May 11, 2007

Twenty Something / Christina Capecchi

Underestimating your value? Don’t

Antiques Roadshow catches ordinary people in an endearing position: their nerve-racking television debut. They tend to be talkative and made-up, dressed in coral, spattered in rouge and framed in fluffed-up curls.

Then an appraiser delivers the news that they’re richer than they thought they were. Substantially richer.

The poised persona they were trying to project snaps, giving way to a Macaulay Culkin face and homespun expressions such as “Oh my lanta” or “Egads!”

Some can’t fathom the dollar value, repeating “You’re kidding!” in a stunned daze. Others focus on one fact to navigate through their shock. For one man, that was the handle of his sword, which, evidently, was made of rhinoceros horn. “The most amazing thing is the rhinoceros!” he exclaimed. “I thought that was plastic!”

Now in its 11th season, Public Broadcasting System’s Roadshow is currently being filmed in Omaha, Neb., which should be fertile ground for granny curls and my lantas. It’s one of a few reality TV shows that stimulates rather than saps brain cells. It’s packed with obscure tidbits.

“This artist always painted a blue bird in the upper right corner of his landscapes. This is the only one with a crow in the corner, which increases its value.”

Anything can be rendered fascinating and valuable on Roadshow. An ashtray. A pocket watch. A pillowcase. You never know how it was stitched—or who drooled on it.

Once, I watched an ugly mahogany chair yield an astonishing appraisal. Its back was unusually long and skinny. But the bottom bore the letters RX, “the maker’s mark,” the appraiser said, and the maker was a famous artist.

That phrase lingered in my mind long after I turned off the TV: “the maker’s mark.”

We each bear the maker’s mark, and our maker is the most famous artist of all time. In six days, he created Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. And the original “Starry Night” that Van Gogh later ripped off.

We are each unique, a limited edition, one out of one. You know what that does to the value of the art.

It’s important that we keep this in mind as we prepare for summer, wriggling into swimsuits and staring into three-fold, full-length mirrors. It’s hard to shake that model in our mind, and it’s easy to spot our physical deviations.

But the image we envy is generic. One print out of 10 million. So don’t sell out.

Many young women make this mistake. Look at Ashlee Simpson, who burst into a music scene filled with blond look-alikes and turned heads with her black hair, fair skin and fresh look. She looked as though she ate peanut butter. Girls liked that, and they turned her first album into a triple platinum.

Alas, Ashlee turned skinny, tan and blond. She got a new nose. And her next album didn’t come close in sales.

Thousands of girls follow her lead. Some submit themselves to ice-cube diets. Others submit themselves to the plastic surgeons on “I Want a Famous Face.”

God created you one of a kind. He sculpted you carefully, counting the hairs on your head. So when you try to emulate Eva or Jen, you insult your creator’s fine taste.

Like the Blenko glass on Roadshow, our physical imperfections add an interest and value that collectors covet. The chicken-pox scar on your forehead. The birthmark on your left calf. You’ve been trying to hide the very mark that makes you special.

So take care of yourself, the fabulous original, avoiding scratches and cheap imitations. God’s appraisal of your value wildly exceeds your estimation.

(Christina Capecchi is a graduate student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. E-mail her at†

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