Published: March 6, 2007
Originally known as the Piccadilly Antique Show, the West Palm Beach Antiques & Collectibles Show has been conducted at the South Florida Fairgrounds in a western section of the city for almost 20 years. In 2000, the show was purchased by the international conglomerate dmg world media and renamed. The show takes place on the first weekend of the month, November to June, and skips the four summer hurricane-prone months, although the February 2‴ dates this year fell days after a severe wind storm tore across central Florida.
This event averages about 375 dealers most months, with many Florida-dwelling regulars in their special spots. But the February show attracts an additional group of antiques-loving snow birds who migrate south to buy and sell. The date falls between two Renningers spectaculars in Mount Dora and after the Original Miami Beach Antiques Show, also owned by dmg. Exhibitors fill all the fairgrounds expo buildings, and outside parking lot spots are available for several hundred additional dealers.
A word about dmg: the initials stand for parent company Daily Mail & General Trust, as in the UK newspaper Daily Mail. The publishing-based company listed on the London Stock Exchange also presents more than 300 trade exhibitions and consumer fairs around the globe, including some antiques shows in England and America.
In the United States, dmg owns the North Carolina Metrolina events, an antique jewelry and watch show in Las Vegas, the Florida shows mentioned and the elite Palm Beach International Art and Antique Fair. The latter apparently is considered a world apart since it does not appear on the regular dmg website but under a special subdivision: International Fine Art Expositions.
Yet when dealers opened their displays at the fairgrounds this February, the high-end International Fair †priced at the opposite end of the antiques market spectrum †was going on at the Palm Beach County Convention Center downtown. Collectors had a well-defined choice and, judging by the well-dressed Palm Beach women at the fairgrounds, some smart shoppers went to both places.
Tropical vegetation and balmy weather are the standard Florida winter draws, but exhibitor Mayer Gold from Erie, Penn., explained the economics behind his choice of this particular show. He had done other shows in and around Miami and had become tired of those promoters and the high fees. When he first booked a booth at the fairgrounds for under $100, he said, “I did $15,000, which was half of what we did in Miami, but the expenses were so much lower. I started adding December, January and February.” He made the point that if you limited the show to true antiques, nobody could afford it, and stressed, “You have to have a little bit of everything.”
The February event did have a representative share of strictly defined antiques and a whole lot of collectibles from African art to table linens to salvaged neon advertising †literally, something for everyone. No one could miss the rich selection of vintage clothing, fashion accessories with designer labels and jewelry from fine to faux. The lure of this costume hunting ground was the catalyst for one of the best crossover stories of the weekend.
Local notable Iris Apfel is a style icon with her own tribute exhibition, “Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel,” organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. An adapted version of the show just opened at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, where it runs through May 27.
The story goes, Apfel talked a journalist friend, who was in town for the International Fair, into driving her out to the county fairgrounds for a search through the fashion merchandise. A good eye and strong sense of style are excellent companions on a hike past hundreds of dealers with thousands of items.
Michele Piccolo and Lori Christian of Dusty’s Vintage Linens, circa 1900‱970, have always had the best printed tablecloths and tea towels from their chosen era, but now do a strong business in buttons, both classics and new designs. They have been in business for about 12 years and do other big shows, such as Farmington and Round Top. But Piccolo said, “We’re only here once a year; some people are here all the time. February is the biggest one †definitely.”
The dealer showed off a table display of brightly colored items. “These buttons are being produced now from old Bakelite game pieces from the 1940s,” she said. “Karen Kronimus is the designer. She bought a Bakelite factory in New Jersey that closed years ago. We commissioned her to make all of these pieces. She only does 10″0 of each design. We sell a lot to designers, knitters, bag makers †they look wonderful on a coat or sweater.” The average price was around $30 a card.
Florida locals Rosemary and Jim Holmes, on the other hand, do the fairgrounds event every time, as well as the monthly Scott Antiques Markets in Atlanta, Ga. Rosemary Holmes said she appreciates the turnout in West Palm. “We just did a small show in Miami last week, and a number of people I met down there are here shopping,” she said.
She continued, “Antiques aren’t the only things that sell †we sell a lot more decorative things lately than antiques. Lots of antiques we just don’t buy anymore because they’re not selling. But Twentieth Century design is fabulous.” The couple had an original George Nelson ball clock for $550.
In between the tables of glass and china, the expo buildings held a variety of fine art offerings from oils and watercolors to prints and posters. Rosemary Holmes had just picked up an artist’s proof by personal favorite Will Barnet (b 1911) on the floor: “I loved his work; he was popular in the early 1980s,” said Holmes. She mentioned that several Florida galleries had carried the artist’s painting and lithographs. And, of course, many works of art, transported to Florida by retirees, end up in the hands of dealers.
Florida has always been a popular vacation spot for tourists from the British Isles, and some end up settling on its shores. With pounds and euros so strong, America is the bargain spot. So it was not surprising to hear some English accents among the dealers. Any collector of Nineteenth Century transfer-printed Staffordshire would have been content hunting among the many dealers with displays of blue and white. A particularly good selection was offered by Lionel & Jacqueline Hill, now living in Lehigh Acres, Fla., but originally from Wales.
Another transplanted Brit, Richard G. Thompson of Naples, Fla., had silver that could hold its own at any antiques show. There were Tiffany pieces in one area and an entire showcase of Georg Jensen flatware serving pieces in all patterns. Proud of his inventory, Thompson said, “I have the biggest selection of anybody.” He noted that his handsome Jensen Blossom pattern tea and coffee service, circa 1945, tagged $20,000, would have been $5,000 or $10,000 more at shows with more overhead and probably double the price across town at the International Fair.
After January in New York for Americana @ the Piers, Diana Higgins, Hampton, Conn., comes south for February Palm Beach event, about which she said, “It’s always been a really good show for us.” Playing up the tropical getaway feeling, Higgins had placed a panther-in-the-jungle rug on the back wall, priced very reasonably at $350, and stacked several classic wooden sided suitcases below.
Some shows are all about stunning display and six-figure prices, but the West Palm Beach Antiques & Collectibles Show gives everyone a chance to undertake the hunt and make the great find.
For information, www.dmgantiquesshows.com or 561-640-3433.
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