Published: March 23, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Show Exhibitors
ONLINE – When it comes to online antique shows, there are two schools of thought that boil down, essentially, to short versus long. Short shows last just a few days, while long shows stretch out, from several days to even weeks in some cases. Pro and con arguments can be made for either format but show producer Marvin Getman is firmly in the “short show” camp.
Following his successful virtual New York City Antiques Show that ran January 29-31, Getman’s latest virtual event was the Spring Fox Valley Antiques Show, now in its 64th year and presented by the Chicago Suburban Antiques Dealers Association (CSADA). Always a two-day show, it opened at 10 am CST on Saturday, March 13 and closed at 6 pm CDT on Sunday, March 14. That’s just 31 hours long once an hour was sacrificed to the switch from Standard time to Daylight Saving time.
We called Getman after the event to get the show statistics, which were impressive given that this is only the second time the Fox Valley Antiques Show has been a virtual event, the first time being in October 2020.
“It was an excellent show, it really, really was,” Getman said. “We had a few less dealers – 64 in this event compared to the fall show, which had 75 dealers. The show saw sales of about $160,000, which was an increase of 38 percent from the first show and 21 percent of the items posted sold, whereas in the first show, only 15 percent of the items sold.” He noted traffic was busiest in the first few hours on Saturday, followed by Sunday morning. The show’s website garnered 262,174 page views from nearly 6,300 visitors, with two-thirds of visitors being 55 years of age or older. Tracking where visitors were from is a metric Getman follows closely and he divulged that the most visitors to the show were from Illinois; Massachusetts and New York fielded the next highest number of visitors, followed by Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut, Texas, Ohio and Florida.
One of the busiest booths in the show was that of Iron Horse Antiques & Appraisers, which is owned by CSADA president Debbie McArdle and her husband Jim. In the first hour of the show, she had sold ten pieces of stoneware as well as two pantry boxes, an ink and watercolor silhouette of a young woman and some wooden articles. When we reached her two days after the show closed, still in the throes of packing and shipping, she said that by the end of the event, she had sold 24 of 28 items listed.
“It was quite an exciting show,” McArdle commented. “We thought we’d have 10-15 more dealers than we had in October, but we found it was harder to recruit because of Covid. A lot of dealers said they had not been able to go out and buy and wanted to sit the show out until they have good, fresh inventory of the level of quality to bring to the show.
We’re in the stage of talking to the board to move the date of the spring show to later in the year next year. We’re thinking about doing a small old-fashioned country show in the summer in the Chicago area, but our October shows, going forward, are going to be virtual. A lot of dealers are rethinking how they do business. A lot of dealers would rather post 20-30 things online and sell 20-25 percent of it than go to the trouble and expense of taking things to a show only to sell maybe ten percent of it.”
The hyperlinks that Getman inserts in his virtual booths connect the dealer’s show booth to their personal websites, easily allowing customers to migrate between what a dealer has in stock, regardless of whether they are included in the show’s inventory or not. It is a feature that many dealers like. “You can sell more than what you just list at the show, and a lot of dealers report sales – either during the show or afterwards – that were because of the hyperlinks,” McArdle said.
A goal of CSADA is to help educate the next generation of dealers who are the future of the business. To that end, McArdle said they encouraged dealers to bring things in a variety of prices to the show, to “help new collectors start out.”
South Dennis, Mass., dealers David and Jane Thompson had been instrumental in connecting McArdle with Getman before the Fall Fox Valley Antiques Show and took a less hands-on role for this edition. “We think the show ‘sailed into spring’ having Debbie McArdle and Barb Lemme at the helm. We have found it very interesting that we are getting quite a few repeat buyers who are shopping every online show we are doing. Also, each virtual show has brought new contacts. Early in the show we tend to have our regular buyers, and as the show moves on, we see new people visiting the booth. In one case, we sold an item to a California buyer we had dealt with as far back as the old Pier Show in New York in the 1990s – and hadn’t heard from in many years. It was great to reconnect with him this way. We also met new buyers from the Chicago area, which is always a great area for us. So, the platform is having a national reach, but each venue seems to have its own niche, as shows did in the ‘brick and mortar’ versions.”
