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American Material Culture

Why does the Dealers' show keep getting better?

ShowsJohn ChaskiComment
 My booth at the 2018 NHADA Show.

My booth at the 2018 NHADA Show.

What better timing for this topic than in a quarter that has seen the shuttering of the former Burk York show, a re-branding of the Big One that drops the word “Antiques” entirely, and the revival of a little show in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware that proved just how much things can change in three years. In trying to understand how the NHADA show can keep getting better, it’s helpful to look through the lens of the three aforementioned stories.

Nobody needed those three happenings to convince them that antiques shows aren’t really working anymore. At least nobody looking at the data rationally. They can work for some dealers, and for other dealers some of the time, but that doesn’t mean they “work”. Antiques shows are sick, maybe terminally.

Four antiques shows in York, PA has been too many for a while now. I am sad that it transpired the way it did, but this is a positive change for the dealers. There will be some loss to the overall amount of money spent in that building on antiques, but halving the expenses for dealers who did all four will result in a net gain overall. This is the first and maybe most significant catalyst for growth at the Dealers’ show. As shows die off, the ones that are good will get better for a while. The enthusiasm (okay, I could just say sweet sweet greenbacks) for antiques can be expressed (spent) at fewer and fewer venues, and the very best will see an uptick.

Next, The Winter Show. Which is what most people I talk to have called it for a long time anyway. I think stripping “Antiques” from the brand is a great move. But a lot of people think that the show has strayed from its identity. That’s not where I come down on the issue, but I agree that there is value in embracing strengths and running with them. The NHADA show scores big points there. It is an Americana show, consistently, period.

Speaking of consistency…so the Rehoboth show. It sucked. It was good for me, but the consensus was “wow this sucked”. It was off for two years while the convention center was under construction, so it had been three years since the last show. Where it goes from here, who knows. Continuity matters. It’s not anybody’s fault, things have changed in three years and people have moved on. The NHADA show is big on continuity. Same building, same look, very low dealer turnover. And it’s been happening for like 60 years.

On the face of it, an antiques show getting better at this stage of the game is pretty shocking. It should be. But when you delve in deeper, it’s not an accident. The show is built for success. It is well-managed by people who still have a long waiting list of dealers to choose from. They don’t choose the biggest name every time, they try to serve the best interest of the show as a whole. It’s a happening that has developed a cult following, one that I think ensures success into the foreseeable future. A foreseeable future…now that is an enviable position among antiques shows.

Antiques Shows are Dead and We Killed them; Chapter 1: EARLY PACKING

John Chaski

One of the many ways in which dealers have been complicit in helping to murder antiques shows is packing up their booth early.  Before I get to ranting, one important distinction:  at Brimfield, a flea market, or similar affair, I have absolutely no problem with it.  But a show that has advertised a closing time and charged admission is a different story.

Packing early is inconsiderate of customers present and future, a point I'll circle back around to.  It's a slap in the face to the management of the show.  It's often in violation of the show contract, many of which stipulate "NO EARLY PACKING" as it has become more and more common even in the relatively short time I've been doing shows.  It's rude to other dealers who honor their commitment to be open for business until the show is closed.

As a young dealer, I take particular offense to early packing.  The message it sends to customers requires little interpretation: "You are not worth my time."  We love to pitch shows as museums without barriers.  Educational opportunities.  Come look even if you can't afford to buy.  Unless you show up on Sunday afternoon. 

Speaking of Sunday afternoon, who does stuff then?  I don't know, millennials?  Normal people?  People who may not be hardcore collectors (yet) but showed enough interest to commit a little bit of time and money to an antiques show?  Hey, those are the people who might buy something from us young dealers someday!  When a veteran dealer is packing early and telling those people they're worthless, it pisses me off.  Maybe there's a 0% chance of them buying something from that dealer.  If they leave disgusted and never visit a show again, so what.  But for me, hoping for a few more decades in the business, those people do matter.  Every. single. one. of. them.

If a dealer can't honor their commitment, they should quit the show, period.  Antiques shows are dying, and early-packing dealers are helping to kill them.

New Hampshire is coming!

John Chaski
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New Hampshire is coming, ring the bell!!!  The NHADA show is a little more than two months away, and we're starting to get our ad together.  Check out the first of our teaser photos below, and stay tuned for more.

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The Loockerman Experience

John Chaski

Did you ever go down the research wormhole of some 18th Century figure and feel like your life was somehow intertwined with theirs?  That's how I've felt about Vincent Loockerman for the last couple months while I've been working on an appraisal.  Learning about his life and legacy has given me a much greater appreciation for the early history of Dover, Delaware.  Loockerman made it his headquarters for trade that would enable him to acquire some of the greatest pieces of Philadelphia Rococo furniture ever made, many of which remained in his home until the 20th century.

  The Loockerman House , 419 South State Street, Dover, Delaware

The Loockerman House, 419 South State Street, Dover, Delaware

That's all well and good but he patronized local craftsmen too, and that's what interests me most of all.  You can see a lot of the extant Loockerman furniture at the Biggs Museum in Dover.  The Loockerman Gallery just off the elevator and stairwell on the second floor does a great job of putting the man and his objects in context.

After that you can walk a couple blocks down State Street and visit the house it was all made for at 419 South, and finally cross Water Street to Christ Church where Vincent and many other significant Delawareans are buried.  It's a pretty unique and immersive experience in the world of decorative arts.  Oh, and have lunch at 33 West Ale House on Loockerman Street.  Feel free to get in touch with me for further reading on the Loockerman family, I would particularly recommend Kate LaPrad's fabulous 2010 thesis on the subject. 

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Holiday Gift Guide: Trinketology

John Chaski

The right trinkets can transform the sink in your powder room from a sink in your powder room to a window into the soul.  Here are a half-dozen must-have trinkets for the 2017 season, all from young antiques dealers.  That's right there are six of us, not counting me.

First up is a really pretty piece of ironstone from Old Beautiful, the Connecticut shop of David Perrelli, for $45!!!  At about 7 1/2" wide I would use this for business cards today, and Werther's Original candies 50 years from now.  It could also hold keys near the door.  Once one of the seven people who read my blog buy this, check out his other ironstone.  It goes with anything.

I don't have anything original to say about this.  It's an 18th Century bronze mortar and pestle from Gabe Ficht.  You can use it as a mortar and pestle.  I don't know how that works but it extracts flavors?  Or does it make meth?  I don't know.  I see them in people's houses now.  If the recipient doesn't know what it's for either, just act appalled to put them in their place.

This one writes itself!  From Margaret Whitman, something for the gardener who has everything.  Seriously, that is a beautiful watering can that will last forever.

From Old as Adam, a cool little dish in the form of a spiderweb.  The perfect spooky soap dish.  You knew there was going to be a soap dish.  You can use "it'll make an awesome soap dish" as an excuse to buy almost anything.

This is a bargain.  Available at Country Cupboard Antiques (Brendan Edgerton) for $125.  I love using these for remote controls or as a catchall.  When this one sells you'll have to look for another.  It probably won't be quite as nice for the money, but they are out there.

Finally, from Josh and Mary Steenburgh, a Victorian iron music stand that I would use for all the swanky status symbol magazines I don't subscribe to.  Note:  it is maryandjoshua.com, not maryandjosh.com.  If you do the wrong one you'll end up down the worm hole learning all about a couple who got married in Chicago and 2010.  They met at Ball State University.  Cute, but also creepy that I know that now.  Will I ever get them out of my head?

I'm thinking there will be ONE MORE HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE.  Something along the lines of outrageously expensive objects for the person who has everything and would probably rather you donate that money to a charity.

