Published: March 29, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Fox Valley Exhibitors
ONLINE – The Chicago Suburban Antiques Dealer Association (CSADA), which presents the Fox Valley Antiques show in both spring and fall editions, hosted the 65th annual spring event in its second virtual format March 19-20. The show was conducted on Marvin Getman’s virtual platform, which also hosts the New York Antiques Show, the Penn Dry Goods Market and several book and ephemera fairs, a niche specialty with Getman.
Participating were 37 dealers from the United States and Canada. While that number represents a decline from the 64 dealers that did the spring edition in 2021 and the 46 who were featured in the October 2021 edition, it includes eight who had never participated in a CSADA show previously.
Getman tracks data closely and said that of the 876 items listed for sale, 204 items sold, achieving the highest Fox Valley Show sell-through rate at more than 24 percent. Works that sold averaged almost $500 in value, with the highest price reported at $5,500. More than 4,700 people visited the show with 60 percent of them coming on Saturday. According to Google Analytics, 23 percent of visitors were below the age of 45 and 53 percent of attendees were women; in addition to shoppers from the United States and Canada, the show was visited, virtually, by people from other countries, including Ireland, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, South Africa and Japan.
Show co-manager Debbie McArdle, who is also CSADA president and exhibits with her husband, Jim, as Iron Horse Antiques in Crystal Lake, Ill., has figured out what Fox Valley visitors wants and stocks her virtual booth accordingly. McArdle routinely sells a significant quantity of her booth by the time the show ends, this edition was no exception.
“This [show] was just as successful for us, but we noticed more sales to the general public than other dealers, and had more new clients than existing ones,” McArdle said in a follow up email. “We are shipping boxes to California, [two to] Texas, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Iowa Michigan and Illinois. Only two of the buyers would have attended our in-person show in the Chicago area. We sold such a wide variety of items this time – not just stoneware and painted smalls. Our offerings included books about the Civil War (written in the 1860s) and a CDV of Lincoln to early 1900s advertising match safes! These all sold in addition to our more typical stoneware, firkins and pantry boxes and homespun.”
McArdle’s observations as a co-manager of the show were insightful.
“We found a very comfortable level of dealers this time at 37. With nine less dealers than last fall, we sold 206 items (vs 208 in fall) with total sales of $6,000 more than last fall. (Two of those numbers have been manually increased…because there were sales dealers did not have a chance to add). Some dealers reported sales after the show closed and they couldn’t record them in the tally.” She noted that follow-up sales would likely boost the ultimate total.
“It is very clear that individual dealer sales were greater than in the past. I believe there are several reasons for this: Marvin’s email list of people interested in antiques is growing. Fox Valley has increased their activity on social media, primarily through Facebook and Instagram advertising, and finding many new customers across the country. Our dealers have become savvier about what inventory to choose, how to provide interesting and clear photographs from every angle, and how to compose an interesting description. Customer trust buying through online venues has increased.”
McArdle shared with Antiques and The Arts Weekly a comment received through the website’s email said, “There are too many sold signs from Saturday. Was looking for new items.” It is important to note that not only can dealers post new inventory throughout the show but Getman allows three new items to be added to each booth on Sunday morning as a means of encouraging shoppers to return to see what has been added.
“I had a couple driving back from Florida to Illinois shopping the show. Bought from me from their car!” enthused McArdle’s fellow show co-manager, Barb Lemme, the CSADA secretary who shows as Glen Ellyn, Ill., dealer Liberty Tree Antiques. She also reported having a buyer who was traveling out of the country but still shopped the show. Within an hour of the show closing on Sunday, a baker’s dozen items in her booth were marked as sold, including a child’s fishing creel, painted smalls, two landscape paintings, a sheet iron horse weathervane and a Nineteenth Century carved marble lamb.
Perhaps it was a sign of spring, but marble lambs were on offer with other dealers as well and proved popular with buyers. Cape Cod, Mass., dealer Kevin Rita, Garvey Rita Art & Antiques, and Ohio exhibitor Jane Langol Antiques both negotiated sales of them; the one with Rita was described as probably a salesman’s sample for a child’s memorial that had been found in a Union, Maine, estate.
