Published: June 11, 2002
41° 55′ 38″ North, 073° 53′ 56″ West Marks the Spot:
By Steve Sundlof
RHINEBECK, N.Y. – Looking for the epicenter of the antiques trade? Try 41° 55′ 38″ N, 073° 53′ 56″ W, or as it is more commonly known, Rhinebeck, off Route 9. May 25-26 brought the “Rhinebeck Experience” to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds — a fitting venue as a carnival-like atmosphere unfolded along with new records in attendance and sales. Saturday presented the myriad shoppers with the quintessential spring day – blue skies, 70-degree temperatures and a few wispy clouds for contrast. As the ropes dropped at each of two staging areas, all bets were off, everyone was on his own and to the quickest went the plunder. Controlled pandemonium prevailed as management stayed just ahead of the surge that filled the four buildings housing 185 dealers.
Promoter Jimi Barton and his experienced crew produce an event that has few rivals, anywhere. The Rhinebeck Show has become the yardstick to measure shows by and other promoters look to it with envy. Dealers scramble to be put on waiting lists for a coveted 10- by 20-foot piece of real estate in the weekend getaway town of Rhinebeck, located 100 miles north of central Manhattan.
The town of Rhinebeck offers rural retreats, fine restaurants and, three times a year, an antiques event that presents a progressive offering of antiques that ranges from whimsical to well-bred. Rhinebeck has within its borders 437 sites listed on the National Historic Register and has one of the largest historic districts in the United States. Maybe this begins to explain how the old becomes news again.
Jimi Barton tells of “being overwhelmed by the event and not being able to keep up with the volume.” Barton even acted as a porter when the backlog of purchased rdf_Descriptions had to be transported to the pick-up tent. More trips were made to the tent on Saturday then both Saturday and Sunday for previous shows. Dealers apologized for having such empty booths and did not want to disappoint customers on Sunday. The two-day attendance broke the 26-year record, sending some dealers scrambling home in order to restock empty walls.
Barton told of many dealers reporting their best shows ever and in a follow-up questionnaire that is given to all dealers 88 percent posted a good to excellent show. “I was pleasantly stunned,” added Barton. “We worked hard on publicity but this was beyond expectations and we weren’t ready for the deluge. We added 700 people to our mailing list and many inquiries were made as to obtaining dealers spaces. The show was a promoter’s dream. It doesn’t get any better; in 12 years of being the promoter, this one stands alone.”
Tim and Charline Chambers of Missouri Plain Folk, Sikeston, Mo., set-up at a show in Richmond, Ind., on the way home from Rhinebeck and arrived home Monday evening. Tim reported, “I’m pleased to say that Rhinebeck was a great success, again. It is such a treat to participate in an event that is so highly anticipated by both exhibitors and customers alike. Jimi has a fine organization — set-up is actually enjoyable and dare I say, by the second day almost relaxing. For Charline and I this creates the perfect atmosphere for welcoming customers on opening day; we’re rested and ready to go.
“Being in the front of ‘B’ building,” he said, “we get to see the buyers rushing into the show on Saturday morning. You can tell by the smiles and conversation that they are as animated as the dealers. It’s really refreshing; add this air of congeniality to the sophistication of both dealers and shoppers and how can the show be anything but a success? If there’s anything at all like ‘job security’ in the antiques business, this has to be it!”
Praiseworthy Antiques from Guilford, N.Y., brought a bronze model of a proposed monument for the Falkland Islands War; a 16- by 18-inch oil on Masonite by Salvatore Charles de Gaetani; a pair of chest of drawers in striped ash, 1939, by Gilbert Rohde; an English walnut book press; a miniature porcelain bathroom sink; a three-piece rustic furniture set from Pennsylvania; a plywood trade sign that read “The Original Perch Filet”; a French store mannequin with articulated fingers; an Art Deco chrome table lamp a sailor’s knot mirror; a store display of Arrow brand collars and a Chinese desk and chair with lacquer and mother-of-pearl inlay.
John and Robin Sitig, Shawnee-on-Delaware, Penn., displayed copper luster small footed bowls, a pitcher and a child’s copper mug; sandwich glass compote; Pennsylvania tole tray, Pennsylvania hooked rug with three ducks, dated 1948; R.W. Wilson (Philadelphia) silver; a set of four hand-wrought iron utensils, circa 1830 and a banister back side chair.
The Sitigs also brought a Pennsylvania cherry four-drawer chest, circa 1840-50; a miniature watercolor on paper, circa 1810; a stone fruit collection; a 10- by 10-inch sampler by Mary Jane Sherrerd; a Pennsylvania two-piece cherry corner cupboard, 1830s; an 1810 Chippendale mirror; a 153/4 willow plate; an oil on canvas tiger painting signed “A.S.B.,” circa 1860 that measured 36 by 46 inches and two 48-star flags.
Chuck Auerbach, Akron, Ohio, noted, “The market seems healthy. The show was crowded and I sold things in every category: quilts, rugs, photos, two- and three-dimensional folk art and garden furniture. One of the things that I love about Rhinebeck is that they retain some of the original dealers from 20 years ago. Too many shows forget about their roots, and, that not every buyer can spend $10,000 on a quilt. Rhinebeck still has mom and pop dealers, and you can still buy a nice quilt for $200. Another nice thing about Rhinebeck is the loyalty of the buyers. They come year after year, and even if they don’t spend with you, they’re very happy to see you. It’s a great show!”
Jane Brown of Mashpee, Mass., was impressed with the gate and believed it was the largest for a Saturday and was stunned to see another large gate on Sunday. She had a “super” show and considered this “the best Rhinebeck ever.”
Brown added, “On Saturday, a little girl came through with her mother and suddenly her eyes lit up when she saw a child’s rocker in my booth. She climbed in and sat and rocked with an ear to ear smile. Her mother, not believing the two-year-old could be that taken by anything took her out of my booth and they walked the show for about a half-hour. Then they came down my aisle again, the smile and bright eyes happened again, and the child ended up with a new rocker for her room!”
Brown traveled home on Monday and brought a set of six Thonet chairs to a customer who liked the design but was not sure they would go with his table. She put the chairs around his table and he sat down in one and wrote a check. Full service indeed.
Denny L. Tracey of Ann Arbor, Mich., showcased a duck family hooked rug; an Ohio Amish decorated cupboard; an Uncle Sam 1940s sign; paint decorated oars; a signed and dated game board; a tramp art frame of a Harvard College pencil sketch; a hickory and oak Amish rocker from Holmes County, Ohio; an Ohio Sheraton curly maple stand with drawer, circa 1850; a New England rug; a Pennsylvania drawing of a train, “Baldwin 440” from 1910, and a tramp art hanging cupboard.
Phil and Jane Workman of New Boston, N.H., sold a Nineteenth Century French pastry table and a piece of furniture with an iron base with brass trim and a marble top. Also selling was a day bed; a one-drawer stand; a good twig stand in smoke paint decoration, a “Tree of Life” hooked rug, an architectural fragment with a star in red and gray paint and numerous small rdf_Descriptions.
Jane stated, “We sold well on Saturday and met a lot of very knowledgeable buyers but I didn’t feel some of the usual buyers were there this time — but we sold to many new people. We felt a better sense of buyers’ confidence this time; hopefully, we are turning the corner, although we are not back yet. All in all the Rhinebeck show was very satisfactory. Jimi always does a great job and he treats his dealers very well.”
Lana Smith of Louisville, Ky., remarked that Rhinebeck seems to continually have a very good gate with solid buyers both days. She sold a clam shell pattern hooked rug and a game wheel that was hand made from a bicycle wheel. Smith believes this shows it is possible to sell from traditional to funky — this is not necessarily the norm at all shows.
Smith concluded, “Many shows are very traditional but I think Rhinebeck draws a diverse group of buyers who have confidence in their buying. I feel the business is still somewhat soft, but beginning to return to normal. The attitude was definitely more festive than last year! As usual Jimi and his staff make it a fun enjoyable and easy show to participate in and I love coming to Rhinebeck.”
Mark Moody of Shohola, Penn., displayed a Nineteenth Century cherry step back cupboard with pie shelf boasting a pronounced raised panel door that wore blue over red paint and a pair of triangular shaped pedestals with original paint decorated surface, dated from the early Twentieth Century. A set of four papier-mache, wood leather and fabric marionettes were dated from the 1930s and one of the puppets carried a label that read “WPA Extension Project.” A small Nineteenth Century apothecary unit with seven dovetailed drawers was constructed of bass, pine and walnut and had the original surface. Also displayed was a sack back Windsor chair that was branded “Pentland” (James Pentland, active Pennsylvania, 1791-1806), dated 1790s and was black over a green repaint.
