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"Were You There?"

Cathy Aldrich | November 2nd, 2013


Some pondered if dealers Kris and Dick Kirby of the Farmer’s Daughter, Snoqualmie, Washington,  really wanted anyone in their booth as they had so many signs that indicated to stay away: “No Admittance,” “Private Property,” and “Please Keep Off.” The dealers setting up gave them a hard time, but one ultimately decided to buy a sign for his own enjoyment. The prices ranged from $65 to $250. Next to the “Please Keep Off” sign was a beaver fur top hat and its tin case for $325. Kris felt the hat and case were original to each other, a combination not often found.


Offered jointly by Eric Swanson and Betsy Kirsch was this dish cupboard that was rearranged from its Saturday look to this arrangement on Sunday. Swanson felt the more open display presented the items to a better advantage. The mid-18th-century cupboard has replaced shoe feet and wonderful curvaceous design elements that are set off by the lovely patina of its surface. Swanson and Kirsch were asking $3200 for the piece. The pewter and salt-glazed items carried prices of $68 to $228 for the pewter and $65 and up for the salt-glazed pottery. The large basket on top carried a price of $328. The lovely gray, peach, light blue, pale yellow, and red braided rug, most likely early 20th century, carried a price tag of $75.


Bob Leeds of B&W Antiques, Seattle, is one of the longtime dealers at this show; he has been here from the beginning. This set of turkey plates and large platter, $1500, was good inspiration for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The 12 plates and one platter, all in pristine condition, had blue, red, green, and yellow decorated surfaces that stood out. Made by Wood’s in Burslem, England around 1905 to 1910, these plates could grace any Thanksgiving repast.


Advertising ephemera of yore is today’s decorative and collectible Americana folk art. So it is with this oar advertising Sleepy Eye Flour that was milled in Minnesota in the 1890’s. Sleepy Eye is the name of the town where the flour was produced. Dealer Ray Frederick thought this 6' advertising “oaration” to be in impeccable condition and priced it at $750.

Monroe Antique Show and Sale, Monroe, Washington

There are times over the course of an antiques show that will be long remembered. “Were you there?” will be asked when dealers and customers reminisce. Of the fall 2013 Monroe Antique Show and Sale the question became “Were you there when the power went out?” or its variation “Were you there for the great blackout?”

The Monroe Antique Show and Sale is held in Monroe, Washington, on the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in the cow barn. It is a nice venue, with easy accessibility for dealers to set up because of the barn’s large doors and the open floor plan the show’s promoter, Loretta Johnson, adheres to. For customers there is ample free parking, always a plus. Generally the show goes off without a hitch, but Mother Nature had other plans this time around.

Weather does matter, whether or not it is convenient to those dealing at, promoting, or attending a show, and the Pacific Northwest delivered up its first major storm of the season on November 2, 2013. As major storms go in the Northwest, it was relatively benign although drenchingly wet and decidedly windy. Customers spoke of tree branches down, and the rain could be heard pounding down on the barn’s metal roof. Inside it was warm and cozy. Power had gone out for some in the region, but the show had never been troubled in this way.

The show opened at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 2, and the aisles filled quickly. There was a good crowd of customers making the rounds, undeterred by the storm, perusing their favorite booths and taking in the sights and offerings from the many new dealers present. Sales were being rung up, customers were happily shopping, and all were enjoying the camaraderie of the occasion.

And then the lights went out. This happened exactly one hour after the show opened. A loud collective gasp could be heard in the darkened barn.

And then the cell phones came out to light the way. The space of time between when the lights went out and the cell phone lights appeared was a matter of seconds. Intrepid and undeterred, customers calmly continued on their appointed rounds.

This fact became a highly amusing part of the day—how quickly the cell phones were whipped out to provide a source of light. It was not a total blackout because of the opening of the doors, and there are windows high in the barn’s roof. In addition to the cell phones and flashlights, small advertising keychain flashlights that were being given out at a gun show held at the fairgrounds on the same day suddenly became very popular. Business continued, even though it was at a slower pace.

In all, the power was out for around two and a half hours. The power outage had its effect on some dealers’ sales, yet others, like Clayson Farm, sold well even with the power out. Location didn’t seem to matter as much as a customer’s desire for a particular item. Some dealers located closer to the doors lost sales; others in the darker, more interior areas kept on selling. Antiques show sales present no rhyme nor reason it seems, even when light is lacking.

When the lights finally did come back on, dealers and customers breathed a sigh of relief. Throughout the blackout dealers worried that they would lose items to shoplifters, and under the circumstances that was indeed a major possibility.

That was the miracle of the show. When the power came back on, and dealers had a chance to assess their inventory, nothing was missing. Camaraderie (with a cell phone or two lighting the way) carried the day. People were on their best behavior. Customers and dealers took the inconvenience in stride, and what could have been a disaster ended up being an amusing anecdote for the record books.

Sunday returned to a more normal weather pattern. The show saw a larger customer base than would be usual for a Sunday, as many who either left while the power was out or who didn’t want to travel in the stormy weather made their appearance. For some dealers this helped, but  others, like veteran dealer Tom Jones, knew they lost many sales because of Saturday’s blackout.

On Sunday many dealers were overheard asking, “Were you there?” The 52 dealers will remember this show for a long time. Perhaps more relevant would be the question, now that the show has passed into memory, “Will you be there?” The next Monroe Antique Show and Sale will come in April and be greeted, we hope, with more benign weather.

For more information, contact Loretta Johnson of Cobweb Antiques at (360) 794-4256.

Many were drawn to these old wooden skis from the 1920’s, but only for their decorative aspect. The skis sold quickly, priced at $95. Desire to Acquire’s Carrol Gunther, a local dealer who is a show regular, was proud of her Pima baskets, also from the 1920’s. The Olla basket displayed to the right of the skis was in excellent condition and priced at $1100.

Crane Classics specializes in art pottery but had an amazing selection of pre-digital age cameras on display as well. Jim and Carol Crane are local dealers who sell at shows. Jim stated the cameras ranged from 1907, for the Ansco #10 model A on the left, to 1950, for the Nikon model F on the right. He priced them from $58 for the Kodak Junior #38 sitting next to the Nikon to $145 for the Nikon itself. All are in working condition.

It had been a while since Susan Smith of Fox Island Antiques, Fox Island, Washington, had exhibited her wares. She sells at shows, and many were delighted to see her return. While she said the power outage did make for disappointing sales, she managed to sell at least one of these candlestands, the octagonal one in the back, which was priced at $1750. On the left is a 1780 dish-top candlestand in cherry with strong vase and ring turnings, priced at $1500, and to the right is a square-topped circa 1780 cherry and maple stand from Massachusetts or Connecticut that was $1450. All had slipper feet, original surface, and wear, and were in good condition.

Vicki Smith’s Hannah Creek Antiques set up in a space an absent dealer had long occupied. She brought a truly outstanding assortment of her specialty, Bakelite bracelets. Smith hails from Bellingham, Washington, and does business only at shows. There were so many lovely examples to choose from in reds, pinks, blues, greens, tortoise, rich yellows, blacks, and grays, one would have a hard time knowing where to start. They carried prices of $50 to $1500 depending on carving, weight, and color. She said some had been used in Hollywood and also pointed out in the center of the display some celluloid bracelets that flappers of the 1920’s would have been delighted to own. The celluloid bangles were decorated with rhinestones and were in the pastel greens, yellows, blues, and pinks that were popular in that era. These bracelets were priced from $65 to $250.


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

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