Published: July 17, 2007
“‘Surprised’ puts it mildly,” said an elated John Sauls, owner of the Marburger Farm Antiques Show in central Texas. On Friday evening of the April 3‷ show, the nearly 400 dealers surprised him with a cake and gift to celebrate the 20th show of the twice-yearly event that Sauls co-founded in 1997.
And that was not the only surprise of the week that fell just before Easter. A fully garbed “Easter bunny” frequented the five football field-size tents and numerous early Texas buildings and smaller tents on the site, hiding Easter eggs, including a $500 egg for a lucky shopper. A huge Tuesday early buying crowd also astonished one another, with many waiting in line on the highway to fit all of the vehicles onto 47 acres of free parking. “Next time,” advised Sauls, “Come earlier and have breakfast.”
The weather also amazed. With snow and tornadoes pelting other parts of Texas, Marburger Farm experienced four days of ideal 75-degree weather, except for the very last day. On Saturday, with most dealers exhausted from a successful week, winter seemingly returned. “It’s 39 degrees in Tent A,” reported one vendor, “and people are all here shopping. Who are these people?” “I don’t know,” replied another vendor, “but I just made a $1,500 sale, so I’m not complaining.”
At the 20th show party, Texas dealer Linda Wilder presented Sauls with a huge antique wire basket, filled with plastic eggs in which each dealer had written a note and stuffed in $2, as a group gift in appreciation for Sauls’ work on their behalf. “You have to open every single egg,” said Wilder, “but you must return the basket. However&†I could give you very good price on it,” she teased, to the laughter of all the dealers. Sauls and the show staff sat up late into the night, reading every message.
Surprising sales, including many career-high records, blessed most dealers. “We set sales records on Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Dick Flynn of Country House Antiques, Marshall, Mich. “And this is our 20th Marburger Farm show.” Flynn, his wife, Mary, and son, Dick Jr, sold mid-Nineteenth Century American buggy, sleigh and buck board seats, ranging from $500 to $1,400. “People use these for benches on their ranches, on porches, at the end of a bed for quilts. We clean and restore them, if needed, but all the iron is hand forged and original. They remind us of a simpler time.”
Tallahassee, Fla.’s Carol O’Steen, who has sold sterling figural napkin rings for 36 years, was surprised by the loyalty of shoppers at Marburger Farm. “If you have what they want and they see it, they will buy,” reflected O’Steen. She sends out 1,500 letters and show cards before each Marburger Farm show, giving out her e-mail, work and cellphone numbers. Some shoppers could not get to Marburger because of weather, so they called her at the show, shopped by phone and received their purchases by mail.
Exhibitor Beverly Williams of Warren, Texas, put it this way: “One reason we do well at Marburger Farm is that we treasure our customers and they keep coming back.” Williams sold Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century French furniture, including a country French jam cupboard, Black Forest pedestals and a 6-foot-tall, five-panel Art Nouveau screen. “When I buy in France,” Williams said, “I work extremely hard to find the best, most unusual pieces and to bring them back to my customers at the right price.”
Jerry and Lu Ann Watkins of Sniktaw Trading Co. from Gurnee, Ill., were surprised by the number of Texas checks. “Usually, it’s half national, but this time the Texans really came through. The oil economy is good there,” said Jerry Watkins, “We had our best show ever in ten years of business.” Watkins sold colorful American country furniture in original paint, including a Pennsylvania mustard high back dry sink, a red hanging cupboard, a green dry sink and a 7-by-6-foot crock shelf, also in mustard paint.
New Orleans dealer Sara Rosenthal reported “a great show,” selling an Eighteenth Century Continental carved walnut console, art, sconces, lamps and a 1790s painted faux bois Italian commode. Nearby, Cesar and Guadalupe Macedo of Miami sold Seventeenth through Nineteenth Century Italian and French furniture and art, as well as fun decorative pieces, such as a pair of black and white figural horses from a Harrod’s of London store display. “We try to find what no one else has,” explained Macedo. “We really liked the Marburger customers and all the dealers around us. And the porters were wonderful. Please thank the porters.”
Kenneth Collins and Javier Lopez of TuTuMurano, San Antonio, Texas, also sell European wares, but find them one at a time in America. “We carry early Venetian glass,” explained Collins, “85 percent of which was exported to America. We have more than 3,000 pieces in inventory.” That’s a surprise in itself †the world’s largest collection of Venetian glass for sale on a Texas cow pasture. At Marburger TuTuMurano sold three one-of-a-kind museum-quality pieces. “We can’t replace those,” said Collins, “In 25 years, I know that we don’t find one-of-a-kind discoveries in glass very often.” Bets are on that they will find something great for the fall Marburger show.
Summing up the spring show, Joan Wengler of Chanticleer Antiques in Colorado Springs, Colo., put it this way: “The surprise of Marburger Farm is that in ten years that have seen a lot of challenges in America, Marburger Farm has earned national respect and love. I do shows everywhere and this is the best show that I have ever known.”
Wengler sold silver, porcelain and a mix of antique accessories. Her favorite sale? “A mid-Twentieth Century Chinese acupuncture model with holes and Chinese letters to show where to stick the needles. Yes, unusual, to say the least. Two buyers came back several times, arguing over which one of them could have it, while a third swooped down and handed me a check. The thing about the Marburger Farm Antiques Show is that all of us there, every dealer, has fabulous items that you never would see at another show. You will never see a grouping like this of amazing, unusual, quality antiques anywhere else.”
The fall Marburger Farm Antiques Show is set for Tuesday, October 2, through Saturday, October 6. For information, www.roundtop-marburger.com or 800-947-5799. “And come early for breakfast,” said Sauls.
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