Published: October 8, 2002
By W.A. Demers, photographs by W.A. Demers and R. Scudder Smith
WILTON, CONN. – The warm, sunny day held not a trace of autumn, but antique hunters could be forgiven for taking their cue from the calendar instead of the balmy air: Sunday, September 22 – time for the 2002 edition of the Wilton DAR Antiques Marketplace.
The annual harbinger of the fall antique season, conducted at the Wilton High School Field House, drew a gate of approximately 2,000 attendees. A line of early buyers queued to enter at 8:30 am, proved that for the committed treasure hunter the usual Sunday morning activities of church and brunch were momentarily shelved.
The show’s gate proceeds are used to benefit programs supported by the Drum Hill chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, including scholarships and restoration of historically significant sites, such as the Oliver Ellsworth Homestead in Windsor.
Marilyn Gould, a member of the Drum Hill chapter and the show’s long time manager, stood at the entrance and wished the early buying crowd “Happy hunting” and “Good luck.” Through the doors and past decorative assortments of colorful mums and an American flag, the crowd found some 115 dealers displaying a wide range of antique furniture, Folk Art, paintings and collectibles.
The Wilton DAR show is often seen as a bellwether of the fall antiques show season. Dealers and the show promoter acknowledged that uncertain times and the general economic conditions make it hard to accurately gauge the state of the trade. As has been the case for the past year, some dealers did extremely well, some reported an okay day, and some had disappointing sales results.
None of the dealers interviewed mentioned Hartford’s show occurring on the same day as having had any impact on their sales, and Gould was quick to point out that it did not affect the Wilton show. “It’s unfortunate for our dealers, however, since it limits their potential for sales. Many of them have done both shows in past years,” said Gould.
Commenting on whether the market angst is more perceived than real, Victor Weinblatt said, “Some dealers say the frenzy is gone, but the great pieces still provoke a rush and a healthy list of second, third and even fourth refusals.”
“Great things, fresh to the market, and not overexposed in the glare of the auction block, an priced within reason, continue to sell at a very healthy pace.”
The South Hadley, Mass.-based Weinblatt said he came within a few dollars of a September Wilton record. “Folk art, signs, hooked rugs, good paint and good country furniture continue very strong, he said.
Weinblatt credits much of his success to the Goulds’ management. “There is no one in the management business who does more to get the right clientele onto the floor, and who provides a more professional, short and sweet setting for conducting that business, than Marilyn Gould, ” he said “Marilyn and Michael run a fast-moving, tight ship: the four Wilton shows have become a benchmark in the industry. When the doors open for early buying, as a participating dealer you always know that everything possible (and sometimes impossible) has been done to set the stage.”
A rare spongeware pitcher with bail was one of the star attractions at the booth of Rufus Foshee, who deals exclusively in English and American pottery. The Camden, Maine, dealer said, “It’s the first time in 35 years that I’ve seen one like this.” He also displayed a colorful selection of rainbow spatterware and an interesting group of English cauliflower pieces from 1755-60.
Patricia Drake Keady of Drake Field Antiques (Longmeadow, Mass.) said she has always done well at the Wilton show, even in September 2001, when the then-recent terrorist attacks had frazzled everyone’s sense of well-being. This year, among the traditional American furniture she displayed was an 1840s triple ogee bird’s-eye maple double sidetable, possibly from upper New York state. A Boston Hunnyman andiron set was among her hearth equipment and smalls included English and inlaid boxes.
Specializing in period American furniture, Roland Kemble (Norwich, Ohio) brought a Connecticut River valley low boy in walnut, circa 1750-60, featuring a whale’s tale skirt, sea scroll returns, shell carvings and particularly dainty legs. A diminutive mahogany Newport swing-leg tea table and an Ohio Colonel Patchen horse and sulky rider weathervane, circa 1870, in never-been-restored condition also highlighted the booth.
Preferring to let the minimalist treasures speak volumes about her sensibilities about home and gardfen design, Pam Martine (Greenwich Conn.) set up a grey-on-grey tableau anchored by a console of Nineteenth Century European fencing flanked by a turn of the century Italian arm chair, a French chateau model from the 1920s, a pair of carved stone French finials and a 1920s Swedish sign that proclaimed simply “Restaurang.”
In contrast, Elizabeth Robinson of Acorn Antiques (Westerly, R.I.) had set up an extensive collection of lithographs and engravings in subjects ranging from landscapes to animals and culinary arts within a long narrow space to showcase her Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century prints, pewter and British and American Blue Willow ware.
Among her prints from England, America and continental Europe were a number of ballooning prints from the 1920s as well as an interesting group of prints showing ladies playing billiards.
“Early buying was strong for me,” reported Robinson. “Many of my customers came because of my mailing. People were fairly selective in their buying regardless of price range. My most interesting sale was a group of 1828 French fashion engravings and an 1918 French Art Deco fashion print all to the same customer.”
“We ended up with an excellent show,” said Charles Adams (South Yarmouth, Mass.). “We sold a chair table, baskets, Bennington, a large cat painting, several pieces of iron, blue sponge and green Leeds pottery, among other things
“We also had a call on Monday morning, which led to another sale from Sunday. Wilton really does work for us.”
Adams said that he and his wife, Barbara, also bought very well at the show.
At American Decorative Arts (Canaan, N.H.), Richard Vandall and Wayne Adams reported good momentum kicked off by some early buys of a rug, two Staffordshire tobys, a Shaker work stand, accessories and country smalls.
