Brits: Antiques Road Trip, Money On The Table?
May 22, 2023 5:55 AM   Subscribe

This question is for BBC-watchers: My wife and I have discovered Antiques Road Trip, a competition show in which antique dealers travel around England, Scotland, and Wales, buy things at antique shoppes, then resell them at auction and hope to profit more than their competitors. But, there's a weird behavior we're uncertain what it means...

Something strange we've noticed, the ten or so episodes we've seen so far: whenever the contestant makes their purchase, they put the money down somewhere beyond the reach of the seller, like they set it down on a table near themselves, rather than paying at the checkout counter like a normal human does.

This seems intentional, as there's frequently a line like "I'll just leave this here" and/or a specific shot of them putting the money down in its nonstandard place. Every contestant so far has done this.

Is this some cultural thing, or a reference to something? Why would they always consistently do this?
posted by AzraelBrown to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect it's a TV thing- showing that the money is changing hands without filming a whole transaction! (I bet after the camera stops rolling, the prop cash gets picked up and the real sale happens on the production company's credit card.)
posted by Shark Hat at 6:15 AM on May 22 [4 favorites]

This show was my lockdown addiction! I've watched SO many episodes. I've never particularly noticed the behaviour you're talking about - it's not a cultural thing or reference.

From your description, I'd assume it's a TV thing, making the transaction visual and staged for the viewer - so much of the show is stagey rather than natural. They often call the seller out into the middle of the shop to discuss their purchase rather than doing it at the counter, which must just be about framing the shot so that it looks interesting. Placing the money on the table is also just a visual signifier of "Here I am handing over the money," rather than just quietly handing them a wodge of cash.

I'd guess that they do actually pay in cash (don't go back and pay by card), because they have a set budget, and that comes over very visually (again) when they're down to their last few £ - you'll see them emptying their pocket of pennies to pay for an old glass bottle where the dealer wanted £10 and they've haggled them down to £6.31 because that's all they've got left. On a low-tech show, it makes the competition visible.

You have to bear in mind that they're essentially filming the same thing again and again and again, and trying to find ways to make it interesting and different - so often, their purchases are things that are unusual or quirky, rather than failsafe things that they know will make decent money. Someone buying (I'm making this up, I know nothing of antiques) glassware again and again and again is boring for a viewer after 10 or 100 episodes, so instead they pick the charming dog-shaped matchstick case that might not earn quite as much but will be different to the 100 other antiques bought this season.

So placing the money on an item in the shop is 1. A visual signifier of a transaction, for a visual medium 2. Probably in the middle of a shop/on top of an item that looks marginally different from the last time this was done, to try and bring some visual interest and variety.

Oh! Final thought - there is a whole genre of antiques-related TV in the UK and one of them, (maybe Flog it!? Not sure) involves 'normal' people trying to sell something from their home to a dealer, usually for a relatively small sum (like a few hundred quid, but often much less). Despite the numbers being incredibly low, the whole thing is staged as if it's a high-stakes million pound deal, with the dealer slowly and dramatically putting each individual note on the table one at a time, with a long pause after each note, as if they're dazzling us all with their tremendous wealth. And then with a flourish, they finish up with a final tenner and announce that they're offering all of £70 for your grandad's war medals!

A lot of the same 'experts' appear on all these shows, and I'd imagine probably a lot of the same production staff, so this could be a bit of a genre thing, whereby every low-budget antiques show feels like it has to have the 'money shot', no matter how little the sums involved.

(So exciting when AskMe plays to your random quiet obsessions that you never otherwise get to talk about!)
posted by penguin pie at 6:31 AM on May 22 [10 favorites]

Best answer: In both the German and Austrian versions the putting the cash not in hand but in a table etc was a result of COVID precaution measures, intended to minimize hands touching. Before, it was handed over into the hands of the seller. Same for distance, in Austria 2 meters were official guidelines and in shows recorded during COVID measures in place 2 metres were observed at all shows, not only antiques shows.
posted by 15L06 at 7:51 AM on May 22 [8 favorites]

And yes, i also watch it obsessively.
posted by 15L06 at 7:52 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ah that's a good (and much simpler) call, 15L06!

OP, one way to tell whether you're watching a Covid-era series, is that when there were restrictions in place, the final auction took place with them sitting outdoors, socially-distanced, and watching the sale on individual tablets. In non-Covid times, they're squeezed together on a pair of seats in a crowded auction room as it happens.

Though possibly the habit of laying money down at a distance might have outlasted the more stringent social distancing restrictions.
posted by penguin pie at 8:10 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: ...was a result of COVID precaution measures, intended to minimize hands touching...
...sitting outdoors, socially-distanced, and watching the sale on individual tablets...

I just checked and the season we started watching is series 24, which aired at the beginning of 2022 -- and, yes, although they have been indoors for the auction, they are seated at chairs separated by some distance (and in one case, amusingly, in separate airplane cockpits at a museum), watching on separate tablets. I had more assumed this was for camera positioning, but COVID protocol makes sense. I think their interactions with the antique shop staff, in retrospect, do show them with a bit of distance too, so I think we're on to something.

Although, they still drive around together crammed into a car side-by-side, and no masks in view, but that likely is due to 2022 being later in the COVID precautions years, and the contestants being covid-tested and controlled interactions is probably easier than keeping tabs on antique mall staff. When they do their "off the beaten path" historical bits, there's a lot closer interaction there too, but that may also go to the "controlled environment" more as well.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:23 AM on May 22

It's an old psychological trick for haggling. I've done this in pawn shops for decades before Covid. You pull out the money is cash to show that you have it there and then and that you're serious and people with some flexibility in their pricing will often make a deal just to get it done. Most pawn and antique dealers have a quite high markup on their goods but a relatively low chance of selling any given item so making it clear that they can seal the deal can get you an aggressive discount.

Doing so after the price negotiation is weird and I suspect something instigated by reality show producers.
posted by Candleman at 11:55 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

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