Review & Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
YORK, PENN. — Like clockwork, Melvin Arion put on the 182nd Original Semi-Annual York Antiques Show, moving 65 dealers into Memorial Hall East on the York Fairgrounds and Expo Center that welcomed throngs of shoppers Friday and Saturday, February 2-3. In its previous edition on September 22-23, inclement weather kept attendance low, so expectations were pleasantly exceeded when the weather cooperated with cool but dry conditions. Not only did a long line form ahead of the Friday morning opening but traffic remained steadily busy throughout the two-day event. A few dealers were last-minute cancellations, from illness, and show manager Melvin “Butch” Arion was able to fill most of the empty booths with dealers who were happy to be there.
“The way things have been everywhere else I just didn’t know what to expect but it was a very nice, very successful show and I was very, very pleased. The attendance was wonderful, the enthusiasm on the part of the dealers and people who came was great and the compliments have been never-ending.” While he couldn’t make any direct attributions to its success, he noted it had always been a strong show with reputable dealers.
Sometimes it takes a little bit of luck to spice up that tried and true recipe for a great show.
Sagamore, Mass., dealer Brian Cullity was a last-minute addition to the show and set up in the front-of-show booth typically occupied by Bob and Claudia Haneberg. Among noteworthy objects on hand were a pair of pastel portraits by Ruth Bascom, some Liverpool pitchers, a 17-inch lusterware bowl from Valencia, Spain, and a red-painted four-drawer chest with an unusual scalloped top he had acquired from Peter Eaton that was attributed to Southern New England, late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century.
“I used to do shows in Pennsylvania but haven’t for a few years. It was nice to be back in my old stomping grounds and see a lot of the people I used to see there, selling to some of them and to new clients,” said Cullity. “It was a decent show, I sold some furniture, silver, prints, some Native American things. And some ceramics but not much. I was very pleased with the gate and the interest people showed.
Paris, Ky., dealer Blandon Cherry had recently participated for the first time at the Washington (DC) Winter Show, and he was called in to help Arion fill an empty booth on the floor. Occupying pride of place in the center of his booth was a pair of cast iron lions made by Wallace Lithgow of Louisville, Ky., circa 1870. Also of interest was a large swan decoy and a sporting painting of a dog titled “Last Light” by Pameal Dennis Hall.
“York was great, I was really happy,” the first time exhibitor told us over the phone. “I sold across all lines: furniture, paintings, smalls, stoneware and folk art, including a lodge deer. The gate was fantastic and consistent, and all my sales were to new customers. My only wish in this case was that the show had been open on Sunday so we could have continued selling one more day!”
Other first-time exhibitors were Jim and Butch McGrath, from Scituate, Mass. When we caught up with Butch, he was coming off a one-day show in Adamstown, Penn., that followed the York show. “I made a couple of good new connections with clients who were buying silver and early paper. That alone made the show for me.” Some of his sales among several included a very fine broadside from the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and jewelry.
Greg Kramer’s booth, just to the left of the door to the main show floor, would not be described as “sparse.” The oversize booth was chock-a-block full, with several items that caught this reporter’s eye. A painted clock that hailed from a Midwest Collection was one such piece, as was a rare paint-decorated Pennsylvania architectural dower chest, a Soap Hollow painted chest of drawers with a backsplash and dated 1851, and a black and white carved wooden pig that dominated one of the front tables.
Joe Lodge has another one of the first booths into the show and evidence of sales sprouted almost immediately, including a small painted chest, tin snuffer and green-glazed redware jar.
Next to Lodge was Stockton, N.J., dealer, James Grievo. In addition to furniture and fine and decorative works, textiles were particularly noteworthy offerings. A contemporary presentation quilt with patriotic motifs was hung along the booths outside wall while the interior was graced by a pinwheel crib quilt on a light green ground and a vibrantly colorful circa 1870-80 silk coverlet Grievo had found in Pennsylvania. As if that weren’t enough, his other outer wall was dominated by another large red, white and blue quilt.
“I had a really good show and did fine,” Grievo confirmed in a post-show phone call. When asked what he sold, he said he sold to both new and existing clients “a lot of stuff, including samplers and stoneware.”
“York was really good, the best one in recent memory,” declared Ron Bassin, who had picked up a large collection of Grenfell works from a Pennsylvania collector before the show, and who noted he and his fellow exhibitors got a shot of adrenaline from how busy and engaged showgoers were. Bassin sold a codfish carved by Frank Finney within the first hour of the show and over the course of the event, a Joseph White watercolor, some decoys and “just tons of fun little things.” He reported a great story of the sale of a Wendel Gilley carved and painted bufflehead to a great long-time customer who recently moved to a new house in Maryland where they could see a flock of buffleheads out their living room window. The client was so pleased with their purchase they sent Bassin a photo of their view when they got home.
Hilary and Paulette Nolan are Bassin’s across-the-aisle neighbors and Hilary called us after the show to say how nice it was to see new people as well as familiar faces, all with interest and what he characterized as “huge energy.” He sold a punched-tin pie safe in its original paint, some nice woodenware, a walnut Dutch cupboard and a great pair of sconces, including other sales on the second day.
