If you’ve ever consulted a professional conservator to repair or restore an antique, you know the price tag can be startling. But few people understand why such a project costs so much. American Restoration, a television show on The History Channel, gives viewers a peek at the process and helps demystify the work that goes into these kinds of projects.
Rick Dale first appeared on television as a restoration expert on the show Pawn Stars, which also airs on The History Channel. Soon he had his own spin-off, focusing on his Las Vegas based business Rick’s Restorations.
The show features clients who bring Rick a treasure from the past that desperately needs a face lift. First Rick shares some history about the piece. Then he breaks down how much time each step will take him and his crew, from tear down, manufacturing or locating missing parts and repair to painting, re-chroming, and reassembly.
Then he shoots out a dollar figure that often shocks the client. If he or she is unsure, Rick explains in greater detail how much work is involved. The client usually agrees with a handshake and they exit stage left to “do some paperwork.” Cameras follow the staff as they work on the project or run into problems along the way. The show ends with a big reveal of the final product, which occasionally moves clients to tears.
Sometimes Rick or one of his staff goes “picking” for something to restore. They hope to buy it cheap, fix it up, and sell it for a profit to a collector. When the piece is finished, Rick brings a potential buyer to the shop. After some haggling, the buyer usually purchases the item – but not always.
There seems to be no end to Rick’s knowledge. The show stresses that there is “no manual for what they do.” An old snack machine from the 1930s that has seized up and/or missing mechanical parts? No problem! A fragile stained glass barber shop pole from the early 20th century needs to come apart? They’ve got it covered. Time and time again, they pull off the impossible.
Early episodes focused more on the restoration process than the current season offers, which is unfortunate. The show still shows plenty of behind-the-scenes footage, but we no longer get to see the in-depth coverage we used to see.
Creative editing, designed to keep viewers tuned in, often alludes to conflict between Rick and his brother or son. The relationships between people on the staff are entertaining, but learning about the history of the artifacts and the restoration process is definitely more unique and interesting.