MANCHESTER, N.H. – The queue forms early – very early – for the New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association (NHADA) Show, held annually at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester. This year the dealers who comprise the NHADA added a new twist to their venerable antiques event by offering free admission to anyone 21 or under, which evidenced itself in the mass of shoppers who turned out for the show’s 53rd edition on Aug. 12-14. Obviously the dealer organization’s hope is that this sort of exposure will make a lasting impression and foster a new generation of antiques and art collectors. Very smart way to go about it.
The NHADA Show Committee always rolls out the red carpet for the media, hosting a press breakfast prior to the show’s 10 a.m. opening. It’s a reunion every invited editor enjoys, and because selling has not yet begun during those early pre-show hours, it’s an opportune time to take pictures of the top-quality goods displayed in 67 dealer-occupied room settings. Every minute counts, because once those double doors open to the public, there’s a polite but brisk stampede of shoppers, and those red tags that say “Sold” start showing up very quickly.
Among the items that caught my eye early on was a pair of painted rabbits that had once served as desk ends. Tommy Thompson of Pembroke, N.H., had sourced them in Vermont and was asking $1,450 for the charming figural duo.
Nathan Liverant of Colchester, Conn., offered a set of three cast-iron garden furnishings adorned with medallions of Diana the Huntress – gorgeous! The price to relocate them to my deck, should I ever win the lottery: $9,500.
Continuing with a focus on antiques with a garden theme, which is hotter than ever, our camera snapped a rare Federal painted wood sundial on pedestal with “Tempus Fugit” writton its front edge. Thomas R. Longacre of Marlborough, N.H., had it priced at $3,850.
Our old friend Kathy Greer, editor of the New Hampshire antique newspaper Unravel the Gavel, was right behind me in noticing a set of 11 painted-tin decoys, circa 1890-1920, arranged on one wall of the booth belonging to Cheryl and Paul Scott of Hillsboro, New Hampshire. The decoys came with their original box and sticks for vertical display, and the entire set was available for $2,100.
All sorts of folk art and self-taught art can be found at the NHADA Show. With an unflinching glass-eyed gaze, a giant metal robot that had once been a Medford, Mass., hardware store mascot silently observed visitors in Ferguson & D’Arruda’s booth. The Providence, R.I., dealers explained that the robot was probably made by employees of the hardware store, which was pictured in an old black & white photograph held in one of the 8-foot-tall figure’s hands. The imposing metal sculpture made quite a dramatic visual statement and was priced at $1,800.
Steven F. Still of Elizabethtown, Pa., always knows the historical background of his merchandise. He’s amazing that way. As I was admiring a circa-1880 horseshoe-shape trade sign advertising the services of John Albert, a blacksmith and possibly also a farrier from Lebanon County, Pa., Steven told me about some unusual ephemera he has that had belonged to Albert. “I have a photo of the blacksmith shop and a day book in which he writes about hiring himself out for various other types of jobs, such as mowing. Back then you had to be versatile.” Price: $9,500.
Judith and John Milne of New York City had an incredible 1930s hooked rug on display that was obviously from the Art Deco period. It had never actually been used as a rug, and I could see why. It was a remarkable work of art. “This is a unique design; it’s not a pattern,” Judith noted. The focal point in the Milnes’ booth, the rug was priced at $2,800.
Other things I found tempting were an antique metal and leather dog muzzle displayed as a work of art (M.S. Carter, Portsmouth, N.H., $85), and a circa-1870 Anna Pottery stoneware pig (Jeff and Holly Noordsy Antiques, Cornwall, Vt.). Anna pottery has been in such high demand of late, the pig’s $8,500 price did not seem that extraordinary.
Many fine-quality paintings were available at the NHADA Show. An example was Antonio Jacobsen’s (Danish/American, 1850-1921) oil depicting the Yacht Lydia, tagged $11,000 by Lucinda and Michael Seward of Pittsford, Vermont.
Another exceptional artwork on view was a snowscene with covered bridge by Paul Sample (American, 1986-1974), which I had stopped to admire in Brock & Co.’s booth as I was walking around taking pictures. It was a breathtaking depiction that created a mood so palpable, I actually felt the temperature drop just looking at it. Later that morning while sipping on a coffee at one of the show’s communal dining tables, I struck up a conversation with Philip Zea, president of Historic Deerfield. I asked him if he had seen anything at the show that he felt was special. He replied, “One thing I love that I saw today is a painting by Paul Sample, who was artist-in-residence at Dartmouth in the 1950s.” He was, of course, referring to the same painting I had found so captivating. The truth be known, I felt better about my own taste in art after that little coincidence, since Philip has seen the very best of northeastern American regional art.
I asked Philip how things had been going at Historic Deerfield, which is a premier museum of New England history. He remarked, “Foot traffic has been very good. We have more bus groups coming in than ever before – maybe it’s the stay-cation thing.” This is the kind of industry news we in the antiques trade can’t hear too often. Philip also offered his opinion that the 2010 NHADA Show had maintained its reputation for excellence, describing it as “comparable to past shows in terms of range and quality.”
Eavesdropping for quotes is something I’ve always enjoyed doing at this show, and I’d have to say the winning quote this time around was overheard in a conversation between two dealers walking side by side as they rushed down an aisle, their arms filled with antiques. One said to the other, “I’ll love this stuff till my dying day.” I understood just how he felt.
Save the date: The 54th edition of the New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association Show will take place Aug. 11-13, 2011. See you there!
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