Bill Union and Mary Cormier of Art & Antiques Gallery, Holden, Mass., occupy a large booth at the front of the hall. Among several recently acquired works that were making their debuts were landscapes by William Emerson Baum (American, 1884-1956) and Emil Gruppé (American, 1896-1978) and a dark still life by African American artist, Robert Duncanson (1821-1872).
Alongside her jewelry that is perennially popular with buyers, Sandy Jacobs had some striking folk art portraits of girls and a gorgeous candlewick or counterpane quilt dated 1825 that had been made by Jane Houghton, probably for a wedding. Jacobs had nothing but good things to say about the show when we caught up with the Swampscott, Mass., dealer a day or two after the show closed. “We had the biggest gate both days that I’ve seen in years at York. I sold across the board: folk art, carvings, jewelry and even photography. It was so nice seeing so many people there. I sold to both regular customers and new ones; one came both days and bought. I am still getting calls and making sales of items after the show.”
Tom Jewett and Butch Berdan set up across the aisle from Jacobs and were busy from the moment the doors opened. Jewett messaged Antiques and The Arts Weekly shortly after the show wrapped, saying “The show was good for us and I think most dealers did well. It was the best crowd we have seen in years there, both days. We had 30 sales all together, selling to a mix of clients with the usual but also a lot of first time customers. Our best sale was a Facebook sale of an expensive German Santa candy container we advertised we were bringing to the show.”
Lisa Minardi wears several hats these days, not only her dealer hat but also one as executive director of Historic Trappe and editor of Americana Insights. “Attendance was great at York. I sold a very nice fraktur bookplate by Johann Adam Eyer and some other pieces, mostly smalls. I also brought a selection of new books to sell for Historic Trappe, including our new David Ellinger catalog and Americana Insights. Also, the new Rittenhouse clocks book. These all sold extremely well, people were excited to see new Americana publications and learn about new research and exhibitions.”
This is the 16th year Chris and Bernadette Evans have exhibited at York. Gameboards, weathervanes, stoneware and redware, hooked rugs and painted furniture are among their staples and they were busy throughout the show. A black and yellow gameboard was one of the first to leave the booth, trading hands within the first hour of the show.
In the show’s inner lobby, Michael Paul Gunselman had a large shelving unit filled with tin wagons, firetrucks and other vehicles, while a table that fronted the booth had a more tin objects and a carousel in red, white and blue paint. “It’s been an OK show,” he told us, noting he had a very good set-up with lots of sales to other dealers.
“It was an outstanding morning. It was a very strong gate and buying from both trade and private buyers has been excellent. I sold a painting, but textiles have been my best-selling category,” said Jane Langol, from Medina, Ohio. She was also showing in the inner lobby, in between the main door to the outer lobby and the show’s canteen. Among her textile sales was a colorful Ohio star quilt that was “perfectly square” and a 13-foot-long Ohio rug.
“The show turned out well for me,” reported Connecticut dealer Joy Hanes. “Opening day was like the old days; tons of people, and the lovely buzz in the air of people buying antiques, which lasted the better part of two or three hours. And even after it quieted down, customers were still wandering around looking for things to enhance their collections or decorate their homes. Having exhibited in the show for well over 30 years, there were lots of people to greet and catch up with. We sold mostly ceramics, but other smalls as well. It all added up to a good show. The best shows are when you can go home happy both financially and socially.”
Furniture is sometimes a hard category to move, not least because it can be large enough to discourage on-the-spot purchases. However, it was selling in various booths around the show, including a six-drawer tall chest with either Don Heller or Wesley Sessa. Richard Worth traded hands on a two-drawer lift-top blanket chest, while Blandon Cherry found a new home for a tiger maple dressing table from Delaware. Newburgh, N.Y., dealers Daniel and Karen Olson took to Facebook after the show closed to announce they’d sold four pieces of New York and New England furniture as well as 34 additional items.
Southern dealer Larry Thompson brought from Georgia several impressive things, including a landscape by Anton Hlavacek (Austrian, 1842-1926), a Federal mahogany server attributed to Maryland, circa 1790 and a tall chest from the Piedmont area of North Carolina. Dotted throughout his booth were small colorful still life paintings done by contemporary British artist, Jane Palmer. Thompson said the small pieces “really colors up” his booth.
The weekend before the York Show, Madison, Wis., dealer Zac Ziebarth had been in Las Vegas at the Old West Show. He noted that the East Coast market for Native American things “has gotten stronger” so he brought several Native American artifacts, including baskets, beaded objects and textiles. He was enthusiastic about what he continues to see as growing interest from a younger audience, and explained why.
“It was a really good show for me as well. I felt it was a great crowd, especially on opening day but also on Saturday. I made some good connections. Native American work sold quite well, including beadwork, baskets and Navajo jewelry, but also good early smalls. Native American objects seem to be a category that transcends so many different time periods and aesthetics; you can decorate with it more easily than some other categories because it pairs well with so many different things. And there’s some really great stuff that can be had at an affordable entry price point for many collectors.”
The 183rd Original York Antiques Show is scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday, September 20-21. For information, www.theoriginalyorkantiquesshow.com.