Vandall also did well with larger rdf_Descriptions “I did sell two large pieces of furniture, a country kitchen counter and a large barristers bookshelf,” he said. While buyers were being very careful in their selections, he added, “I do believe that Wilton is still a cornerstone for market type shows.”
“Wilton was a very strong show for us, perhaps the best Wilton we have ever had,” said William Kurau of William R. & Teresa F. Kurau (Lampeter, Pa.), which specializes in historical Staffordshire and collectors’ rdf_Descriptions.
Kurau noted that while the summery weather may have kept some people away, “the ones who visited our booth were serious collectors looking for the rarities. We sold six important pieces of historical blue Staffordshire as well as some more common rdf_Descriptions.
“Gaudy Dutch china was appreciated and we sold some to three different customers, somewhat unusual for a Connecticut show. Since the show, we have had callbacks leading to a good sale.”
Gilberts, both large and small, were ticking away in Paul Nicholson’s space. The Poughkeepsie, N.Y. dealer who specializes in Shaker and Arts & Crafts furniture and clocks, brought an eight-day, time-only large Gilbert clock and a small Gilbert octagon timepiece along with Shaker chairs and smalls.
Whimsy domesticated for a city townhouse was in abundant supply at Kelter-Malcé Antiques (New York City). Fun rdf_Descriptions included a root art table made of rhododendron wood at the turn of the century, a patriotic watercolor on paper of World War I vintage and a gameboard from the 1940s fashioned of mosaics of linoleum. Also of interest was a small framed picture of stenciled shells and corals from the mid-1800s.
Voicing moderate expectations for this year’s show, Constance Aranosian of Cara Antiques (Langhorne, Pa., was nevertheless enthusiastic about the Minton fountain she had on display. A rare piece, it featured two putti grappling a huge fish they have just caught, with the fish’s gasping mouth serving as the fountain’s orifice. The mint Minton, fashioned between 1865 and 1870, had a $29,000 retail price. Two Minton garden seats with wonderful color and in superb condition also shared booth space with her collection of majolica, Moorcroft and Clarice Cliff ware. “I like to bring good things, and that’s what my customers want to buy,” said Aranosian,
Jane McClafferty (New Canaan, Conn.) brought a 36-inch American tiger maple slant front desk, circa 1780 from Rhode Island. A cherry inlaid card table, circa 1790, a pair of American Eighteenth Century andirons with a rare acorn top form and English Staffordshire were among her offerings.
“Our most interesting sale was of a Spanish-foot Chippendale chair and a signed Maine Windsor chair, each bought to give as a present next Christmas,” said McClafferty.
A signed Harris Blackhawk weathervane and a J. Fiske & Co. running horse weathervane from the Nineteenth Century ruled the roosts at Autumn Pond (Woodbury, Conn.) Other rdf_Descriptions under the watchful eye of owner Norma Chick were peacock chargers and plates, polychrome Delft tiles, a Canadian goose decoy, a mahogany bachelor’s chest and an Eighteenth Century Queen Anne armchair.
Those looking for a change of pace from running horse weathervanes needed to look no further than Gloria Lonergan’s center wall. It sported a primitive fish weathervane with “traces of paint.” Other finds included a drop leaf table in birch from Nineteenth Century New England and a jelly cupboard in soft yellow paint from the mid-1800s.
Anita Holden, who with husband Ed owns Holden Antiques (Sherman, Conn.) brought a plane weathervane and a copper sailing ship from the early Twentieth Century. “Smalls sold better than furniture for us, and that has been true for the last two shows as well,” said Holden.
At East Dennis Antiques (East Dennis, Mass.), a New England Sheraton two-part dining table, circa 1820, with exceptionally shapely rope turned legs drew show-goers’ attention.
Co-owner Fred Di Maio was equally enthusiastic about mid-Nineteenth Century campaign furniture, including a camphorwood box on a custom stand and a chest in two parts with unusual brass trim. “This furniture featuring brass binding and flush hardware was specially manufactured for British royalty, diplomats and the ‘safari set,'” explained Di Maio. “What’s different about the chest is that the brass trim is continuously around the edges.”
Charles Wilson (West Chester, Pa.) was proud to feature a veritable bazaar of American iron pieces and folk art. He sold trade signs, windmill weights, rugs and good doorstops. “We sold very well to both regular customers and to some new collectors,” said Wilson. “Business can be conducted, but it requires more creativity than in the past. People want more value.”
Sales were trade signs, windmill weights, rugs, and good doorstops.
David Wimberly and Michael Baeder showed off a child’s tiger maple day bed at Hat Shop Hill Antiques (Housatonic, Mass.) “We specialize in real antiques from the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century that can be used as functional furniture,” said Wimberly, who added that this was his second year at the September show. A New York City curule bench of Egyptian form in rosewood and a work table, circa 1825, with a classical New York form also drew shoppers into the booth.
“I was very pleased with the overall appearance of the show,” said Gould. “Everyone set up their booths with good, saleable merchandise. I was also pleased to see a fair amount of dealer buying during set-up, which I believe is a positive indicator.”
The fall edition Wilton DAR Marketplace will return next autumn. In the meantime, Gould reminds shoppers that they can be sure of finding an eclectic range of vintage holiday specialties at the Wilton Holiday Antiques Marketplace Sunday, December 8 from 10 am to 5 pm. For more information, 203-762-3525.
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