Long before Antiques Roadshow made everyone an amateur appraiser, Ralph and Terry Kovel were helping people navigate the tricky world of antiques and collectibles with their specific, comprehensive guides designed for every niche.
Ralph and Terry Kovel embarked on their career as antiquing gurus while trying to furnish their first apartment on a budget, according to a newspaper bio. "Neither of us was trained in art, antiques or writing," Terry remembers. "We came from nowheresville as far as the experts were concerned. Maybe that's why we can write what we write, because we think like beginners and write in plain language."
They published their first guide, the Dictionary of Marks: Pottery and Porcelain in 1953. The first edition of Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles, published in 1968, was the first commercially published book to be sold in bookstores that was written and printed on a computer.
Since then, the Kovels have steadily expanded their reach as foremost authorities on old stuff of all kinds. The Kovels have been on television since their 1969 public-television series Know Your Antiques. Their current television program, the award-winning Flea Market Finds with the Kovels, begans its second season on HGTV (Home and Garden Television) in the fall of 2002. They also have a syndicated newspaper column.
Since 1974 the Kovels have published a national subscription-only newsletter, Kovels on Antiques and Collectibles, which has more than 150,000 subscribers in the United States and Canada.
The Kovels are obsessive collectors, and they still make room for new "finds" in their antiques-filled home in Ohio. Their most recent purchase: an 1880s shoeshine stand. They still haven't figured out where they'll put that one. The Kovels home also includes a library filled with 18,000 books about antiques, although they do find time for other types of reading -- Ralph tends to read business-related books, while Terry especially enjoys murder mysteries.
Good To Know
Ralph and Terry Kovel ("Kovel" rhymes with "Oh Hell!") have collected and worked together throughout their 50-plus-year marriage -- Yes, and they are still married! They have two married children and three granddaughters, all of whom live in 1950s houses.
Terry taught math at a boys' school. Ralph has been in the food business as a manufacturer and executive for years, which explains the 1890s country store in their basement.
The Kovels' strangest claim to fame: They once were offered as shopping companions as part of a prize on a Publishers Clearinghouse contest. They were the subject of a question on the TV game show Jeopardy, cited as experts on an episode of the TV series Northern Exposure, and mentioned in a murder mystery by Elmore Leonard.