By Steve Sundlof
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Atlantic City – a resort community in southeast New Jersey – is a unique strip festooned with 12 casino’s lining five miles of herringbone-patterned wooden boardwalk. The walkway transports an incredibly diverse mix of humanity past quirky T-shirt and souvenir shops, an immense clanging Mecca of money depositories; a pier complete with a scaled-down carnival, concession stands and games of skill, all bordered by the Atlantic Ocean that lines this oasis of escape.
The Atlantique City Show held October 20-21 defines the word immense – 111/2 miles of aisles bisect the 500,000 square foot exhibition space that houses some 1,600 exhibitors from 41 states plus Canada, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Japan and South America.
Recent events in the economy – the U.S.-led attacks in Afghanistan, the cancellation of many shows, most recently the Triple Pier Show in New York City – all seemed to point towards a “gamble” and made Atlantic City a seemingly fitting venue. Many dealers approached the show as if they had wandered onto the casino floor and found themselves at the $100 blackjack table, asking if the risks were worth the payoff.
Dealers were surprised that even though the number of attendees was down about 30 percent, sales were brisk at times and many had shows proportionally better or as good as other shows. This fact speaks loudly to the new management team of Ted and Dianne Jones, taking over from Norm Schaut who ran the show since 1986. Dealers stated their support for the Jones team, citing a dealer’s lounge with coffee and snacks; an efficient pack-in and pack-out; information seeking meetings with each dealer and the overall friendliness of the whole team.
The Atlantique City Show featured a Computographic Locator System containing 1,200 categories and gave an instant printout listing the names and booth numbers of dealers featuring specific rdf_Descriptions. A free delivery service for furniture to those within 200 miles bolstered furniture sales by the growing number of furniture dealers.
The exhibit, “Games People Played,” presented by the Association of Game and Puzzle Collectors, showcased 150 years of board, card, skill and action games. Also, a display of rare flags entitled, “The Story of Old Glory” presented by Dr. J. Kenneth Kohn, a leading flag collector and dealer, punctuated the show floor at a perfect time.
Show Manager Ted Jones stated, “Attendance was down about 20 percent from last October; a significant amount, but in light of what is going on, not bad. Four weeks before the show I went through all our lists and sent out 10,000 free tickets, as it is imperative that the dealers and buyers had a rewarding experience. We also sent out 9,000 free Sunday tickets that certainly boosted sales.
“The box that held the contracts for next springs registration was so full, the lid could not be closed – that was a great sign. At 6 am on Thursday we met all the dealers at the staging area and set appointment times and introduced ourselves. Our philosophy is to treat everybody well and apply the same rules to everybody.
“We emphasized there is no early pack-out as this only hurts every other dealer and shorts the buyer’s experience. Our goal is to have regular staff meetings and become known as the friendliest show anyone has ever seen and to solve problems with respect. It gives you a great feeling in your heart to have people embrace a new idea and run with it.
We will be seeing a greater number of furniture dealers and this show had 70 dealers in 25-foot to 60-foot booths; furniture requires a large amount of space and we want to make sure we provide the space. The free delivery really improved sales and this in turn will create a much better environment.
“I met with Irene Stella (Stella Management, promoter of New York Armory and Triple Pier Shows) and we clearly recognize the need to work together to sell the antiques market. Through joint promotions in Europe, we will promote people to come to New York for the Triple Pier Show and then travel to New Jersey for the Atlantique City Show. The Two biggest shows a week apart.
Mark Block, president of Blockglass Ltd., Trumbull, Conn. replied, “Our general impressions of the show were that while the gate attendance was down considerably from this past Spring’s show, we were not surprised at all due to the events of September 11 and those that have followed. We were very pleased that the show was not cancelled though as that message would have been the wrong one to send.
“Robert (Brother) and I did find that those attending, both exhibitors and public, were in more of a somber mood and much discussion amongst us all revolved around the past months activities by our government. It did appear that those who did attend came to buy – as the President suggested! Sales were up from last spring and last fall, though part of this is attributed to the release of Contemporary Marbles and Related Art Glass (Schiffer Publishing Ltd. 2001), and cultivating clients throughout the year.
