Just minutes before doors at the Greater Boston Antiques Festival Fall Edition opened on November 22, promoter Marvin Getman noted that all the elements of a good show were in place: quality antiques dealers, a large building and a long line of shoppers waiting outside.
“It can’t help but be a success,” he said over a microphone to more than 160 antiques dealers. As always, Getman told a joke to set an upbeat mood, and the two-day event was underway as streams of shoppers came in for the 9 am preview.
In addition to rows and rows of interesting smalls, jewelry and glass, the show offered a large number of impressive decorated room settings, each with its own unusual highlights. The cavernous 45,000-square-foot building was comfortably full.
“I could have used another 10,000 square feet,” said Getman. “I could have filled it. I have 45 dealers on a waiting list.”
Frank and Jackie Nucco of Keepers of the Past in Sandwich, Mass., made the cut. They invited shoppers into an elegant red dining room with a fully set table. But the eye could not help gravitate to a Nineteenth Century ivory settee with carved mahogany caryatid legs under each arm.
Charles Wibel of Farmington, N.H., who also had an elaborate room setting, offered, among many other things, a folk art whirligig birdhouse. The one-of-a-kind piece was made in Pennsylvania early in the last century.
The 9 am preview drew serious shoppers. As the minutes passed, the traffic in the aisles grew more brisk. Still, 20 minutes before the official opening, “sold” signs could be seen at just about every booth.
Camille Buda and Matt King of Quincy, Mass., made several sales in the first half hour of the day. King was packing a set of china plates for a buyer while just behind him was a sold sign on a set of three cast-iron rabbits. The rabbits, which were extremely heavy, had come from an estate where the owner worked for an iron company. They were sold to a buyer from the South Shore.
“There are more early buyers here today than I have seen in a long time,” Camille Buda said.
Deborah Farmer of Farmer’s Porch Antiques in East Sandwich, Mass., was literally turning buyers away.
“It is very unique, and anything hand painted is going fast now,” she said. “This one has a lot going for it.”
Many of the other rdf_Descriptions in her display had much to offer buyers as well. Her specialty is French and English furniture, and among the centerpieces of her display was a 1900 French cast-iron day bed and an unusual “coiffure” sign from a salon in England. “It is just such a great decorative rdf_Description,” she said.
Willis Somoya of the Shady Lady in Damariscotta, Maine, has been with Getman’s show since its beginning five years ago. She did not hesitate to answer when asked why. “The crowds,” she said. “We have a good time, and I really like Marvin’s shows.”
Mary Ellen Stevens and Henry Morgan of Gloucester, Mass., agreed. “We have been here since the beginning because of the good sales,” Stevens said. “It is a really nice crowd and there is a good mix of merchandise. That is the secret of a good show. It keeps us coming back.”
Stevens and Morgan were ready for that crowd with a set of ten late Nineteenth Century Bavarian service plates and a pair of 1910 hand decorated side chairs with ivory and gold seats.
Kim Kassner of The Brewster Shop in Brewster, Mass., was proud of the center of her display – a circa 1880 mahogany folk art desk. Kassner has been participating in Getman’s shows for two and a half years.
“It is an easy trip and Marvin is the best promoter,” she said. “And I don’t say that lightly. It has been so organized.”
Dennis Easter of Made In Russia Antiques in Palm Beach, Fla., made it before Getman closed the roster and started the waiting list. This was the first year he brought his rare Russian, Ukrainian and Greek icons from the Thirteenth through Nineteenth Centuries to the Greater Boston Antiques Festival. “I heard it was a good show with a big gate,” he said. “And there is a waiting list for this show, which doesn’t exist anymore. That tells me that dealers are staying.”
Easter was inspired to bring with him a very rare 1880 calendar painted in gold-, emerald- and ruby-based pigments. He was not shy in disclosing the $36,000 asking price.
Peter Stiltz of Mimi’s Antiques in Columbia, Md., showed a collection of Chinese export porcelain. Among the fine samples was a blue porcelain Canton bidet. Made around 1815, the piece was in excellent condition.
Meg Chalmers and Judy Young of Crones Collectibles in Brewster, Mass., sold 20 pieces of American art pottery and several small pieces of Mission furniture. Getman had arranged for two large display cases so that the detail of the pottery could be shown in its best light. “It was our second best show ever, and we have been in the business for ten years,” Chalmers said. “It was really great. He gets in such a big crowd, so we pick up some new customers every time. At the end of the weekend, we were very happy.”
Buyers were also attracted to the booth of Nancy Miles of Thymes Remembered in Nottingham, N.H. “That’s great,” said one shopper, pointing to a turn-of-the-last-century rocking horse. With glass eyes and a missing saddle, the piece was in good condition. The shopper eventually moved on, but others swarmed around Miles’ many interesting smalls.
“This is Christmas shopping,” said one buyer of early Nineteenth Century pewter at the display of Hermitage Antiques of Harrison, Maine. Hermitage also displayed tall clocks, including a Gary Lewis made in 1820 in Trumbull County, Ohio. With a cherry case, the clock was signed and in pristine condition. “This collection just knocks your socks off,” said one shopper at the display of Lin and Gil Stebbins of Lin’s Quilt Source for Antique Quilts, of Bristol, Conn. “This is the most extraordinary display I have seen outside of a museum.”
That shopper had a hard time making a decision among the many beautifully presented quilts from the 1800s through the 1940s. Most of the quilts had been in private collections and were in almost-new condition. Each came with information, including where the quilt was made, when and, often, by whom. “My wife keeps track of them like they were kids,” Gil Stebbins said.
Getman’s philosophy is to work to make each show better by asking the people who know best: the dealers. “I like to listen to the dealers and follow their suggestions,” he said. “That way each show gets better.”
One way that he worked to improve his show was to bring in a canteen truck for the dealers so that they could have something to eat and take a break while setting up. “It seems like a small thing, but it was really important to them,” Getman said.
Getman ran his first antique show on New Year’s Day in 1981. He later produced shows in Boston and Methuen. Now in its fifth year, the Greater Boston Antiques Festival is conducted twice a year in Wilmington.
Getman is now adding a new third show to his roster on Columbus Day weekend at the Champlain Valley Expo Center in Essex Junction, Vt., just outside of Burlington.
“That is an exciting project,” he said. “As a promoter, I always look to the dealers first,” he said. “I get a lot of positive feedback and praise, and that helps.”