Late Nineteenth/early Twentieth Century Pennsylvania rdf_Descriptions Moody brought included a tiger maple butter paddle, an original green surface wooden churn, a redware pie plate with bright orange glaze, a twig stand with original smoke decorated surface and a yellow foundry mold. Additional rdf_Descriptions included an oval Shaker box with original contents — four awls with wooden handles and two balls of string. The box had maple sides, copper tacks Nineteenth Century green over blue original paint.
Larry and Marie Miller traveled from Dorset, Vt., and felt “This was the best Rhinebeck we have ever had, both in dollar amount and number of rdf_Descriptions sold. The crowds both days were incredible. Sunday sales were very good. Jimi continues to run an excellent show with tremendous organization and super advertising and knows how to bring the customers in. We were a bit apprehensive with the economy being what it is, but were pleasantly surprised. Sales were across the board — furniture and smalls and we sold some pricey rdf_Descriptions as well.”
Kass Hogan and Jeff Cherry comprise Cherry Gallery of Pine Plains, N.Y., and Jeff stated, “We were very pleased with the May Rhinebeck show. The attendance was strong both days, although the major selling for us occurred on Saturday. Overall, our sales were the best ever for Rhinebeck. We are lucky to live close by so that we could make a trip home midday on Saturday to pick up more merchandise to restock our booth! Some of our strongest business came from decorators who were shopping with clients for furniture and accessories.”
Some notable rdf_Descriptions sold included a sculptural branch-back 11-foot-long porch settee from the 1930s rustic era that furnished Al Kline’s bar in Reading, Penn., a rustic stand from the Moose River region of the Adirondacks, several pieces of old hickory furniture, a two-seat painted woven cane porch settee and a pair of beaded Chippewa child’s moccasins. Follow-up inquiries on the central rdf_Description in the booth — a 10-foot-long butcher’s rack and trade sign in original paint — point toward some residual sales as well.
Lea Wait of MAH Antiques, Edgecomb, Maine, is a 25-year veteran of Rhinebeck shows and stated, “MAH Antiques is glad to report that, despite 9/11, this spring’s show was a good, solid, typically strong show. We had a mixture of old and new customers, and, despite the stock market’s recent valleys, most people seemed to enjoy choosing special rdf_Descriptions as many pulled out their checkbooks. The new dealers added some spice and some great merchandise. The show was run smoothly and professionally, as always.”
Wait had some unusual requests for rdf_Descriptions. For example: Did she have an Eighteenth Century print of unicorns? Engravings of balloon travel in Germany? Her favorite request of the show was a man who carefully looked through the many Winslow Homer wood engravings, including those of the Civil War, and then commented, “This guy seems pretty good at drawing. Did he do any pictures of World War II?” Wait simply smiled and said, “No.”
Marsha L. Manchester of MiLady’s Mercantile, Gardiner, Maine, interjected, “What a wonderful experience Rhinebeck was for me. It is the tightest, smoothest, best run show I have ever witnessed. Not only was the management great but so were the dealers!”
Manchester was a first-time seller and did not know what the attendance usually was but had shopped the show on Sundays in the past and it had always been shoulder to shoulder. By Sunday afternoon she said most booths were looking empty and the walls were bare. She also noted that the porters were very busy all the time on Saturday and most of the time on Sunday.
Manchester had a woman who came from New York City just to buy all her risqué towels; she “quickly scooped up all nine of them right in front of other dazed shoppers that left them wondering just what did they miss!” She added, “I also had customers who paid the admission but were unable to purchase a high ticketed rdf_Description yet wanted ‘a little something’ to go home with and my booth was the ideal location. Whether it was a $5 linen handkerchief or a $50 pair of monogrammed linen pillowcases, they were happy to be carrying a bag out the door. My booth filled a void at the Rhinebeck Show.”
