By RUSS OLIVO
When Travis Landry charted the path to his professional future, he listened to the angels of his practical nature and set his college compass on course for a career in nuclear engineering.
But it was already too late. It had been for years.
Ever since he flipped his first set of toy robot Transformers for double what he paid – when he was just 13 years old – the Cumberland native had been bitten by the collector’s bug. And there was no cure.
“I took a $700 loan from my mom and dad, bought a collection out of Connecticut and flipped it for $1,400,” recalls Landry. “And I got to keep the best piece, which is still in my living room in Uxbridge.”
Now employed as the director of pop culture at Bruneau and Co. Antiques & Fine Art Auctions, in Cranston, Landry is a regular guest appraiser on the Public Broadcasting System’s “Antiques Roadshow.” But even at 23 years old, Landry – the son of Millville Public Safety Chief Ronald Landry – is already an old hand in the antiques and collectibles TV genre.
“Antiques Roadshow” is the third TV program in the genre Landry has been associated with since 2012 – when he was still a senior at Mt. St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket.
It all goes back to his early obsession with the Japanese-made Transformers, the toy robots many of us know from the big screen, where – thanks to special effects – we see them morph from classic cars into imperious mechanical beings with the powers of superheroes.
When Landry was just 13 years old, his parents took him to a store at Emerald Square Mall in Attleboro, the Toy Vault, where he saw a vintage Transformer packed in a box.
“It just looked really cool and I decided it was what I wanted for Christmas,” said Landry.
The only problem was the price tag: $350 bucks. His parents got the message, but they kept Landry in suspense that gift-giving season right up to the last minute. When the family was opening their presents, they gave him the empty box the 1985 “Jetfire” model Transformer had been packaged in at the store, convincing him – briefly – that it was all they could afford.
After giving Landry a few minutes to ponder the cardboard void, his father suddenly appeared with the prized contents.
Landry’s passion for Transformers and other toys was so strong he learned everything he could about them. His knowledge set him up for his continuing sideline as a TV expert when, at age 16, he saw an ad on Craigslist seeking guests who wanted to be part of a “new TV reality show.”
In his first appearances, he was a guest seller pitching toys to the host.
By the time he was a senior at Mount, the producers of “Toy Hunter” asked him to join the show as a cast member. Landry continued appearing on “Toy Hunter” through his early years at University of Massachusetts in Lowell – until the Travel Channel discontinued the show after several seasons.
But there was more TV in store for Landry. Not long after the Travel Channel discontinued “Toy Hunter,” Landry joined the cast of what was then a new show on RIPBS about collecting – “Antiques Alley” – which is how he met his current boss, Kevin Bruneau, proprietor of Bruneau & Co. Antiques & Fine Art Auctions.
Despite his well-developed fascination with antiques, art and collectibles, Landry enrolled at University of Massachusetts with the aim of pursuing a course of studies he thought was sure to lead to a rewarding career in the sciences, but it didn’t take him long to change his mind.
He later transferred to Framingham State University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Parlaying the degree and his experience into another TV gig, he joined the cast of regular arts and collectibles appraisers on “Antiques Roadshow” in 2017 at the age of 22.
“I’m the youngest appraiser in the history of the show,” says Landry. “I’m younger than the show itself.”
On “Roadshow,” Landry is assigned to the “collectibles department,” which covers just about anything worth collecting – everything from comics and toys, to “automobilia” and Dr. Seuss illustrations to boomer-era school lunchboxes. “Anything that’s past a 1960s item, where it’s not a true antique, where it’s retro and fun and people want to spend money on it,” says Landry.
Being a regular on “Roadshow” doesn’t mean he appears in every episode. Cast appraisers get called onto the set for face time with viewers when guests show up with the right piece – an heirloom painting or an old chair, for example – for which their specific expertise is required.
But chances are good that Landry will become a more familiar face in the next season of “Roadshow.” In the last one, he was on hand for just three of the season’s standard five filming locations. This season, he’s going to all five.
In a few days, he’ll be heading to Phoenix, San Antonio, Sacramento, Bonanzaville, N.D. and Winterthur, Md. with the crew of “Roadshow” to begin collecting material for the next season. Typically, each location visit translates into three episodes of the show, which dates back to 1977 and was originally produced in England by the British Broadcasting Corporatiion.
Landry says he has “about eight jobs,” including his full-time gig Bruneau & Co., which specializes in simultaneous online and onsite auctions. At Bruneau, Landry says his duties as director of pop culture include organizing auctions for toys, comic books, furniture and other collectibles. Among his chores is deciding what goes into the company’s published auction catalogues when a seller decides to unload his or her collection, or a piece of it. “I’m like the judge and jury before we publish a catalogue,” says Landry.
One of the things Landry finds so fascinating about the business of buying and selling antiques is that it’s so volatile and unpredictable. He learned that firsthand a couple of years ago when he bought an antique Chinese table at a yard sale for $250 and later resold it – for $13,000.
“It’s tough,” says Landry. “It’s like predicting the weather.”
Every so often, the Blackstone Valley native gets to organize a catologue for Bruneau with some decidedly hometown flavor. On April 6, for example, Bruneau & Co. will be selling off 165 lots from the collection of George White, a Woonsocket resident who once ran an antiques shop in the city called Gem Furniture.
The collection includes everything from a Chinese vessel in a form known as “Gui,” a bronze sculpture of a nude female by German artist Ernst Seger, hand-blown glass tumblers, a Quing Dynasty porcelain bowl from the 19th century and a trove of other trinkets, primitives and furniture.
“This is a massive collection of things,” says Landry. “This is a huge collection.”
Woonsocket, he says, has always been a historically rich territory for the antique-hunter, particularly in the Victorian houses located in the city’s North End.
The White auction will pit online bidders against others in the Bruneau display room at 68 Fourth Ave. in Cranston, but later this spring Bruneau will have a live auction at White’s house in Woonsocket.
“He has a massive house,” says Landry. “He’s looking to downsize. Like anybody else, who wants to carry around a bunch of stuff with them?”
Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo