Published: September 17, 2002
By W.A. Demers
FARMINGTON, CONN. – “If you promise to buy something, I’ll let you in early,” bellowed Jason Jenkins over a bullhorn on a cool, cloudy morning at the Farmington Polo Grounds. This sounded like a pretty good deal to the enthusiastic crowd of antique hounds. The phalanx of eager buyers surged onto the 68-acre site at 9:55 am, as SUVs and minivans continued to form a slow moving train around the edge of the parking lot leading into Farmington Antiques Weekend, August 31 and September 1.
Early buyers willing to cough up the $25 surcharge had already enjoyed a three-hour head start to check out their favorite dealers, but with such a large show — 495 dealers — there was truly something for everyone.
Farmington Antiques Weekend remains one of the most popular of the New England venues. Conducted outdoors and under tents, it draws dealers from around the nation twice a year, in a spring and a late summer session, offering everything from folk art to fine antique furniture.
Jon Jenkins reported that with attendance up over the previous year’s September show, it was the best of the four shows since Jenkins acquired the Farmington event two years ago. “September seems to be traditionally better attended anyway, and the window of weather benefited everyone,” he said.
Jon Magoun of South Paris, Maine, said he likes Farmington because of the “big crowds.” “Numbers do count,” he said. “When no one comes, you don’t sell much.”
“It is close to home and easy to set up,” said Doug Bradway of Springfield, Mass.-based Comfort Fish, as his reason for liking Farmington. Bradway is getting a lot of interest in the charcoal-on-sandpaper artwork. “These were typically from the mid-Nineteenth Century, done by girls’ academies and featuring Hudson River or Niagara Falls scenes,” he said. He brought several of examples of the folk art to the Farmington show.
A rustic country cart filled with medicine balls greeted crowds on the first day at the booth of Thomas Thompson, Northfield, N.H. He had also brought Americana that he believed would sell well to the Farmington crowd. Among his rdf_Descriptions was a painted desk that had been rendered in a style similar to that of Cape Cod artist Peter Hunt from the 1950s.
Philip Liverant, Colchester, Conn., who deals in antique furniture and accessories, said, “I try to bring something for everyone.” Those rdf_Descriptions included a nice set of signed arrow back Windsor chairs and a variety of smalls, such as student lamps and steins.
Louis J. Dianni, Fishkill, N.Y., who specializes in marine art, was impressed with Saturday’s gate, adding that it seems to have increased substantially over 2001. “I witnessed a full to the end parking lot midafternoon Saturday. Saturday night leaving the show took extra long as traffic was backed up on the field for more than 30 minutes. I haven’t seen this in two years,” he said
Dianni said that top-end ship models and lower-end paintings were selling in his booth as well as decent quality smalls. “My favorite piece that sold was a small, about 14 inches, a glass dome containing a beautiful model of a brig. The model and dome date to circa 1840,” he said.
Also dealing in nautical art and antiques, Justin Cobb from Captain’s Quarters, Amherst, Mass., said he was underwhelmed by the early buying traffic. What the early birds may have missed at his booth was an intriguing whalebone swift, an early yarn winder crafted entirely from whalebone, tortoise shell and baleen in the 1840s.
Charles Wibel had brought an 1880s Cape Cod railroad crossing sign whose raised black letters had been naturally abraded by the wind-driven sand. Other pieces of Americana he had brought included a circa 1820 Jeremiah Fitch trade sign from Bedford, Mass., a double-sided dartboard crafted in 1880 and an 1800s Sheraton drop leaf table with old red paint.
Bruce Emond of Village Braider Antiques, Plymouth, Mass., said he likes the Farmington show because he believes the current manage-ment is trying very hard to bring it back to its former glory. “The promoter worked very hard to get people there, and he delivered on that,” he said.
Emonds sold rdf_Descriptions that included a six-foot table, a chandelier and antique jewelry.
