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Chester County Historical Society Show

Lita Solis-Cohen | April 4th, 2014

Roger Winter of Solebury, Pennsylvania, offered this George III pedestal dining table with two original leaves. It seats 16 comfortably. It was $39,000. The eight George III chairs with Marlborough legs were $16,500.

Donald Cresswell of the Philadelphia Print Ship offered Currier and Ives’s popular Winter in the Country, 1864, for $6800.

Margaret Sutor of Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, and Bill Shaeffer of Glyndon, Maryland, shared a booth. The English creamware plate with a transfer-printed scene of a Sailor’s Farewell in pink was $1750 from Shaeffer. The four small creamware bottle coasters with pierced sides were $740 from Sutor.

Malcolm Magruder of Millwood, Virginia, offered a selection of yellow-glaze wares. Plates were $1200 each, a yellow-glaze large pitcher was $1500, the small one, $850, the cups and saucers were $750 each, and the tankard decorated with a mariner’s compass was $1200.

Jim Emele of Dublin, Pennsylvania, asked $3650 for this set of six tea canisters, circa 1870, all with the names of different kinds of tea.

Don Heller and Kim Washam of Heller Washam, Portland, Maine, asked $28,000 for this walnut bonnet-top high chest made in the Salem area of Massachusetts, 1745-60, 87½" high x 35½" wide x 20" deep. The Salem side chair, left, is one of two similar, offered as a pair for $7800. The Rhode Island chair to the right was $3900, and the looking glass, $5800.

Aileen Minor of Centreville, Maryland, asked $4500 for the English cast-iron Rococo Revival settees and matching center table, and the dachshund foot scraper was $295.

Pennsylvania walnut William and Mary slant-front desk, circa 1740, with engraved brasses, interior with seven drawers and a well, lid fitted with book rack, case with double arch moldings, restored brasses and feet, possibly Chester County or Philadelphia area. It was $28,500 from Skip Chalfant of West Chester, Pennsylvania. The Chester County ladder-back chair in old red paint with its original splint seat and ball feet has a restored front stretcher and was $2800. The 1770-80 walnut dish-top candlestand with a turned birdcage and snake feet, 28¾" high, top 20½" in diameter, was $7500.

Malvern, Pennsylvania

The 32nd annual Chester County Historical Society Antiques Show, April 4-6, was back at the Phelps School for the second year with a diversified group of dealers from all parts of the Northeast. It is not just a local show; it drew dealers and shoppers from New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., as well as Pennsylvania. Some business was done, but, as is the norm these days, there was a steep bell curve; some dealers sold well, and some did no business at all.

The Phelps School is the show’s fifth venue since it was launched in 1983 with 22 dealers in the armory in downtown West Chester, Pennsylvania, and six more dealers at the historical society across the street. Three years later it moved to the field house at West Chester University where it remained for 15 years, and then to QVC Studio Park in West Chester for six years where it expanded to 75 dealers. For four years it was at the Westtown School gymnasium before it moved to the Phelps School in a space designed as a riding ring that serves as a sports facility for the school. There were just 48 dealers this year, the perfect size.

Just four of the dealers have not missed a show. James Kilvington, Skip Chalfant, Paul DeCoste, and Wesley Sessa have set up all 32 years. Sessa has served as the show manager as well. There were a few dealers new to the show: Michael Haskins of Palmyra, New York; James Labaugh of Pound Ridge, New York; and Martin Chasin of Fairfield, Connecticut. The Philadelphia Print Shop from Chestnut Hill and Diana Bittel of Bryn Mawr had not exhibited at Chester County for more than a decade.

This show was the place to shop for ceramics. James Labaugh offered porcelain and pottery, and A.J. Warren of Maria and Peter Warren, Wilton, Connecticut, had top-of-the-line English creamware and salt-glaze ceramics. Malcolm Magruder from Millwood, Virginia, had yellow glaze and creamware. Sally Good of Ambler, Pennsylvania, offered Staffordshire hens and other 19th-century Staffordshire wares and sold Haviland Limoges. Bill Shaeffer from Glyndon, Maryland, offered Victorian Staffordshire figures and creamware and shared a stand with Margaret Johnson Sutor from Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, who, as did William and Teresa Kurau, offered historical Staffordshire and creamware. Michael Weinberg of West Pelham Antiques, Pelham, Massachusetts, and Joy Hanes of Hanes and Ruskin, Old Lyme, Connecticut, offered ceramics along with a general line of antiques. They all provided a lot from which to choose, and they all said they sold; some sold more than others.

“It was just my turn,” said Peg Sutor, who sold every piece of transfer-printed pink china on her stand. A.J. Warren said she sold to old customers of her father as well as new ones and sold a painting, too.

Silver dealer Spencer Gordon of Spencer Marks, Southampton, Massachusetts, said he sold a fair amount of silver ranging from the mid-18th to the mid-20th century. His rare French wine taster and Scottish wine funnel found buyers. He also sold flatware, a New York Yacht Club trophy, an Austrian imperial plate, and some American silver. That’s selling across the board!

Some paintings sold. The show-stopper was a portrait of a Navajo princess by Taiwanese-American artist Ho Li-Huai. Tom Brown of McMurray, Pennsylvania, asked $3900 for it, and it sold. Ron Bassin of A Bird in Hand Antiques, Florham Park, New Jersey, said he sold two paintings, and Richard Worth of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, sold two paintings as well, but other art dealers complained that selling was slow.

Some furniture sold but not a lot of it. Worth sold a set of chairs, a child’s rocking chair, and a drop-leaf table. Skip Chalfant of West Chester, Pennsylvania, sold a chest of
drawers, and Roger Winter of Solebury,
Pennsylvania, sold an English triple-top games table. Dale Hunt of The Antique Store in Wayne sold a sideboard, and Wesley Sessa sold a sofa. James Kilvington sold a marble-top mixing table, probably made in Baltimore, with a King of Prussia marble top.

Business was done, but Paul DeCoste said he used to do $20,000 or more at this show and now feels lucky to do $10,000. Kelly Kinzle said he would not come back unless his sales tallied $20,000. He said he just made it last year and just about made it this time thanks to dealer-to-dealer business. There was some preshow dealer-to-dealer selling and more at the end of the show. Booth rents range from $1200 to $2500, and dealers provide their own cabinets and lights. The dealers said in unison that they did not get their money’s worth.

The Phelps School venue was a challenge. The weather was cold, and the generator failed to provide enough heat or light. At the preview, half the booths remained in the dark for much of the evening.

“I might have sold a painting if the doctor was able to see it,” said Kilvington. “The doctor said he would come back when he could see it the next day, but I guess he was on call; he didn’t return.”

There was a plea from dealers to find another venue that does not require the use of a faulty old generator. Manager Sessa said there is no other place in Chester County. Nevertheless, the dealers, even those who just about broke even, said they would return because there is such a good group of dealers and customers, and the show is for such a good cause.

The show catalog provided good reading about Chester County clothing, the current show at the historical society through August 2014, illustrating women’s, men’s, and children’s elegant and everyday clothes from the early 1800s through the Neoclassical era. Another article discussesd the scrapbook of a leading abolitionist, Passmore Williamson, who went to jail for 100 days for his activism.

The Chester County Historical Society at 225 North High Street in West Chester also administers the Chester County Archives in cooperation with the County of Chester, at 601 Westtown Road, Suite 80, in West Chester. According to its mission statement, the historical society “inspires, informs, and builds community identity by a preserving and sharing the remarkable story of Chester County and its people.” And some of those people live in old stone houses that cry for antiques. The show should be a better-selling show than it is. Some blamed it on poor publicity, no e-mail blasts, not enough local advertising; others said the timing is bad, just before taxes are due, not the best time to sell antiques. Moreover, the stock market was on a slide downward. Others said people are saving up to buy at the Philadelphia Antiques Show just three weeks away.

There were plenty of excuses for not buying a temping array of antiques in all categories. The preview party was well attended, and there was a young crowd who enjoyed drinks and the oyster bar and passed hors d’oeuvres, but they did little shopping. Some of the right people came on Saturday and Sunday and were responsible for most of the sales.

“There was an uptick in the market last fall; the wholesale market improved; prices are reasonable, so we were optimistic that a recovery of the antiques market was at hand, but business has been slow since the government shutdown last fall; just a few shows have showed some new life,” said Don Heller of Portland, Maine.

The Chester County show was not one of them, even though it was filled with good, genuine antiques at fair prices, the sort that flew out the door in the 1980s and 1990s. The pictures and captions show just a fraction of what was there.

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Originally published in the June 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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