When Portsmouth antiques expert John Cameron met Antiques Roadshow’s Eric Knowles at his graduation ceremony, he never imagined that 15 years later he’d be starring alongside his idol on the BBC.
But the pair come face to face again in Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, from Monday on BBC2.
Portsmouth-born John first met Eric, from Burnley, when he graduated with a degree in Fine Art Valuation from Southampton Institute (now Southampton Solent University) in 1997. Veteran TV star Eric was being awarded an honorary Masters Degree at the same ceremony.
John remembers: ‘He gave a speech at our awards ceremony and we met at the drinks reception afterwards. He signed my graduation book and drew a caricature of himself for my daughter.
‘When we met again for Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, I said “can you value some signed memorabilia for me?” and showed him the picture and caricature.’
The programme attracts more than 2.5m viewers each day and sees antiques experts compete over a week to find out who can make the most money from buying and selling antiques and collectables.
Says John: ‘Any profits we make go to charity, but equally, any losses come out of our own money.’
The show has been running for six series and this is the fourth for John, who lives in Warblingon with his wife and two of his three children and runs an auctioneering and valuation service in Southsea.
Growing up in Buckland, John worked on his grandfather Eddie’s fruit and vegetable stall on Charlotte Street.
He remembers: ‘It certainly gave me people skills. Being as I was forced to “call out” the fruit and veg, it stood me in good stead as an auctioneer selling to a crowd.’
As well as running a fruit and veg stall, John’s grandfather was also an antiques dealer.
‘We were very close and I definitely learned a lot from him. I’d accompany him on buying and selling trips. He was a very natural dealer in whatever he chose to buy and sell,’ continues John, who was once an apprentice joiner and carpenter for Barnes & Elliott.
To supplement his YTS wages, John would also buy, restore and sell antique pine furniture.
But when John was diagnosed with a prolapsed disc in his spine, the surgeon at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham advised him to consider alternative career choices.
This is when John’s interest in antiques came to the fore and he enrolled on the Fine Art Valuation Course in Southampton.
John’s first media break came when he was given a column in The News in 1998. Then, in 2004, he became a valuer on TV’s Cash In The Attic, after being spotted when the series came to Southsea.
He first appeared on the show as an auctioneer and later joined as a full-time expert.
John also worked on the celebrity version of the show, Cash In The Celebrity Attic, finding and auctioning off treasures from the homes of stars like film director Michael Winner, spoon-bender Uri Geller and music promoter David Gest.
‘I went to York to see David Gest for this series of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is,’ reveals John.
‘I was trying to sell him some film memorabilia.
‘We met during Cash In The Celebrity Attic. He had a contract signed by him, Michael Jackson and Nelly Furtado. That episode was the highest amount any celebrity had made. It raised over £10,000.
‘David was great fun. He’s unpredictable but a genuinely nice person,’ John adds.
While John is about to begin filming series seven of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, with his fellow Cash In The Attic presenter Jonty Hearnden, his series six episodes begin on Monday at 5.15pm on BBC Two and continue until Friday.
Scenes were filmed at the Antiques Storehouse at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, plus Parmiters Antiques, The Royal Beach Hotel and Relentless restaurant – all in Southsea.
John also visited The Blue Bell pub and 36 On The Quay restaurant in Emsworth for the current series of the show. But his favourite sequence involved more than 150 local scooterists.
John, who has bought three vintage scooters (a Vespa GS150, a Lambretta SX150 and a Lambretta SX200) in the past year, also filmed with a group of Harley Davidson motorcyclists and says the scenes on his scooter were the most fun to film.
He also has a collection of maritime antiques, which includes a running pulley from HMS Invincible, which sank in the Solent after hitting a sandbank in 1758.
And, as a lifelong Pompey fan, John has an interest in Pompey memorabilia and once sold a collection of bound volumes of Pompey programmes for £30,000.
He concludes: ‘Every day in this job is a day at school. I realised that talking to Eric Knowles. I’ve still got a lot to learn, as the world of collectables is ever-changing. You’ll never ever know it all.’
John says: ‘One of my strategies is always to try to buy things with people in mind, but sometimes I can’t resist the quirky things. After I’ve bought them I think “what am I going to do with that?”.’
He lists some of the most interesting items that he handled in this series of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.
‘In Paris I bought a René Lalique glass car mascot that was a model of a horse’s head. I purchased it really so that Eric Knowles couldn’t. He’s an expert and has written books on Lalique, so it was a tactical move.
‘I also bought a leather post bag at auction. I spent hours researching what it was used for. It was really different. I’ve never seen one before and I doubt I’ll ever see one again.
‘Then I picked up a very interesting silver brooch modelled on Concorde for a few pounds at a car boot.’
All for charity
All the profits John makes on Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is go to his chosen charity – Action Medical Research.
Says John: ‘I came across Action Medical Research at an auction I did last year for Davina McCall, whose father lives in Gosport.
‘The charity funds research into various conditions and diseases that affect children and over the years they’ve made major breakthroughs.’