Published: August 20, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by W.A. Demers
MILFORD, N.H. – Think of the Milford Antiques Show, this time marking its 8th year of participating in the weeklong feeding frenzy known as Antiques Week in New Hampshire, as a primordial source for much of which that follows, a rich bouillabaisse of fresh ingredients that in many cases will be served up later in the week by other dealers, complete with uplighting, museum-like presentation and likely higher price points.
It all begins here. At 6:30 am on Sunday, August 4, exhibitors began unloading – and just as rapidly shopping – at Jack Donigian’s Milford Antiques Show at the Hampshire Hills Athletic Club. Donigian supplies the utilitarian tables – 250-300 and requisite coverings – charges affordable space fees and, ably assisted by his partner Jennifer Liu, controls the chaos of dealer setup. The show’s growing popularity was evident in the fact that Donigian was sold out for this event, presenting 81 dealers, up from last year’s 65-dealer show. It is amazing to see how in the space of two hours the heavily Americana-flavored stew of antique furniture, fine art, decorative items and collectibles comes together.
The recipe and format of the show are proven. For the past 43 years, Donigian’s show here every Sunday from late October through late March has followed the same format. Dealers begin moving in at 6:30 am and, for an early buying fee of $40, visitors can start shopping then. At 8:30, a reduced admission of $5 lets folks peruse the merchandise, and admission is free after 9:30 am until noon when the show closes.
For this show, about 50 buyers paid for early admission and about 150 were on hand for the 8:30 general admission. Donigian estimated that there were about 200 that came in during that time. “The early buying fee is stiff,” he said, “and it’s meant to be that way. For one thing, you don’t want a lot of people milling around the floor while dealers are trying to set up. Second, it’s a way of subsidizing the later free admission – which I believe in. Many shows, as you know, charge anywhere from $8 to $10 all day.”
The caliber of dealers is as varied as the merchandise. Some are pickers, those who buy antiques from auctions and estate sales and sell them to dealers and antiques shops. Some, according to Donigian, are novices looking for an easy entry into the trade. Many others are established dealers, who also set up elsewhere during Antiques Week and take advantage of this first show in the series to do some business. Such was the case with Greg Hamilton of Stone Block Antiques, Vergennes, Vt. Greg is the former president of the Vermont Antiques Dealers Association and a well-regarded source of early American furniture, fine art and decorative art. At this show, while still unpacking, he was fielding questions about a recently acquired American Impressionist painting, likely a Connecticut scene. “Sales were brisk at Milford,” Hamilton reported, including two grandfather clocks, jewelry, silver, a nice 38-star political flag, Oriental rugs, export porcelain and a Fiske aquarium.”
Then there is the perennial last to arrive dealer – about 10 minutes before the show opens – Falmouth, Mass., dealer Jim Gahan who, at a front table near the show’s entrance, creates a feeding frenzy as he quickly unpacks and sets out items for sale.
Boston-area dealer Louis Wiley Jr was doing this show for the first time. Wiley worked in various editorial capacities at WGBH, the public station in Boston, for some 35 years, playing a key role in the development of Frontline and officially retiring in 2009. “My mother owned an antiques shop in North Carolina beginning in the 1970s through the early 1990s, and I guess that’s what sparked my interest,” Wiley recalled. “On weekends, I used to pick for her all over New England in those pre-internet days. I remember buying at the Milford Antiques Show back then and always enjoyed it. After retirement, I tried my hand as a dealer with a booth at a group shop in New Hampshire and stayed with it until 2013, but then, in the aftermath of the great recession, I decided to put away some of my inventory; also inventory from my mother’s shop; plus personal collections she and other family members had and which I inherited. All of the things have remained in climate-controlled storage, until now.”
Revisiting the question of whether to reinvent himself again as a seller, Wiley decided to come to Milford and test the waters during Antiques Week in New Hampshire. “I expected the show to be well organized and well run, and it was.”
Proving that protectionist sentiments in America predated the current administration, Wiley had a framed workman’s bandana from 1892 that read “Protection for American Industries” surrounded by bold, patriotic graphics. “I really liked meeting folks, particularly the gentleman who purchased the late Nineteenth Century American worker’s bandana. Everything old is new again!”
An item that did not sell but that attracted a lot of attention was an unframed oil on board depicting a downhill skier and evoking New Hampshire’s favorite winter pastime by John F. Enser (1898-1968), who enjoyed painting in southern New Hampshire. He showcased the 12-by-16-inch painting on an Arts and Crafts oak book stand. Also still available as of this writing is “Anticipation of Taxes as they Will Be,” a hilarious hand colored 1796 etching attributed to Isaac Cruikshank, the noted British satirist. “There is one like it in the collection at the British Museum,” said Wiley. “I am confident mine will eventually find the right home.”
A colorful Dutch Boy Paint sign was among one of many at Antiques in Thyme, Wells, Maine. “It’s unusual to have more than eight colors on a porcelain sign,” said dealer John Lord. “Most have two or three.”
Bob and Sharon Blair traveled from their home in Orleans, Vt., with an eclectic collection sold under the aegis of Unique Antiques. Sharon pointed out a milk or ice cream crate that carried the legend “Protected by Pinkerton Detectives,” such was the perceived value of dairy at one time in America. Other items ranged from two sets of Mercedes hubcaps to an original set of gold-plated safety pins from the 1930s that were used in surgical settings to a rare Miller Huggins baseball bat. “We buy anything we think we can sell,” said Sharon. Bob, whose collecting passion is antique clocks and watches, pointed to a green box they had found in St Johnsbury, Vt. He said he believed that its curved construction would enable its owner in the late 1700s to early 1800s to carry it and its contents under his or her arm.
Brownsville, Vt., dealer Ken Arthur of Spotted Horse Antique showed a mid-Nineteenth Century bench that came out of a Pennsylvania house. Hand painted images of pineapples, birds, apples and pears populated its back splat. Traces of original soldier blue indicated that it had been repainted at some point in its life, and its cushion was not original.
Fans of marine art could find choice examples offered by Jack Tullis, Scituate, Mass. His most valuable painting was a scene by Rockport artist Emile Albert Gruppe (1896-1978). Among the most prominent of Rockport artists, Gruppe is known for his dockside portraits of ships in harbor, and this particular example focused the viewer’s eye on several small boats. Also on offer here was “White Boat” by Gerrit A Beneker (1882-1934), an American painter and illustrator and one of the founders of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.
“We are drawn to the creative and aesthetic themes in American culture,” said Dan Reidy, co-owner of Manchester, N.H.-based Discerning Eye. Fitting then was a selection of vintage cameras and film projectors as well as two vintage typewriters, a 1930s Underwood and 1938 Corona. Doing this show for the first time, Reidy said afterwards, “We had a pretty good group of sales. We received many compliments about our booth display and sold a mix of both traditional antiques as well as several midcentury pieces. I expect to participate in the show again next year.”
Sunday, October 20, will be the reopening day of the fall and winter Milford Antiques Show. For more information, 781-329-1192 or www.milfordantiqueshow.com.
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