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Combing the Christie Classic for Collectibles

John Norris | May 25th, 2013


Ken Aubrey of Ottawa, Ontario, asked $350 for this 1950’s pedal car in green, yellow, and black by an unknown maker.


Bisback Family Antiques sold a circa 1880 file cabinet with 32 drawers from the Ayton, Wellington County, Ontario, municipal office for $2650. An artist needing storage space bought it.


George Lehto asked $450 for his folk art painting of a hunting dog signed bottom right by Quebec artist “F. Bolduc.”


Sean George Pressed Glass and Goblets, Arthur, Ontario, offered a two-piece punch bowl in the Fostoria American pattern, 1917-60, for $275.


Ed Locke of Renfrew, Ontario, asked $500 for the 1932 black memorabilia baseball sign from Toronto, $85 for the circa 1930 mannequin head, and $300 for the circa 1950 roller coaster toy.


Fred Bradshaw of Kemble, Ontario, asked $350 for this 4' x 8' 1940’s Persian tribal rug.


Gerry Marks of Pollikers, Greenwood, Ontario, wanted $495 for this goose decoy in the sleeping/preening position by Emmett Curley of Prince Edward Island.


Pickin’ & Grinnin’ Antiques asked $49 for a pair of spurs with silver decoration on one side of each spur.

Dundas, Ontario

All prices in Canadian funds

“Don’t you love the anticipation driving up to a pick?” Sheldon Smithens asked his TV Canadian Pickers partner, Scott Cozens, on one episode.

These were at least 275 dealers in booths spread across a section of the Christie Lake Conservation Area at the May 25 Christie Antique Show in Dundas, Ontario, and collectors, dealers, and pickers were prickling with that same anticipation.

Just what does the Christie show offer? Type in “Christie Classic Antique Show” on Bing/Google to find the Web site, and this description comes up: “Hundreds of Canada’s top antique dealers and collectors display and sell an unparalleled variety of treasures. With 10 acres of vintage items waiting to be discovered, there are items to please both the novice and the most experienced collector. Furniture, architectural antiques, stoneware, Native artifacts, folk art, rugs, jewelry, sports memorabilia, scientific instruments, textiles, cut glass—if you can imagine it, you can find it in one of the 1,200 collecting categories featured at the show.”

The Hamilton Conservation Authority currently owns and runs the show purchased from Jeff and Wendy Gadsden in 2011. “It’s a great source of revenue for the HCA,” said show coordinator Sofia Stanidis, “and since our first show, we are just so pleased with being able to keep up and contribute to the show’s [financial] success.”

Admission is $10, and the show’s gate can run as high as 10,000-plus on a sunny, cool day. Such was the case May 25, with many collectors arriving well before the 8 a.m. opening. In addition, throughout the day, a steady stream of cars entered and exited the show.

“Any changes we’ve made have come from direct feedback from the community of dealers in the show, so it’s been mostly behind-the-scenes, operational items. The show already had a great reputation, so we just wanted to maintain it, not change it, unless it was for the better. We put a lot of effort into the promotion of the show, though, with the new Web site, for example, and other promotional items, like the radio contest.

“I’ve been so overwhelmed by the positive feedback we’ve been receiving both from dealers and people attending the show. In all, I think we’ve been making a lot of good decisions and staying open to suggestions from the dealers we represent.”

How did Stanidis explain the sign facing dealers (and collectors) as they entered the show area that Saturday morning or even the day before that read “DEALERS NO EARLY SELLING”? Did it mean no early (pre-8:00 a.m.) selling to collectors attending the show? Did it mean no selling dealer to dealer before the show opened? When the Gadsdens promoted the show, dealers were allowed to buy from each other only from 6 to 8 a.m. on Saturday morning.

“We inherited that sign from the Gadsdens,” said Stanidis. “It is for the dealers mainly on the Friday night during setup. I know very well that the dealers buy and sell amongst themselves, especially on Saturday morning, and it’s not entirely a rule that we enforce.”

Participating dealer Janis Bisback of Bisback Family Antiques, Hensall, Ontario, commented, “In regard to the sign—no early selling—the Gadsdens didn’t approve of early selling on the Friday during setup...[Yet] early selling has always been a feature of setup, et cetera. The guys with the most money and desire to scoop the best pieces were always banging on our truck at five a.m. to ‘see what we had under the tarps,’ et cetera. In those days, before Internet, they had to crawl around in the dark to try to discern if a piece was worth buying. No cell phone tag either.

“The sign is, in my humble opinion, merely window dressing for the public to feel that they have had a chance to purchase things [first] at the show. We sold a bunch of spears to a reputable dealer (who does Bowmanville) early Saturday a.m., and we saw them in the clutches of many people throughout the day, so he must have resold them. A good decision.

