Review and Photos by Rick Russack
DEERFIELD, N.H. — Is there a pent-up demand for live shows and person-to-person contact? Simply put, yes. Rachel and Josh Gurley’s show is a staple of Antiques Week in New Hampshire, but for the last few years, it’s been mostly an indoor show. This year, given, all restrictions that are in place, they decided to take the gamble and do an old-fashioned outdoor show under tents. Result? The show, which normally has about 60 dealers, had 130 this year. A line of a few hundred masked buyers, some of whom had been there for hours, properly socially distanced but chatting with old friends, waited for the 9 am opening.
The Gurleys took every precaution to present as safe a show as possible. Their pre-show advertising noted that masks would be required and that proper social distancing had to be observed both in the waiting line and in booths. No more than three or four were to be in a booth at any given time. Hand sanitizer stations were spread throughout the fairgrounds. And dealers utilizing tents were asked, whenever possible, to put their vans to one side, rather than at the back, to increase space between exhibitors. There were several other show managers, Frank Gaglio, Jon Jenkins, Steve Sherag, Kathy Bovard, present to see how the COVID-19 restrictions were being managed.
You know what you’re going to see at Gurley shows. Mostly Americana, with nearly everything possibly having been used in early American homes. Items ranged in age from a Seventeenth Century “blackjack” to 1960s-70s furniture and accessories. There was a large selection of early furniture ranging in size from small footstools to large case pieces. There was a variety of advertising items, hooked rugs, quilts, decoys, painted boxes, redware, stoneware and more. Ceramics included early Dutch and English delft along with other English ceramics and Chinese export porcelain. There were a few items that were so large and heavy that you wonder why dealers would go to all the work of bringing them. Items sold covered a timeline of more than 400 years, from a circa 1650 candlestick to a circa 1960s set of modern furniture.
Large selections of early country and formal furniture were available from several dealers, including Heller-Washam, Hilary Nolan, Benting and Jarvis, Oliver Garland, Colette Donovan, Sandy Jacobs, Jesson and Hohnwald, Bill Kelly and many others. Redware and stoneware were available from Brett Cabral, Jeff and Holly Nordsy, Greg Kramer and others. Several dealers offered folk art, trade signs, hooked rugs and quilts, and there were numerous objects that would be difficult to classify but made for an interesting, varied, show.
Both buyers and sellers reported success. Ross Levett, Thomaston, Maine, sold some good tribal rugs, early Chinese pottery, and a regular customer put a hold on a circa 1650 $11,000 brass candle holder from the Vogel collection. He said he also bought well. Sandy Jacobs, Marblehead, Mass., also said she bought and sold well. Bob Withington, Portsmouth, N.H., likewise bought and sold well, reporting, “I sold very good bronze statue of a young girl, a good fireboard, a pair of Eighteenth Century Italian demilune tables, and I sold a pair of 32-inch clam shells that I bought on the field. I thought the crowd was there to buy and everyone seemed to be following the social distancing rules.”
Josh Steenburgh, Pike, N.H., brought a large tent that he and his dad, Archie, use for their auctions, and shared it with Brian Bittner and Jeff and Holly Nordsy, Vermont dealers. All did well. Josh said his pre-show business was strong and that he had a call-back the day after the show from a customer who wanted to purchase the five-piece set of Paul Frankl, midcentury designer furniture that was priced at $2,500. Bittner also said he did well, adding, “I brought a lot of stuff that I would have had at the two canceled Brimfields. My best sale of the day, just under five figures, was a pair of Tiffany Favrile vases. We also moved a lot of smalls, folk art and a colorful lithograph of the locomotive Amoskeag. We’re definitely pleased with the show.”
Richard and Dianne Angelo, who have a booth at the York Antiques Gallery, said they bought well, both for the shop and their own collections. She collects Christmas items, and bought a Santa ice cream mold along with a Santa candy mold for resale; they bought a large paint-decorated fish on a stand, a Seventeenth or Eighteenth Century santos and more.
After the show, Rachel Gurley told Antiques and The Arts Weekly, “It was really wonderful to see and be able to talk to so many people Josh and I have known for years. Antiques shows are social events. Collectors and dealers have known each other for years. We worked to get that right. It was a big show for us — last year we had 80 dealers. The size of the crowd, 550 — up 25 percent from last year — reflected the fact that we increased our social media advertising to cover a wider area and we used major New Hampshire papers like the Manchester Union Leader. We had new signs made and we placed some further away than we have in the past. We knew that some dealers don’t have their own tents anymore, so we bought 36 10-by-20-foot tents, rented them to dealers and set them up for them. It took us until about 10 pm to get everything taken down and cleared. We were delighted with the quality of the offerings, and several dealers told me that their sales were well into five figures. So, I guess all we can say is that it all came together, and we’re delighted from a business point of view and a social one as well.”
The Gurleys will follow this show with two outdoor shows at the Dover, N.H., Elk’s Lodge September 7 and October 2. Both will also run from 9 am to 1 pm. Masks and proper social distancing required at all. For additional information, 207-396-4255 or www.gurleyantiqueshows.com.
Editor note: An earlier version of this story stated that the Gurleys will be running September 6 and October 4 antiques shows at the Regency Hotel in Boxborough, Mass. These shows have since been canceled.