Published: March 13, 2017
Strange Inheritance, Fox Business Network’s series that explores unusual stories of inheritance, continues in its third season this year, with stories that range from Abraham Lincoln’s rail splitter to Jane Austen’s ring. Host Jamie Colby each week brings viewers along as she peeks into the unusual, sometimes bizarre objects that people have inherited and the stories behind them.
What sparked your interest in investigating the strange items that are passed down in families?
I had studied and then practiced law for a decade trying to learn everything I could to help my clients accumulate both knowledge and the financial wherewithal to experience the most fulfilling lives and careers they could. And I was truly successful at it. But the year my Dad passed away, I realized there was a whole other chapter to wealth accumulation that I had not focused on – wealth transfer. That’s about the same time Fox came to me and asked if I had any interest leaving my top-rated weekend news program to host a show meeting families in that same situation. All we had at the time was a show title Strange Inheritance, but that alone was enough to intrigue me. The day Fox asked, I accepted!
Most interesting find ever?
This season, finding a ring belonging to the great author Jane Austen and traveling to the United Kingdom to see it – and try it on ! – was by far a most interesting find for me. For a woman who had to publish her first great novel under the name “A lady” because being a female writer in those days was unheard of made me want to learn everything I could about her and the significance of the ring she bequeathed. Kelly Clarkson, the American Idol pop star, bought it at auction but as viewers will see in the episode, she doesn’t get to keep it!
How much time do you spend on the road?
Finding collections worthy of a Strange Inheritance episode takes time, and this year we spent about 300 days traveling to 37 cities and across the pond. It’s a daily adventure both for our story development team and my road crew and we thrive on it! There are about 80 people working on our show now but we started season one with just a handful.
A favorite personal passion to collect?
I am really passionate about contemporary and Modern art and collect what I can afford! But Strange Inheritance has opened my eyes to how exciting it can be to collect anything rare, including insects – yes, check out the May family bug collection worth millions – coins, baseball cards – we found the oldest dating back to before the Civil War – and a Stradivarius cello with an incredible family story come to mind. My son jokes that his strange inheritance will be shoes!
How was transitioning from news anchor to your current hosting duties?
I’ve mentored hundreds of enthusiastic and hardworking young people from high school through graduate school and I always suggest they consider law school as the perfect training ground for journalism. When you are live on the air in any breaking news situation you must be able to keep a level head, digest and explain in plain language a ton of information with context. That’s pretty much what you do daily in law school and in practice you learn how it all applies in the real world. I did not set out to have a career in front of the camera, but the transition, given my hard work and determination in college and law school, has made the transition seamless.
So, what are your thoughts about the intersection of law and inheritance?
I’ve always advocated education about money – particularly saving money – should begin as early as grade school. Sadly, it’s a subject that gets overlooked. My brother Jonathan, now a retired senior circuit court judge, taught me early on if you make $10 babysitting, put $2 away, and I did. I’ve met so many families with inheritances they simply don’t know how to handle. You’d be surprised how much anyone can learn just by picking up a Wall Street Journal. When the time comes to deal with end-of-life issues or an inheritance, information attained is power in decisionmaking achieved.
How is this season shaping up for new episodes?
This season, it’s been remarkable to see how many viewers have responded to my shout-out on the show to write me with their own story ideas. For Season 3, 11 of our 28 half-hour episodes came from those viewer submissions. There also seems to be no end in sight for new episode ideas. We are already lining up 26 new shows for Season 4. Just when we think we’ve seen or heard of the most interesting or most unusual inheritance, another email pours in.
How do folks contact you to suggest their own strange inheritances?
We hear often from auction houses, appraisers, educators and collectors themselves, but sometimes it’s been a neighbor of someone with the most unique John Deere tractor collection or a descendant of a military member with a bloody Civil War uniform sleeve. They’re not sure what they have, but want our help to know more. As we dig deeper, the stories often unfold into something none of us ever imagined. We use quite a resource of visuals to tell these stories, including drones, steady-cam and historic footage a family could not access on its own. So if you have an idea, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My team and I read every submission.
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