Published: February 20, 2007
It is hard to imagine an antiques show that has been conducted semiannually for the past 74 years, yet that is the case with the Original 148th Semi-Annual York Antiques Show and Sale that once again opened its doors to the public on February 2 for a three-day run. While perhaps not always appearing in the majestic form that it does today, the show has always been a popular destination for serious collectors from near and far.
Organized in 1934 by Mabel Renner, the show continued under her guidance into the 1950s when it was taken over by Paul Ettline. The show has appeared in a variety of venues over the years, including an old bowling alley that burned to the ground during one of York’s more spectacular structure fires. It later found a home at the York Fairgrounds and for many years took place in the Old Main building in the sprawling facility.
The show was purchased by Melvin “Butch” Arion in 1996, the same year that the brand new Memorial Hall opened on the fairgrounds, and, fittingly, Butch and his dealers became the first vendors to occupy the new building. “We had 50 dealers then,” recalled Arion, “and we have built it up from that day on,” he said soft-spokenly, although with well-deserved pride.
Arion’s York show is colorful, diversified, fun and somehow it remains reminiscent of the “old days” with an air of excitement and the thrill of the chase rejuvenated. A great selection of dealers, now totaling 96, and a diversified assortment of wares set the stage for this show, and it is a stage well set. Encouraged by management, dealers seem to go the extra yard in York; it is a collaboration that seems to pay off in spades.
The crowd on hand at opening on Friday morning filled the cavernous entryway of the building and extended out into the parking lot. Vehicles loaded with shoppers began arriving at the fairgrounds nearly three hours prior to the doors opening on Friday morning and the line began to form when the lobby was opened just before 8 am. Don Horvath was first in line, having made yet another trip to the fairgrounds for Arion’s show from his home in Mount Morris. Virginia collector Julie Roe was beat out by Horvath by moments, probably the same length of time it took for the last red traffic light to change on their trip up to the show on Friday morning from their home in Virginia.
While management passed on the opportunity to boast about the actual number of people that made their way through the gate, Arion stated, “Attendance was very good, we never quote the exact amount to anybody, except our tax people, but it was in multiples of thousands and thousands.”
Excitement was evident in the eyes of shoppers on Friday morning as they rushed onto the floor and while a bunch of sold tags began to appear, the seasoned crowd seemed to be making selective purchases, coming back to close the deal after a second or third look. “Overall, a wide spectrum of paintings, folk art, painted furniture, porcelains and smalls were selling,” commented Arion. According to the promoter, an informal survey, relying mostly on word of mouth, revealed that “98 percent of the dealers were very happy.”
Sales were reportedly steady throughout the show and attendance was good for all three days, although management commented that Sunday afternoon was slow. “It probably was a couple hundred off on Sunday,” said Arion of the midafternoon crowd. “We don’t know if we should attribute that to the Super Bowl parties that were starting up, or what.”
The show, which always opens the fifth weekend of the new calendar year, has conflicted with the Super Bowl during about half of the 11 years that Arion has managed the event. According to Arion, the championship game is not really a factor in the success of the show as by Sunday morning dealers are either “going to be happy or sad. This year the majority of them were very happy,” he said.
Merchandise seen around the floor included booths filled with formal “brown” furniture, booths filled with porcelains, booths filled with wonderful painted chests, whirligigs, tables, chairs, game boards and cupboards. Booths were filled with silver, tools, fireplace tools and accoutrements, and booths were filled with toys.
The diversity is what keeps people coming back, stated management.
Joseph Lodge, Lederach, Penn., offered a stellar assortment of Americana with his stand filled with paint decorated country furniture, weathervanes, Pennsylvania treen and tole, and a cigar store Indian maiden that was attributed to the New York shop of Samuel Robb. In wonderful early, if not original, surface, the maiden was priced at $69,000 and was reportedly one of many items that was marked with a sold tag prior to the end of the first day.
A horse and rider weathervane from Lodge’s selection had a hold tag stuck to its side within moments of the doors opening and there seemed to be interest in the oversized horse and large rooster vanes as well. Other items in the booth attracting attention included a cherry corner cupboard in early surface, $8,800, a Chippendale chest with early paint and a superbly grain decorated tall chest.