“That should be the prerequisite. All items purchased must be offered to the public on the Saturday. Of course, the price might be too high for most of the browsers who are hoping to score a bargain or a sleeper. I heard a few people standing in front of our booth remark about how they could buy something cheaper at one of the big box stores. So what were they doing at an antiques show?”

What Stanidis also neglected to mention is that, since 2011, at least two dealers, if not more, have complained that their booth space has been reduced. In fact, one Toronto dealer complained that, in the September 2012 show, she lost five feet of badly needed space and couldn’t spread out her textiles enough. “This wouldn’t have happened when Jeff ran the show,” a dealer commented. “You got exactly the booth space you were promised.” Consequently, the Toronto dealer quit Christie—when the Gadsdens ran the show, they averaged over 300 dealers per show with a waiting list—and joined the spring Aberfoyle Saturday Special Antique Show, another outdoor event, held this year on May 11. (Another Aberfoyle is scheduled for September 21.) Meanwhile, the Gadsdens are running another outdoor event at Milton, Ontario, that happened two weeks after the Christie show on June 8 and is scheduled for three weeks after the fall Christie show on September 28. Many dealers exhibiting at Christie brave the hot, humid weather and also exhibit at Milton.

Despite the competition, however, Stanidis remains optimistic. “Definitely, the Christie Antique Show will continue. We’ll continue to market to new groups of people, cultivate new collectors, and uphold the existing high quality standards that we all know the show to have.”

The show has become so popular that dealer Stephen Dickinson drives all the way from Presque Isle, Maine, to haunt the early September version, where, last year, he purchased a Brantford (Ontario) Pottery spittoon, brown with shell decoration around the circumference. Then he drove back to Toronto in April and offered it, among other collectibles, at the Toronto Bottle & Antique Show on April 21 for $40. “The spring [Christie] show is not a good time for me to attend,” he said. “I always fill up the van and run out of money, as there are good deals, if you look. I get bottles, stoneware, advertising, country and primitives, tools, et cetera.”

Laura Parkes of Mississauga, Ontario, a 27-year-old woman who works in a Toronto advertising firm, collects movie action figures. A high shelf in her bedroom holds action figures such as Predator and Transformers. More action figures crowd shelves in a room in her parents’ basement.

She also collects watches. “I find that a watch is the only accessory that I seem to wear in my day-to-day routine. When my mom and I were going through Grandma and Grandpa’s things in the back bedroom, we uncovered a bunch of watches (one being Grandpa’s), and I thought it would be nice if I had something to remember him by. I decided to get it repaired and work it into my normal watch rotation. I now have five, each to go with a different occasion/different outfit.”

No novice to collecting nostalgia, Parkes attended, for the first time, the Christie show on May 25 in search of yet more movie action figures. But did she find any? Were they, in fact, among “the 1,200 collecting categories featured at the show”? Were the odds in her favor? After all, dealers at this and other shows, such as Bowmanville, for example, have complained for years that the young are staying away from antiques shows. Did any of the Christie dealers have the collectibles that would interest a young specialist collector like Laura Parkes?

Parkes began collecting when she was six years old. “I was never really into the same things my girlfriends at the time were into, such as Polly Pocket, My Little Pony, or Barbie. Instead, I hung out more with the boys at recess or after school, and we watched all the same TV cartoons like [Teenage Mutant] Ninja Turtles, Batman, Superman, Power Rangers, anything with action and suspense. That was the hype at the time.

“Before my mom [a former Baker Lovick vice president], would come home from a meeting, she would have stopped in at a toy store and bought me a Ninja Turtle action figure. Christmas time and birthdays, my parents would continue to support the action figure habit, because that’s all I would play with. Sometimes I would make my own Ninja Turtles car or come up with my own Batcave, since buying toys for me was becoming an expensive proposition.

“As you get older, shows that were once popular die out, or the company that produces them tries to revive them and change the storyline to what they think is making a show better but it’s not. I obviously stopped playing with the action figures and stopped stretching the use of my imagination. So they were put away in a Rubbermaid box and stored in the basement, forgotten.

“But Marvel Comics and DC Comics never die out. Instead, they lose momentum for a little bit to those that aren’t die-hard comic book fans. Once I was in my teens, however, Marvel and DC started to come out with box office hit movies like Spider-Man [2002] and Batman [1989] and still have kept going strong. The action figures are better now, they have more detail, and so have the storylines that appeal more to newer generations. It’s a big other world.

“Today I collect action figure dolls from hit movies like Predator [1987], Transformers [2007], Futurama [2009], Batman, anything that is Marvel or DC Universe, but figures like Ninja Turtles, which aren’t worth anything, I stopped buying. I also stopped buying M&M’s figures.”

