Review and Photos by Rick Russack
MILFORD, N.H. – Antiques Week in New Hampshire began at 6:30 am on Sunday, August 5, at Jack Donigian’s Milford Antiques Show at the Hampshire Hills Athletic Club. Now in its eighth year of participating in Antiques Week in New Hampshire, the 65-dealer show is an informal show with small amounts of furniture and a wide assortment of quality antiques, leaning towards Americana but with things for most any taste. Many of the early shoppers were dealers who set up at other shows later in the week.
For the past 42 years, Donigian has been producing a show in Milford every Sunday from late October through late March and the format of his shows does not change. Dealers can start moving in at 6:30 am and early buyers, paying $40 each, can start shopping at that time. At 8:30, the admission fee drops to $5, and, after 9:30, admission is free. For this show, 47 buyers paid for early admission and about 150 were on hand for 8:30. Several of the dealers at this show are regular exhibitors at the weekly shows, but several do not set up elsewhere during Antiques Week. At least one exhibitor came from Canada, and others from as far away as Florida. Buyers arriving a few minutes before the 8:30 opening are welcome to shop many booths at the front of the show and then line up in the aisles, waiting for Donigian to blow a horn signaling that the show is open. One dealer, who has his own way of doing things, does not unpack anything until 8:30, at which time there’s a “feeding frenzy” at his booth.
The early buyers came to shop, and numerous dealers reported that they had done very well by the time the 8:30 crowd entered. The next day, at the Deerfield show, several dealers said that they had done well. There were also positive comments on the enthusiasm of the crowd. Dealers sometimes have positive comments about show managers, but it is not often that they particularly ask that we directly quote them. Matt King, Marshfield, Mass., said, “You couldn’t ask for a better show promoter than Jack. He goes out of his way to see that everything runs smoothly. And I’d like you to quote me on that.” Steve Evans also asked to be quoted: “Jack is great. I can’t say enough good things about him and the show.”
There were some quite unusual items. An exceptional stoneware water cooler was in the booth of John Tracy, Fall River, Mass. It had incised blue birds perched on branches and was stamped “Somerset Potters Works” with the number 3. Tracy said that he has owned this cooler for about 40 years and said that he knew of only six other examples, one of which he claimed had sold for more than $22,000. According to an article in a 1946 issue of American Collector Magazine, the Somerset pottery was established in 1846 on the banks of the Taunton River, in a section of Somerset, Mass., that came to be known as Pottersville. There was no suitable clay in the Somerset area; it all had to be imported from Gardner’s Island in Long Island Sound. Tracy priced the cooler at $5,000. Mike Lord, Lord & Sons, Wells, Maine, sells automotive memorabilia and brought several porcelain trade signs.
Robert Sherwood, Cambridge, N.Y., had a set of three very large woodblocks dated 1878 that had been used for printing posters for a clock exhibition. Mark Stockley, Charlton, Mass., had a Lucite or plastic barber’s chair, probably dating to the mid-Twentieth Century. It seemed quite reasonable, as it was priced at $175. Joe Chirco, Fitchburg, Mass., had a very interesting wood carving with bears, eagles, a “frontiersman” and more. It was hollow and open on both ends. Chirco said he thought it had been carved from a newel post and he might have been right. He priced it at $40. Chirco also had some interesting Asian items, some of which sold within moments of the opening. “I’m not a dealer. I collected stuff for years, but I just turned 50 and decided it’s time to let stuff go,” he said.
Several dealers offered dolls and stuffed toys. Karen Vincent, Greenfield, N.H., had a Raggedy Anne and Beloved Belindy. Pat Bleecher, Northboro, Mass., has been selling dolls and soft toys for many years. She also had an early Beloved Belindy, along with several stuffed animals, dolls and quilts…and even a few daguerreotypes. Jasper J. Jones, Roxbury, Mass., had an exceptional folky rocking horse and an unusual pair of large Masai shields, circa 1890, painted in tribal colors. The rocking horse was priced at $1,100.
Several dealers had a variety of hooked rugs. Bud Hughes, Stratham, N.H., had three rugs with farm animals. One, with a horse and colorful red border, was priced at $550. He also had several pieces of stoneware, nearly all priced less than $150.
Donigian later said that he likes keeping it simple and informal. “The formula seems to work pretty well so I don’t see a reason to change anything. Many of the exhibitors have been doing the weekly shows for years and know the routine. We started this show about eight years ago. I like it because it gives the exhibitors that do the weekly shows a chance to get their merchandise in front of the buyers who are here because of Antiques Week. Many don’t do other shows, so this is a good opportunity for them. The money from the early admission fee, in my mind, makes it feasible to offer free admission after 9:30. I think it is important to encourage new shoppers, and the free admission makes it easy for a family to come together. There are often families with small children – that’s healthy for our business.” After the show Donigian said about 200 people took advantage of the free admission. The first of the regular weekly shows will take place on October 21.