Taking the booth that faced the front doors to the show was Country Lane Antiques, Quarryville, Penn., and its selection of merchandise ranged from a paint decorated dower chest to a Federal secretary desk. The nicely inlaid desk and bookcase, $110,000, was circa 1805 and it had an elegant air to it with a sweeping broken arched pediment top with inlaid faux finial and flaring French feet.
Two Pennsylvania chests were featured in the booth with a sponge decorated dower chest in original brown and blue paint, believed to have been made in nearby Lebanon County, priced at $65,000, while a dark blue-green two-drawer dower type chest that had been made and elaborately decorated by a German immigrant was $50,000. Accessories in the booth included a Jacob Maentel watercolor and an exceptional fraktur by Henrich Otto that was dated 1765.
Lebanon, Penn., dealer David Horst also offered a stellar selection of Pennsylvania country wares, including a couple fraktur, a marked Remey stoneware crock and a nice grain decorated blanket chest in yellow with a deeper brown graining. A highlight of the booth was an early large table rug that had a variety of barnyard and wild animals sewn to its red overall field. A wonderful item, with four horses decorating the corners, a dog, turkey, stag and a rat all filling out the field that was surrounded by a nicely scalloped edge.
Jewett-Berdan Antiques, New Castle, Maine, was in the running for the “most colorful booth award” as a graduated set of 19 brightly painted pantry boxes in yellows, blues, greens, reds and oranges screamed for attention from one corner of the booth. The black wall paper that the dealers used emphasized the dashing paint decorated arrows, colorful hooked rugs, a sweetheart of a tabletop dollhouse with painted brick exterior and a vibrant one-drawer blanket chest in red paint with black grain decoration.
Lehigh Valley dealer Thurston Nichols brought a diverse and amusing assortment of items that included a huge steer’s head, probably an early trade sign, a Pennsylvania dowers chest in super paint with pinwheel decoration, painted wall boxes, decoys and also a stylish Chippendale tall case clock .
Pat and Rich Garthoeffner had a whimsical display on their outside wall with a colorful quilt neatly bunched at the top and draped across the wall, revealing the brilliant red and green appliqué decoration. Next to it was an item that was sure to raise a smile, a large papier mache clown’s head that had been used at Coney Island, circa 1910, $5,500.
Baldwinsville, N.Y., dealer James Lowery displayed a nice selection of formal furniture that ranged from a classical chest with mirror with and elaborate decoration by New York City makers Kinnan and Mead, circa 1823. Also displayed was a set of three Chippendale chairs attributed to Connecticut cabinetmaker Eliphalet Chapin, circa 1760, that were marked $12,500, that were displayed around a nice painted Queen Anne drop leaf table thought to have been made in either Connecticut or Rhode Island, circa 1740.
Alfred, N.Y.’s Country House Antiques had a nice assortment of merchandise ranging from country antiques to toys. It was the collection of Belsnickles, however, that was turning heads. The dealers had an extraordinary display of six rare examples atop a low cupboard that centered their booth, but the exterior walls held the special examples such as the rare Santa on a sleigh.
James Gallery was on hand with a selection of formal porcelains, including a large Fitzhugh tureen and underplatter. Also attracting attention in the booth was a large pair of neoclassical Chinese Export urns that were loaded with all of the goodies that collectors like to see, such as the pistol-grip handles, marbleized bases and neatly decorated central medallions. Canton, some in monumental sizes, was also prevalent in the booth with a wide selection of rarely seen forms.
William and Teresa Kurau, Lampeter, Penn., had customers lined up at the entrance to their booth with an extensive selection of Historical Staffordshire, along with local spatter and soft paste wares that were attracting the eye of collectors. A collection of Liverpool jugs were also featured with a large memorial pitcher commemorating Washington’s death attracting attention.
Plainfield, N.J., dealer David Willis also offered a selection of ceramics, although early on in the show it was the silver collection that was attracting attention. Among the featured pieces was a Philadelphia cann, circa 1765, that had been made by Joseph Richardson. A silver porringer by Newport, R.I., silversmith Samuel Vernon, circa 1725, was also highlighted.
Butch Arion works hard for, and with, his dealers. He confidently tells them, “I promote York twice a year for you, and you can promote York twice a year for me by being there. And your collectors will come to York twice a year for you.”
The York Antiques Show and Sale will take place again over Labor Day weekend, August 31 through September 2. For information, 302-542-3286 or www.TheOriginalYorkAntiquesShow.com.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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