At Knotty Pine Antiques, West Swanzey, N.H., John Pappas had a booth that featured a mix of furniture, stoneware, cast-iron toys, art pottery and glassware. He said people seemed to be most interested in Staffordshire rdf_Descriptions and American spatter ware, Sandwich glass and majolica.
Linda and Ralph Miller of Miller House Antiques, Carroll, Ohio, who specialize in country primitives and advertising, were pleased with both days. “Our sales on Sunday were fairly strong as well as on Saturday,” said Linda. “Customers seemed knowledgeable about country primitives and enjoyed our rdf_Descriptions as well as the display.
“Smaller rdf_Descriptions sold more quickly. But we did sell a large painted step back walnut cupboard. Other large ticketed rdf_Descriptions sold as well.”
One interesting piece they brought was a “game” board from Pennsylvania decorated with cutouts and designs. Featuring iron hooks, the board would be mounted on the wall to hang fowl and the like after hunting.
Dotty and Ron Baer of Time and Again, Trumbull, Conn., said they are finding the antiques trade of late to be tracing the same downward trend as the economy. “It’s not the way it used to be,” said Dotty. “The stock is costing more to the dealer, and there’s a growing reluctance on the part of the buyer.”
Still, the Baers were enthusiastic about the rdf_Descriptions they had brought to sell, which, said Dotty, includes “lots of English things, such as scales, children’s china, shop displays and advertising.” She pointed out several whimsical examples of the latter, including a sign for “Dennis’s ‘Lincolnshire’ Pig Powder,” some fanciful Spratt pet food signs for dog food, cat food and canary mixture and an enamel-on-steel Spratts dog food dish.
Paul Nicholson, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who specializes in American and Shaker antiques, said this was his third year at Farmington. In addition to Shaker furniture, he brought Arts and Crafts rdf_Descriptions, American clocks and “county-type stuff.”
Jim Kerr of Cavern View Antiques, Howes Cave, N.Y., and Barbara Wood Brown, of Carlisle, Penn., reported solid sales during early buying and during the previous day’s set-up at their shared booth space.
Specializing in Nineteenth Century furniture, decorative rdf_Descriptions and white ironstone, Kerr said the ironstone pitchers seemed to sell the quickest. “For a collector, it’s an expensive and time-consuming job to assemble an entire set, whereas someone might buy a single pitcher to use as a vase or accent piece,” he said.
Among the pieces sold at River’s Edge Antiques, Brookline, Vt., was a solid oak Hoosier featuring the usual built-in flour sifter, spice rack, bread drawer and retractable white enamel countertop. Said Debbie Fabrizio, “The early buying Saturday was very slow, not like June’s show but that could be because the morning started off very cloudy with predictions of rain all weekend.”
Joseph Collins of Cobalt, Conn., displayed antique furniture, including a circa 1790 cherry Hepplewhite four-drawer chest with original hardware. A circa 1770 six-drawer pine Chippendale chest, a Connecticut cherry card table and an Eli Terry and Sons clock from the 1820s were among the rdf_Descriptions showcased in his booth.
Howard Graff, owner of The Colt Barn Antiques, Townshend, Vt., wore the relaxed grin of a dealer who had made his minimum during early buying. “I was lucky. A pair of women who own a shop in Greenwich came early and bought a bunch of stuff,” he said. Some of the treasures Graff had brought from his Vermont store included a blanket chest with a bottom drawer in old red paint; a cherry drop leaf table with nice tapered legs; an interesting iron bowl from the early 1800s; and a lightning rod weathervane with a unique triple heart design.
Marie and Larry Miller of Dorset, Vt., reported a good gate and overall good show for their quilts and furniture. Among the rdf_Descriptions showcased were a cherry chest in Sheraton style with high graceful feet from the 1820s and an amazing Trip Around the World quilt from the 1930s featuring more than 6,000 pieces.
