Round Top, Texas
When it comes to the venues of the semiannual Round Top antiques festival, there’s nothing quite like the Marburger Farm Antique Show. Located on the west side of Highway 237 between Round Top and Warrenton, Texas, the show sits on 43 acres of slightly rolling farmland.
Now in its 20th year, Marburger Farm has established itself as a treasure hunt in a unique setting that features seven tents, ten historical buildings, and 350 dealers. The fall show, held September 26-30, 2017, lived up to its reputation as a prime market for collectors and decorators. However, this is more than just a typical antiques show.
In its purest form, Marburger Farm can be visualized in four easy steps. 1) Start with a large selection of antiques and a carefully measured amount of decorator items and repurposed material. 2) Put them in a basket. 3) Shake the contents thoroughly. 4) Randomly pull out items and set them in artful displays. The result is the Marburger Farm Antique Show.
That’s not to be negative. Diversity draws buyers to Marburger Farm, and this show is nothing if not diverse. The quality of the merchandise ranges from good to excellent, and of the major antiques shows held during the month-long Round Top festival, Marburger Farm is the one best known for its decorator appeal.
This is not an American market or a Continental market, although it covers each. Instead, it’s a marriage of origins and styles, where a 1940s to ’50s Cartier purse in bronze with lapis and jade, in its original box, was priced at $5500 by Todd Baker of Lamp Guy, Plantation, Florida, while a stone’s throw away was an ornate, double-sided butcher’s block, tagged $2500 by Peter and Shirley Pijnappels of Casnovia, Michigan.
While there is a stronger concentration of European antiques in the tents on the north side of the property, there’s no definitive dividing line for where goods from one continent stop and those from another begin. Again, it’s the Marburger mix.
What can be seen across the grounds is a penchant for Texas-size items. Take the massive circus midway banner, “Esposizione Barnum,” 8' high x 22' long and priced at $1600, from Mike and Nancy Clark of House Wren, Austin, Texas.
This 1899 Hammond No. 1-B typewriter with a wooden case was $950 from LeRoy and Sharon Mielke of Antique Angle, Dallas, Texas.
This 7'2" high carved and painted wood figure from a European opera house, priced at $28,000 by Julian Jay Yupcavage of Pottsville Antiques, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, was sold early in the show. In the background is an 18th-century Venetian secretary with chinoiserie decoration, priced at $21,000.
Plywood puzzle chairs, $2200 the pair from Nicola McCullough and Sean Hanrahan of Sold on Dixie, West Palm Beach, Florida.
Then there was the 7'2" high carved and painted wood female figure from a European opera house; priced at $28,000 by Julian Jay Yupcavage of Pottsville Antiques, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, it sold early in the show. Among his other items was an Italian bronze fountain in two parts, standing 8'2" high and in working condition.
Yupcavage was impressed with the crowd. “People have a good eye here,” he said.
His sales prove the point. At last spring’s show, Yupcavage offered a 6' x 8' painting of a Russian bear being attacked by 20 dogs. Dating to the 18th century and priced at $26,000, the work sold within minutes of the show’s opening.
Size certainly made a statement across the market, including large cupboards, tall doors, and expansive tapestries. There were also big prices. Among them were Louis Vuitton trunks in the mid-five figures.
Yet Marburger Farm is also a show where the average Joe can afford to take something home. Linda T. Wilder of A Wilder Place in Time, Flower Mound, Texas, included several large displays of white ironstone among her eclectic offerings. Platters could be purchased for as little as $10, while more expensive items included a French footbath at $995 and a large, three-piece Sydenham soup tureen at $895.
Wilder typically sells 100 pieces of white ironstone at Marburger Farm. “It’s the only place it sells,” she said. “They like the really big pieces. We do things big in Texas.”
Punch bowls and jardinières often get the nod from her clients. Also popular are objects that have long been avoided, such as slop jars, which are repurposed as champagne buckets. “White ironstone goes with everything, and it’s in all the magazines,” Wilder noted. Even lids are finding a new use, being used as simple decorations.
