Published: February 11, 2003
Story and photos by W.A. Demers and Carol Sims
On Pier 90 Miriam Arno Assion, Assion20, Newtown, Penn., had just celebrated her first year as a dealer, although she was previously associated with David Rago auctions. As the new kid on the block, only the second weekend of the was an option. The first weekend or the choice of doing both weekends (with new merchandise and on a different pier) was reserved for dealers who have been with Stella Show Mgmt. Co. from the beginning.
Assion specializes in European pottery of the Twentieth Century and prefers to buy her ceramics in Europe. “Our merchandise is fresh to the market,” said Assion. On a weekend when many of her peers were not having such a great show, Assion was selling Denbach, Boch Frères, Métenier, Royal Copenhagen, Villerory and Boch, Amphora and others. She attributes part of her success to the informative tags on the merchandise, the broad range as well as the depth of the collection she presents — usually at least three or four pieces from each pottery — and the expensive museum-quality showcases and lighting. “For us the pier show is a huge part of our business,” said Assion, who only does shows. She is waiting to hear about a spot on the pier for March, and would jump at the chance to participate.
Other findings on Pier 90 included a great selection of vintage barware, clocks, radios, lighters and cigarette cases, and Bakelite jewelry at Full Circle Antiques, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. For larger furniture-sized radios, Vintage Radios, Huntington, N.Y., offered several. Their huge 1937 Zenith Radio had an impressive Deco design. Cross Century Antiques, Sudbury, Mass., brought a 1940s juke box that needed some restoration but was nonetheless turning heads with its illuminated Deco case.
Last Century Ltd, Holicong, Penn., brought about a dozen table lamps from the 1950s and 60s among other things. Longbrook Antiques, Stratford, Conn., brought an interesting Jefferson Lamp Co. table lamp circa 1928 with reverse painted rose blossoms, and a filigree lampshade banding that had the look of a trellis. Emerging from the heavier Arts and Crafts aesthetic, the lamp had a delicate, more feminine design and coloration.
Vintage fashion was scattered around the pier, with perhaps less in evidence than at Triple Pier. There were still plenty of interesting finds for both men and women. Browsing the show one could find hats, dresses, belts, shoes, scarves, etc. Impulse buying was fueling the many jewelry dealers on Pier 90, too. There were several levels of jewelry, from high-end designer pieces to costume baubles and bangles. Kenneth Buckly, Winchester, Mass., had several vintage pipes and a Nineteenth Century tabletop wooden pipe rack that could hold ten thin-stemmed pipes.
WellSpring Antiques, Co, Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., brought British optical instruments from the mid to late Nineteenth Century. A former industrial designer, antiques dealer Allen Abramson said, “I look upon them as sculptures. What they do seems very straightforward and honest.” He displayed several types of early brass microscopes and a pair of brass binoculars.
Even though he is officially retired from his design career, Abramson could not resist designing antiques display cases for himself and fellow dealers. They are replicas of vintage cases with modern advantages. He selected scratch resistant acrylic instead of glass, and they are foldable cases that do not take up much room when they are transported.
Joseph Cantaro, Bayside, N.Y., brought a framed Folies Bergère poster and several leaded glass lamps. R. Hollingshead Antiques, Villanova, Penn., specializes in silver, but also brought a few sets of china. The dealer had an unusual decorative majolica plate with a voluminous crab at center. Linda Schramm Antiques, New Milford, Conn., brought a large circa 1920s Weller frog in matt green that measures 81/2 inches tall. Golden Oldies, Flushing, N.Y., crammed its space with faux bamboo tables, commodes, chests, armoires and chairs. This was accessorized with a few textiles, and ceramic pieces. Lisa and Steve Fisch Antiques of Wappinger Falls, N.Y., brought architectural elements, Arts and Crafts windows with colored glass and a front door minus the hardware in old paint with a leaded glass floral design on top.
White Orchard Antiques, Malvern, Penn., brought a service for 12 in the Lenox Essix Maroon pattern. It was displayed with gold plated flatware, gold rimmed wine glasses and cordials, gold salt and peppers, and a magnificent pair of Nineteenth Century Chinese export bowls on pedestals, circa 1920s with gold accents of course. This brought people into the booth. “Display is everything. You have got to give people ideas on how things can look,” said Howard Roberts. Roberts has been doing all the pier shows for 15 years. After the show he said, “I sold a lot of decoratives – silver plate rdf_Descriptions, tabletop, art…Sunday was a good day for me.” Even though he was showing on the second weekend, Roberts would not mind seeing January go to a “one-weekend deal.”
