WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) - A black rotary phone sits beside the bed. World War II uniforms adorn the wall above where the room’s occupant rests his head at night. Not far from them is a Purple Heart, a Bible with a worn cover, and several black-and-white photos. Neatly organized on a shelf are several broaches that have not yet lost their shine.
This is the bedroom of a 9-year-old boy.
Michael Cruz of Westminster loves to collect antiques. The fourth-grade student at Carroll Lutheran School treats his home like a museum. He is the curator who knows every piece, what he paid for it and what it’s really worth.
But the value of each antique, to Michael, cannot be measured in dollars.
The young collector was invited to visit a taping of “Antiques Roadshow,” a PBS television show in which participants have their treasures appraised by experts to learn their true worth.
Michael received the invitation after his mother, Christine Cruz, sent a picture of him in the Carroll County Times to the show. In the January 2019 photo, Michael was pictured with local artist and antiques enthusiast Lyndi McNulty at the Westminster Antique Mall, and the caption noted Michael’s favorite show as “Antiques Roadshow.” Since then, Michael said, McNulty has taken him under her wing and brings him to appraisals to learn more, he said.
For Cruz, the intent behind sending the photo was to tell “Antiques Roadshow” stars they had a young fan, but to her surprise, the show responded with tickets for Michael and one guest.
Michael and his grandfather, Tom Taylor, ventured to Winterthur, Delaware, for the event June 18. Three episodes were made out of that single day of filming, which included many people who brought antiques for appraisal, and the first aired Jan. 6. The next two episodes were scheduled to run Monday, Jan. 13 and Jan. 20 at 8 p.m. on PBS, according to Cruz.
With the invitation came the opportunity to bring items to the experts for appraisal. Michael brought a small wooden chair that he’d bought for $2.50. The appraiser told him it was from the 1820s and was worth about $100. The family is hoping Michael’s scene will make the cut for an episode, but they can’t be sure.
IN THE FAMILY
A considerable amount of Michael’s collection includes family heirlooms. Of those, Michael brought to “Antiques Roadshow” his great-great-uncle’s Purple Heart, Bible and documents from World War II.
While Michael cannot pick his favorite antique or vintage item, he has an affinity for those connected to his family. He’s been searching for more items related to his great-great-great-grandfather, William F. Myers, who owned William F. Myers & Sons in Westminster, a meat packing and grocery business. Michael found a wallet stamped with the company’s name.
Michael’s family’s best guess is that the boy’s passion for antiques started with his grandparents’ personal collection. From a young age, Michael was fascinated with possessions from their youth and antiques they’d acquired.
“When they showed me something from their family I was interested in it,” Michael said.
Donning his grandfather’s ring and sporting a pocket watch at home one day in January, Michael pointed out bottles from Westminster Coca-Cola, opera glasses from the early 1900s, a 1919 typewriter, a 1912 serving tray used in a hospital, a spoon from the B&O Railroad, old ice skates and more.
“He won’t let us throw anything away,” Taylor said with a chuckle. “He’s an old man in a young child’s body.”
“He just has a thing about him that is drawn to these things,” Michael’s grandmother Norma Taylor said.
Michael picked up the not-so-heavy items one by one, explaining where he’d bought them, how he researched their age and origin, and their historical significance.
“Few more things in the brain and I’ll explode,” Michael said.
He implored his mother to pick up the items on shelves too high for him to reach, so he could hold them as he told their story.
“Other kids remember baseball players,” Taylor said.
Michael acquires his treasures by attending auctions and antique sales, mostly in Carroll or neighboring counties. He saves money from birthdays and Christmases, Cruz said, or earns a few dollars by helping his grandparents in the yard or shoveling snow in the driveway.
Having been in the antique business for about a year now, Michael is becoming a confident bidder. His first bid was on two flat irons at age 8. Michael estimates they are dated around 1880 and 1890.
Michael has his sights set on becoming a professional appraiser, especially after meeting some of his idols on “Antiques Roadshow.”
“He was so attentive to everything they said to him,” Taylor recalled.
Michael says he plans to keep collecting antiques forever. Ask him to tell you about one of his pieces, and he’ll offer a lengthy story. But ask him how he chooses what to bid on or what’s his favorite antique, and he’ll give a brief response with a wave of his hand.
“Any old thing.”
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