Mark B. Ledenbach's vintage Halloween collectibles blog.

American Pickers Appraisal - Backstory

Many of you may have seen the new episode of American Pickers shown on History on May 13th called, "A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall." About 15 minutes in, the segment that I filmed with Danielle in LeClaire, Iowa on January 20, 2015 begins. It lasts about 3.5 minutes, winnowed down from a tad more than 2 hours of actual filming. 
Here's some background. In December, the show's Supervising Field Producer, Ben, contacted me through my site asking for me to call to help him better understand a pick Mike Wolfe had made in Maine. After our initial contact he sent me some photos and we spoke again. I told him about the parade lantern, sketching its history and where it fit in the overall sweep of that early period in the commercialization of Halloween. That same day, he invited me to come to LeClaire to film a segment in January. 
The specific date to film was January 20, not too convenient since I take a trip to Las Vegas for three nights every January. This year's trip was scheduled for January 16-19. Ben said there wouldn't be a problem flying me in from Las Vegas on the 19th and flying me back to Sacramento on the 20th. So, after three days of Las Vegas fun staying in a suite at my favorite hotel, the Four Seasons, I traveled to Moline, Illinois. Unfortunately, I had a distracting cold at the time so I was pretty bushed when I landed at the very small airport and found a cab able to take me to the Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport, Iowa, where I stayed for the one night.  
I was asked to be in the lobby at 9:30 to meet the car that Ben had arranged to drive me both to and from Antique Archaeology. The elevator stopped at the third floor and who walked in but Danielle and the manager of the LeClaire location, Emily. (Danielle lives in Chicago and is not in LeClaire on a daily basis.) Stepping in, Emily was saying that the day would involve interviewing a Halloween expert. Danielle replied that she didn't want to know anything more as she wanted to approach the shoot fresh. I decided to introduce myself anyway and was greeted warmly. They left in Emily's car while I got into the hired car and proceeded to LeClaire. The driver pointed out local landmarks as we made the ~20 minute journey to the set. 
It was somewhat surreal seeing Antique Archaeology in person. I've watched the show since its inception and was surprised that the lot was as small as it is and that it was located on one side of a residential area. The original building had sheets over the roll-up door and a sign out front saying it was closed due to filming. (There were many tourists all during the 3.5 hours I was there. One even boldly walked in wondering what was going on!) The newly built structure is to the left of the original building as you view the lot from the street and is much closer to the original structure than I would have thought. There isn't much for sale in either structure except tourist swag like tees, books and other souvenirs. I walked in to what looked to be a converted garage and was immediately greeted by Danielle and Emily. Turning right, I went into the large open space where there was much activity. 
Many people were scrambling around setting up for the shoot. Look at the second photo. From left to right are Ben, the Supervising Field Producer; Jeremy, sound engineer; Tyler, cameraman; Cory, production assistant and Mike, cameraman. Jeremy immediately wired me for sound and Ben let me know how they wanted to shoot the sequence. 
Now, I was not coached in any way as to what to say or what value to reach. The only artifice was that I was told that the conceit of the show is that the show doesn't exist. I wasn't to let on that I knew that Mike or Frank have anything to do with the business, that I knew who Danielle was or that I knew anything more than I was "in the area having been asked to look at a vintage Halloween object." So, the opening of the segment when I walk in and ask if Danielle is Danielle is completely staged. 
That opening segment was done over 5 takes. The first three had me walking in the door, whereas the final two have the shot starting with me already inside. I believe that the take shown was the first one. Ben felt I was too stiff the first time, so proceeded with the second take that was marred by the door clomping closed behind me. The third take was rendered unusable as a passing train blew its whistle just as I opened the door. A separately shot segment shows me walking into the main room where the parade lantern awaited. 
The appraisal segment was filmed over about 1.75 hours and was really fun. Danielle was witty, friendly, and totally into the segment, being a fan of vintage Halloween herself. She kept the atmosphere playful, as did the people working to get the segment filmed. The cutaway shot shown wherein I introduce myself was filmed last as part of a question and answer session Ben filmed right before I left for the airport. 
The parade lantern was, in Mike's words, roached. It looked worse in person than it looked on the program. Given the condition, I appraised it for $600, but feel a better valuation would have been $600-700. Except to someone wanting something actually shown on TV, it should not sell for anything above that. As you know, these are not uncommon. 
Bottom line, I was treated like a king. The flights were convenient, the hotel superb and the car a real luxury as I didn't wish to worry about renting a car or driving in snow. (As it happened, there was just a hint of snow on the ground then.) They paid for everything! Danielle was gracious, supportive of my expertise and presence and just nice. The crew was the same. It was a very fun and satisfying experience. 
Up until the segment aired on May 13, I was concerned that I'd look like hell having had virtually no rest while in Vegas and being afflicted with a bad cold. Although at times I feel I looked like Gollum on a good day, overall I was pleased with the amount of information the editors allowed to be conveyed in the nearly 3.5 minute segment. 
The first photo shows Danielle and me at the end of the shoot. The second shows the crew. The third shows the original building where the filming took place taken from the door of the new structure. The fourth shows the new structure. The fifth shows Danielle's desk with a copy of my third edition! The sixth shows the view of Danielle's desk as you walk in. The final photo shows the main area of the original building. The stairway leads up to a loft where tubs of swag are stored and where Emily's desk is located. It is a comfortable space with a couch and another work station.