Published: December 23, 2016
Review and Onsite Photos by R. Scudder Smith
TEWKSBURY TOWNSHIP, N.J. — For the past 13 years, the Christmas Antique Show, staged inside the Old Turnpike Middle School, has set the gold standard, and this year’s December 3–4 show outdid its well established reputation for high performance.
The doors opened at 10 am and by 8:30, there was already a line forming for admittance. The event is promoted by Ellen Katona and Bob Lutz for the benefit of the Tewksbury Township Historical Society, which aids in the production, and year after year collectors and dealers alike come in throngs to buy and sell. Dealer after dealer reiterated the same glowing review of the show that sales were over the top both days. Sundays at weekend shows are typically slower than opening day, but Bob Lutz reported the best Sunday they have ever had and noted attendance for both days was up from last year.
Fifty-three dealers brought predominantly country and folk antiques, vintage collectibles and Christmas items by the score. A few dealers brought Asian artifacts and others displayed a selection of formal items. All sold well. “People are here to buy, not merely shop,” stated one very happy dealer. Another commented that while she had expected to do well, she was “speechless at the degree to which the eager crowd was buying.” While the show is perceived as “always a good show” this year raised the bar to a new level. Participants repeatedly gave the managers credit for the success of the show due to their selectivity in screening potential exhibitors.
One of the standout booths that displayed a large selection of excellent Christmas items, as well as dolls and miniatures, was The Village Antiques, Camillus, N.Y., owned by Sandra and Charlie Belko. Sandra summed up the results of both days in one word, “phenomenal.” A Father Christmas German candy container that was an impressive 24 inches tall sold in the first three minutes after the opening. “We save up items for this show all year long,” Charlie stated. “It’s a treasure hunt for competitive collectors.” Sandra added, “We do 42 shows a year and this is the No. 1 show.” The same sentiment reverberated throughout the two days.
Fine displays were also a hallmark of the weekend. One especially inviting booth that received a good deal of attention for its distinguished presentation was The Cat Lady Antiques, owned by Anne Bedics, Bangor, Penn., and Lisa Breish, Fort Washington, Penn. Their collection of folk art and country furnishings in original condition was artfully exhibited by their talented nephew, Teague Fernandez, who will be entering Temple University on a scholarship next fall to study theatre arts. Much to his credit, the booth was outstanding and was highlighted by a 1920s theater costume of a large polar bear’s head with an articulated jaw.
German kugel ornaments and candy containers in the form of Santa, reindeers, elves and everything Christmas, as well as vintage toys, sleds, trains and winter scenes dominated the décor, and some dealers exhibited Christmas artifacts exclusively. Country Christmas, Bethany, Conn., had a huge selection that included just about everything a collector could hope to find. The top items were a select group of kugels, a large wooden turn-of-the-century red and green friction train and a rare Nineteenth Century miniature sled painted with folk art decorations.
One-of-a-kind, never-to-be-seen-again items captivated the crowd, and among them was a large American oil painting, circa 1870, that depicted two young individuals fishing near a stream. It was sold with a chart of the subjects’ complete genealogy, that of the Felix and Gross families, which was documented from 1741 Germany and followed through to 1768, when four brothers immigrated to America, and continued to chart their history as Americans. The work was compiled in 1833 and was offered with the painting by Mark Mandelberg, Clinton, N.J.
Another yesteryear documentation presented by Chestnut Hall Fine Antiques, Bethlehem Township, Hunterdon County, N.J., was a leather bound general store ledger from Old Germantown, now Oldwick, N.J., with 700 meticulously kept pages that dated from 1895, 1896 and 1897. It noted that on December 23, Fannie Miller bought two pounds of sugar for 11 cents. A pair of gloves sold for 40 cents and 2¾ yards of ribbon brought 55 cents. The ledger sold to a woman from Oldwick, who was thrilled to find the names of many of her ancestors listed as shoppers.
Many folk items, well suited for gift giving and private collections, characterized the show. Among them was a framed child’s school art project, circa 1900. It illustrated the head of a dog wearing a red collar, a horse head, the head of cow with a bell around his neck, a donkey’s head, a horse pulling a milk wagon and a fish. Although the piece was a small 8 by 4 inches, it expressed volumes of charm and generated interest at the booth of Washington Valley Antiques, Gladstone, N.J.
The show managers also had a booth at the show that amply reflected the high quality that they expect from their dealers. Highlights from the exhibit included a fine early Eighteenth Century wood fire screen that was created for summer use and had a handsome contemporary rendering of a folk art painting. An outstanding weathervane illustrating a ship under full sail, which called to mind the Santa Maria, was actually a piece from the late Nineteenth Century derived from Allentown, Penn.
Katona and Lutz’s next show will be the biannual Hunterdon County Antiques Fair May 21 and September 17. Next year’s Christmas Antiques Show will return here December 3.
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