Sales Brisk At Nan Gurley’s Portsmouth Antiques Show

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — If, by definition, an antiques marketplace is where dealers come to actively buy and sell — and leave happy, then Nan Gurley’s Portsmouth Antique Show is a very successful market. For the past five years, dealers from New England have come to gather at the Frank Jones Center, bringing fresh-to-the-market goods to a very interested audience. This event happens once a month from September to April and the hours are 10 am until 3 pm. A nice venue, good food, lots of parking and a very loyal group of exhibitors and buyers are the recipe for success.

Following the September 29 event, Nan Gurley said, “It is the only one-day market for real antiques.” And I can attest to the fact that good country items, as well as more formal pieces, are shown in a broad price range, but all under the heading of affordable. Windsor chairs, period andirons, painted furniture, portraits, lots of good iron lighting, folk art, ship dioramas, as well as period brass candlesticks, oil paintings, good prints and etchings, early delft, signs — this show has it all.

This diversity and quality depends heavily on the exhibitors. From Maine came Bob Foley, Butch Berdan and Tom Jewett, Bill Kelly, Louise Hardie, John Sideli, David Ramsay and Rachel Gurley with an assortment from her delightful group shop in Scarborough. Tommy Thompson led the roster of New Hampshire dealers, along with Paul Sullivan, Josh Steenburgh, Jared Chicoine — a young and active dealer from the north country — Dave Proctor and John Anderson of Candlewick Antiques.

Vermont was well represented by Mike and Lucinda Seward, Susan Gault and Steve Corrigan and Doug Jackman. The Connecticut contingent included Ian McKelvey, Sandy Doig, Harold Cole and Bettina Krainin and Blue Dog Antiques. And Massachusetts was represented by Paul and Linda DeCoste, Matt King, Sue Wirth and Rick Dodge (apologies to any dealers not listed).

The point I am trying to make is that this is a rather fine selection of knowledgeable dealers with good merchandise from across New England. And this show has developed a loyal and strong following of buyers. As the doors open, the regulars pick their favorite entry, and a steady stream of buyers scour the floor and leave with bags filled with carved figures, baskets, paintings, silver and lamps and arms filled with Windsor armchairs, early lighting, portraits and signs.

Said Lucinda Seward, “It’s unusual for us not to have a good show in Portsmouth. We always bring fresh-to-the-market items, as all the dealers there do, and it works. Having a good variety of merchandise at wholesale prices seems to be the way to go these days. We recommend Nan’s show to all our dealer friends; it’s inexpensive and simple, the coffee is free and the food good and we’re home in time for 60 Minutes!” Lucinda and husband Michael are from Pittsford, Vt. Mike told me that he sells, on average, 30–40 items. Lucinda deals in wonderful country accessories and Mike sells everything else — porcelain, Asian items, American Indian artifacts silver, anything unusual.

Most of the dealers said they were happy — and some were very happy — with sales. The items seen changing hands were of every category, with either a good price point or special interest tipping the scales.

Bob Foley, from Gray, Maine, had a fun time selling and made it all look easy. A few of the items he sold were a neat sign, a glazed door hanging cupboard, a cool leather hippopotamus made by Abercrombie & Fitch and a pair of large and decorative marble lamps. Paul Sullivan had his usual assortment of interesting items, and quite a few bags left his booth by 11 am. Included in his sales were a nice Nineteenth Century pair of small oil on canvas portraits.

Bill Kelly of Limington, Maine, can usually be counted on to bring an assortment of country furniture in paint and is young enough to deal in large pieces of furniture, bureaus, cupboards, etc. I kidded him about his only bringing a few tables and accessories. Bill told me he sold all his furniture from his shop this past week. That was refreshing to hear. He did have a good show, as he sold mocha ware, a lovely gold mirror and various other items.

Butch Berdan and Tom Jewett had their usual inventory of better than average colorful accessories, including paint decorated boxes, a nice array of cloth dolls and some lovely architectural pieces. Butch reported that there was a lot of activity, and that it was an easy and fun show to do. Tommy Thompson, NHADA president, member of Keepers Antiques (Chichester, N.H.) and a dear friend, could not stop smiling as he told me that he was having a very good show. He sold signs, carved birds and lots of wonderful, colorful smalls.

By 11 am, Joshua Steenburgh had sold a dozen cool items, all accessories, and still had a lovely Queen Anne blanket chest in dry red paint available. Dale Pregent, coming all the way from Keene, N.H., is a regular exhibitor. Dale offered two ship dioramas for $1,450 that were found in Fitchburg, Mass., and a pair of unusual calligraphies executed by J.E. Cameron, teacher. One of the calligraphies illustrated “ruff” penmanship versus “well-taught” penmanship. And of course, the well-taught calligrapher would be a student of Cameron.

Sandy Doig, veteran dealer in fine Americana from Somers, Conn., is a regular exhibitor and he shares a booth with up-and-coming dealer Ian McKelvey. Together, they jam a lot of fine antiques in a small space. Sandy had two nice Queen Anne candlestands, samplers, Windsors, a few pieces of redware and some fine blown glass in his traditionally oriented inventory.

John Sideli left his store in Wiscasset, Maine, and brought some choice antiques with him. Included were a putty decorated blanket chest, some fine oil paintings and exceptional carvings. Paul and Linda DeCoste rounded out the offerings with a fine selection of decorated pottery and, of course, a broad range of nautical items.

Sue Gault looked like she was having good sales, as several times I could not get into her crowded booth. And Bob Jessen and Jim Hohnwald, fellow New Hampshirites, seemed pleased with the crowd and resulting sales.

Nan Gurley said there were 44 exhibitors at the September show month, and in her experience as a seasoned show promoter, that is the perfect number for a successful event. That being said, the exhibitors hall was jammed with nice quality, mostly country Americana and folk art, but the added spice for this event is the quantity of paintings, prints, silver and porcelain with a sprinkling of jewelry. It is a great source for dealers, collectors and antiques enthusiasts. They came, they viewed, they purchased.

This will happen again on October 20 at the next event. If you can get there, the doors open at 10 am. Visitors not be disappointed. Then they can head up Route 1 to Maine, where they will find more good antiquing in many of the fine antiques and multidealers stores that line the road. And, of course, treat themselves to the requisite lobster roll or clam chowder.

The Frank Jones Center is at 400 Route 1 Bypass. For information, 207-625-3577 or 207-625-5028.

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