Sales within the opening hours included, but were not limited to, a maple butter mold and squash blossom dangle earrings with Blue Dog Antiques (Stafford Springs, Conn.) and a framed Spencerian drawing of a dove by Blue Line Antiques (Port Leyden, N.Y.). Bradford Craig White Antiques (Wilkes Barre, Penn.) sold a trencher/bowl in original yellow paint and The Swan House (Tarrytown, N.Y.) marked as sold, a red tin house-form animal cage and a tin vase with tin flowers. Barb Lemme of Liberty Tree Antiques (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) had several sales, including a red painted mortar and pestle, a small blue firkin, a tiny blue watering can with flags and a small maple bowl in mustard paint.
There were just a few dealers who had not done either the fall edition of the Fox Valley Antiques Show or the virtual New York City Antiques Show. Sherry Spehar of Jacob Dorn Dairy Farm Antiques, Brighton, Mich., was one of them but wanted to do it because “a dealer that participates in the shows told me how much she liked doing it.” Spehar reported sales to all new customers, enjoying their interest and educated eye. “I am very pleased so far with the sales. I think the show has been well advertised and is a good way to reach many out-of-state customers that a local show would not reach.”
“The Fox Valley show was only the second online event I have participated in; I am finally getting the hang of it,” Jean Tudhope of Back Door Antiques said. “I felt I had a successful show, selling several items. One to a repeat customer and collector, two items to a colleague and sales to two new purchasers.” The Middlebury, Vt., dealer gave a shout-out to the show’s support staff, saying they were “very accommodating.”
“It was a fun show to do and we were busy,” Ron Bassin of A Bird In Hand Antiques said. The Florham Park, N.J., dealer had done the virtual New York City Antiques Show but not the Fall Fox Valley Antiques Show. “We sold seven very different things, mostly to new customers; only one was an existing client. People came to the show from all over the United States and we sold to all over the country. It is still a lot of work but taking good photos and having good descriptions really pays off.”
“First off, we want to say that the Fox Valley staff are absolutely wonderful to work with and were extremely helpful and immediately responsive. Everything went smoothly!” raved John and Nancy Smith of American Sampler. The Barnesville, Md., dealers said that they were fortunate to acquire just before the show a large cast iron dog doorstop collection, which helped stock their virtual booth. “The crowning jewel of the show was having a dog groomer and small animal vet buy examples off the website, and then, after sending pictures of other dog doorstops that hadn’t been listed, buy another 12 dogs. So, we were delighted with the results and ended up with several new clients. It was a dog-gone great show for us!”
Old Lyme, Conn., dealer Joy Hanes of Hanes & Ruskin Antiques & Appraisals had also done the New York City virtual show but not the fall Fox Valley and noted some changes in her approach that reaped good results. “I was pleased with the show. I had three sales, plus one small one from someone going to my website. I decided to post less expensive things this time; in the New York show, I had more expensive items and I only had one sale, which was more than my three sales in this show, but it felt good to pack up three boxes! Two of the sales were to dealers; the third was to a retail customer who was from the Chicago area, and whom I hadn’t known before. I love Marv Getman’s approach, the way he builds excitement before the show begins, and his unceasing publicity.”
Grantiques’ owner Donna Grant also changed her strategy after doing the fall edition, saying, “I did the show in the fall. I put too many expensive pieces of jewelry for sale. For this show I put a mix of items and more pieces – small objects and jewelry – of the Georgian era and early Victorian in a more moderate price range. I was pleased with the results. I sold seven out of 18 and have more items under consideration. Also, I made some connections with collectors which could result in more sales later. I had repeat customers from the New York show as well as some new customers for the Fox Valley show. Unusual, out-of-the-ordinary items seemed to do well.”
“I made my sales early in the show, within the first two hours,” said Lori Frandino of Frandino Antique Oriental Rugs, Walpole, N.H., who was doing her first Fox Valley Antiques Show. “I sold two of my best rugs, an antique Serapi and an antique Kazak, to a customer to whom I’d sent a link to the show. I’m sure she bought from other dealers as well, as she called me thanking me for the link and saying what a great show it was! She’s a knowledgeable antiques buyer and she enjoyed the offerings she saw in the virtual booths. Besides sales, I also had a few people make appointments to come by and see my rugs in person. Obviously, they were local New Englanders!”
Arlene Eskilson who is based in Evanston, Ill., and no longer keeps a shop but sells as The Way We Were, has done both the Fall Fox Valley Antiques Show as well as the January New York City show. “All three were amazingly well organized and fun to do, and I sold well in all. My personal benchmark for a successful show is to gross at least three times the cost of doing it, and I exceeded that in all three. I really appreciate the organizers for their work!”
Sandra Hoekstra had nothing but positive things to say about the CSADA team and the show. “This is the second Fox Valley virtual show in which I have had the pleasure of participating. In both shows I sold one third of my listings – very exciting. Several of the customers from the fall show have now shopped my website, and one has purchased from me at both Fox Valley shows. One small bright spot in the world of viral pandemic has been the emergence of virtual shows, both in the antique and the book world. While I will be very happy to return to in-person shows, it is my hope that meeting new customers across the country through virtual shows will continue. Not everyone, dealer or shopper, can travel distances or fit in-person shows into their schedules, and the virtual show seems to fill that need.”
Peggy McClard of McClard & Segotta noted several sales, to new and existing customers, both on and off the show’s website, including an en grisaille theorem of Insbrook Castle that had been published in Linda Lefko’s article, “The Art of Grisaille Painting,” which had appeared in Early American Life Magazine (March 2011). “One of the most surprising stories we have is that a first-time customer of ours, who does not have a PC or smart device, somehow found a way to attend the show. So, even if you aren’t an internet geek you can still enjoy the Fox Valley Antiques Show online and even add to or start a collection! Lastly, it appeared to us that the FVASO had a slightly more diverse group of booths this year, including more jewelry and Twentieth Century collectibles as well as all the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century offerings.”
Donna Kmetz was returning to the Fox Valley online show and feels its “just right in size and flavor. They’ve been able to maintain the identity of the long-running show and definitely have a following. In both events I sold to new customers.” The Douglas, Mass., dealer was featuring works by Massachusetts artist Michael Graves, and one sold along with other New England impressionists. She noted that there was interest “well beyond New England.”
“The Fox Valley show was a great success,” enthused Jane Langol. “I sold more items than I did when the same event was offered in October 2020. Two of my items are headed to Scottsdale, Ariz. It is unlikely that this customer would have been at our live show in Illinois. This is a new customer for me and the customer is happy.”
Donna Finegan has been a member of CSADA for more than 20 years and did the fall edition. She has seen more customers looking for historic clothing, noting it may be the result of the show having added that category. The Palatine, Ill., dealer sold several things, including an Eighteenth Century robin’s-egg blue man’s waistcoat and an Eighteenth Century or older beaded French cap from Provence, France, which sold to a collector in Kentucky who “knew what she was looking at.”
Most dealers brought easily packable and shippable smalls, but there were still some furniture sales to be made. Most notable of these was a corner cupboard by Lederach, Penn., dealer Joe Lodge, that retained its original bittersweet paint and featured an appealing small size. “I’ve observed that the show has attracted the eyes of people who are serious about their hunt for the things they like. Of the diverse group of people who contacted me today and asked good questions, only one person didn’t buy from me.”
By noon on Sunday, Virginia Larsen, Sign of the Whale Antiques, Glen Ellyn, Ill., had sold nine of 23 items, including two of the three items that posted to her booth on Sunday morning. She said most of her customers were repeat customers, to which she attributed the trust factor. Buyers were looking for painted things and folk art, and she felt small items priced at $400 or less were the most popular.
“We can’t say enough for the online format Marv Getman has provided,” said Dennis Raleigh and Phyllis Sommer. The Searsport, Maine, dealers had good sales to three new clients living in three different states. Among them was a large Nineteenth Century Scandinavian bride’s box with original paint decoration and laced finger-lapped construction.
The fall edition of the online Fox Valley Antiques Show is currently scheduled for October 16-17. For information, www.csada.com or www.neantiqueshows.com/fox-valley-virtual-antiques-show.
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