Published: April 1, 2003
Yields a Sales Event
By W.A. Demers
WILTON, CONN. – Halfway around the world from the Kuwait-Iraq border on Saturday, March 15, another “coalition of the willing” was waiting restively for permission to attack. A long line of antiques enthusiasts formed up outside the Wilton High School Field House, eager to liberate fresh inventory from the legion of more than 100 dealers participating in the Wilton Historical Society Antiques Show, March 15-16. Bolstering the crowd’s numbers was the decision by Marilyn Gould, the show’s manager, to forgo early buying for the spring event, letting the action begin for everyone at 10 am.
That decision may have seemed to come as a blessing to shoppers coming from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut’s neighboring New England states, but Gould said reactions were decidedly negative. “Just before we began letting people in, I went down the line to talk with them and there were some really unhappy people,” she said.
Many of the show’s dealers did not seem to miss the ritual of admitting early hunter-gatherers.
“People I spoke with really liked the absence of early buying,” said Priscilla Hutchinson of Wiscasset, Maine. “Everyone has an equal shot at finding a special treasure without the sense the show has been ‘picked.’ The early buying concept does a disservice to loyal customers – retail couples, for example, who choose not to pay the premium admission times two. As a dealer I like the rush of everyone coming in at once. It adds excrdf_Descriptionent to the show.” Hutchinson said she sold smalls and flats, including needlework and paintings. “The show is well promoted and has a strong dealer and retail following,” she said. “I missed some familiar faces, but that was probably due to school vacation week and the Triple Pier show running at the same time.”
Gould acknowledged that school vacations, balmy March weekend weather and the overlapping Triple Pier event had an effect of lowering her show’s attendance by about 15 percent over the previous year. “It affected us, and I’m sure it affected them [Stella Show Mgmt., Triple Pier show promoter],” she said. “We missed a lot of our regular New York buyers.”
Art and Kathy Green, Newton Centre, Mass., who deal in early glass and ceramics, were among the few dealers who said they missed having the usual early buying feature, although the Greens reported having their best Wilton ever.
“My best sales were to dealers on the floor,” said Art Green. “That accounted for more than half of my sales.” Green sold some Chinese export as well as both of the major pieces he had brought – a large baluster vase to a dealer, and washbowl and water bottle to retail.
“Wilton remains a serious buying show,” concluded Green. “This is not a social event, but a sales event. Anyone serious within the area – and many from far away – do and should make it a point to get there.”
For Merle Koblenz, South Kent, Conn., a dealer in estate and antique jewelry, the absence of early buying was a favorable factor. “There were more sales early on than usual, the dealers were in a much better frame of mind. We are expensive dealers with great things and to have an early buying rush is flea market mentality,” she said.
Koblenz said one of her most interesting sales occurred to “a gentleman enamored with what we had to offer from the retro period. He needed a special gift for his wife for a special anniversary. After having him describe her wardrobe, we guided him toward a substantial unique two-tone gold choker. He was delighted,” said Koblenz.
For Americana dealers George and Debbie Spiecker from North Hampton, N.H., the absence of early buying “is probably good, but this was not a normal show,” said George Spiecker, citing prewar jitters as a possible factor in preventing shoppers from spending money.
“It is exciting for a dealer to have a lot of fresh inventory, but it is disappointing when customers respond but quote the world situation when they don’t buy,” said Spiecker. The Spieckers sold two weathervanes and three chests of drawers as well as a few decorative rdf_Descriptions. Their slow show at Wilton is not, however, preventing the couple from acquiring new inventory.
“People are waiting to get on with life,” said Spiecker, adding, “when they do, there will be a strong pent up demand. We are out everyday buying.”
“I was happy with the elimination of early buying, as it makes it much easier on the exhibitors,” said Nina Hellman of Nantucket, Mass., whose focus is marine antiques and Americana. “It does take away from a sense of urgency that early buyers often feel.”
Hellman said she did not see “the usual crowd from further away than New York or Connecticut,” and sensed some resistance to spending money. “I had a few good sales,” she said, “but given the economic climate and the state of the world, I was not at all surprised that I did not have as good a show as I usually do at Wilton.”
Conversely, Barbara and Charles Adams, Dennisport, Mass., reported having a “very good Wilton show.” Barbara Adams said the lack of early buyers had little effect as the Adamses began selling as soon as the doors opened.
“We sold very well both days,” said Adams. “Our lucky spot seemed to be the walls. We sold 11 paintings and redecorated that wall over and over. We always bring lots of extra things for the walls so as soon as something sells we replace it.” Among their sales was a signed Boyer Nantucket basket and an unusual eel basket.