Kelter-Malce’ Antiques of New York City featured an 1890 gold-leaf two-sided game board, a circa 1920 fish hooked wool rug, an old hickory lounge chair, an oil on canvas of the horse Arion Gray, a circa 1840 sign “Prairie Flower School House No. 9,” a 28- by 28-inch white birch twig mirror with twig overlay, a fishing rod tip display, a 1920s pair of hooked pictorial rugs, a 1920s Adirondack desk and a collection of framed camp photographs in a single frame labeled “Season of 1969 – Sept. 19 to Oct. 7.”
Tad Runge of A.E. Runge, Jr, Oriental Rugs, Yarmouth, Maine, reported a “fantastic gate numberwise” with Rhinebeck having the highest gate of any show he does, but added, “I do much better at other shows with smaller gates with a higher percentage of attendees interested in rugs. Most of Rhinebeck’s attendees that have an interest in rugs are older and already have them. Few others are looking or have much knowledge about older rugs.”
Key rdf_Descriptions sold by Runge included some Bijars, an early Heriz, a Caucasian example to a knowledgeable Connecticut customer who has done business with Runge previously and a unique Chinese Art Deco carpet with a black ground and large flower heads. Runge felt, “Buyer’s confidence is off a bit but they were buying decorative, not necessarily antique, things from my dealer friends all around me. I was pleased for them. Sets of upholstered (leather French?) chairs seemed hot. Decorative rdf_Descriptions seem hot while traditional antiques seem cool and people are spending on a look rather than for value.”
Marc Witus of Gladstone, N.Y., featured a pair of Bergen County, N.J., three-slat side chairs; a bronze plaque by D.B. Sheenan, N.Y., 1887; an 1840 sampler in a period frame depicting Adam and Eve with the ever-present serpent; a refinished Shaker firkin; a feather work eagle poised on a flag, late Nineteenth Century, American bearing an inscription and a classical overmantel mirror, circa 1820.
Witus also displayed a Stanley #68 four-fold rule, brass owl door knockers, clambroth and brass 1840 inkwell, a pair of French gilded blue opaline scent bottles, a seven- by nine-inch Black, Starr & Frost sterling silver frame, a pair of wrought iron steel leg irons with a Towers double lock, a yellow glazed Oriental porcelain mid-Nineteenth Century bowl and a collection of walking sticks and canes.
Carol Telfer and Larry Foster of Stratford, Ontario, summarized the show stating, “Rhinebeck is a beautiful show to do. The promoters are very gracious and accommodating; this is the first May show that we have done but our third Rhinebeck show. Last July — our first Rhinebeck show — we had record sales for our US shows. October of course, effected us all drastically. This past show was a good show. We had a beautiful Nineteenth Century dog hooked rug that sold. Attendance was great and so was the interest in our booth. I do feel, however, that we have a long way to go before the economy has recovered.”
Bob Lutz and Ellen Katona reside in Greenwich, N.J., and Bob reported a good show with strong attendance but noted some hesitation in shoppers making major purchases. Furniture sales were spotty with only two larger pieces selling. Lutz stated, “It is hard to keep on top of what is most popular at the moment, so we all try to work in our own area of expertise and hope for the best. I think the antique buyer is still skeptical and wary, and, in general, afraid to make any major commitments. I had a couple of pieces I felt very confident about; however they received very little interest.”
Halsey Munson Americana of Decatur, Ill., displayed Federal cherry snakefront candlestands, Salem, Mass., circa 1790-1805, probably by John Gauet; an Eighteenth Century Vermont sawbuck table deaccessioned from the Shelburne museum due to duplication; an Eighteenth Century earthenware bowl from the Northern province of France; a mahogany pillar frame looking glass, probably Philadelphia, circa 1815-1840; a rare early forged iron tabletop lighting standard with both candle cup and rushlight holder, 29 inches high, late Seventeenth/early Eighteenth Century and a very early American game board with slide lid drawer, New England, circa 1790-1800.
Also residing in the Halsey Munson booth was an Eighteenth Century French iron folding candle lantern marked “Corona de luz” or circle of light; an early Nineteenth century five-leg gaming table with a sophisticated apron profile; a circa 1840 20-inch trencher with soft yellow paint; an early Pennsylvania tilt-top candlestand, circa 1740, ex-Henry Francis du Pont; a circa 1800-25 Connecticut River Valley half-height cupboard with bracket feet and an American School late Eighteenth/early Nineteenth Century, double portrait of two boys measuring 16 by 131/2 inches.
