Signed baseball

by Dr. Lori Verderame

I appraise 20,000 antique objects every year as I present Dr. Lori’s Antiques Appraisal Comedy Show at venues worldwide and during in-home appraisals in private homes. I wear gloves every time I touch any object.

But, in cities far and wide, the PBS Antiques Roadshow appraisers comment on various antiques and collectibles while ignoring this basic and standard museum practice of wearing gloves to protect aging objects. And, it is not only the Roadshow appraisers, it is many of these so-called experts appraising antiques on television.

I have seen sports collectibles appraisers on TV handle autographed baseballs without wearing gloves. This is a risk most boys playing little leaguers wouldn’t take when handling a beloved baseball keepsake with a players’ autograph. The appraiser says that a Babe Ruth autographed baseball has a value of nearly $50,000, but doesn’t bother to protect the object by wearing gloves. If he smudges Babe Ruth’s autograph with an oily finger, that will diminish the value and how.

Every time the one of these antiques-themed TV shows broadcasts, I pose the same question, why don’t the  appraisers wear gloves when handling objects?

I am not the first person to ask this question yet the absence of gloves remains my fundamental criticism of the show. While I am quite famous worldwide for my straightforward and honest appraisals of a litany of objects, I am just famous for my white gloves.

In museums worldwide, gloves are standard issue. Just like the requirement to wear a hardhat on a construction site, experts working in museums wear gloves. When you walk into a museum, experts hand you a pair of gloves. You don’t walk into a museum and expect to handle a work of art without wearing a pair of gloves. And, let me tell you my colleagues in the world’s best museums won’t let you near the objects in those collections without gloves. Wearing gloves is the most common, widely accepted, and standard policy in object preservation and it is Job #1 in museums.

When it comes to handling any object, be it a 17th Century work of fine art or a 1960s autographed baseball, trained museum experts wear gloves to protect the object from the oils from human hands. The oils attract dirt that can be transferred to an object, deteriorate an object, and devalue it. Thus, handling objects can degrade an object’s overall condition impacting the life of the object and its value.

I was trained in museums. I held high level positions in museums and the glove rule was a standard. No questions asked, you put on the gloves. You did it automatically. If you have seen me on TV or been in the live audience at one of my stage show appraisal events worldwide, you have seen me wearing the gloves. Experts wear them and if someone is handling an antique without wearing the gloves, they are not an expert!

In a museum, if you are installing an exhibition, you are wearing the gloves. If you are unloading an art shipment, you are wearing the gloves. If you are examining an object for conservation, you are wearing gloves. Many people who regularly handle objects–curators, registrars, special collections librarians, experts of all kinds–wear gloves, so why not the PBS Antiques Roadshow and other on-air TV appraisers?

The absence of gloves is a gross oversight. It may raise questions about the level of expertise of some appraisers. Some people without museum training have told me that they think the practice of wearing gloves is unnecessary since these antique objects have lasted for so many years already. This “it can’t hurt” mentality is careless and disrespectful. It shows a lack of expertise for the care of historic objects and demonstrates a disregard for their long-term educational importance.

In my opinion, objects are important despite their monetary value. They are worthy of handlers wearing protective gloves. If these objects are worth discussing in an historical or cultural context on TV and worth so much money, then they are worth protecting. Follow the rules that true experts follow…put on the gloves.