Antiques and accessories of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries are the stock and trade of Patricia Ann Breame of Woodstock, Maine. A signed early butter worker made from tiger maple drew a lot of interest. Made by the T. Eaton Co. Ltd, around the turn of the century, the collapsible, triangular piece of furniture comprises a flat surface with grooves on either side to funnel the liquids to a bucket that would be hung on the pointed end.
New this year to Farmington, Steve and Lorraine German of Mad River Antiques, North Granby, Conn., were having a great time showing their Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century country antiques and discussing the lore of salt glazing for clay pottery.
The Germans reported that buying was more selective than in the past, with more smalls moving than the bigger ticket rdf_Descriptions.
“We noticed more of a lack of buying trends this time, compared to June,” said Lorraine German. “In June we sold a lot of pewter and stoneware, and this time we didn’t sell any,” she added.
“Our most interesting sale was a late Nineteenth Century plant stand or bucket bench in green paint. The couple who bought it will be displaying their collection of cookie jars on it.”
Bob and Betty Daigle of Country Squire Antiques, Skeekonk, Mass., drew the crowd’s interest with a massive 12-foot-long mid-Nineteenth Century poplar dining table that had been taken from a convent library in the Fall River, Mass., area. “The top had fortunately been covered with linoleum, so it was in surprisingly good condition for an 1860s piece,” said Betty Daigle.
Spiky lightning rod weathervanes formed a virtual skyline at Storb Antiques of Rowayton, Conn. A jewel among the many rods featured was an exclusive Dodd & Struthers four-star ball framed lightning rod weathervane. It boasted an uncommon D&S ten-sided amber glass ball on an iron and copper stand with crown point finials.
Michael Weinstein from Artifacts, Binghamton, N.Y., specializes in cameos, Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Victorian jewelry, vintage watches and coins. Weinstein said interest this year seems to be directed toward cameos and stickpins and political rdf_Descriptions, and watches “seem to be holding up.”
Offering an exotic change from the Americana at the show, Jeff Feng’s display at Dragon Antiques, Ashford, Conn., struck an Oriental note. “This is my second time here. I also was here in June,” said Feng. “I see some interest, but I find that the closer I go to the cities, the more interest I see in Oriental furniture and decoration. The further north and distance from the cities, the less interest.”
Feng said most of his pieces come from Chinese villages. An example was a Dong Yang table from northern China that was fully carved with floral elements and animals. Crafted from elm about 100 to 120 years ago, the two-drawer piece would serve well as an entryway display.
Showcasing an early 1800s folk art horse found in upstate New York, Jackie Robinson of Miller-Robinson Antiques said that, for her, “People were agonizing over purchases, not buying freely at all. There was a lot of functional furniture [ready for use, not investment grade] purchased, as well as garden accessories.”
One of her most noteworthy sales was a circa 1830 corner cupboard from New England whose base had been restored and which featured rosehead nails and rat tail hinges.
At Olde Good Things, of New York City’s Chelsea area and Scranton, Penn., there was truly an assortment of “architecturological” artifacts. These included tin ceiling tiles that had been pressed into duty as mirrors, picture frames and decorative wall art, as well as hundreds of glass and metal door knobs of various vintages, sizes and styles.
“Fabulous.” In a word, that was Karen Stewart’s appraisal of the weekend. Karen and husband Robert from Wakefield, R.I., gleefully ticked off the rdf_Descriptions they had sold during the first half of the first day — a dining room set with eight chairs, a Welsh dresser, a four-piece cast-iron patio set, a mom and pop baker’s table, some Flow Blue platters and wooden ware, 24 pieces of Victorian stemware, an overmantel mirror . . .
“We’ve been doing this show off and on, but primarily since 1995,” said Karen Stewart. “We’re fortunate. People like to buy good, clean stuff.” Also contributing to the Stewarts’ popularity among their customers was the big white van parked behind their booth. “We can deliver to our customers, which is a big plus,” she said.
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