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Getman's New One-Day Show: A Small Wonder

November 30th, 2012

The Lexington Historical Society's executive director, Susan Bennett, said her organization was "delighted to partner" with Marvin Getman in bringing Antiques at the Depot to town. "The society's depot building, right in the center of Lexington, and the [town-owned] parking area behind it are a perfect venue for this event," she wrote in an e-mail. "Our inaugural show this year is a win-win for the dealers, the historical society, the restaurants in town, and for New England Antique Shows."

Getman said, "The center of Lexington can be sleepy on a Sunday. On this Sunday, there were twelve hundred people walking around. The restaurants were happy." He laughed. "We didn't bring in a food vendor because we wanted to make sure that people enjoyed the local places. There are plenty within a block of the depot."

This is a partial view of the parking lot, where most of the show's 47 dealers were set up in four parallel rows.

Martha Coulbourn of Rockport, Massachusetts, wanted $575 for a pair of ginger jars (one shown) with a rich mustard shade of yellow. The miniature three-drawer Empire chest from a historic Newbury, Massachusetts, home was marked $585; the little (approximately 4" x 2") unframed oil on canvas still life was $55.

Jane McClafferty of Bloomfield, Connecticut, displayed this English brass inside her van to keep it from getting too hot to handle in the sun. The circa 1875 English chestnut roasters, hanging on the inside door handle, were $285 each.

Lexington, Massachusetts

by Jeanne Schinto

"It's a great feeling when everyone leaves a show happy—dealers, customers, sponsoring group, and promoter," said Marvin Getman of New England Antique Shows, whose first-annual Antiques at the Depot took place in Lexington, Massachusetts, on Sunday, September 23. "I was walking by dealers' booths, when I could, because it was so busy. And when they saw me, they'd give me a thumbs up. I don't think you'll get a bad comment from anyone."

For years, Getman, a longtime Lexington resident, had wanted to do a show close to home. When he noticed that the Lexington Historical Society had twice sponsored an antique car show in the parking lot behind its historic depot building in the center of town, he decided to approach the nonprofit organization about putting on an event for its benefit in the same location. The result was this successful one-day antiques show that brought together 47 dealers and, by Getman's count, 1200 members of the public. "In six hours? We never stopped. I was directing traffic, it got so jammed," he said.

This was Getman's first time working with a nonprofit. "Now I realize not only how much fun it can be to partner with the right group but also how great it is to have such an enthusiastic group of volunteers working with you. This is an organization that is so well liked and respected. When you look at their Web site [], you'll see the houses they have preserved, restored, and promoted to the tourists who come to town."

The historical society has 1000 members. "And they made sure that membership knew about this event," Getman continued. "And the local publicity that was handled by the society was exceptional." Getman also used his own lists to get the word out, mailing postcards to 1500 people he characterized as "customers most likely to attend" and e-mailing to his entire list of 8400.

Just five dealers were set up inside the depot. The rest were in the parking lot, under tents if they chose to be. The dealer capacity overall is 65 to 70. "We didn't fill every last space in that lot, but I'm sure next year we will," Getman said. "I've already had e-mails from dealers who came through but didn't participate, saying they'd like to participate in the future."

I've been there when Getman has gone macro—for example, in 2007 and 2008 when he staged his Boston Antiques Weekend shows, first at the cavernous Bayside Expo Center and then at the equally large Seaport World Trade Center. In Lexington it was gratifying to see that a show doesn't have to be big to have an impact.

Although Getman specializes in weekend-long shows, he has had experience with one-day shows. That was the format of his SoWa Antiques Market, which lost its venue after only a single season in Boston's South End in 2009. Getman said he missed having that kind of show on his schedule and was glad to have one again.

Certainly, one-day shows are cheaper than weekenders for dealers. "It was very affordable," said Getman, who charged about $150 per space. "Everyone starts out ahead because they really don't have to sell too much to make expenses. If my overhead is 'right,' I'm going to pass it on to the dealers whenever I can."

True to the spirit of the occasion, most dealers did not bring their most expensive pieces. I saw, for example, Victorian coal hods priced at $350 each by P.D. Murphy of West Roxbury, Massachusetts; a first edition of Slave Ships and Slaving by George Francis Dow, tagged $285 by Richard Mori of Milford, New Hampshire; a circa 1830 English porcelain dessert dish, marked $85 by Gregory Lovell of Hyde Park, Massachusetts; and painted metal "EXIT" signs, offered at $35 each by Jeffrey Gladding of Bristol, Rhode Island.

Someone sold a sampler for over $1000, and that was considered a significant sale. Another made a post-show deal worth $1300 and was elated. More commonly, I saw people buying items for $200 or less.

The prices allowed impulse purchases. "There were a lot of those at the show, and that's, to me, the best type of sale," said Getman. "That indicates that things [e.g., the economy] are coming back. A lot of people came to the show not knowing what to expect and not expecting to make a purchase, but they left with something under their arm. To me, seeing that kind of retail activity is what a promoter wants and what the dealers want. And that's what happened this past weekend."

Massachusetts politician Thomas Phillip O'Neill Jr. (1912-1994) once famously said, "All politics is local." To paraphrase the inimitable "Tip," as he was known, one could also say that all antiques are local, or should be, since the more specifically an item can be traced to its maker's workshop, its retailer's storefront, or its former owner's parlor, the greater its collector appeal.

There's much to be said for a local antiques show too, not the least of which is that nearby residents will burn only a little bit of gas getting there. A fair number of people who came to this one burned no gas at all. The venue is bisected by the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway. Friendly to bicycles, feet, roller blades, strollers, and even skis in snowy weather, it is a path that runs 11 miles from Lexington's neighboring town of Bedford all the way to Cambridge.

I'm not a John Denver kind of person, but the lyrics to his "Sunshine" song were particularly apt on this Sunday. "Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy/ Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry...." During setup and the first hour of the show there was some wind that caused vigilance (and at least one crash), but otherwise the weather could be characterized as simply perfect.

"It's an extra bonus when the weather cooperates," Getman acknowledged. "My philosophy is, as long as your first year has good weather, you can survive a bad-weather year because everyone knows what it could be."

Getman and the Lexington Historical Society already have a date for next year's Antiques at the Depot, Sunday, September 22, 2013. For more information, phone (781) 862-4039 or see the Web site (

"We appreciated the time and patience of Ken Gloss of Brattle Book Shop in giving appraisals to a long line of visitors," said Susan Bennett, executive director of the Lexington Historical Society. According to Getman, Gloss did over 100 appraisals, with $5 per item going to the society.

Michael A. Weinberg of West Pelham Antiques, Pelham, Massachusetts, asked $225 for the doll's four-poster bed with straw mattress and (not shown) canopy. The late 19th-century crazy quilt on top of the bed was $75.

This scrimshawed oosik (walrus penis bone) was offered at $1450 by Robinson House Antiques, Westwood, Massachusetts.

Joan Mollan of Marblehead, Massachusetts, asked $225 for this section of white-painted iron pigtail-topped fencing.

Melissa Alden of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, picked some moss for the miniature urns that morning. Moss requires only a little daily spritzing, said Alden, who priced the urns at $68 each.

These carved wooden balls, their use unknown, were priced at $45 each by Margery Bailit of Golden Fleece Antiques, Auburndale, Massachusetts.

Joni Lima of Iron Renaissance, Damariscotta, Maine, asked $975 for this circa 1940 four-chair and table set of Woodard iron patio furniture in the Greek key pattern.

Originally published in the December 2012 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2012 Maine Antique Digest
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