According to Parkes, Mars Inc., the candy company that makes M&M’s, started producing action figures of its lead spokespersons (red and yellow M&M’s). Other colored characters were available in different poses or on different memorabilia. Ninja Turtles were big in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. The cartoon was popular, and then the movies came out and were a big hit. But interest in the show started to die out, the storylines weren’t as good, the audience was getting older, and the show was soon canceled.

Years later, when the producers tried to bring the show back to a new generation, it wouldn’t take. The producers tried a few times over the years. The show’s setting and storylines were so far from the original that no one was interested. Yet some have said that Ninja Turtles are coming back. Parkes predicted, “That may be true, but they won’t last for long, as the comeback has happened several times in the last fifteen years.”

In 2012, Parkes came across a re-release of the Ninja Turtles action figures (first produced when she was a kid). “But I couldn’t bring myself to buy them.”

Parkes has two Transformers action figures that she bought for $40 each. “Bumble Bee” retailed at Zellers/The Bay for $65, but she found him at the Burlington (Ontario) Toy Show for only $25, her “proudest find” so far.

“I [wisely] save the boxes from every figure. I found Predator at the run-down hobby shop my dad goes to. The owner doesn’t specialize in that sort of thing, but someone brought it in for him to sell on consignment for eighty dollars.

“I don’t count how many action figures I have, as that’s not really important. Rather, it’s about the type, generation, year, et cetera. I have enough figures to fill a fully shelved wall eighteen feet tall by eight feet wide.

“My favorite is the Predator doll because of the detail. It was one design of three different looks. I’ve seen the figure around but not for the steal of a price I paid. I also like my large Transformers figures for the same reason.

“Garage sales are good to go to, because people that sell their childhood memorabilia sell them cheaply. There’s a toy show in Burlington that happens three times a year that I go to with my dad, where costs can be fifty percent below retail. There are also a few collectibles stores you come across when you look up hobbies on the Internet. There’s a collectibles store in Oakville, Ontario (I forgot the name of it), but sometimes people come in and get the owner to sell their stuff, so I take a couple of trips in now and again.

“I guess I collect because cartoons/superheroes/sci-fi has had a big impact in my life, and there is so much storyline to absorb based on these characters. It’s a big, big world, and I get to live vicariously through it.”

In spite of carrying $300 to spend, Parkes went home with just five Superman comics with original prices of 25¢ each. She paid $4 each for them, though the dealer had priced them at $5 each. “I wandered around all the booths and took my time, but didn’t see anything I was really interested in. I was looking for something related to comic book heroes or movies, but didn’t see anything of that nature until about one hour into the event.

“I eventually found a booth that had an old windup Batmobile from the sixties about the size of my hand. It had a miniature Batman and Robin sitting in both the driver and passenger seats, and the vendor was selling it for about seventy dollars. I had to take a minute to decide if I really wanted to purchase it, because even though it was related to my comic book interest and had age to it, was it really something I wanted displayed on my shelf with my other pieces? The paint job on the faces of the characters was poorly done, and I really didn’t know if the windup mechanism still worked. So I didn’t buy it, because everything I have in my collection has fantastic detail in the expression on every face, and that’s really what counts for me—the detail.

“I wandered further and found a vendor selling old comic books. I couldn’t believe it! As soon as I saw this, I parked myself in front of his collection and combed through every issue he had until I found what I wanted. In the end, I bought five comic books for four dollars each. They are in good condition, are wrapped in proper protective casing, and from the fifties/sixties part of the ‘Action Comics’ series. It just goes to show you, if you’re patient, you’ll find what you're looking for.”

Danielle Black and her husband, Tony, of Stratford, Ontario, collect vintage cameras. By 11:00 a.m., they hadn’t found any yet. But they did buy a “really beautiful” hooked mat with a floral pattern for $90, because, said Danielle, “we like these types of carpets.” They also bought individual metal letters for $15 each and 11 carvings of fruit for just $20. “We come often to the show. We love it.”

“This Saturday was an amazing day,” said Stanidis. “I’m just so pleased by the positive feedback…. We had about 10,000 people come through the gates, and the dealers did very well with sales. We did a contest giveaway on the radio for five hundred-dollar gift certificates, and then we did a draw for a five-hundred-dollar gift certificate on the show day. I think this draw successfully encouraged people to take the plunge and buy those big-ticket items without hesitation. It was money well spent on our part.

“The best comment we received was about the overall organization of the event on both sides of the fence with the dealers and the public. We put so much care into the events operations and the type of promotion we were doing, and that hard work paid off.

“The only negative occurrence was the issues we had with our ATM supplier. The machines ran out of cash very quickly, and people had to wait a while for cash to be reloaded. We intend to make this a top priority for the fall show [September 7] and provide more ATMs and better service.”

For more information, contact Sophie Stanidis at <sofia.stanidis@conservationhamilon.ca> or see the Web site (www.christieantiqueshow.ca).


Originally published in the September 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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