpieces are still there and selling well. We sold a chest for over $1,000,000, that was for a New York Chippendale chest, but that was a masterpiece. There are inexpensive pieces for under $5,000, that are from 18th, 19th or even 20th Century.

What are the best places to look for buried treasure?

We are traveling all over the country for the next 6 weeks, as antiques are everywhere. The concentration is on the East Coast, but we’ve found things that were brought West at different times, and it’s been happening since the 19th Century.

From the Mid-Century Modern period, there are great pieces that were made in California or the Mid-West. So it’s really spread all over the country.

The important thing about Buried Treasure is that it is a show about helping people. We are the catalyst to change in their lives through discovery and sale of their objects for the highest price possible. That’s the essence of the show.

It entails a lot of emotion. There are tears of joy and tears of sadness. We go through every nook and cranny of their homes, and we really don’t know what we can expect to find. The camera will capture the whole process of discovery.

Category: home

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