“Our large iron hay rake on the wall sold immediately and caused lots of interest,” said Adams. Other sales included a child’s chair, silhouettes, doorstops, pieces of iron, yellowware and Bennington pottery. “Customers were upbeat despite the then pending war,” said Adams. “Several good days in the stock market may have helped too.”
Mo Wajelfish of Leatherwood Antiques, Sandwich, Mass., was busy on both Saturday and Sunday selling his woolies, Vienna bronzes, wall pieces, children’s pottery, Black Forest carvings and furniture.
“Some buyers were missing and some people hesitated with purchases because of the political conditions but we still had a good show.” A couple of treasures in his booth included a wrought iron French wine-shop sign shaped like a shield from the late Eighteenth Century and framed four cut/edged colored Sturbridge glass panels with “Dorothy Dimple,” “Punch & Judy,” “The Soldier/Drummer Boy” and “Fido, the Dog.” Among the rdf_Descriptions that left Wajelfish’s well-stocked dealer space was an unusual red-painted Tramp Art mirror, an automaton singing bird in a cage.
“In addition, we’ve made several after-show sales from attendees who viewed our website after the show,” said Wajelfish.
Darwin dealers Carolinn Pocher and William Woody of Philadelphia lived up to their credo of displaying “compelling & resonant objects”: Showcased in their booth was a Nineteenth Century narwhal tusk mounted on a turned mahogany base. Having attended the Wilton show for the past five or six years, Pocher was pleased by the strong traffic on Saturday’s opening but added that Sunday’s spectacular weather may have kept some people “out getting their gardens back into shape.” The pair was grateful for the absence of early buying.
“I think the gate was stronger for it,” said Pocher. “Several people mentioned to me that they enjoyed the opportunity to ‘sleep in’ on Saturday. And the dealers who were the usual early buyers came and bought.” Interesting sales at Darwin included a Nineteenth Century turned and inlaid ship’s wheel measuring five feet across and a mid-Nineteenth Century shoe foot ship’s table with original brass and wrought iron fittings, probably from a South Jersey oyster boat, according to Pocher.
At the Wilton show for the first time, the Herrs – Donald and Trish from Lancaster, Penn., – specialize in Southeastern Pennsylvania decorative arts with an emphasis on Pennsylvania German folk art, textiles and pewter. The Herrs were very impressed by the knowledgeable crowd.
“They knew what they were looking at. They responded to quality,” said Trish Herr. “The things of quality sold well. But people were not impulse buying. They carefully considered and needed to make decisions on how they would spend their money.”
Coverlets that sold included examples such as a stunning dark blue jacquard patterned coverlet by the Brosey weaving family of Manheim, Lancaster County, Penn., and an early three-color double-woven Pennsylvania coverlet. Pewter, which also is a specialty for the Herrs, drew much interest, especially an Eighteenth Century British pewter creamer that sold early in the show.
“We had the opportunity to sell to new customers and meet new people with a great deal of knowledge about their collecting interests,” said Trish Herr. “Dealers and show management made us feel at home and were so helpful during our first time there.”
Mario Pollo, an Americana dealer from Bearsville, N.Y., thought the effect of no early buying was good. “There was overall more energy on the floor when the show opened,” he said. “People were buying cautiously,” he added, pointing out that art and decorative rdf_Descriptions were definitely favored over furniture.
“We sold a wonderful painting of a dog,” said Pollo. “Actually we sold almost everything we had on the walls.”
Proceeds from the show are used to further The Wilton Historical Society’s mission of restoring historical buildings, and acquiring and presenting collections of historical rdf_Descriptions to the public. Thus, it was fitting that this year’s special show exhibit was a fetching display of garments from the Wilton Historical Society collection that showed how fashions changed from the turn-of-the-century to the 1930s.
“If people read my essay in the special show section, they’ll also think about the extraordinary changes in women’s lives during that period,” said Gould.
There were changes to the food service too. Gould brought in local contractor Picchione Farms to cater food and beverages. The service had previously been provided by the school cafeteria, and Gould said everybody preferred the new caterer.
As for early buying, Gould has decided to bring it back for the June and September shows. She said she has not yet concluded whether or not it will be a feature of next year’s spring show. The next Wilton show is the two-day Wilton Outdoor Antiques Marketplace on June 21-22 featuring about 180 dealers in “The Meadows,” just north of the Wilton High School on Route 7. For information, 203-762-3525.
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