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Under New Ownership, the Armory Antique Show Holds Its Own

Nancy A. Ruhling | January 24th, 2014

One of the first things visible to incoming shoppers was this hooked rug offered by folk art dealers Robert Snyder and Judy Wilson of Wiscasset, Maine. The semicircular circa 1930 work was $2850 and provided a graphic picture of Americana. Its eagle is surrounded by stars and stripes.

The first thing collectors saw when they entered the show was a gigantic illuminated “DRUGS” sign. This circa 1920 trade sign, which had once adorned the exterior of the Kendallville, Indiana, drugstore, showcased the milk glass letters in a layered blue case studded with a green border of stained glass. Diana Douglas and Michael J. Ogle of American Garage, Los Angeles, priced it at $16,500.

Signed “Friedele” and dated 1974, this bronze and brass starburst sculpture that Glen Leroux of Westport, Connecticut, put front and center in his booth was $4200. Leroux also offered jewelry and furniture.

From the mid-1940’s, this retro Art Deco brooch of rose gold, platinum, rubies, and diamonds was $18,000 from Drucker Antiques, Mount Kisco, New York.

The armory show had items for every collector’s budget. These vintage linen kitchen towels, folded neatly and tied up with pretty white ribbons, were offered by Dawn Hill Antiques, New Preston, Connecticut, for $25 to $35. They complemented the 18th- and 19th-century Swedish painted furniture, garden antiques, and other decorative objects the dealers brought.

This may look like a booth, but it’s a dollhouse “room box,” decorated with miniature early American furniture. Andrea Wolfand of Blackbird Antiques, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, said that dollhouse companies often made them. This one, however, was made by a collector who created 18 and displayed them in her den. “The furniture is wonderful,” she said. “The drawers open, the scale balances, and there’s a cherry pie on the dining table.” The price was $750.

New York City

When the Armory Antique Show opened at 10 a.m. on Friday, January 24, there were no lines. And that was a good thing. Those who wanted to be the first to walk the floor had bought their tickets on line, and when they arrived at Manhattan’s 69th Regiment Armory at 26th Street and Lexington Avenue, their bar codes were scanned in. When the doors opened, they simply walked (or ran) in as a group.

On-line ticketing was one of the more noticeable changes to the show, which was being presented for the first time by 53-year-old U.S. Antique Shows, a division of GLM that bills itself as “the world’s leading producer of indoor antique shows.”

U.S. Antique Shows, you may recall, bought the show from longtime promoter Stella Show Management, which started it in 1995. “It was not a hostile takeover,” said marketing director Mary Bender. “We bought it because it was successful, and the Stella folks did a good job. They helped us every step of the way. And the dealers were welcoming to us; we’re learning from them.”

Of U.S. Antique Shows’ nine shows, the Armory Antique Show is the only one that features a substantial number of Americana dealers. “It’s a new category for us,” Bender said. “It was a new set of dealers for us to work with, and it was a joy.”

The transition apparently was seamless. Some 100 dealers set up shop for the show that ran through January 26, and most of them were veterans from the Stella era, and there still was a complimentary shuttle to the Winter Antiques Show at the uptown armory.

The on-line ticketing and the creation of a Facebook page for the show were done to be in sync with U.S. Antique Shows’ other venues. “We sold a few hundred tickets on line,” Bender said, “but we started from zero, so it means the demand is there.”

To encourage dealers to bring large, bulky pieces, the promoters also created a “gallery” in the back of the armory where dealers could display them together at no extra cost. “We did it because we had some extra space,” Bender said and added that it was a hit with dealers and customers.

As in past years, the Armory Antique Show offered collectors a variety of options at a variety of prices that ranged from five figures to $25. Most of the dealers brought folk art and Americana. Furniture of any era and any style was in short supply. In the jewelry category, although there were diamonds and emeralds and rubies for tens of thousands of dollars, there also were exquisite costume pieces that were $2000 to $4000.

The winter weather didn’t deter determined buyers. Icicles formed outside and snow covered the ground, but the aisles were jammed at opening time on the debut day, and lots of red “sold” stickers were noticed.

The gate was about the same as last year, and Bender reported, “We’re putting the show in the win category.”

New York City jewelry dealer Andrea Phillips of Drea’s Faux  and Fine Vintage, who is new to the antiques business and to the armory, said she sold a lot of “very unique pieces, and the show was very successful for me because I got some new clients.”

Paulette Peden of Dawn Hill Antiques, New Preston, Connecticut, the only dealer at the show who specializes in 18th- and 19th-century Swedish furniture, took most of her pieces home. “We made a few sales, but last year was better,” she said. “We have been doing this show for about eight years, but we won’t be back next year.”

Longtime Pier show veterans Edward and Lillian Miller of Pioneer Folk Antiques, Ellsworth, Maine, were doing the armory show for the second year in a row. “We sold quite a number of fabulous pieces,” he said. “It was a strong and interested buying gate, and many of the dealers we spoke with also had a good show.” The Millers, who have already signed up for next year, were very impressed with the new management. “For the first time managing the show, U.S. Antique Shows did an extremely commendable job,” Edward said.

Christopher English of Antediluvian Antiques & Curiosities, Lake Placid, New York, a third-time returnee to the armory, had his best show ever. “I sold out most of my booth,” he said. “Even though the weather was messy, the people who came were spenders.”

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Valentine’s Day was around the corner, so Susan Wechsler of South Road Antiques, Stanfordville, New York, hung up a trio of 20th-century painted zinc golf markers and asked $545 for them.

Among the traditional furnishings offered by Yew Tree House Antiques, New York City, was a pair of early 20th-century mixed-metal rooster andirons, $3900, that are crowing atop good-luck horseshoes.

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

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