Clifford Wallach of Brooklyn, N.Y., specializes in tramp art, folk art and Americana and described the Rhinebeck experience as “great.” He felt some first-time-show jitters and, not having any track, record was nervous. The show far exceeded his expectations on every count. Wallach reflected, “Jimi Barton and his staff were courteous and very helpful and they made us feel comfortable. The show was packed like the New York Pier Shows with wall to wall people on both days. We sold our best piece, a tramp art painted cupboard, early on and continued to sell throughout both days. The showgoers were knowledgeable, savvy and buying. After the show we were approached by a New York City museum about another major piece of tramp art furniture that we exhibited at Rhinebeck and hopefully they will purchase for their American Furniture Collection.”
Bette and Melvyn Wolf rode east from Flint, Mich., and Melvyn told of a “wonderful show” that was more of “a happening” than just an antiques show. Melvyn reported “magnificent” attendance on Saturday and despite the rain on Sunday, even larger crowds kept the pair busy for the entire show. Melvyn has been a dealer for 25 years and remembers “just passing through the Rhinebeck Show” years ago and being left with a mark of what a unique set-up Rhinebeck presented. The Wolfs complete seven or eight shows a year and by the first weekend in March are ready to head off to Rhinebeck to enjoy the selling.
Peg and Judd Gregory of Dorset, Vt., brought many early pieces to the show and a survey of booth C426 yielded a Boston area (North Shore) circa 1810 mahogany and mixed inlay table; a double wax portrait, probably English, circa 1790-1810; a Queen Anne chest of drawers, New England, circa 1760; a seven-drawer tall chest, probably New Hampshire, circa 1780, wearing an old Victorian finish and a Hudson River School early oil on canvas showing West Point and Storm King Mountain.
Roy Ladd of Antique Americana, Paducah, Ky., told of excellent attendance with a consistent flow of knowledgeable buyers. Several pieces of furniture sold including a tiger maple one-drawer stand, a blue painted blanket chest from Northern Missouri and several midrange paintings. Ladd added, “Interest seemed to be strong in our art pottery, with customers anxious for more information in that area of collecting. We participate in shows nationally, but this show’s strong dealer base and flawless management place it at or near the top of our list of favorites.”
East Dennis Antiques, East Dennis, Mass., displayed a cast-iron multiarm planter, circa 1890 that drew much attention, but did not sell. The booth presented a 161/2- by 32-inch mahogany tabernacle mirror with reverse painting in upper tablet, an original Currier & Ives hand colored litho “A Halt by the Wayside,” a Bethlehem star applique quilt with red roses on a yellow field, a Waterbury Clock Company eight-day time and strike clock from 1860, a set of four English sporting engravings, 1839, a William & Mary high chest with burl veneer from 1710-1730, of Massachusetts origin, and a Sheraton secretary mahogany with inlaid ivory keyhole escutcheons.
Frederick Di Maio and Thomas Buto are the owners of East Dennis Antiques and Frederick tells of a crowded booth and never a dull moment. “People seemed genuinely cautious, but bought across the board,” stated Di Maio. Items that sold included a set of six tiger maple chairs; a number of prints of English botanicals and a good Currier & Ives, the Victorian wire planter, a collection of frames, a pair of decorative gilded French valances, an elaborate red, white and blue cross-stitched floral, a mid-Nineteenth Century balance scale and a mid-Nineteenth Century clock.
George and Hedda Elk of Rensselaerville Antiques, Rensselaerville, N.Y., believed the dealers outdid themselves making Rhinebeck an “outstanding” show with great booths and strong attendance. They brought rdf_Descriptions that included a group of six framed Hogarth prints, two John Rogers groups (The War Council and Speak for Yourself, John Alden), Japanese woodblock prints and a sterling silver Menorah. The menorah sold one hour before closing and first day sales included an 80-drawer apothecary chest, a Japanese wood block print and several smaller rdf_Descriptions.
Rhinebeck is the culmination of years of hard work by the original promoter and more recently, the efforts of a forward-thinking promoter, Jimi Barton. Seldom do so many agree so effortlessly about a show’s credentials. Top dealers bringing out their best rdf_Descriptions, selling to a frenzied record crowd — does it get any better? There’s always July 27-28 to find out.
For information, rhinebeckantiquesfair.com
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm