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American Material Culture

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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.