We visited the Marburger Farm Antique Show which is part of the massive Round Top antiques week which ran from Tuesday, October 2nd through Saturday, October 6th. Early buying was Tuesday from 10:00 AM through 2:00 PM. In years past this early buying period was a time of frantic buying with shoppers trying to snap up the bargains before others could. Now it is a little more subdued, but still most dealers make about 50% of their sales this first day. This is a huge show with over 350 dealers that come from all over the United States. There are several overseas dealers also. Buyers also come from all across the country.
There was a good turn out the first day and like most antique shows today, some dealers were happy with their sales and some were not. I was helping a friend in his booth so I was there for several days. Here are some of the things that I found while visiting the many different dealers. Gary Bonner of Portobello Antiques in Dallas had a nice collection of 19th century Portuguese Palissy ware ranging in price from $895 for a smaller plate to a large pitcher complete with top and under plate for $2500. It is hard to find these pitchers with their top and under plate. They are so delicate they often get broken. He sold a couple of the smaller pieces during the show .If you are not familiar with palissy, it is a type of majolica known for its reptiles, including snakes and lizards with a background of grass.
Some other interesting finds in his booth were a set of six Victorian graduated copper measuring jugs priced at $1950. Again it is unusual to find the full sets. He has most of his copper professionally polished and they really shine. I saw Gary on the last day of the show and he said he was probably going to have to price the jugs individually because several people wanted to buy just one or two instead of the set of six. I also loved his English Wedgwood 11 piece Argenta majolica fish set consisting of the larger platter and 10 dishes priced at $2,700, c1860.
Gary also had two quality chests of drawers. One was an early 19th century mahogany three drawer chest with contrasting banding on the top. It stood 30” high and was priced at $2395 and was sold during the show. The other chest was a Victorian bamboo chinoiserie lacquered 4 drawer chest with two smaller top drawers and then two larger drawers beneath priced at $1550. Both of these chests were in great condition.
An outstanding table was found in Mitra Kilburns’ booth and she is located in the Mews in Dallas. It was a fabulous 17th century Tuscany table that was 8 feet, 10 inches long and had its original paint, quite remarkable for a table of this age. It was priced at $12,999. She imports all of her furniture finds from France.
Perhaps my favorite booth at the show belongs to Don and Marta Orwig of Indiana. They find so many neat and unusual items. There was a pair of massive (four feet wide) pre Civil War cast iron planters made by the Kramer Brothers foundry of Dayton, Ohio. These were so heavy that it took four men to move them. They were $15000 and sold during the show. He had a large cast iron, red Enterprise store sized coffee grinder priced at $795. There was also a pair of darling French cast iron garden ducks about 15 inches high and priced at $875 each which also sold during the show. He had a huge, 11 feet, 6 inches tin sign with a picture of a World War I ship, priced at $2200. It served as a backdrop for a US Naval display at a New York City pier when a World War 1 ship docked at the pier. This exhibit was in the 50’s. During the spring show he sold a large copper model of the ship.
On the whimsical side, there was a giant clothes pin which was about five foot tall, originally a store display priced at $1450. One of my favorite things was a very rare salesman’s sample Home Craft cook stove with the original carrying case that a door to door salesman would carry with him as he was trying to sell these cook stoves. It was priced at $2200 and many of the customers just assumed it was a child’s toy cook stove without a closer look. I made the same mistake until I took a second look. Many of the first day buyers miss these types of things because they are in such a rush to see everything. Admission is good for all the days of the show, so a second visit to take a slower look is advised. This is good advice for any antique show.
Don showed me a photo of a paper poster that he sold at his tent in the fields right before the show. It was an 11 foot tall patriotic sign from WW1. It would have been used as a recruiting poster and most of them were plastered on the sides of buildings or barns in the area. This one was from Boston and was found in the original shipping tube. It was probably was now the last of its kind since all of the original paper ones were destroyed long ago. He built a frame for it to keep it from tearing. A huge American flag was the center of interest in the poster. He sold it for $15000.
Finally, from a variety of signs Don displayed were a couple of my favorites. The first was a metal Mel Tillis, “I’m a Coca-Cola Cowboy” sign priced at $695. It would be great in a room with the framed Roy Rogers and Dale Evans framed children’s outfits (see below). There was also an old lighted RX sign with flashing bulbs for $1950. The last item from the Orwig’s was an old wooden barber pole with an electrified light on top.
Martin Hayter of Greenville, TX who also shows at the Mews in Dallas had an interesting 11 foot carnival merry go round sign with the word “HORSES” on it. He had it priced at $1900 and had a lot of interest from horse ranchers. Also in his booth were five French starburst mirrors from the 1920’s. The largest being 36 inches in diameter was priced at $2200 down to the smallest priced at $900. There was a green English majolica urn and matching pedestal with Art Nouveau decoration priced at $750. He had several sterling silver napkin rings priced from $125. There was a large selection of English sterling silver fobs or metals that were given as prizes from about 1880 until the 1920’s for different activities. These were priced from $79 to $125. Finally there was a classic sterling silver ink well with a tortoise shell top priced at $750. Martin had a nice Victorian cast iron outdoor garden table about 5 feet long priced at $750 which sold at the show. He also sold a Victorian 27 inch round convex mirror for $410.
Across the aisle from Martin, Polly Hitt of Tyler, TX had another of my favorite items. It was a custom framed child’s Roy Rogers and matching Dale Evans outfit which had been priced at $1450. She also had a fabulous Victorian English breakfast table with four matching carved legs which were wonderful dogs. We have imported English antiques for over 20 years and I had never seen a table like this. It was priced at $3800 and sold at the show. Polly makes these wonderful lamps made from the bark and moss of tress. My favorite had a hole in the base of the “tree” and she had added a taxidermy squirrel. For those that didn’t get freaked out by the squirrel, it got lots of comments. It was priced at $695. Polly also had an unusual deer foot thermometer from Germany that was 12 inches long and priced at $195, probably mid 2oth century.
Another Dallas dealer, Shannon Poppino of Clutter Antiques had the most fabulous pair of large Black Forest hunt plaques. They were 40 inches tall and priced at $13,500. There was a carved dog at the top with a bird and antelope hanging down from a ring in the dog’s mouth. She also had a great Folk Art squirrel cage with two chambers connected by a tube. Each chamber had a weather vane on top. It was a mid 19th century piece from Maine priced at $4600.
Some general trends we noticed was original art not selling as well as years past. Some dealers like Gary Bonner are not even bringing near as many paintings as he used to display. English Staffordshire dogs and figures have slowed down. On the positive side, there were lots of sold signs on painted furniture, especially the chalky gray color found on early Swedish pieces. Many of these pieces were vintage pieces of French styled furniture that had been repainted.
The weather was much better than a year ago when temperatures were over 100 and many were just miserable. Overall most dealers had a good show, with some having record shows and others not covering expenses. It is so important in this economy to stay up with the trends. In general, brown furniture is still dead. For those not familiar with the show, most dealers set up in giant tents. There are a few older buildings that have been moved to the site. The site is near Round Top, a tiny town with a population of 90, yes 90. There are other shows in surrounding towns and fields. Marburger Farm is the biggest paid shows, and is known as an outstanding show ranking in the Top 10 Antique Shows in the country in one poll. Many of the fields open the week before the major shows open, so you could easily spend two weeks here. Many come and spend 3-4 days and you can’t see it all even in that time. The whole Round Top antiques experience is one of those things that you have to experience to understand it. Then you will either love it or hate it. Many people have standing hotel reservations in many of the small towns in the area of central Texas. The next show will be in the spring 2013, April 2nd through April 6th.