A ‘Roadshow’ surprise

Published 9:19 pm Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bear: Lee King shows off his Royal Doulton bear in his home on Friday. King and the bear appeared on a 1998 episode of “Antiques Roadshow,” and the episode recently aired again with an updated value.

Bear: Lee King shows off his Royal Doulton bear in his home on Friday. King and the bear appeared on a 1998 episode of “Antiques Roadshow,” and the episode recently aired again with an updated value.

Local bear loses value on popular TV show

Suffolk’s Lee King happened to be watching the PBS program “Antiques Roadshow” last week when he saw himself from 15 years ago.

The program was revisiting items appraised at a Richmond show in 1998, where King and his wife had taken a porcelain polar bear he received from a neighbor, Jane Levinson, as a 45th birthday gift.

Show appraiser Stuart Slavid, whom King said is “the foremost porcelain expert in America,” gave the Royal Doulton bear a value of $5,000 to $7,000 then. However, the updated value aired last week had gone down to $3,000 to $5,000.

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But it doesn’t matter to King. He’s keeping the bear, which has a special place in his den and his heart.

Jane Levinson had received the bear from her aunt, Jane Stanard, who was a model in New York, King said. Stanard’s boyfriend was redecorating a law office and told his girlfriend to meet the ship at the dock “and pick out whatever she wanted,” King said.

Stanard loved the color red, and King believes she picked the bear because of its red-and-blue flambé glaze.

From then on, Stanard and then Levinson treated the bear almost as a child, even carrying it on their laps when they moved. King once remarked to Levinson that he liked the bear, and she later gave it to him as a birthday gift.

On his way to Richmond in 1998, King told his wife and other traveling companions, “This bear’s going to get me on the show,” he recalled recently.

After waiting in line behind about 200 people, King set the bear down on the table. Experts converged. One remarked that he had seen pictures but had never seen an actual Royal Doulton bear. Before he knew it, King was in the green room having his hair and makeup done to tape the segment.

Slavid noted the piece had a few hairline cracks and that was is not signed by the artist, which he called “the only drawback” of the piece. He also noted the “lovely little cub” hiding behind the mother bear on the sculpture.

“This is the only model of this kind that I have recalled ever seeing,” Slavid said during the show.

Only five of the red-and-blue bears were made around 1915, King said, though more solid-color bears were made. King believes the artist used mixed colors to portray the Northern Lights reflecting off the bears’ fur.

The bear made it onto an “Antiques Roadshow”-brand calendar and board game from the 1998 season, King said.

He said he enjoyed seeing the recent update show.

“It was fun to see it again.”