Published: December 19, 2017
Review by Anne Kugielsky, photos by Bette McCarthy
WILLIAMSBURG, VA. – For 36 years Bettianne Sweeney has run the Holiday Antiques Show at the Doubletree Hilton hotel the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year was no exception, and the crowds, who know and love this show, came for the Friday evening opening session and continued to come through the following two days. This year’s show featured 28 dealers from 14 states, one as far away as Missouri, drawing people not just from Williamsburg, but all over Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina.
Sweeney, who describes herself as a “one-person committee,” said that she wants this to be a destination show. “Williamsburg has the oldest, best folk art museum in world [the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum] and a decorative art museum [DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum] – I want people to come for the show and for all that’s available here.”
Being the long weekend after Thanksgiving, this year November 24-26, people do come; and the loyal returning patrons found new dealers as well as returning familiar faces at what one attendee said was “the most beautiful show in Virginia, and I’ve seen all of them for 15 years.”
Malcolm Magruder, a new dealer from Millwood, Va., had an amazing cricket weathervane, Sweeney said, priced at $26,000 (she thought it was underpriced). She hoped the Colonial Williamsburg curator who was cruising the show would buy it for the folk art museum, noting, “Abby Rockefeller loved weathervanes; and I know because I asked, they don’t have a cricket.”
“This is also an educational show,” Sweeney said; Ken Farmer’s very popular appraisal session, beginning before the show opens, was reportedly fully booked throughout Saturday. And many of the dealers who attend are experts in their fields. “I should probably pay them to come, but don’t tell them I said so!” Sweeney said.
For example, Wallace Gusler of Williamsburg, formerly the gunsmith and the curator of furniture at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and author of the book The Furniture of Winchester, Virginia, was talking with new dealer Ron Hodgdon about a tilt top tea table Hodgdon was showing. Ron and Pat Hodgdon had acquired it close to their hometown of Pownal, Maine. After studying the piece with flashlight and magnifying glass, Gusler said he thought it was a Norfolk (Virginia) piece. Hodgdon sold the table to a buyer who, appropriately, was taking it home to Virginia.
Gusler was showing a table with a top deeply engraved with flowers and designs, which Sweeney believed once graced the cover of The Magazine Antiques. It was tagged at $450,000. “He doesn’t plan on selling it, he just likes to show what is available and talk about its history,” Sweeney said.
Mad River Antiques’ Steven and Lorraine German, North Granby, Conn., have been doing the show since 2003. “We always enjoy it and have a lot of loyal customers who buy from us every year. As usual, we sold a variety of things, from a few pieces of stoneware to a folk art owl, but the biggest seller by far was Christmas. Half of the booth was devoted to early Christmas decorations and ornaments and I had to restock the trees with ornaments about four times,” Lorraine said.
At Witt’s End Antiques, Wallkill, N.Y., Chris and Karen Doscher were showing an appealing 54-inch wood mermaid. Carved circa 1880-1920, she stands with her right arm raised and her left hand on her head beckoning buyers. With traces some of her original paint, she caught the eye of a buyer and sported a sold tag early in the day.
The Doschers also showed a circa 1840 seaman’s chest with a paint decorated top showing a whaling scene signed by noted New England folk artist Elizabeth Dean (active mid-1800s).
Offerings throughout the show reflected a diversity of styles and tastes. Bill and Joyce Subjack of Neverbird Antiques, Surry, Va., brought a large collection of mostly early 1940s glass, hand painted movie theater slides from a theater in downtown Peterburg, Va., and an 1827 sampler made by Majuana Maria Manjon Rodriguez from the town of Chicla (possibly Florida); Ruchelle Davis had antique and vintage linens for any home; and a rare Steiff slider horse with a button in its ear was on display at Sharon and Claude Baker, Americana, from Daytona Beach, Fla.
Next year the show will return for its 37th year. “This show is my passion,” Sweeney said, “when it stops being that, then I’ll see what happens.”
For more information, call Bettianne Sweeney at 757-220-1299.
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