I have a theory that Antiques Roadshow has crept into the fabric of society.
The other evening I was watching a movie (which probably went straight to DVD — because I don’t even remember the title) in which one of the premises was that the grandson got a hold of an illegal TV cable box, which he gave to his grandmother. The next scene features the grandmother and her roommates watching an episode of Antiques Roadshow, watching in disbelief that an antique beer stein could be worth $4,000.
Now, the funny part about this is I was watching in disbelief because I recognized and remembered that exact episode.
And I think that supports the theory that Antiques Roadshow has crept into the fabric of society.
James Supp is a Antiques Roadshow appraiser, and you should know that he will be visiting Hood River in care of the History Museum on April 7. It’s a fundraiser/appraisal session for a good cause.
Mr. Supp was kind enough to talk about his job and the appraisal business — a skill I’m sure a lot of people wished they had more knowledge of. What a cool opportunity to have someone who is already a TV star (and part of the fabric of society that creeps into mainstream movies) right in our backyard. I can’t wait to see who is going to stop by next ... someone from The Great British Baking Show?
Can you describe what it’s really like to work and be televised on the antique roadshow — you must get to see a lot of behind the scenes stuff viewers miss.
Being on Roadshow is a lot of fun, and a tremendous challenge. I may see hundreds of items in a day, and only a tiny fraction of items are ever seen on TV. One thing that viewers may not realize is that our appraisals are not scripted, they play out pretty much like you see them. They may be edited, as some of the times I’ve been filmed have gone on for 10 or 15 minutes, and that gets cut to three or four minutes, mostly to streamline things.
How did you connect with the History Museum?
I was doing an appraisal on a coat that was worn by a survivor on the Titanic, and I reached out to the person that did the conservation report to ask some questions. She mentioned that they were having a charity auction, so I put myself and my services out to the highest bidder!
What is the most valuable thing you’ve ever found at an appraisal?
I’ve appraised collections that are worth several millions of dollars, but for me, the most valuable items are not the ones worth a ton of money, but the ones that tell the best stories! Without the story behind the object, a silver plated plate may be worth on only a few dollars ... but that same plate that we can prove came from the wreckage of the Hindenburg? That gives you a tangible reminder of specific time and place in history. In the market, it may be worth a few thousand dollars, but to a collector or historian, that plate could be priceless.
What skills would you recommend to someone who would want to become an appraiser or maybe just be more knowledgeable in one aspect of collecting?
Network. In the antiques world, there is no way you can know everything, so it’s important to talk with other people who may have skills or knowledge you don’t have, and be able to ask them for help. Meet other people with similar interests, go out and talk to people at antique shows, volunteer at a thrift shop, sorting donations. At a thrift shop, you could be going through hundreds of items in a day, sorting for treasure, and folks who have been there a while can tell you what things to look for, and help you train your eye.
I read that one of your specialties is antique tools. What was the first piece that you collected and how many items has your collection grown to?
I don’t like calling it a collection per se, as I tend to use them! At least, that’s what I tell myself ... I’ve been using old and antique tools since I was a kid, so I really don’t know what my “first” piece is. I think that the first tool I bought with the intention of never using, just because it looked cool, was a pair of dividers, made from steel and brass in about 1820. Of course, I now use them, but at the time, it was a lot more money then a pair of new dividers would have been!