Massive roadshow in Willmar yields some surprises and some major disapointments for 'treasure' seekers

WILLMAR -- Carole and John Kroes carried two hefty boxes of prized antique possessions to the Willmar Holiday Inn on Wednesday, hoping to make some big sales to buyers at the Treasure Hunters Roadshow.

Seeking treasure
John Kroes holds a toy truck he had hoped to sell this week at the Treasure Hunters Roadshow in Willmar. The $73 that was offered wasn't enough and he and his wife, Carole, left, took the toy home where their grandkids will keep playing with it. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

WILLMAR -- Carole and John Kroes carried two hefty boxes of prized antique possessions to the Willmar Holiday Inn on Wednesday, hoping to make some big sales to buyers at the Treasure Hunters Roadshow.

But the Prinsburg couple carried nearly everything back home and spent Thursday putting the family treasures back in the cupboard.

The $73 they were offered for a toy truck that John Kroes got for Christmas when he was a little boy wasn't enough.

"It didn't mean as much to them as it did to us," said Carole Kroes. The grandkids will get to keep playing with the truck, instead, she said.

"Disappointed" is how Kroes described the experience.


Others, including a woman who accepted a $520 check for a stack of coins with a face value of about $70, seemed quite pleased as she walked out of the Roosevelt Room of the Holiday Inn.

Five employees of the Treasure Hunters Roadshow, a privately owned business based in Athens, Ill., have been in Willmar since Tuesday. The business, which is not associated with the PBS show "Antiques Roadshow," will have its staff here until 4 p.m. Saturday, looking to buy antique items that might fit the bill for some of the nearly 6,000 collectors in their database.

About 100 people a day have showed up with their treasures.

One man carried in a handful of fishing poles. A young woman had a 1740s Spanish coin wrapped in a flowered hankie in her hand.

Some things were purchased and others were taken back home.

If a purchase offer is made, the seller can reject the offer and walk away, or accept it and receive a check that's written "on the spot," said show manager Paul Zell.

There have been reports from around the country of checks bouncing, a situation the company quickly cleared up, according to Jeff Parsons, owner of Treasure Hunters Roadshow, in an e-mail.

The business writes more than 15,000 checks and spends more than $1 million every week during the 500 shows in conducts each year, Parsons said. He said there were problems with 45 checks, but all payments and fees were covered.


The Roadshow collectors especially like coins and old toys, Zell said. Prices for many of those common items are fairy stable.

It's the rare find that generates the excitement and the big money.

That's what happened "right out of the gate" Tuesday morning when the Roadshow opened in Willmar.

Zell told how a woman brought in a Tiffany Studios New York postal scale. It was quickly deemed "very, very collectible" and Zell said he was on the phone with collectors.

Zell made an offer of $710, which the woman accepted. The West Central Tribune found an auction Web site with a photo of a similar scale that listed a price range of $500 to $700.Other articles made reference to some Tiffany Studios postal scales being sold for $1,000 to $3,000.

"We're providing the very best values," Zell said. "I have written some extraordinary checks."

The Roadshow buyers this week were busy looking for dates inside of violins, checking resource books for the value of certain coins and peering through jewelry glasses at rings and necklaces before making offers.

Some things were dismissed without examination.


Caryn vanDijk, of Kerkhoven, took her Hummel figurine, silver coin and collection of "Archie" comic books back home with her.

"They weren't taking comic books," she said, and the price offered for the other items was lower than what she expected.

Even though she didn't sell anything, vanDijk said the experience was worthwhile. She got an idea of the value of her items and how to preserve them for the future.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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