“Key rdf_Descriptions sold included a rare 1991 Mark Matthews four-vane ribbon core set; a very rare four-inch Matthews Clown Murano filigrana sphere; a Ro Purser (one of the two founders of the contemporary sphere movement) Murrini cane sphere; and two bowl groups by Matthews, comprised of numerous and various spheres to represent both technical proficiency, aesthetic appeal and color theory by the artist. These two pieces were titled, “Little Princess” and “Amber Waves”
Also, a number of American brilliant cut glass rdf_Descriptions sold and quite a few antique and modern paperweights, include Banford, Perthshire and Baccarat weights. Scottish weights were in demand as well.
“Trends by clients clearly were geared towards quality rdf_Descriptions. Price seemed to be less of a factor than the highest quality pieces themselves. Investment grade was a hallmark of this show, as it has been at all shows we have done this year. Quality sells, the rest dwells.
“Regarding the show coordination itself, other than some minor glitches which we would have expected with the change in management, we were very pleased with the job the Krause folks did in making it as smooth a transition as possible and look forward to a seamless spring show from them.”
Dan & Nancy Rivers of Dan & Nancy’s Antiques, Feeding Hills, Mass., stated, “The gate was very good considering the recent events in our country; somewhat less than previous years, maybe 30 percent less, but the public was buying. We sold a variety of merchandise- paintings, sterling silver (flatware and hollowware), pottery and glass.
“One thing that we are noticing is that we are selling the higher end rdf_Descriptions. The middle range is not moving as quickly as normal. We think that the new management is doing a fine job as they are making their presence known during the switchover. They are asking everyone’s opinion on ways that they can improve the show; that is a very good sign. Pack out was very smooth considering the size of the show.
“Our sales were good but less than usual for one of the finer shows in the country. We are sure that they will return to normal as soon as the public feels more comfortable travelling. The Atlantique City Show is one of our best shows as it doesn’t conflict with other major shows and attendance is very strong. October is always a good selling month because it is cooler, vacations are over and the collectors are looking for wonderful rdf_Descriptions to add to their collections.
“The Atlantique City Show is one of the most diversified shows in the country. Using the “Dealer Locators” that are strategically placed throughout the show, one can easily find anything that they are looking for at the touch of a button.”
Scott Primeau, Ontario, Canada, deals in radios, jukeboxes and related nostalgia and believed, “The gate was down and the atmosphere of the crowd was different this time than other shows. We have been used to spurts of traffic followed by dead lulls. This time there seemed to be a smaller number of people coming through, but there was continual traffic through the booth.
“We sold less than usual, but the mix of product sold was consistent with other shows. Our radios sold well, as they always do and our other Rock & Roll memorabilia also sold well. We noticed that our regular customers bought as they usually do, but we had very few sales to new customers.
“I think the new management is on the right track to revitalize the show. Dealers have a need to feel that they are important contributors to the success of a show. This feeling has been absent in previous shows. I have had key people to the new organization make the time to come and meet with me and ask my opinions and suggestions – some of which I have already seen implemented into the format. The new people seem to genuinely care about the show and its continued success as well as its growth. I am very impressed with them.
“Sales were down, but I attribute it to the fact that many people are leery of flying, so our customers from the west coast and overseas were noticeably absent. This is a good date, but because of the size of the shows in the area, I would like to see some coordination with other major promoters to reduce the potential for conflicting show dates. With the size of our market, it does not make sense to compete for the same customers on the same date.
“We very much enjoy the Atlantique City Antique Show and look forward to many years of future successful shows. It is nice to see other dealers who put the same effort into putting a professional display of goods together as we do, and it is always nice to be able to walk the show and see such an eclectic collection of dealers and their wares.”
Bill and Anne Campbell of Birmingham, Alabama added, “The show was pretty good. Attendance appeared to be down just a little but we had some unexpected good sales, but over all not enough of the high-end buyers normally there showed up.
“One key rdf_Description that sold was a 1938 Lone Ranger radio in working condition. It was my best single sale. Customers appeared to really do a lot of price comparison shopping and were more selective in their choices, opting to buy that one really good rdf_Description, as opposed to a lot of good rdf_Descriptions.
“Packing in and out was the best ever. The drive in line started on time and getting out was the easiest yet. I was totally surprised. Also the back elevator was open each evening until closing time and that was a first as well. So, superbly done in this area.
“My sales were the second best I have ever had at Atlantique City and my best October show. This show is usually good for me and this time rivaled the spring show. I was pleased to see the History Channel doing a story on toys my wife liked the hospitality area. (Another nice first). Overall it was a well-run show, a profitable show, and I bought well. My hat is off to Krause Publishers (New owners of the show).”
Ed and Betty Koren make up the duo of Bridges over Time, Walden, N.Y., and Ed reflected on the event by saying, “We really enjoyed doing the show. It was our first time exhibiting at Atlantic City and we were there because the Armory show was cancelled, but on balance it was a pleasant experience. I had no idea what to expect. It was a good show for us.
“We sold a few pieces of furniture, and the free delivery service is a wonderful convenience. The bulk of our sales were smaller rdf_Descriptions, and it seemed that the best rdf_Descriptions sold, although we got the sense that the environment in our business has changed dramatically. People are definitely more cautious with their money and dealer sales were down considerably, particularly after the announcement was made that the Triple Pier Show at the Javits Center was cancelled.
“Furthermore, virtually all of our NYC fall shows have been cancelled, and with no show venues to sell at this fall most dealers were being cautious and conservative. I’m sure this is being felt throughout the area, not just at the show. Having said that, I think most dealer’s, including us, were pleased with the business we did, as our expectations our reduced.
“The new Managers Ted and Diane Jones made the whole experience a pleasure, as they went out of their way to meet most of the dealers and smooth out any problems. Load-in and load-out was a breeze, and we will definitely be back.”
Frank Mahlich of Frank’s Antiques, United States and Germany, remarked, ” The organization of the whole show was well done and set-up and breakdown went really smooth. Management certainly did their homework regarding advertising and brought people in – at least the same amount as in the spring.
“Sales were more or less on an average level, but I did have a lot of response on my unusual variety of merchandise and it may happen that some customers might decide towards Christmas to purchase one or the other rdf_Description. It is important to me was to hear several people remark “Your booth is the most interesting one I have seen here. I feel I am on the right track, and did not drive the 1,400 miles in vain.”
Barbara and Byron Baldwin head Old Friends Antiques, Inc., Sparks, Md. and believed, “Gate attendance was not what we usually see however all of the serious collectors were there when the doors opened. Key rdf_Descriptions sold were the high-end special rdf_Descriptions (very expensive mint bears were best). Mid range rdf_Descriptions have become increasingly hard to move. These are rdf_Descriptions that collectors typically can find on the Internet with no difficulty.
“Management was very positive; it’s obvious the new show manager is responsive to dealers. The show is well organized with set up and pack-out very easy. Our sales were the best to date (24 shows with many very good years). We are fortunate to have repeat sales and many long-term customers. October and March show dates are very good and established dates with October usually filled with gift buying.”
Barbara Lauver of Harper General Store, Annville, Pa., presented a strong display of vintage Teddy bears, Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, 1906-1950s children’s books, Schuco and Steiff animals. She remarked, “I thought that the number of dealers was down as it usually is in October, the attendance was down also, but the people that did attend were serious collectors so that made it a better show.
“Talking with the teddy bear dealers, I think that they all did well. Reasons: When the stock market goes down, investors want tangibles such as antiques for investment. Also, I really do think that the Teddy bear market is unique, as the Teddy bear is the number one solace object and in times of distress, many people want a teddy bear. I did sell some bears, not my greatest show, but still okay and at a par with other October shows. I like October as many people are shopping for the holidays and it is sort of a last hurrah before winter sets in”
Numbers can’t always quantify an event; other factors need to participate in the equation as well. A 30 percent reduction in attendance would belie the fact that the show was not very strong. However, each show has dealers that have fantastic results and those who barely break even. To not participate in Atlantique City would remove a dealer from the sight of shoppers and it is important to maintain a consistent presence at various shows.
The venue allows for a two-day event to intermingle twice a year with all that is unique and captivating about Atlantic City. Beach, boardwalk, casinos, restaurants, music, sun, seagulls, people – all complete a scene spectacular in scope and a triumph to the vision of those who envisioned the “World’s largest indoor art, antique and collectibles show.”
Seldom does an event live up to expectations; this one certainly surpasses them. Grab a hot dog; win a stuffed toy; take a chance to become rich at a pull of a lever; stroll off the boardwalk and visit the convention center. Type a category into the Computographic Locator System and set out for the booth and join in the hunt. Atlantique City – where yesterday and today meet in an aisle near the sea.