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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Endearing ‘Roadshow’: Coeur d’Alene appraiser James Supp has always loved old stuff

By Cynthia Reugh For The Spokesman-Review

James Supp once dreamed of owning an antique store, but life threw him a monkey wrench.

“The world had different plans for me,” Supp said.

While he doesn’t have an antiques store, exactly, he still keeps his hands in the antiques trade.

He served several years overseas with the U.S. Army before returning home to Tucson, Arizona. There, he established Coronado Trading Company, a business which specializes in the appraisal, consulting and brokering of fine art, antiques, collectibles and decor. The company is now based in Coeur d’Alene.

Not only does he appraise antiques, he gets to work directly with them. A skilled artisan, Supp has used his own vintage tools to restore or reproduce everything from medieval armor and 16th-century German costumes to Picasso sculptures.

“I always loved building and creating things. Ever since I was a little kid I was always taking things apart and putting them back together,” said Supp, who fell into a dream position with the popular PBS program, “Antiques Roadshow,” after producers invited him to replace a regular tool appraiser who had called in sick.

Fifteen years later, he is still enjoying the ride.

“I get to see some really amazing items, some really amazing collections and I don’t have to pay for it. I don’t have to buy them. I don’t have to curate them. I get to play with them, appraise them, photograph them, talk to the owners, share the stories and then I get to walk away from them. That is amazing!” said Supp, who moved with his family to Coeur d’Alene in 2016.

A colorful narrator who has sported a distinctive handlebar mustache on and off since his teenage years, Supp is fascinated with history and intrigued by items that convey strange or odd tales.

“The stories and the people are the only reasons any of this matters. If these objects didn’t help share a story or tell a story or if it wasn’t about people, I honestly don’t think that anyone would really care,” he said.

Over the years, Supp’s appraisal work has taken him all across the United States, but one of his favorite moments unfolded in Spokane during a 2015 “Antiques Roadshow” visit.

“This kid brought in a comic collection. I’d seen good comic collections come through the ‘Roadshow’ over the years, but this thing was awesome,” Supp said. “The kid was so charming. He was so nice. We just nerded out. It was just a wonderful experience for me. It was so much fun. It was like meeting myself frankly, someone who had a lot of the same interests. So we just geeked out, giggling and laughing and having a great old time,” added Supp, who appraised the young man’s 1963 “The Avengers” comics No. 1 and No. 2 for an auction value between $4,450 and $6,550.

The story didn’t end there. The two men met up again several years later at a Seattle “Antiques Roadshow” event.

“In the interim, he had gotten these comics signed and graded. He had them signed by Stan Lee … the godfather of the comics world,” said Supp, who still keeps in touch with the Spokane-area man. “He is one of the great examples of why I love doing the ‘Roadshow.’ I love meeting people and sharing our experiences and love for this stuff.”

While the internet affords collectors an opportunity to self-appraise antiques and collectibles with a few clicks, Supp warned online information can be misleading without a solid understanding of the context behind it.

“The problem is there’s so much of it,” said Supp, who cited the yo-yo pricing of Beanie Babies as a prime example. “There is no answer on the internet. What it does is it helps to give you indicators of value that help you reach a value conclusion,” he said.

“One of the biggest challenges in the local area is that we have a lot of great old collections kicking around of things that frankly, no one wants anymore,” said Supp, who offered myriad reasons for this phenomena, including a saturated secondary market created by aging baby boomers and a lack of interest in vintage collectibles by younger generations.

“A lot of kids didn’t grow up with these items. They don’t understand why carnival glass is important to mom. They weren’t allowed to touch it or play with it. They don’t have any real connection to it, so when they inherit it they just want to get rid of it.”

Anyone interested in watching Supp work will have a chance next weekend. On Saturday, Supp will lead the treasure hunt during Antiques Appraisal Day at the historic Fort Sherman Chapel in Coeur d’Alene. Funds raised from the e vent will benefit the J.C. White House, future home to the Museum of North Idaho. Appraisal tickets are sold out, but spectators are welcome.

“Everywhere, everybody is kind of the same. They want to share their stories and share their objects and want to learn more, and that’s why I love doing these events,” Supp said.