Published: November 19, 2002
By Laura Beach
YORK, PENN. — Forty minutes after the Greater York Antique Show and Sale opened at York Fairgrounds on Friday, November 1, customers were still clamoring to get in, the queue stretching from the plate-glass windows of Memorial Hall to the first of many rows of parked cars.
Spring and fall, year in and out, the Greater York Antique Show remains one of the most popular events on the circuit. It is easy to see why. The 123-dealer fair is bright and bountiful, rich in American country furniture and folk art, endowed with distinctively regional charm. It offers immense variety at a range of prices. Country staples such as hooked rugs, for instance, sell for as little as $300 to as much as $32,000 for a masterpiece.
“York is the last of the old-time antiques shows. There is a lot of trade beforehand, and collectors come here looking for certain things, mostly fraktur, toleware and other region-specific rdf_Descriptions,” explains Suzanne Courcier. When Suzanne and her partner Robert Wilkins joined the York Antique Show many years ago, manager Jim Burk asked the Austerlitz, N.Y., couple to bring Pennsylvania wares. Loaded with paint decorated furniture and vivid tinware, they were rewarded for their compliance. “We’ve shown in this area a long time,” says Suzanne. “Collectors have come to know us and what we carry.” Their Pennsylvania treasures this year included a paint decorated dower chest dated 1796, priced $14,500.
Of course, Jim Burk has had plenty of time to perfect the York formula. He organized his first antiques show in 1968 in New Oxford, Penn., taking over for another promoter who had retired. Now 33 years old, the Greater York Antique Show has “gotten better,” Burk says. This time, “attendance was up. We got a lot of people from Baltimore, Washington and Virginia. We even had people from Colorado, California and Hawaii.”
“I let the show run itself,” explains Burk, a former dealer who empathizes with his exhibitors and wants them to do well. While many sold well, exhibitors said that the prevailing mood among buyers was one of caution. Noted one dealer, “The collectors always come to this show. But whereas they used to buy three or four things, some are now buying only one.”
Exhibitors since 1980, Cape Cod dealers Charles and Barbara Adams sold well across the board.. They had takers for Bennington, spongeware, and Leeds pottery; Nantucket and Indian baskets; paintings; a banister back chair; and a birch-bark canoe model. “We had an excellent day on Sunday,” notes Barbara.
“I can’t complain,” says Chuck Wilson, a West Chester, Penn., dealer who sold unusual iron and folk art.
A corps of great Pennsylvania dealers projects the show’s essential character in their well planned displays. Weathervanes, a popular rdf_Description on the floor, were in ready supply at Harry Hartman’s. The Marietta, Penn., dealer grouped a cow weathervane, $14,500, with two horse vanes, one a signed Harris example, $18,500.
Olde Hope Antiques of New Hope, Penn., juxtaposed a vibrant Lancaster County hooked rug, circa 1930, in a stylized tulip pattern, $12,500, against a six-drawer paint decorated chest dated “April 22, 1846,” $45,000; an anonymous Chester County, Penn., oil on canvas farm scene, $14,000; and a Pennsylvania ten-gallon stoneware crock with tulip decoration in cobalt blue, $5,400.
James and Nancy Glazer of Villanova, Penn., featured a painting on board of York Springs, signed “S. Brown,” $9,500, together with a 1901 hooked rug depicting the hound “Pointer” and an oversized hat box, $7,500. A paint decorated cupboard was $35,000.
“We focus on Mid-Atlantic rdf_Descriptions. We try not to be all things to all people,” says Ruth Van Tassel of Van Tassel-Baumann Antiques, Malvern, Penn. Highlighting their selection of American and English needlework was a silk-on-silk embroidered memorial to Washington, $10,500. Probably from Pennsylvania, circa 1810, it resembles another at Winterthur Museum.
The Herrs of Lancaster, Penn., cloaked their stand with an 1850 Baltimore album quilt incorporating a heart-in-hand motif, $32,000, and a Quaker friendship quilt with autographed blocks. Dating to 1843-45 and pieced from glazed chintz and calico, the latter was $3,900.
Mercer, Penn., dealer Chuck White showed an Eighteenth Century Pennsylvania painted dower chest dated 1792, $20,000, together with a Pennsylvania walnut miniature blanket chest and an Eighteenth Century ship’s diorama with 18 figures in a shadow box frame.
Even book specialist Rick Russack brought Pennsylvania goods. Choice rdf_Descriptions included Earl F. and Ada Robacher’s 1978 volume on spatterware and spongeware, $275; and a 1935 copy of Horner’s Blue Book of Philadelphia Furniture, $395. Best sellers for Russack? “Folk art anything,” answered the Danville, N.H., dealer.
The York Show dealers are a collegial group, sharing everything, it seems, including the occasional head cold. Pat Garthoeffner was one of the unlucky ones who ended up in bed on Saturday. Her husband Rich bravely held down the fort back at the show, and was rewarded for his effort.
“It ended really well for us,” says Pat. “We sold two samplers, both from Lancaster; a wonderful Santa Claus; a fabulous clown clockwork figure that’s going to Pittsburgh; a wonderful cast-iron Masonic figural piece; a pair of spice cabinets; a pair of tin sconces; and a decorated candle box.”
The New England dealers in the show are a formidable lot, as well. Sheffield, Mass., dealer Sam Herrup built his elegant display around an Eighteenth Century American portrait of J. Cooper Barton, $24,000; a reverse painting on glass of the ship Mayflower leaving Holland by the Dutch artist Petrus Weyts, $12,500; a flattop Queen Anne highboy with an old, ebonized surface, $38,000; and a pair of inlaid Sheraton maple card tables, $7,500.
Hallowell, Maine, dealers Michael Newsom and Betty Berdan Newsom brought a Lancaster County tall-case clock, circa 1790, $9,500, and sold an eastern Pennsylvania corner cupboard, first half of the Nineteenth Century, $12,500.
The best hooked rug in the show belonged to Stephen-Douglas Antiques of Rockingham, Vt. The pictorial example in spicy colors depicts a Federal homestead encircled by a picket fence and wavy trees.
A pair of lofty Masonic columns towered over Odd Fellow Antiques’ stand. Made for the “middle chamber” of a lodge, the hand painted architectural rdf_Descriptions were from Ohio, circa 1850, and cost $8,500. Equally arresting was a collection of 30 framed jail records, deaccessioned by a government agency. Combining mug shots and fingerprints, the intriguing collages have an accidental quality prized by collectors of vernacular photography.
Midwest specialties on the floor included a rare Ohio tile pottery poodle dog, $2,300 at Steven Smoot of Lancaster, Penn. Ohio dealer Robert Berger brought a pair of primitive portraits of male and female collies. Fellow exhibitor Penny Dionne of Connecticut could not resist — she is a collie owner herself. Other sales included that of a small hutch table in worn red paint at Missouri dealer Sharon Platt’s.
Judging by the number of sleds on the floor, it is going to be a cold winter. A particularly nice one, painted red and inscribed “Pawnee” above a portrait of an Indian chief, was offered by Don and Kay Buck of Chester, N.J. The sled dates to about 1860.
“York is still one of the great shows in the country,” says Pat Garthoeffner, an 18-year exhibitor. “It’s pretty, the merchandise is legitimate, and it has a wonderful group of dealers.” We could not agree more.
Benefiting the Y’s Mens’ Club and the York YMCA, the Greater York Antiques Show and Sale has new dates this spring. Shortened by a day, it will return to the York Fairgrounds on Mother’s Day Weekend, Friday and Saturday, May 9-10.
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