Published: March 27, 2012
The 39th Connecticut Spring Antiques Show (Hartford) opened to an enthusiastic crowd on March 10 at its new location on the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition, more commonly known as the Big E. The line for the show was substantial on Saturday morning, filling the small entryway, packing the lobby and spilling over into the parking lot. Show manager Karen DiSaia and many of the dealers were impressed with the size of the crowd on both days, reporting a constant and steady flow of shoppers from start to finish. Members of the Haddam Historical Society (HHS), for whom the show is a benefit, reported a Saturday gate that nearly equaled attendance for all of last year’s show.
Irony abounded on the fairgrounds. Not only was the Connecticut Show in Massachusetts, but the antiques show was housed in the Young Building, while the Better Living Center contained a gun and knife show, a separate event running simultaneously just across the parking lot.
Down from 70 dealers in 2008 to just 49 exhibitors this year, DiSaia and HHS were pleased with the show. The loss of the Connecticut Expo Center, the venue used in years past, resulted in a panicky search for an alternative site, explained DiSaia, and by the time it was decided to move forward with the show at the Big E, many dealers had made commitments to exhibit elsewhere or had extended their reservations regarding their return from a winter hiatus.
Many dealers, and collectors alike, cringed when it was announced that the show was headed to the Big E, a facility known for retail product-oriented fairs, cotton candy and fudge. Some longtime exhibitors flat-out refused to do the show.
The building, from a visual standpoint, with its low ceilings, fluorescent lighting and cement floors made for a difficult hurdle for DiSaia to clear, but she performed admirably with an attractive floor plan. Despite it all, Hartford was inviting.
An appreciative crowd hit the floor running at opening on Saturday morning, and sales were made. Reminiscent of the old days at the armory †the crowd seemed engaged and enthusiastic. Unlike the old days, however, they also seemed to be on an “antiques diet,” and they succeeded in exerting a lot of self-control over their impulses †perhaps nibbling instead of eating.
Dealers made their way out of this show selling smalls †very atypical of any Hartford show, but perhaps more typical of the times we are living in. Everyone agreed furniture was a hard sell †even moderately priced pieces †wall art, shelf art, small furnishings, chairs †these were the things people were pulling the trigger on.
“Overall, it was really positive,” said DiSaia.
With two caddy-corner booths angled towards the entrance, the show’s diversity quickly became apparent to shoppers. David Good and Sam Forsythe were facing the entrance on the left with a stellar selection of folk art, painted chests, weathervanes and pottery, while facing from the right side was the formal selection of Federal furniture offered by Thomas Schwenke.
On the backside of Schwenke’s booth were Newburgh, N.Y., dealers Dan and Karen Olson with a great selection of early American country antiques. “It was excellent, we were really happy,” stated Karen after the show. “We sold some things to customers we have seen at Hartford over the years and also sold things to some new customers as well. I was really impressed with the attendance.”
The Olsons rattled off a laundry list of items they had sold, including a Hudson River painting, a set of four Windsor chairs, two burl bowls, a Windsor cheese cradle, a pair of candlesticks, a quilt, an early theorem, among other things. A wonderful corner cupboard with glazed upper doors over three small drawers and blind lower doors in an old vibrant green paint failed to find a buyer. That did not bother Karen one bit, as it had been a fixture in the couple’s home for many years, and she was anxious to have it return to its vacant corner.
Rockingham, Vt., dealer Stephen Corrigan, Stephen-Douglas Antiques, stated that he “had a very good show in Hartford. I was actually quite surprised at how well we did. It was a good-looking show, I liked the way Karen configured the booths. There was a great crowd,” stated Corrigan, who believed that there was “more interest in stuff than in past Hartfords. We sold two good portraits, a watercolor and two small pieces of furniture” early on in the show. A Hadley area chest that was displayed in the booth was getting “lots of looks,” according to the dealer. “There were people there that I hadn’t seen in years,” he said of the crowd. “Our sales seemed to be more from people who had come down from the North to shop the show.”
The floor plan included an open area in the center of the show where major longtime Hartford exhibitors stood guard. Nathan Liverant and Sons, Grace and Elliott Snyder, Samuel Herrup and Jeffrey Tillou filled the area with secretary desks, cupboards, highboys, great chairs and classic Queen Anne tables.
Herrup commented that he was “pleased overall with the show. I did well, but sold mostly smaller things.” The Sheffield, Mass., dealer offered two nice highboys, both very reasonably priced, a small Connecticut Queen Anne cherry example at $7,500 and a Rhode Island maple highboy with original brasses at $14,000. Items that were selling from the stand included redware and metalwork. The dealer commented that there was substantial interest in weathervanes, of which one displayed was a fish form vane by Fiske. Herrup also reported follow-up action from the show, one call resulting in the sale of an early tea table.
