Published: October 25, 2022
Review & Photos by Rick Russack
MILFORD, N.H. – It’s hard to believe that Jack Donigian has been running weekly fall and winter shows for 46 years. But he has. This year’s season began on October 16. The best word to describe these shows is “eclectic.” Another word would be “friendly,” both to buyers and sellers. The shows are conducted in a large health club facility with easy exhibitor load-in. There will be a show every Sunday through March 26 of next year with the exception of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
The show has evolved, and there are some significant reasons to keep people coming back. Exhibitors arrive early and start moving in at 6:30 am. Those who pay the early buyer admission rate, $40 per person or $60 per couple, are on the selling floor as the exhibitors are bringing their merchandise into the building. That creates a truly level playing field. In most other shows, exhibitors have a chance to shop the show before buyers are admitted; not here. More than 45 buyers took advantage of the early buyer’s admission rate. There were about 70 exhibitors for the season opener, and most weeks there will be around 60. It’s an inexpensive show for exhibitors, and buyers know that they will be seeing fresh merchandise each week.
Some exhibitors are there every week and some are there when they have just gotten stuff from a house or barn. You may often hear exhibitors say, “I just got it and don’t know much about it.” The shows are of short duration, opening to the general public at 8:30 am and for the first hour, the admission charge is $5 per person. After 9:30 am, admission is free and the shows end at noon. Donigian offers discounted early buyers’ packages to those wishing to be there each week.
The word “eclectic” is a fitting description of what can be found at this show. Buyers would have had a choice of at least three taxidermy animals – a beaver, a fox with a squirrel in its jaws and a ruffed grouse under a glass dome. In addition, there were early firearms, large bronzes, stoneware, early hand-forged iron fireplace utensils, early lighting, small pieces of early furniture, several mid-Twentieth Century prints and paintings, toys, much folk art, many trade signs and other advertising, wide offerings of jewelry, pewter, Asian items and still more.
Joe Martin from Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is a regular exhibitor at this show, as well as at other shows, and is also to be seen at most northern New England auctions. His booth always has interesting items. His son, Tom, is usually helping him. Tom said, “I’ve been helping Dad, I think, since before I was old enough. He was always bringing stuff home and explaining how it was used in the old houses. We’re really up in the country and it looks like time has passed by some of those towns. There’s great stuff in those barns and attics. It’s really been fun for me.” At this show, Martin had a large bird-tree with ten carved birds. It was probably made in the middle of the last century. The price was $1,250. The booth also had a grouping of early hand-forged fireplace utensils and a selection of early push-up candlesticks. They were priced between $80 and $175.
Folk art offerings included some small weathervanes and one of the nicest, a weathered sheet iron horse, was in the booth of Wells, Maine, dealer John Lord. The surface showed some pitting, possibly one or two bullet holes, and the back showed the welded iron supports. Lord was asking $695. A set of five carved figures of a well-dressed Black family, a mother, a father and three barefoot children were not as old but the work of self-taught artist Adrian Woodall (1888-1969). Woodall’s works are well known to collectors. He was an optometrist by trade who carved as a hobby. He lived in the Midwest but in 1936 moved to Florida and made his hobby his livelihood. Andrew Golub, Hull, Mass., priced the set of five figures $750. That may have been a very good buy as Woodall’s individual figures are listed on some internet sites for substantially more.
Wayne Barron, Somerville, Mass., is an Oriental rug specialist who does the show nearly every week with a large corner booth. He also deals in other items, including paintings and prints, and this time he had a colorful group of bird paintings by John Dubiel, Twentieth Century. Barron also had a large limited-edition lithograph, #66/175, by Theo Tobiasse, a contemporary Israeli artist. It was priced $300, as was a large limited-edition print of a golden eagle by Roger Tory Peterson.
Toys of varying ages were available in a number of booths. Paul Allaire, Fitchburg, Mass., literally filled his booth with a wide selection of television and movie automotive models, including mint-in-the-box die-cast American muscle cars priced about $100 each, Dukes of Hazard models and Matchbox cars and trucks, starting at about $10 each. Perhaps 100 years older was a homemade push or pull horse on wheels. It was a canvas-covered horse painted to resemble a pinto. It had an applied leather saddle and a leather mane. It seemed appropriate as it belonged in the booth of Ken Arthur, whose trade name is Spotted Horse Antiques of Brownsville, Vt. Arthur has been doing this show for 18 years and Brimfield for 43 years. He priced the horse $175. From the same era, Bill McLaren, Randolph, Vt., had a lithographed paper and wood battleship by Bliss for which he was asking $295. It might seem odd, but along with the Bliss battleship, McLaren also had a pair of circa 1816 flintlock French dueling, or pocket pistols, which he priced $750.
After the show, Jack Donigian said, “It looked like a feeding frenzy as we began. I heard comments from exhibitors and shoppers, saying ‘It’s good to be back,’ and there was plenty of stuff being carried out all day long. Keeping everything as simple and informal as possible, I think, works best for us. Everyone knows what to expect as far as the show itself is concerned – but you never know what exhibitors will be bringing. And since the dealer roster varies from week to week, it really creates an exciting, new show each Sunday.”
For additional information, www.milfordantiqueshow.com or 781-329-1192.
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