Published: October 8, 2002
By R. Scudder Smith
MANCHESTER CENTER, VT. — The one question generally asked of antiques dealers at a show by a reporter is, “How’s it going?” Now that stirs up answers such as “very well for me,” “things are quite slow,” “furniture is not selling,” ” hopefully the afternoon gate will spend more,” and “I am doing just fine, but I don’t want to say much because the dealers around me seem to be doing very little.”
That was a good sampling of the answers we received on Saturday and Sunday, September 28-29, during the run of the Vermont Antiques Dealers’ Association Antiques Show at the Hunter Park Pavilion in Manchester Center. There was, however, a common thread that ran through most of the dealer answers: “The show has never looked better.”
We heard this evaluation of the show right off the bat from Howard Graff, but that was to be expected as he serves as co-chairman of the event and is the moving force from start to finish at the pavilion. He noted, “I am really proud of the presentation of the dealers this year and the booths are not only well-done, but filled with wonderful things.” Howard proved to be a very accurate barometer, as usual, for the show did look its best.
The show had a two-day set up, with heavy rains on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, next to the show, the weather was the best thing to hit Manchester that weekend. The combination brought out the crowd and the Saturday gate set a record. “We were down slightly on Sunday,” Howard Graff said, but when the final total was taken, the numbers showed an increase over last year. He also noted that people came in at the opening gun on Saturday, and a great many of them stayed on for hours. “We had one lady come in the first wave, and she was here when the show closed at 5 pm,” he said. “And many of them were in a buying mood,” he added happily.
Allan Katz Americana of Woodbridge, Conn., is one of the first booths seen upon entering the show and one can always expect a fine presentation of folk art. This year was no exception, and one of the first people onto the floor walked right into the booth and walked out with four choice rdf_Descriptions. This person loved signs and went away with an early barber shop sign, three dimensional, with colored glass. Now electrified, it was originally gas fired when used circa 1870-90. A “Show Manufactory” sign and one reading simply “Terms Cash” were also sold, as was a very graphic sign for F.P. Baer & Son, Insurance, Real Estate and Rentals, complete with a picture of a couple of bears. The show did not end there and Allan Katz said that this was the best VADA show he has had.
James and Judith Milne of New York City not only had a decent show, but also worked a good amount of exercise into their schedule. In addition to selling, among other things, a painted grain bin, architectural elements, and a pair of cast stone dogs for the garden, on Saturday Judy bicycled about 16 miles and Jim went for an afternoon run of five miles.
Paul and Cheryl Scott, Hillsborough, N.H., had a “solid” show, selling a tiger maple drop leaf table, a Queen Anne mirror, a wall shelf, a pair of nesting Nantucket baskets, a wood carving in the form of a dog, and several small tables.
Judd Gregory, one of the three dealers to come from very-nearby Dorset, was doing well with furniture and by the end of Saturday had sold a painted corner cupboard and a Hepplewhite bow front chest of drawers, circa 1810. Smalls included a Queen Anne mirror, an identical example to the one sold by his neighbors, the Scotts.
When ask how he was doing, Tommy Thompson of Northfield, N.H., just smiled, a clear indication that all was well. When the show opened a large, blue-painted cherette wagon was loaded with things at the front of the booth, but it rolled off with a customer right after the show opened. A figure of Uncle Sam, a yellow painted blanket chest, two hooked rugs, and “lots of smalls,” made for a good first day, and more buying followed on Sunday.
While not occupied with the duties of running a show, Howard Graff, Colt Barn Antiques, Townshend, Vt., racked up sales including an Eighteenth Century tavern table with scrubbed top and white painted base, a one-drawer stand in cherrywood, a cow weathervane, a collection of iron match safes, a large basket, braided rugs and a large green-painted cast-iron garden frog. Oh yes, it must be mentioned that after numerous showings, the cast-iron blue frog that was fast becoming a trademark for Howard did sell. Upon spotting it on the table, a lady customer said, “I have never seen a blue one before,” and promptly added it to her collection.
Williamstown, Mass., dealer John Robinson noted “the show was good for me” and spoke of selling a Hudson River landscape oil on canvas, a one-door cupboard in old red, a pair of iron brackets designed to hold planters or flower pots, and several pieces of mocha.
“The show has not been as good as last year for me, but what really is as good as last year?” Steven Gerbin of Pine Tree Hill Antiques, Wilmington, Vt. said. He went on, however, to list a few sales including a store counter, a wood carved whimsy, a painted bench, horse weathervane, step back cupboard, and one from a grouping of four painted bird houses.
“Three important pieces of pewter left my booth,” Ron Chambers of Higganum, Conn., said, listing among the three a Rhode Island sugar bowl by Richardson and a Lee (Vermont) porringer. Through the first part of the show he did not sell any furniture, leading him to say, “It has not been great, but not bad.”
