Published: October 9, 2018
Review and Photos by Greg Smith
YORK, PENN. – And then there was one. With the cancelation of the Greater York Antiques Show just shy of its 50th edition, Melvin “Butch” Arion’s Original Semi-Annual York Antiques Show and Sale is back to square one as the singular antiques show in York. A battle-proven vessel, the show has survived a long barrage of competition from other promoters – at one time, there were eight shows in York – who hoped to seize on its ideal location between the mid-Atlantic and the Ohio Valley region. But Arion’s Original York show is again the only, perhaps because of tradition, but also because of his resiliency and his resistance to change. The September 21-23 edition marked its 171st event with 96 dealers coming together for a show focused on American antiques – furniture with finished and painted surfaces, folk art objects, signage, ceramics, historical paintings from academic and folk artists, jewelry, weathervanes, clocks, primitives, gameboards and more, totaling an exhibition of fidelity to the genre, hand-in-hand with a show that has always espoused the very same.
“I’m sad to see it go,” said Arion, speaking about Greater York’s departure. “And I feel for Bob Bockius, he and I are friends. The show business is tough right now.”
Arion mentioned that attendance was down on Friday and Saturday from last year, but he believed his promotion was as strong as it had been in years past. Confusion between the two shows, from buyers who have never been able to differentiate between them, may have accounted for some of that.
Blowing air in the winds of change, there is a growing chorus of exhibitors who believe that a three-day September show is drawn out.
“I may change to a two-day show in September,” Arion said. “But it comes at a time when there’s already confusion about the shows.
“There are so many for it and so many against it. Some say Friday and Saturday, others Saturday and Sunday. I wouldn’t want to lose the Friday crowd, that’s when the dealers and collectors are in line and ready to go.
“Some say, ‘We’re here and set up, let’s spend as much time selling as possible,’ while others want to pack it up after the second day. You can’t please everybody, but we’ll see.”
The show floor was a mix of color on Thursday as dealers were setting up in preparation of the Friday opening, popping in and out of each other’s booths and catching up.
A selection of early wrought iron objects was in the booth of Jewett-Berdan Antiques, Newcastle, Maine. The dealers featured a trotting horse weathervane with a star above on a standing cupola. “I like homemade weathervanes much more than factory ones,” Butch Berdan said. In the opposite corner of the booth was an American wrought iron dancing minstrel, about 18 inches high, in a top hat and overcoat with original white paint and red lips. “All the hinges are hand-forged,” Berdan said. “It was a toy someone had made up for a kid. Those are the best kinds of things.”
Right across the aisle was Michael Newsom and Betty Berdan, who had a number of squirrels in their booth. “This is a squirrely place,” joked Betty Berdan. On their center table sat a painted carving of a squirrel with her babies alongside, about 15 inches long, with a well-carved flowing tail off her backside. On the wall behind sat two squirrels, one on the lid of a painted wallpaper box and the other on a small hooked rug. The dealer also had a large carnival sign in a vivid yellow, green, blue and red with a painted leopard at the crest advertising “3¢ a pull” and guaranteeing a prize won every time.
Richard “Smitty” Axtell of Deposit, N.Y., was showing off a John George Brown painting of children playing in the countryside. “We just bought it out of a fairly good-sized collection in New York state,” Axtell said. “Brown was known for his paintings of children in the Nineteenth Century. This is the first time this has seen the market.” The dealer also featured two nicely carved Native American effigy scoops, one with a horse head handle and the other with a human head. One could see the teeth marks around the edges from when they were originally used. While the horse head was probably Iroquois, the human head was likely Northwest Coast.
It was a first time at York for Pamela Apkarian-Russell, historian at the Castle Halloween Museum in Altoona, Penn. The dealer runs a show circuit throughout the year offering a selection of holiday collectibles. Apkarian-Russell is the author of ten titles surveying Halloween collectibles, collector’s guides and others. Sitting on the table was a vintage poster image of Mighty Mouse advertising UNICEF’s Halloween fundraising effort to collect money for “over 56 million needy children and mothers in more than 100 countries.” Apkarian-Russell said, “UNICEF has been doing Halloween fundraising since the 1950s.”
A large group of cottage and castle pastille burners were in the booth of William R. and Teresa F. Kurau, Lampeter, Penn., some from the collection of the late Campbell’s Soup heiress Dodo Hamilton. “The lilac ones are very unusual,” William Kurau said, pointing to two of the larger examples. “There’s a bunch in here that I have never seen before. Some of them were from some well-known, old-time dealers.” The dealer also featured a collection of prints from Currier and Ives that were all included in the “Best 50.” They included “Bound Down The River,” “Maple Sugaring,” “Blue Fishing,” “The Sleigh Race,” “Falls of Niagara” and “American Whalers Crushed In The Ice.”
A Nineteenth Century Baltimore papercutting with reference to Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” was in the booth of Doug and Bev Norwood, Timonium, Md. The work featured minute and detailed cuts in between leaves that hung off drooping trees, surrounding a monument to Henry Weeks, Mary Wallace and Ellen.
Don and Betty Jo Heim, Jersey Shore, Penn., brought with them their 100 percent authentic collection – never a reproduction – of cast iron banks and assorted toys. The dealers featured a Shepard “Mason” mechanical bank in good paint. The bank was designed in 1887 by Charles G. Shepard and Peter Adams Jr for the Buffalo N.Y., Shepard Hardware Co. Placing a coin in the mason’s hod and pressing the lever would lower the hod down and drop the coin into the brick wall while the second mason would raise his arm to receive it.
An Auguste Edouart silhouette grouping on original inkwash was in the booth of Christopher and Bernadette Evans Antiques, Waynesboro, Va. It featured 11 adults, 2 children and a cat socializing in a high-ceiling living room and was dated 1839 with the artist’s 411 Broadway, New York City address. Chris Evans remarked that it had been on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for almost 30 years prior.
Toby Chittum of Charley Horse Antiques, Partlow, Va., returned to York after a hiatus with a number of Outsider artists under her arm, including RA Miller, JC and a painted wood sculpture by Robert Howell. At the center of her booth was a large oil painting by German artist Robert Keil. Of note was a William Spratling for Taxco tin mirror. “People are familiar with his works in silver, but he also worked in tin,” Chittum said. Featuring eagles and lions, the only other similar example she was able to find was in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
New Oxford, Penn., dealer Kelly Kinzle had a colorful booth, which included a Pennsylvania painted cake box. Kinzle said it was from the 1830s and mostly poplar. It sat on a New England maple tavern table from the 1770s. Kelly had just purchased a long-form late Nineteenth Century painted box that he thought was probably for an instrument. It featured old pencil marks under the top and painted tulips on the outside.
Doug Jackman and Stephen Corrigan sold more volume than anyone at York this round, if you included the sale of Jackman’s still banks in Bertoia Auctions’ sale over the same weekend (reviewed in our October 12, 2018 issue). The dealers formed an emotional yin and yang, Stephen a bit more anxious than Doug, who shrugged and said, “It’s time to let them go.” Among their usual selection of Americana, the dealers had a leather Toby set that included a pitcher and two mugs. “I’ve never seen the mugs before,” Jackman said. “They’re very interesting. Of course, the pitchers are more common.” They also had an Eighteenth Century American trestle-based shoe foot table. Corrigan said, “There’s only a handful of these, it’s a pretty important thing.”
The show will be back at the York Fairgrounds February 1-3. For more information, 302-875-5326 or www.theoriginalyorkantiquesshow.com.
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