A look back at “What’s It Worth?”

How many of you out there remember “What’s It Worth?”

It was a staple for nearly 12 years on Local Six Midday. People would come from all around because of this little phrase: “Bring up to three antiques or collectibles for a free appraisal.”

It started with a former producer at WPSD, Jody Smith. He was a fan of The Antiques Road Show and suggested something similar. Smith got two antiques dealers in downtown Paducah, Butch Summers and Ray Pelley, and set up some tables at Dolly McNutt Plaza. From those humble beginnings in the summer of 1999, “What’s It Worth?’ took off. For the next 12 years, WPSD Local 6 did approximately 200 shows and appraised thousands of antiques.

A half dozen appraisers participated over the years, but the man who became synonymous with “What’s It Worth?” was Jerry Snook. “We had fun,” he says. “That was the best part of it. We had fun.”

Snook remembers a man walking up to a “What’s It Worth?” show in Paducah with an old sword that had been hanging in his garage. “He was thinking about throwing it away,” Snook remembers. He checked the markings on the sword, determined it to be from the time of the Revolutionary War, and appraised it for $25,000.

The items most often brought to the show were glassware, pottery, and guns. The items people were most often disappointed in? Old magazines and newspapers. “They were produced in huge masses, so there’s just not enough scarcity to make them valuable.” Another frequently undervalued item was Depression glass. It may not have been rare or particularly valuable, but it will always hold a special place in Snook’s heart. “A long, long time ago, my grandmother gave me some Depression glass,” he says.

That’s what got Snook started in antiques – although there was a detour or two along the way. “When I got out of the Navy, I went to college on the GI Bill and I became an electrical engineer. And I worked one day as an electrical engineer…one day in my life…and I devoted the rest to antiques.”

Snook was an antiques dealer in Paducah for approximately 50 years, then began to enjoy a certain celebrity status with the success of “What’s It Worth?” “I met so many nice people throughout the whole thing. And I made so many friends and they still ask me, at Wal Mart or the grocery store, when are we gonna start it up again?”

Regrettably, the show ended when Snook’s health failed him. “I had two strokes, and then I had five types of cancers…and the only way they knew how to cure it was to amputate my leg. I feel fine. I’ve gotten over it. At first, it bothered me but I’ve gotten over it. Nothing I can do about it now. Of course, every time I go back to see the doctor, I ask him where’s my leg, can he put it back on. He likes my sick sense of humor.”

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