By the end of the show, Medina, Ohio, dealer Jane Langol had marked as sold a Bennington dog paperweight, a six-sided tramp art box, a painted tin bank, an Odd Fellows quiver, a Weller “Zona” vase and a cashmere throw.
“The Fox Valley Online Antique Show is such fun to do and resulted in good sales for me,” Langol said. “I submitted 18 items and sold seven of them. That is a good percentage! A recumbent marble lamb carving was my most expensive sale and it is on the way to New York City to a collector. Also sold an Odd Fellows quiver in great paint to a collector. This event, happening spring and fall, is a dominant event in the show roster. Looking forward to the next show!”
David and Jane Thompson, also from Cape Cod, had a busy weekend, participating not only in the online-only Fox Valley show but in person in Greenwich, Conn., at the hybrid (online and live) Ephemera Society of America Ephemera fair. The significant majority of items listed in their Fox Valley show booth were marked as sold within an hour of the show closing.
“We were delighted to be part of the Fox Valley show again,” the Thompsons reported afterwards. “It has always been one of our favorites and continues to be. Every time we do it, we meet new customers as well as reconnect with old friends. It is such a nice way to do business. This time, we had a very good sale of a pair of watercolor portraits by James Sanford Ellsworth to collectors in the Midwest who contacted us from their winter home in the Southwest (one of the great benefits of an online show.) The Ellsworth portraits were quite special because they were not only dated in the image by the artist, but he had also recorded their ages, in his hand in the image. They were accompanied by ambrotype portraits of the sitters, when a bit older, as well as daguerreotypes, tintypes and a carte de visite album picturing more of the family.
“The Ephemera Society of America show is a once-a-year event, well-loved by advanced collectors as well as museum people and historians who fly in from all over the country and Europe for it. Because of the pandemic, it hadn’t been held in person since 2019. We didn’t want to give up either of these great shows. The cell phone service is not great in the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency hotel where it is held, so yes, Jane ran the Ephemera Society booth, and I went out to the van [to take] calls during the rush. But it all worked out! Normally, we would rather not do two shows at once, of course. We were still taking calls from the West Coast when the Ephemera Society show had closed for the day. Hectic, but never boring!”
“The [Fox Valley] show has the prestige that followed the live shows and so we expect better than average displays and materials. The level of quality is rising,” Ontario, Canada, dealer Steven M. Blevins commented. “Since we’ve only done four shows, it was expected that it may take a while for viewers to get to know us and appreciate our spin on things. That seems to be happening for the better as sales have picked up. Most things that are selling are in the lower price range, say below $600. Clients are watching, it seems from across [North America] but have tended to be geographically centered around the Chicago region. That will change, we hope, as word gets out. Being online, borders are irrelevant. We tend to stick to what we know and dealers we follow are providing some nice quality finds. So are dealers we’ve just met. Sales haven’t surprised us. We sell what we know but have a couple of new converts buying folk art from Canada and realizing that there is quality here.”
Blevins was one of five Canadian dealers participating and had closed sales on a bird carving, a woven grass-wrapped bottle, a handle-less spatterware cup and saucer and a small Swedish box by the time the show went offline.
Peggy McClard and Randy Segotta, McClard Segotta Antiques, have shown at two previous Fox Valley shows and also provided positive feedback. “We have been pleased with our results and the ease of technical platform for each show. We find the online platform easy to navigate for both dealers and clients. McClard Segotta sold 33 percent of the items exhibited. Our sales were made to both former and new clients – we hope they all become regulars to our website, where we do the majority of our business. At this show, we sold from the East to the West Coast. One of our regular clients is an avid doll collector who bought a tiny Eighteenth Century handblown cordial glass and a circa 1810 needlework tea table potholder that she will use as a bedspread for one of her wonderful dolls. We were pleased to sell several silhouettes, a specialty of ours; one going to a silhouette collector who we did not know before this show.”