While Americana can be found at the show, it doesn’t overwhelm by its presence. Yet what’s offered is often topnotch, such as the full-bodied copper steer weathervane with original gilt, priced at $6800 by Michael W. Whittemore of Punta Gorda, Florida.
In the adjacent booth, Mario Pollo of Holliston, Massachusetts, offered an intriguing display that ranged from several large African pots collected in the 1920s and ’30s, priced at $750 each, to a coffee table by Philip and Kelvin LaVerne, offered at $4500.
Hooked rug picturing an Indian in a headdress, fringed bottom, professionally mounted, 28½" x 17", $1650 from Ann Williams of Fort Worth, Texas.
Black Forest walnut and oak red stag with glass eyes and real antlers, 1880-1910, $1975 from Suzanne Fox Antiques, Santa Monica, California.
Peter and Shirley Pijnappels of Pijnappels, Casnovia, Michigan, offered the double-sided butcher’s block at $2500 and the figural cleavers at $145 to $245 each.
While the amount of mid-century modern furniture and accessories available was relatively slim, Nicola McCullough and Sean Hanrahan of Sold on Dixie, West Palm Beach, Florida, have had good luck with Modernist offerings at Marburger Farm. At the previous show, they sold 90% of their booth. This time around, the offerings included two plywood puzzle chairs, priced at $2200 the pair, that were fresh to the market and still being researched.
Among the most distinctive booths at the show was one filled with vintage American-made cowboy boots offered by Dr. George Vogt, a veterinarian from Houston, Texas. Prices for the best examples reached four figures, including a $2500 pair that dated to the era of silent movies.
Vogt concentrates on boot makers of the old West—men who are now dead or no longer in business because of their advanced age. For him, history is paramount, as is preserving what has essentially become a lost art. “I’m making an effort to save boots of the past,” he said.
The footwear isn’t just for show. “I’ll wear them and think, this guy got bucked off of like seven hundred bulls with these on. Too bad they can’t talk,” he said. “I’m more interested in where they’ve been and what they did instead of what they cost.”
Michael W. Whittemore of Punta Gorda, Florida, asked $6800 for the full-bodied copper steer weathervane with original gilt and $3800 for the 19th-century American cast-iron steer head trade sign with one horn broken.
Mike and Nancy Clark of House Wren, Austin, Texas, asked $1785 for the stuffed peacock and $1600 for the “Esposizione Barnum” midway banner, 8' high x 22' long.
Miniature cherry highboy with cabriole legs, 1870s-80s, $2200 from Jean Compton of J. Compton Gallery, Wimberley, Texas.
For many shoppers, the show isn’t just about the merchandise. Lunch also plays a role. A varied selection of food and drink is offered by half a dozen companies, with entrées ranging from hamburgers to barbecue, and drinks from coffee to microbrews.
There’s also the charm of the vintage structures that have been moved to the property and are used during the show. In addition to the Marburger Farm House and its Wi-Fi Café, there’s a dance hall, bingo hall, general store, blacksmith shop, wagon shed, saloon, and more.
Held a month after Hurricane Harvey, which left a trail of destruction across coastal Texas, Marburger Farm wasn’t just about sales. Promoter Ashley Ferguson expressed feelings heard elsewhere across the grounds: “We’re hoping this will be a bright spot for people to get away for a day.”
The spring show at Marburger Farm will take place March 27-31. For more information, phone 1-800-947-5799 or visit (www.roundtop-marburger.com).
Basket to a hot-air balloon, bought in France, 1930s-40s, restored, with burner, $3200 from Stephen Rosoff of France Ici, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
From the road, shoppers are greeted by a sign for Marburger Farm. From the field, that sign is reversed, but the antiques are straightforward.
The French terra-cotta birds were $595 each, and the pair of French baskets was $1500 from Sheila Lynch of Mt. Airy, North Carolina. The 12' long Vermont harvest table sold early in the show.
Originally published in the January 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest