Published: August 24, 2021
Review and Photos by Rick Russack
DEERFIELD, N.H. – Sister and brother Rachel and Josh Gurley, along with a dozen other family members, got Antiques Week in New Hampshire off to a fine start on August 9. There were concerns that confusing daily news about the coronavirus might impact the show, but that did not happen. The exhibitor roster was about 80. The line, eventually numbering between 350 and 400, started to build about 7 am, two hours prior to the opening. By the time the counting was done, the gate was more than 650. The family enterprise running this show is now in its 30th year. Rachel remembers that her parents, Nan and David Gurley, were antiques dealers and began promoting shows when she was five years old. About 50 dealers were inside the two large fairgrounds buildings, and about 30 were comfortably spread outdoors, using their own tents, if they so chose. As mentioned, this was the 30th show, so the operation is well practiced and ran smoothly. Two concession stands provided nourishment.
Several dealers commented that this was their first show since the lifting of Covid restrictions and they had plenty of fresh merchandise. Offerings included the material one expects to find at a Gurley show: country Americana – stoneware, redware, cloth dolls and animals, treen and painted woodenware, painted and early furniture, pressed and blown glass, early ceramics, hooked rugs and penny rugs, advertising signs, photographica, garden accessories, one-of-a-kind folk art, etc. But there was more this time. There was a ship’s figurehead; one dealer had a selection of elaborate, hand-forged locks dating back to the Seventeenth Century, one dealer had hundreds of Twentieth Century tin toys, several had good jewelry, one brought a 14-foot Adirondack guide boat and the list could continue.
Joe Martin, Lyndonville, Vt., had what might have been the most expensive item at the show – a fully carved ship’s figurehead about 4 feet tall in the form of a young woman. It was priced at $22,000. When asked about condition, Martin said, “I think parts of it have had a second coat of paint and other parts look like they’re still the original paint.” He also had a selection of gold jewelry and an interesting pair of circa 1920 Japanese silver tea boxes, spoons and tray. The set, .900 silver, was boxed in a custom-made case. He priced it $650.
Al and Jane Benting, Benting and Jarvis Antiques, Barrington, N.H., had a small collection of elaborate hand-wrought and chased iron locks that dated back to the Seventeenth Century. They may have been the earliest objects in the show, and they were surprisingly inexpensive. The largest of the collection, perhaps 6 by 6 inches, was priced $195. Others, with original keys were priced to $325 each.
Redware and stoneware was available in several booths. Warren Broderick, Troy, N.Y., had several pieces, including a large redware jar probably made in Norwalk, Conn., that was priced $25 and a large redware pitcher, made in Baltimore in the mid-Nineteenth Century, priced $280. He also had a classic Bennington pitcher that was priced $400. American Antiques, Hammondsport, N.Y., also had a good selection of stoneware.
Selections of early Staffordshire and other English ceramics were offered by the Bentings, John Prunier, Warren, Mass., and others.
One-of-a-kind folk art pieces included a large, painted copper mask. It had large protruding teeth and in general it appeared to be from the same tradition that produced face jugs. Elliot Berkoff, Doylestown, Penn., said that he did not know anything about it other than it came from a home on Philadelphia’s Main Line. He priced it $1,500, and whoever owns it is unlikely to have another. Rarely mentioned as folk art, although they should be, are the designs drawn or painted on pieces of tree fungi. The growths, which can be quite large, sometimes weighing hundreds of pounds, are more properly known as polypores, and are related to mushrooms. They are not good for trees, causing decay, but folk artists have put them to good use. Josh Lowenfels, New York City, had one with a simple design, lettered “Home Sweet Home.” It was only $60. Cloth animals and very good, early cloth dolls were also offered by several dealers. Berkoff had three dolls, including a medium-sized black doll with hair, that was priced $285. A large, very folky cloth cat was priced $325.
A few days after the show, Rachel Gurley commented on the quality of the merchandise dealers offered and the amount of business being done. “My brother and I spent the first hour and a half of the show writing sales tickets. It was that busy,” she said. “And some dealers had booths that were practically empty by the time the show was over. We made a few changes that we think helped. We did much more local advertising and we offered reduced price admissions after 11 am. That brought in people I haven’t seen before. A lot of new faces and many of them were younger. Dealers commented to me on their sales and the show in general. John Prunier sent me an email that said, ‘My compliments on the professional – and at the same time relaxed – management.’ I love hearing things like that from our exhibitors.”
The Gurleys have a full slate of upcoming shows with the next being August 21 at the Elk’s Lodge in Dover, N.H. They have two “Quick Pick” shows, just four hours long, scheduled for September and October, and the Thanksgiving Weekend show will be back in its original home in Marlboro, Mass., in November. There are more scheduled. For information, www.gurleyantiqueshows.com, 207-396-4255 or 207-229-0403.
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