“Attendance was good, attendees were enthusiastic and spirited,” commented Arthur Liverant of Nathan Liverant and Sons. “We were pleasantly surprised. Things were selling, people were buying. It was a very positive experience.” Without getting into particulars, the Colchester, Conn., dealer commented that they had good sales, although he sounded somewhat disappointed when he proclaimed “We didn’t sell a chunk of wood.” Liverant did seem pleased with the sale of a Windsor settee in blue paint and a bunch of good smalls, and he commented that someone had been by the shop to take another look at a tall chest that they had seen at the show.
Richard “Smitty” Axtell was another to report a good show. “I was pleased with it,” he said from his Deposit, N.Y., base in the days following the show. The dealer reported sales both days and commented that he was especially pleased with the amount of interest and sales on Sunday afternoon. “I sold a great folk art balance toy, a burl bowl, butter stamps, a painted box and lots of woodenware. There has been good follow-up, too,” he said, noting several requests for measurements and photographs.
One dealer that was extremely disillusioned with the show was Newbury, Mass., exhibitor Peter Eaton, who has set up at every one of the 39 Connecticut Spring Antiques Shows. “We made an attempt to make a really good booth and priced things fairly. There was just no interest,” stated Eaton, who along with his wife, Joan Brownstein, only recorded a couple sales. Eaton, who listed ten furniture sales at last year’s Hartford show, was baffled. “Usually there is some sort of silver lining that we can pull out of these things. It’s been a week [since the show ended], and we just haven’t come up with anything. There was no buzz, no enthusiasm,” stated Eaton. “The mystique of Hartford actually means something. I don’t see any way that the move to Springfield is a positive,” he concluded.
On a positive note †three booth chats were presented at the show over the weekend and each was well-attended. Don Olson spoke on Saturday, presenting “Historical American Folk Art Painting”; George Allen and Gordon Wykoff spoke Sunday, “Clay in Early America: Earthenware? Stoneware? Porcelain?” followed by “Early Schoolgirl Theorems in America: Artistry of Design, Essence of Beauty.”
A sad note was the fact that Don and Gloria Buckley were missing from the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show for the first time in decades. Having been involved in a motor vehicle mishap and sustaining serious injuries, the proprietors of Buckley and Buckley, Salisbury, Conn., now 88 and 79, respectively, decided to hang up their hat as exhibitors at the show.
In regard to the Connecticut Show staying in Massachusetts for 2013, DiSaia commented that a hold had been placed on the Big E building to secure the dates, however, “nothing is definite,” she said. “A couple [Connecticut] locations have come up, and we will review them and make a decision once the dust has settled.”
For additional information, www.ctspringantiquesshow.com or 860-345-2400.
Hartford In Springfield&†
OK, it needs to be said&†It needs be part of our coverage of the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show, but it shouldn’t overshadow this year’s event †so here it is †swept off to the side, but not under the rug: It remains unclear which terminology best fits this year’s Hartford Show for the 2012 season †and equally unclear if that terminology will even apply for 2013. Was it the Hartford show in Springfield? Or was it the Connecticut show in Massachusetts? And will a new locale be found prior to next year’s show that will reintroduce the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show to Connecticut?
The Hartford Courant published an editorial on the opening day of the show calling the defection of the Connecticut Show to Massachusetts a “historic loss” and summed up the whole affair in one sentence: “This isn’t good.”
It wasn’t good. But the antiques business was better served by having the Connecticut show take place in a less-than-stellar location (even if it was out of state), than it would have been to have the Connecticut show canceled for this year, which almost happened.
And, depending on who has your ear, this year’s Hartford show ranged from a huge success, to a good show, to an okay show, to a dismal failure. That is often the case these days with antiques shows, some dealers do well, some bomb. Analysis of these occurrences always results in endless mind-boggling debate.
One thing is clear cut, however, the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show has always been a top-end event filled to the brim with the best of the best in pre-1840 American antiques, something the show’s originator Fran Phipps insisted on, and something that, to a degree, continues today. While many of the dealers posted good results, many of the big boys, and there were fewer of them than ever, went home short. “Hartford” quality was abundant †”Hartford” quality buyers were not.
The antiques business needs Hartford, so does Connecticut. Let’s hope that Haddam Historical and show manager Karen DiSaia can bring our Grand Dame back, and back home.
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