Michael and Lucinda Seward of Pittsford, Vt., were having a good show and by the end of the first day had sold a bank of apothecary drawers, an Eighteenth Century painted candlestand, a couple pieces of redware, a painted corner cupboard, a tall-case clock from Sprague, N.H., four braided rugs, a set of spice drawers, a painting of a log cabin and two landscape paintings. “We are building a new house, only a few miles from our present home, and we are downsizing,” Lucinda said. Consequently, a number of rdf_Descriptions came out at this show, and more will follow at Rhinebeck and Philadelphia.
“We did the VADA the first year it was held and have not done it again until this fall,” Stephen Corrigan of Stephen-Douglas, Rockingham, Vt. said. He added, “The market is here for top of the line things and some very good buyers have come through the show.” In addition to interest in a number of hooked rugs and paintings, they had sold a still life oil on canvas, a four-slat ladder back side chair, an Eighteenth Century master salt, wooden lantern, painted basket, and a game board dated 1824. “The collector who bought the board looked at it through the eyes of an antiquarian and did not purchase it for its visual effect. It was the age that sold it,” Stephen said.
Marie Miller, another one of the Dorset, Vt., dealers in the show, was having a very good show, moving furniture, quilts and “smalls.” The large cannonball bed in the center of the booth was sold right after the show opened, as was a bucket bench and several stands. A tiger maple and cherry chest with turned front feet found a buyer on Sunday, and quilts were popular both days. Because it was the fall season, Marie hung a Log Cabin Barn Raising crib quilt on the back wall of her booth, noting, “I picked it because it has a seasonal look with all the colors of fall.”
“There has been no interest in mocha, so far,” Marcia King of Geranium said, “but historical blue has been selling.” The Kings, also residents of nearby Dorset, said the show had been “wonderful” and sold eight pieces of “blue” on Saturday alone.
“We had hoped to do better, but are thankful for anything,” Ray Van Gelder of Conway, Mass., said. Together with husband Jack, they spent the time wrapping smalls, including a number of miniature paintings and ceramics. “No furniture this time out,” Jack said, “but the smalls do add up and we are ahead of last year.” They echoed the praise of others for the work Howard Graff does at the show, citing the laid-back feeling he brings to the show and his willingness to listen to any gripe a dealer may have.
“No wood has been selling for us,” George Keady of Drake Field Antiques, Longmeadow, Mass., said, but then looked across the booth as his wife Patricia was about to wrap up a deal on a mahogany card table. Brass rdf_Descriptions were the best sellers for them, including andirons, candlesticks and small boxes.
“It has been a solid show for us,” John Maggs of Conway, Mass., said. His wife Jan listed among the pieces of furniture sold a Seventeenth Century settle, an Eighteenth Century tavern table in paint, and a painted banister back side chair. She noted that “we have sold across the board,” including a number of Delft tiles and pieces of treen.
Coming off “a great Wilton,” Joe Martin of Brownington, Vt., was finding things a bit slower at VADA. He did, however, mention, sales of a cow weathervane by Harris & Co., several rugs, and a Queen Anne chest of drawers. Furniture was not moving as well this year as last for John Gould, Yorktown Heights, N.Y., but he did has his large collection of gold frames that attracts buyers at every show.
“When you don’t sell furniture, it really makes a difference,” Don Buck of Millington, N.J., said. As a result, the show was not as good as last year, but still smalls were selling. “Probably the best thing we have sold, so far, is a wonderful miniature sled we had,” Kay Buck added.
John Smart of Rutland, Vt., was pleased with the show, having sold a number of things including three paintings, but ,”I don’t know why this cupboard has not sold,” he said. He was referring to a corner cupboard in old red, with the original mustard paint inside, 12 lights in the door, with a great provenance. “It came right out of one of the historic homes in Townshend, Vt.,” John said. He also pointed out an interesting trade sign, Polly Opal, with a carved parrot perched on the top side. “It came out of a saloon in Atlantic City,” he said.
Gloria Lonergan, an eight-year veteran of the show, was going home with fewer pieces of furniture than she came with from Mendham, N.J. “I just got back from delivering a tall step back cupboard to Wilmington, Vt.,” husband Pat said, as he polished off the last part of his lunch. He mentioned that the cupboard looks great in the house, placed at the end of a long hall, “but we had to go up and down a number of steps to get there,” he said. A set of four chairs, a couple of signs, and other things were also not making the trip back home.
In the final analysis, and from the consumers’ point of view, there is more to an antiques show than the dealers and what they have to offer. That, of course, is the most important consideration, but customers also take in ease of parking, location of the site, adaptability of the building to an antiques show, and food and drink. VADA gets an “A” on everything except food. We are not speaking of quality, as no one can question the freshness or good taste of the sandwiches. The soup got good marks as well, but the wait in line, at times, was more than the hungry stomach could digest. Any problems, just bring it up to the manager. Howard Graff had the answer. “Next year we are going to have a professional catering staff come in and run things,” he said, “and things will be better.”
The sole problem of the VADA Antiques Show has been solved and 2003 promises to be another banner year.
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