Barbara Hepburn of Hermitage Antiques, Harrison, Maine, deals in Americana with her husband Harry. They have been doing the show for a long time, back when it was “Americana on the Piers.” Even with one pier still focused on Americana (Pier 92 where they were set up) the broader array of merchandise at the show has attracted a broader customer base. “They were more interested in the decorative pieces and the smalls,” said Barbara. The Hepburns offer period clocks and clock repair along with country antiques and folk art. They brought three tall clocks ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, a wonderful Shaker dresser, and a hand colored 1860 engraving of Frederic Church’s painting of the Alps. For smalls they had a collection of Eskimo ivory carvings including earlier unsigned pieces and later signed pieces.
“Up until 9/11 the Americana Pier Show in January was phenomenal for people like myself who sell Americana,” said Harry Hepburn, who has been a full-time dealer since 1971. “I don’t have last year to compare with, but this year I’m way off. I don’t think they had the Americana enthusiasm there. I think the second weekend got lost among all of the other things happening in New York. It is certainly not the fault of the management – Irene and that crowd, James -are unbelievably attentive.”
Erik D. Wohl, Pomfret Center, Conn., brought early American art and furnishings as well as two faceless Amish dolls. Quean Antiques, Toronto, Canada had a “Canadians Welcome” sign along with a red and white striped wood carved barber pole. Marc Witus, Gladstone, N.J., brought a selection of coverlets. T.J. Asarino brought a remarkably handsome pharmaceutical cabinet, clocks, and a ship’s model. Never Bird Antiques, Surry, Va., drew shoppers into its display with two large early portraits of a man and woman. Also offered were samplers and many other folk portraits.
David Drummond, Lititz, Penn., had a colorful booth with country white furniture with red upholstery, a floral carpet, and a great sign in worn paint, “APPLES WHOLESALE & RETAIL.” Judith and James Milne, New York City, brought a carnival ring toss with five black cats as targets (undoubtedly meant to bring the rubes bad luck). The cats were labeled Puss in Boots, Taffy, Pickle Puss, Frisky and Purry.
Tom O’Hara, Easter Hill Antiques, Sharon, Conn., brought a forged iron weathervane, circa 1680, in the design of a lion rampant. “It has been authenticated by an iron expert,” said O’Hara pointing out the rough pebbly surface indicative of a forged piece. “It was most likely used on a government building,” he continued.
Clifford Wallach, Brooklyn, N.Y., a specialist in tramp art, brought frames, a stool, boxes, decorative objects and a cabinet with a two-door leaded glass front. A Bird in Hand, Short Hills, N.J., brought sporting art of leaping fish and flying ducks and stoneware jugs and crocks. Michele Fox had quilts and other textiles, including four salesman’s samples of ladies’ knitted fashions from the 1940s. Village Braider, Plymouth, Mass., offered dozens of paintings, paint decorated furniture, lamps and smalls. Poverty Hollow, Redding Ridge, Conn., had a wood mantle in old white paint, fire screens, tools and andirons, as well as a large country cupboard, landscapes and still lifes, formal furniture and crystal.
Rick MacLennan of Collins and MacLennan, Cobalt, Conn., had an eclectic booth that got kudos from the show managers. He brought a hooked rug with Masonic designs, early portraits (three of which sold), chests, advertising signs, glass and a heavy brass or bronze sign for The New York Palace that was cast off by Leona Helmsley.
MacLennan, a veteran of 34 years on Wall Street, enjoyed bantering with “bright and witty New Yorkers.” He had good sales, and much interest, including a folk museum that is seeking to acquire a cast-iron witch designed as a rooftop snow guard. “Saturday was a great day. I sold a lot of pieces. There was a continual flow of traffic through my booth. Sunday started out slow. After everyone got their Dean and Deluca coffee the rest of the day picked up.”
MacLennan loves just about everything he sells. An airport sign picturing a biplane was no exception. When a potential customer was asking the price MacLennan relayed, “I really love that piece. I wouldn’t mind keeping that for my own collection… $1,100.” The disgruntled customer muttered “Yeah, you really must love it.” Another shopper, upon hearing the exchange said, “I love it, too. I’ll take it!” No haggling.
With an irrepressible enthusiasm MacLennan is convinced “that there isn’t a better time to be in this business than now. Most antiques customers are 55 to 70 years old. That part of the population is about to explode. It is going to be great for another 20 years.”
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