Published: July 6, 2004
A rare beauty of a weekend with plenty of sunshine and comfortable temperatures in the 70s bracketed the June 19-20 Wilton Outdoor Antiques Marketplace, which took place in Allen’s Meadows, just north of the Wilton High School.
The event upheld its reputation as one of the nation’s premier outdoor shows, with 150 high-end antiques and fine art dealers set up in room settings under tents. A key fundraiser for the Wilton Kiwanis and Wilton YMCA, the marketplace offered everything from country and period formal American and European furniture to decorative arts, ceramics, silver, jewelry, folk and fine art, toys and garden furniture and architectural rdf_Descriptions.
Saturday morning show attendees were treated to a special feature, an historical reenactment by Wilton Historical Society members, who, posing as a militia, fired off a Revolutionary War cannon at 10. The reenactment triggered an inadvertently humorous collision of Eighteenth and Twenty-first Century technologies when the cannon blast set off car alarms in the parking lot. But the momentary din deterred neither the “Wilton militia” nor showgoers from having lots of fun.
One of the show’s newest dealers, Jim and Lori Spina operating as Old Line Rarities, Annapolis, Md., said that they impressed with the organization of the show and the superb appearance of the layout and the merchandise. “Marilyn Gould runs a smooth operation,” they said. The Spinas brought early American tin and cast iron toys from 1810 to 1910 onto the field. “Our sales of unique toys were in the five-figure range, including a turn-of-the-century Hubley Royal Circus Chariot driven by Miss Liberty at $2,200 and a rare Lockwood Monkey on Tricycle made in South Norwalk, Conn., from the 1880s at $2,800.” The pair is looking forward to exhibiting at the September show with a large selection of rare windup toys from 1900 to 1940.
“This was our first Wilton and it was a good show for us,” said Bob Haneberg, who with wife, Claudia, deals in antiques by appointment in East Lyme, Conn. “We sold a great ship captain’s secretary. It was equipped with carrying handles so when the ship came home to port, the captain could take the secretary home with him and set up his office ashore. It was cherry and from Maine.” The Hanebergs also sold a pine two-door chimney cupboard with raised panel doors and a number of smalls, including an English woolwork ships picture that is going back to England and several rare pieces of Canton.
Also new to Wilton, Bob and Patsy Hassert were happy to say that their first Wilton show went quite well. The Hasserts are from Wyncote, Penn., and deal in American historical memorabilia. “The weather certainly cooperated and we enjoyed the weekend and our neighbor dealers,” they said. “The Goulds’ careful planning and the many Kiwanis and Y volunteers made the pack-in and pack-out a very positive experience.”
“Wilton was a resounding success,” said Ed and Betty Koren of Bridges Over Time, Walden, N.Y., who specialize in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century art, antiques and garden rdf_Descriptions. “We made a number of nice sales, including a rare pair of American Victorian chairs and a Nineteenth Century mirror. We had quite a lot of response to the Nineteenth Century caved marble finials and the extremely rare Fiske iron basket urn we brought. Many photos were taken, and perhaps some additional sales will materialize. It was our first show, and my hat is off to the promoters for a seamless setup and a well run show.”
At the Country Squire, first-time Wilton exhibitor Randy Farrar displayed the stoic optimism that is the hallmark of the antiques trade. “In terms of our sales, they were very few,” he reported. “Although we made a little money, it was very little. Notwithstanding that, I would certainly do the show next year in the hope that the overall economic climate is better and that a hoped for ‘regime change’ will create a more optimistic outlook.”
The Milton, Mass., dealer and his partner, Joe Barri, brought a great collection of miniature furniture – some salesman’s samples and others apprentice pieces – as well as a large papier mache rocking camel from England, circa 1870-80, and a carved and painted carousel figure of a circus lion jumping through a hoop, circa 1880, mounted on a custom stand.
“Overall, the Wilton show seemed to reflect both the current poor economic climate -notwithstanding what the ‘Bushies’ say – and buying cautiousness; and the narrow range of ‘desirable’ weather for summer shows – i.e., the narrow area between too hot to make buying decisions and too nice to not be in the garden or on the golf course,” said Farrar.
Not many dealers were attributing the lighter attendance to the fact that just a dozen or so miles down the road, the Southport-Westport Antiques Show was underway [See show review] the same weekend. Traditionally, that show had taken place in April.
Fred Di Maio of East Dennis Antiques, East Dennis, Mass., said he was mystified about the Wilton show’s light attendance. “This is our fourth summer show, so we don’t have that much experience. This time the parking lot looked full but you could look up the aisles and not see many people. Conversely, there’s been an uptick in activity in our shop,” said Di Maio, who operates East Dennis Antiques with Thomas Buto. Di Maio said he sold an interesting brass coat rack that was supported by horses’ heads to a woman who loved horses and a blue painted country cupboard.
Some other rdf_Descriptions of interest that were exhibited at the show included a pair of English back paintings executed in the 1800s. Also called glass colored prints, the images were created in a technique using an existing black and white print that was laid face down on a glass surface with an adhesive. The print was then moistened and then from the back, the paper would be rubbed gently with a finger until just the black image remained, which would serves as the template for painting from behind. A monumental New England chair table, circa 1680-1750, with a pine top measuring 52 inches in diameter, was also offered.
McClafferty and her husband Fred displayed an American painted comb back rocker, circa 1840, a Connecticut bed with tester top in maple, circa 1800, and a pine New England blanket chest with a lift top and two drawers with early red stain, among other rdf_Descriptions.
Another Wilton show regular, Jackie Radwin, San Antonio, Texas, said, “We had a good selling show at Wilton. We exhibited a really wonderful early and very graphic alphabet quilt, which sold the first day to collectors thrilled to find it. The other rdf_Descriptions that we sold were all over the board, i.e., a wonderful one-door blue painted cupboard, a small painted chest, hooked rugs, pantry boxes, architectural elements, etc. I think that Marilyn does a phenomenal job promoting her shows. If the gate is not there for Wilton, it is just not there.”
But as any dealer will tell you, a show’s gate is not always indicative of good or bad sales results. People who know Victor Weinblatt, for example, can understand the South Hadley, Mass., dealer’s phobia about doing outdoor shows. Weinblatt’s displays are like finely crafted set pieces, assembled painstakingly and dramatically lit. “This was my second outdoor show,” said Weinblatt, “and it was a really good show.”
His secret? He attracted “power buyer” Oprah Winfrey, the television talk show personality and one of the wealthiest women in the United States, who was on the field Saturday. “I found Oprah to be remarkably bright, funny and deferential,” said Weinblatt. He sold an early Nineteenth Century blanket box attributed to Shaftsbury, Vt., craftsman Thomas Matteson to Oprah, along with stenciled game boards and two carved geese. Weinblatt’s other sales included a 5-foot-long copper potting table, a hanging apothecary, hooked rugs, five game boards and a dough box.
Jeff Bridgman, Dillsburg, Penn., was one of a handful of dealers exhibiting simultaneously at both the Southport-Westport and Wilton Outdoor shows. At setup for Wilton, Bridgman acknowledged that the date overlaps presented a logistical challenge, but that the shows were totally different. “There is no overlap of clients [between the two shows],” he said.
While his Southport-Westport booth showcased more of his trademark American flags and patriotic rdf_Descriptions, the things he brought to the Wilton show were more traditional country and Americana, such as a simple Queen Anne cupboard, circa 1720, with H-shaped hinges, four shelves and a great surface, an 1880s combination painted and chalkboard price list sign advertising O.A. Babcock’s Vermont general store, and a great folk art table, circa 1870-80, which in primitive fashion tried to mimic a Victorian table with a diamond pattern and a fluted pie crust rim.
Reflecting the current interest in all things patriotic, Rick MacLennan of Period Investments of Savannah, Savannah, Ga., and Haddam, Conn., was excited about a folk art 13-star nautical American flag, circa 1910-20, that had come from a pond boat house in Lake George, N.Y. Acquired from noted flag expert Jeffery K. Kohn, the heavy thick gauge tin flag had an unusual rounded top finial. A model of the USS Alabama, which was launched in 1898 and scrapped in 1924, was made even more compelling by accompanying documents by Sam McFarlane, who had served as boson’s mate on the vessel and had presented the model to his nephew.
Scott Smith and Mindy Schwartz of Cornish, Maine-based High Street Antiques specialize in decorative and antique furnishings for the home and garden. For the Wilton show, they brought a late Nineteenth Century wrought iron daybed with pinecone finials, signed by the maker, that they had acquired from a dealer in Germany. Smith said he would have to do more research on an interesting silk embroidered banner – emblazoned with “Down & Out Assn., Coney Island, Organized 1900” – that he had display on one wall, along with American and French frames and mirrors.
Paul Nicholson, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is known for his American and Shaker antiques. For the Wilton show, he had brought a rare Mount Lebanon #3 meeting side chair, circa 1887, featuring a plywood seat with ventilation holes and one of the few examples of outsourcing by the Shakers. A New York company, Frost & Peterson, had manufactured the seats. Among a selection of clocks Nicholson had brought to the show, a noteworthy example was a Seth Thomas “Adamantine” clock with column, 1895.
Merle S. Koblenz, of South Kent, Conn., had a wide variety of antique jewelry on offer, including a very fine Art Deco platinum and diamond brooch from the 1930s, a 14K gold and moonstone ring with a mythical chimera that had been hand carved in the 1930s and a Nineteenth Century triple strand of Asian coral.
Koblenz probably exemplified the typical exhibitor at the Wilton show, saying that she managed to do “all right” and had gotten a couple of good callbacks. “There was a couple in which he bought for her an anniversary gift, a gold retro Tiffany & Co brooch. There still were those who came through acknowledging how great the show was but who needed time to think about possible purchases. That’s what business cards are for – write on them and insist they be taken home,” she said.
For information on the Wilton show, 203-762-3525.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm