Every household contains hidden gems. Those family heirlooms, rare comic books, prized possessions and bizarre collectibles in the attic could potentially be worth big bucks. The question is: how to determine their worth and then cash in? CBC's new reality series "Four Rooms" brings that process front and centre.
Based on the popular U.K. TV series, "Four Rooms" finds participants trying to sell their valuable objects to one of Canada's leading antique buyers for top dollar. Each person presents an item, makes their case and then meets with a buyer in a room to negotiate the price. This is where intuition and greed come into play. The seller can turn down an offer, but if they leave the room to press their luck with another buyer, there is no going back. Essentially they can hit the jackpot or go home empty-handed.
Today on a stage in the CBC building, the panel of residing buyers -- Derreck Martin, Jessica Lindsay Phillips, Scott Landon and Eddy Rogo -- are circling a painting. The four specialists get a couple of minutes to look over and scrutinize a product before the bidding commences.
These guys are pros, though, and Rogo whips out some fancy device that sheds a coloured light across the painting.
"That light will indicate whether the signature was done at the same time as the painting or not," explains Rogo during the interview. "And for example, if there was a hole in it, you could have it professionally restored. By the naked eye, it's impossible to tell, but that light will show if work was done at a later time."
Martin, Phillips, Landon and Rogo all sat down separately to speak to HuffPost Canada TV about "Four Rooms," the essentials of haggling, and what items are up for grabs.
Let's face it. Pawning stuff off and rummaging through large storage units is in vogue these days. Nonetheless, none of the "Four Rooms" buyers were initially enamoured with becoming involved in a project that shoved them in front of a camera and dumbed down their industry. That attitude quickly changed when they auditioned and discovered the format.
"I didn't want to do anything I didn't think was credible with the antique business," reports Landon. "I wasn't interested in any of the setups we've seen so far. Once it was established it was from the producers of 'Dragon's Den,' I thought, 'OK, this could be good.' Once they explained what they were going to do, I started to get excited. The antique business in Canada needs a good voice. We need to talk about this in a positive way. Even if people's evaluations sometimes get shot down, it's going to be backed up. I was pumped once I got into it."
"It's pretty interesting to have some of Canada's best, and such an array of different items, brought to you," says Phillips. "Usually, we search for these. When someone gives you the opportunity of, 'Hey Jessica, why don't you come sit in a room and people can bring you really amazing items.' I say, 'Yes.'"
Deal Or No Deal
The drama hits high gear when the participants enter those rooms to haggle or move on. Sometimes their expectations are crushed and in other instances, they walk away with a tiny fortune. The buyers note there's an art to wheeling and dealing.
"I think the secret is finding out who the seller is, what they want, what their motive is to sell the piece and then tug at their emotional strings and get them to release it to you," explains Martin. "Sometimes it's tough. We have a pretty wide range of people that are coming in here. They all have different motives, so you have to be quick and read them as fast as you can."
"Be passionate," elaborates Phillips. "Be realistic. Do your homework. And come in wanting to deal. Sometimes people just want to do it for fun, but don't waste my time. I'm a bit of a kitten, but I bite. I'm either a kitten or a tiger when you come in. It's all about respect. The biggest thing is to be reasonable. Everything to everyone is rare. Everything matters and is priceless. But when you're trying to sell something, separating that attachment and realizing what it is, and what it's worth ... that's when you make the sale."
Objects Of My Affection
"Four Rooms" is not Fan Expo or Comic-Con. There's more on the table than simply comic books, coins, trading cards and sport paraphernalia. Sure, those pop up, but even the buyers were impressed by the diversity of weird, wacky and marvelous items up for sale.
"There's a couple of pieces that I've been really excited about and they're usually outside of what I would buy as a collector or buyer," says Martin. "There's a woman who came in yesterday and she was selling a letter that had been signed by J.D. Salinger with a first edition copy of The Catcher in the Rye. There was also a really interesting collection of little figures that were made by an artist who was in an insane asylum. He made these things religiously. He would make 20 or 30 a day, but most of them were destroyed. She somehow managed to get a hold of 120 of them and they are pristine. When you look closely at them, they're sort of haunting. You see the positions they're in. It reminds you of a Francis Bacon painting to a certain degree. I like that it was unchartered territory. When you looked at it, he was talented and it was really intriguing to me."
"From 1941 Buick cars to airplane propellers, it's really all over the place and that's exciting," states Phillips. "You never know what you're going to see on the other side. A lot of hockey stuff. A lot of jerseys or hockey memorabilia, which I don't really get. There's been some fun stuff. Someone brought in a mummified cat, but I already have one."
"Because it was the first season, I was really concerned about what they were going to get on the show," acknowledges Landon. "Who's going to bring something great to the show? But I'll tell you, it's probably the thing that has surprised me the most so far. The range has been unbelievable. Some items are right up my alley and some items I have no idea what they are, but it's interesting. I'm learning as I go. I've bought a few items. There have been Emily Carr items. There's been phenomenal vintage circus stuff that you never get to see. There's been things found in Canada that I would have never in a million years thought were here. We've had a 2000-year-old item that belongs in a museum. We've had the coolest car you'll ever see with big-time Hollywood history, sitting right here in Toronto. Not everything is buyable, but there's some good deals done on TV for everybody."
This isn't just a break for the sellers to unload their goods or appear on television. At the end of the day, the buyers are putting up their own money for the pieces they want to add to their collection. But with four rooms, there's the possibility they could lose out. It can get competitive. That's why a few buyers developed a strategy.
"It's all part of the show," agrees Martin. "They come into your room and for whatever reason, they think they're going to get a better deal. Out of all the dealers, I'm probably the most transparent. I will honestly tell them what rooms they can sell it in. They don't know the other dealers like I do and I tell them. But sometimes they clip away."
"If I have someone in my room, I try not to let them leave because the competition is fierce," Rogo concludes. "If we all want something, and it's happened, I've lost things. Many times I've lost things that other people got. I've also purchased things they tried to get. When the person comes in your room, you really have to be on. It's hard to make a strategy. They figure 'What I'll do is I'll come to Eddy's room last. I'll check everybody and then I'll go back to Eddy because he's interested.' And then Scott buys it and I never see the item. Situations like that do happen. It's a mental game.
"Four Rooms" premieres on January 5 at 8 p.m. EST on CBC.