Michael Pheffer, owner of Two Sides of a River Antiques in New London, N.H., has been doing all of the previous Fox Valley virtual shows and said that while he made sales at each of those, “this is by far my best. In the first two hours of the show, I made six sales. I’m always surprised with the virtual show following. The numbers seem to be increasing. It’s a lot of fun.” He said he sold items that ranged in price from $250 to more than $1,000, largely to a mix of both new and existing clients, most of whom were based on the East Coast; in past shows, he made sales to buyers throughout the country.
Samuel Snider, making his Fox Valley show debut, was having a great first time out. Halfway through the show, the Wiscasset, Maine, dealer had marked seven pieces as sold, including a homespun handkerchief, a primitive burl scoop, an early mortar and pestle in original blue, a Twentieth Century bronze goose, a pair of tin candle sconces, a crewelwork pillow and an Eighteenth Century creamware mold.
Happily, all of the other freshman dealers also made sales. Auerbach and Maffia from Montgomeryville, Penn., marked a Nell Harden folky 1930s beach scene as sold and had a hold on a Klaus Ihlenfeld modernist bronze sculpture. A horse trophy plaque found a new home with Ottawa dealer Ed Haldorsen, whose business name is Bytown Vintage. Two pieces of stoneware were sold by Woodstock, Ga., exhibitor, Jim Hewitt, as well as an early miniature American chest of drawers. Allen Rosen, Linda Rosen Antiques, sealed the deal on a pair of Delft polychromed jars and had enough interest in country furniture to place holds on a country slant-lid maple desk and an adjustable candlestand. Goshen, N.Y., dealer Thomas Leek, sold some 1926 Field Museum prints, G.K. Chesterton’s London, which had photos by Alvin Coburn, and a circa 1940s credit card for Marshall Field & Co.
Smalls and framed pieces left the virtual booth of first time participant, Perkins & Menson Antiques. In the former category, a velvet carrot pin cushion on basket tray and apple-form tea caddy; in the latter, a Nineteenth Century watercolor of a young girl, an oil on canvas landscape with Indians and a waterfall and a sampler worked by Elizabeth Chandler in 1766.
“Not knowing what to expect, I was happy to sell six items out of 18,” said Janice Goodwin. “It was a good experience and the majority of the customers contacting me purchased an item. My first sale, a Star Braid country store cabinet, was a surprise, as it was the largest and the highest priced item in my booth.”
In addition to the store cabinet, the Hinesburg, Vt., dealer wrote up receipts for a Victorian straw and velvet bonnet, a folk art painted trade sign, carved wooden heart maple sugar mold, an early Nineteenth Century thread case with floral decoration and a flame birch wooden scoop.
Several exhibitors who are veteran Fox Valley participants also did well. Judi Stellmach, Blue Dog Antiques, found buyers for a broom, antique knitting holder, a painted tape loom, a vintage painted tin fish and chips sign, an antique Seneca wooden scoop with brass tacks, a group of doll aprons and a Harvey bracelet with four turquoise stone.
Spearing decoys are one of Ed Holden’s specialties and he sold several in a variety of forms, including a bat, racoon, dragonfly, beaver, lobster, butterfly, woodpecker and snake. The Sherman, Conn., dealer also successfully traded a large redware jar and a primitive coot decoy.
From Conway, Mass., Jan and John Maggs offered a broad selection of jewelry and late Seventeenth and early Eighteenth furniture and decorative arts; of the latter, they were the only dealer participating in the show to offer such a good selection. Aside from sales of nine pieces of jewelry, a small Eighteenth Century English stool will be going to a new home, as will a pair of Eighteenth Century candlesticks, a brass chamberstick, a wrought-iron rush holder on brass base and a set of four Eighteenth Century bone-handled shear steel knives.
CSADA has introduced a new show – Fox Valley at Garfield Farm – that will take place live and in-person June 25, from 9 am to 3 pm CDT.
At the moment, the Fox Valley Antiques Show fall online edition will take place in mid-October. McArdle and Lemme have polled the dealers asking if they would prefer the show to take place during the middle of the week (Tuesday and Wednesday) or keep to the Saturday-Sunday weekend format. Show dates will be announced upon determination.
For additional information, www.csada.com.
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