December 2011 | Nate Pedersen

The Great Big American Auction


Like it or not, reality television found an ideal partner in the antiques and collectables market.  The drama of the hunt, the suspense of the reveal, the rags-to-riches stories: these elements of collecting can make for compelling television. We here at Fine Books have been watching as this partnership has edged closer and closer to our neck of the woods: rare books and manuscripts.  Several pilots are currently being produced around the country which will focus at least in part on rare book auctions.  It remains to be seen which programs will sell to national networks.  But in the meantime, a new reality show that debuts tonight will occasionally dabble in collectable books:
The "Great Big American Auction," starring Ty Pennington (from Extreme Makeover), will air tonight for the first time on ABC at 10 pm ET.  The show will be produced under the guidance and expertise of the folks at Heritage Auctions.

From ABC's press release:

"In "The Great Big American Auction," Pennington travels the country scouring flea markets, cellars & attics, yard sales and back alleys to find one-of-a-kind items whose owners have no idea of their real value. With exceptional collectibles ranging from a first edition classic comic book to a pristine and extremely rare Abraham Lincoln $500 bill from the late 19th century, Ty and his team of experts from Heritage Auctions unearth an amazing array of extraordinary finds. The best items from around the country are tagged and brought to "The Great Big American Auction," where a room full of potential buyers outbid each other in a suspenseful standoff."

The auction of the show's title took place on the Queen Mary ocean liner in Long Beach, California. The auction, which happened in April, was apparently the first of its kind - a made for television auction with online and telephone bidders competing with live attendees. If you're curious, you can download a PDF of the Heritage Auctions catalogue for the sale here. (Warning: it contains spoilers about what items are uncovered in the show).

And for anyone that tunes in tonight, let us know what you think.