Holiday Gift Guide: Jewelry-Palooza

John Chaski

You know what people everywhere will be saying in 2027?  "Buying all your gifts on Amazon is so 2017."  Get ahead of the trend.  Follow my simple, non-self-promoting instructions.  Don't be on the wrong side of history.

First, jewelry.  Most people like jewelry.  It's small and can easily be thrown in a drawer and forgotten, yet it can be expensive enough to demonstrate commitment, love, and a total lack of financial responsibility.  Or if you follow my tips, just the first two.  Fun fact: I don't know how to wear cufflinks but I think a single one would work great as a belly-button piercing.

Jewelry auctions can be tricky.  Buy from one you trust.  Jewelry dealers...ditto.  But hey, that's why I'm here.

 Photo courtesy of Wilson's Estate Jewelry.

Photo courtesy of Wilson's Estate Jewelry.

Ermahgerd.  I hate snakes so much yet I still love this.  You probably weren't expecting the first thing to be expensive, but how amazing is this thing.  And the dealer gets the strongest recommendation I could give for anyone who does anything.  Most of Jen's jewelry came from here, or on their advice.

 Photo courtesy of Cowan's via Bidsquare.

Photo courtesy of Cowan's via Bidsquare.

 Photo courtesy of Cowan's via Bidsquare.

Photo courtesy of Cowan's via Bidsquare.

A couple lots of pearl jewelry at Cowan's caught my eye.  This little set retailed by Black, Starr & Frost is my favorite.  Simple but elegant; old and real.  A bargain at the estimated price, this will probably bring quite a bit more and would still be good value if you think you can use it.

 Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman via Bidsquare.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman via Bidsquare.

Leslie Hindman has a great two-day sale with a wonderfully diverse selection from bargains to six-figure investment grade material.  Let's start with a couple bargains.  Above, a Victorian ring, estimated at 300-500.

 Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman via Bidsquare.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman via Bidsquare.

Are brooches cool again?  This one is.  Made by Gorham and in for 400-600.  Unique pieces like this are worth buying.  Deco filigree rings are fun and all, but once you've seen one you've kind of seen most.

 Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman via Bidsquare.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman via Bidsquare.

You knew there would be cat jewelry.  Frankly, you should be thanking me that it's not all cat jewelry. 

 

 Photo courtesy of Skinner, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Skinner, Inc.

Hey, remember what I said about Deco filigree rings?  Okay, but this one is nice with the pink topaz, and affordable.  We've switched to a new auction, at Skinner.

 Photo courtesy of Skinner, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Skinner, Inc.

I'll be honest, this Tiffany retailed timepiece is not my taste.  But if you need a gift for the man or woman who wants to own a pocket watch but doesn't care what time it is because the world exists to serve them, here it is.

 Photo courtesy of Wilson's Estate Jewelry.

Photo courtesy of Wilson's Estate Jewelry.

One last piece that's available immediately.  J.E. Caldwell handled some of the nicest stuff.  Check back for more holiday gift guides!

So-called "Mochaware"

John Chaski

One of my favorite things to buy and sell is a type of British ceramics referred to by many collectors and dealers as "mochaware".  It's hard to believe I've never written a blog about it.  The term itself is a real one but it is typically used to describe a large group of wares, of which mocha is a small subset.

 This is an example of mochaware.

This is an example of mochaware.

 This is not.

This is not.

 Mochaware.

Mochaware.

 Not.

Not.

The decoration referred to as "dendritic", "seaweed", "tree", or "tasty part of the broccoli" is what sets mochaware apart.  More accurate terms for examples within the larger category but outside of mocha might include adjectives like slip-decorated, slip-banded and dipped.  The bodies are creamware or pearlware.  Do I include "mocha" as a search term when I'm trying to sell a slip-decorated pot online?  Yes.  But I usually qualify it with "so-called".  That's right - I'm outing myself as the "So-called mochaware" guy.

All the photos above and below show pieces I've owned or still own.  Enjoy!