Published: July 3, 2007
Some may still perceive the Antiques In The Valley show, now in only its third year, as a fledgling event; however, those that made the trip to this highly regarded show know better. Oley, as the show is commonly known, is an upbeat, popular and thriving event, filled to the brim with enthusiasm and the kind of quality merchandise that brings back memories of old.
Nestled in this small hamlet in the midst of the rural farmlands southwest of Allentown, Oley has quickly earned a reputation as a hot spot for prime country antiques. The show opened on Friday, June 16, for a two-day run and as it has in the past, it once again drew large crowds of collectors from throughout the region. “It’s an ‘old-fashioned’ kind of show, with a great mix of dealers and showgoers,” commented one jubilant dealer, who was further pleased that many of those in attendance did some serious shopping.
There is little about this show that would lead one to believe that it has not had a long history. Its floor plan utilizes the space as best as one could expect and the committee management is calm, cool, collected and, above all, efficient and friendly.
The selection of merchandise in Oley is diverse, with enough of a cross-section of materials to keep it interesting to a wide variety of shoppers. Price points remain diverse as well, with sales ranging from the “under-a-hundred” price bracket to those grand five- and six-figure numbers.
The mood on the floor as the show prepared to open to the public could only be described as reflecting the merchandise offered: warm and cheery.
The crowd outside had begun to form a line more than an hour prior to the scheduled opening and by 11 am the line stretched out from the front foyer of the school, turned the corner and extended for quite a ways down the sidewalk. A well thought out second entrance was also used for the show, with each of the entry points providing showgoers with an opportunity to first visit the booths that lined the hallways leading to the main exhibition area.
As the opening drew nearer, word spread quickly in regard to the long line of people waiting to get into the show early and enthusiasm among the dealers jumped a notch or two.
Show management was quick to usher the crowd onto the floor and within a couple minutes the aisles were thick with buyers rushing from one booth to the next. Initial sales seemed to be good for many of the dealers. Sold tags appeared on numerous items around the floor, empty spots on the walls of several exhibitors’ booths were noticeable, and a host of people were seen hustling around laden with purchases in packed bags. Some were seen with so many packages that a trip to the car to unload became a necessity before they could finish their shopping.
Predominately country in nature, with a heavy slant toward the brightly colored furnishings for which the region is so highly regarded, the show boasts a reputation as a prime spot to do some serious buying.
Several Pennsylvania dower chests were seen on the floor of the show and the bright original surfaces were retained on most. Considered by many to be the most striking and historically important of the rare chests was a dated 1791 example featured in the booth of Greshville Antiques and Fine Art. Proprietor Valerie Malmberg commented that the chest was in untouched original condition and that it had descended in a single Berks County family. Retaining the original Queen Anne brasses, the three lower drawers were edged in red against the deep blue-green original paint in which the chest was finished. It was further decorated with three tombstone-shaped painted “panels” embellished with handled urns, tulips and pinwheels painted in vibrant reds, blues and greens.
Fine art is the main fare for the Malmbergs and among the offering was a Ben Austrian oil on canvas depicting a clay flowerpot with two chicks atop of it and five envious broodmates below. A circa 1860 painting titled “Milking The Cows” was another of the featured paintings, executed by Berks County artist Francis D. Devlan.
Malmberg commented that the show “appeared to draw a larger crowd, and offered an outstanding selection of quality items.” The dealer further commented that she was “pleased with sales and the continuing residual interest that this show brings” to their nearby gallery in Boyertown.
The “hometown” dealer in the show was Raccoon Creek Antiques, and partners Gordon Wyckoff and George Allen pulled out all of the stops to present a great looking booth. They presented a booth that was somewhat nontraditional in appearance, “a minimal booth… not as chocked full of smalls,” stated Wyckoff. The dealers were as busy touting merchandise and making sales in the booth as they were promoting their new shop, which opened to the public for the first time that same day. “Setup night we hosted a cocktail party for 90-plus,” including all of the dealers from the show, providing everyone with a sneak-peek of their new digs, said Wyckoff. Everyone who attended the show over the course of the next two days was also invited to stop by their new shop for a look-see as well.
Wyckoff and Allen have been restoring the structures on the property and said, “It has been three years coming, and although the restoration of the house continues&†the carriage house/shop restoration is finally complete and is OPEN!” The dealers reported a “great time and turnout both at the show and the shop. Sales were all over the board,” citing a local period desk finding a new home along with a tall case clock and numerous baskets, including several rye straws. The dealers also reported sales of “weathervanes, stoneware and good smalls.”
Another of the dower chests to appear on the floor was seen in the booth of Greenly Antiques, Reinhold, Penn. The rare blanket box was decorated on the top and front with painted panels filled with tulips and pinwheels, and a large heart appeared between the panels on the front. The walls of the booth were lined with colorful fraktur, including an example by Heinrich Englehard (1819‱836), who was known as the “house blessing artist” and whose work can be commonly recognized by his “typical riot of colorful splashes.” The circa 1831 vividly watercolored house blessing was displayed along side a colorful 1770 birth and baptism certificate for Anna Catherine Ullrich that had been executed by Johann Otto, referred to as one of the “Ephrata artists.”
Pottery and porcelains dealers Bill and Teresa Kurau called Oley “a good-looking show with an emphasis on country and primitives. It must also be said,” stated the Kuraus, “that some of the finest in American folk art could also be found there.” The dealers reported selling “pottery in several categories and it all went to Pennsylvania collectors.”
The Lampeter, Penn., dealers set a patriotic tone to their selection with an unusual 38-star flag hanging on the central wall of the booth, surrounded with a good selection of Historical Staffordshire, including a large “Landing of Lafayette” platter, several “states” plates and other political theme pieces. A large Liverpool pitcher with a transfer of Washington’s Memorial was also attracting attention.
An exceptional selection of mocha was presented by J.D. Querry, Martinsburg, Penn., consisting of scrottle decorated mugs and bowls, cat’s-eye and band decorated pitchers in a variety of colors, and a canary porringer with earthworm decoration. The highlight of the arrangement was a large bowl with a blue glazed exterior decorated with clusters of cat’s-eyes, a green glazed interior with cat’s-eye and a squiggle line decoration around the top of the folded rim and a bold earthworm decoration in the bottom of the bowl. “It’s quite an unusual piece to have the decoration on both the inside and out,” stated the dealer. “Only one I’ve ever had,” he said.
Newburgh, N.Y., dealers Dan and Karen Olson had an attractive booth with a round hutch table surrounded by a set of six bow back Windsors in a dark paint at the forefront of their booth. A nice country cupboard in old red paint with upper and lower blind doors was offered, as was a nice corner cupboard in a gray-green paint, probably Pennsylvania, with a bank of three drawers over the blind double door base and glazed doors on top. The dealers reported sales that included “early ceramics, a scarce American donut box in original paint, sconces, pewter, a large Hannah Davis hat box, an early ladder back armchair and a number of other small items.”
The booth of Frank and Terri Martin, Mertztown, Penn., was filled with quality merchandise ranging from a large full-bodied copper rooster weathervane to a nice country dry sink in blue paint with cutout base and scalloped gallery top. An exceptional hooked rug colorfully decorated with a running horse was featured on the rear wall of the booth, flanked by a New Hope School oil on canvas depicting a snow scene on a rural Main Street, and a fireman’s banner on the other side. The dealers also displayed a nice Pennsylvania Chippendale tall clock, a large theorem and a good selection of painted firkins.
“It was a very solid show for me,” related Prospect, Penn., dealer Scott Brasseur of Brasseur Fine Arts. “I enjoyed stronger sales to dealers who were buying for resale along with average sales to the retail audience. And unlike many shows, I was pleasantly surprised by the steady attendance †and sales ! †on the second day of the show.
Brasseur also commented that he was “very happy to see some younger shoppers in the crowd †the show promoters seemed to have tapped into an audience we don’t often reach.” The dealer reported selling “everything from fraktur to Impressionist oil paintings to folk art to vintage frames.”
A formal assortment of furniture in the booth of Pat Barger, Fairfield, Conn., ranged from an Eighteenth Century Chippendale four-drawer chest on an ogee bracket base to a Queen Anne cherry drop leaf table, circa 1760, of Long Island origin. A good selection of artwork was also offered in the booth, including a large signed and dated oil on canvas by English sporting artist John Herring, Sr. The dealer commented the painting was quite unusual due to its depiction of cows in a lavish barnyard setting that also featured a variety of other animals, including pigs, guinea hens and a peacock perched on the top of an open door. Herring is best known for his depiction of race horses, for many years painting the winners of the Derby and the St Leger races.
Illinois dealer Halsey Munson Americana was on hand for the show with an attractive booth set up with a good selection of country antiques. Attracting interest from the local crowd was an Eighteenth Century Philadelphia low back Windsor armchair, circa 1745, with strong turnings and an old black paint revealing previous layers of red and green. Folky items in the booth included a couple of vividly painted checkerboards and a Nineteenth Century oil on canvas of a young boy with a whip in his hand †reportedly with provenance that ties the young lad to the Hilton family through marriage.
The dealer also offered a wonderful Wilhelm Schimmel carved and painted eaglet on a chip carved base, along with an appealing and eye-catching Nineteenth Century child’s stars and stripes parade uniform complete with a crepe-covered hand sewn top hat, a red and white striped long-tailed coat with white stars on the blue lapels and a pair of matching striped pants.
“I had a terrific show,” stated Rochester, N.Y., dealer Don Olson. “Interestingly, many of my sales were of items of substantial expense. On the contrary, it seemed that many of the inexpensive items were virtually invisible,” he said. “Among my most notable sales was a great J.H. Davis portrait,” stated the dealer, who also reported sales of a “wonderful folk art painting showing a red house and companion barn” finding a new home along with “a superb old mustard over red keeler,” and a mid-Eighteenth Century painting on planed-pine-panel of a man in red attire and a young child holding a candlestick.
“One of the impressions that struck me about Oley Valley is that there seemed to be a larger number of knowledgeable buyers at this show than one would typically find at a small country event,” commented Don Olson. “When one brings items of better quality to a show like this, it is quite rewarding to see that a good number of the attendees appreciate them.
“Another impression I had,” stated the Rochester dealer, “is that the folks running the show worked very hard to make it successful.”
Oley is an attractive and well rounded show with a fast-growing reputation, which, combined with the rich antiques shops in the area, will soon make this a destination event.
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