Positive news from the Feb. 7 York Toy Show

YORK, Pa. – “If you have the right things for the right people, you’ll have a good show here.” That was the comment overheard in the lunchroom at Dan Morphy’s Feb. 7 Antique Toy, Doll & Advertising Show, better known to collectors as the York Toy Show.

The Maryland dealer making the observation was comparing notes with another dealer set up at the show who voiced the opinion that he’d rather sell at shows – and even at markets for the “good-looking lower-level stuff” – than to pack up his merchandise and store it till the market improves.

The Maryland dealer continued: “It’s not always about quantity. If you sell a few good-value items and carry some unusual things, like holiday and Christmas items, you stand a much better chance of having a good show.”

As it turned out, the veteran dealer’s words of wisdom were correct. Morphy’s winter edition of the semiannual show, held at the Memorial Hall of the York Fairgrounds, was up by 13 dealers over last fall, with a gate that surpassed expectations. Of those dealers polled, several said it was the offbeat, non-toy or cross-over items that helped put their receipts in the black.

“York is an excellent show, and it’s very well promoted and publicized. The crowd was better than usual this time,” said Ron Sieling of Central City, Pa. “It’s not a high-cost show, and I always bring my best stuff, but I don’t stop at toys, dolls and trains. I always bring a variety. I’d say 70 percent of my sales came from other categories.”

Sieling said he sold a vintage BB gun for $1,200, but also sold two pieces of pottery for $4,000, and three pieces of tramp art. It has long been known that those who have an eye for the artful toy designs and advertising signs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries also buy fine and decorative art of many different genres. That’s the type of buyer a smart and diversified dealer can attract at this show.

Jim Maley had flown in from Fullerton, Calif., to sell at the York event. “When I got back home, everyone was asking, ‘How was it?’” Maley recalled over the phone. “I told them the collectibles market seems to be recession proof, because there was strong interest in top-quality pieces. The crowd that was there seemed to be very knowledgeable and there to buy. I noticed a lot of interest in high-end holiday pieces. I do well with that kind of thing, and advertising, as well.”

Donal Markey of Lititz, Pa., has had a long history of selling at the York Toy Show, dating back to its days under the management of its founder, the late Jim Burk. He described it as “a pre-Atlantique City show. We’ve always thought of it that way – that it’s where you go to get fresh merchandise before Atlantique City.”

Nancy McGlamery and Ed Pelton, of Lancaster, Pa., brought a tempting array of holiday material to the show, including a turn of the 20th century cloth-dressed rabbit candy container. Beautifully sculpted and featuring glass eyes, the vintage Easter toy was priced $2,200. McGlamery and Pelton not only sold well at the show, with one of the memorable sales being a Santa driving a loofah and wicker car, they also made “an exciting purchase – a Halloween veggie man.”

Donna Galletti was celebrating a special event at the show – her 60th birthday. She and her partner Joe Telinbacco brought along a good luck charm to the show – a 5-month-old Cairn terrier named Ruby. She attracted many shoppers to their booth, where treasures available for purchase included a fantastic Mills Wizard Fortune Teller machine that could be tested by inserting a penny. The 1915 coin op was in outstanding condition with great original paint, and carried a $2,700 price tag.

Jerry and Paulann Turner had come from Hot Springs, Ark., to set up at the show. “Our sales have been nice,” said Paulann. “Advertising sells best for us, but others have told us that toys are doing really  well.” A colorful cross-over item in the Turners’ showcase was a 3-D stand-up store display for Hancock County Creamery Ice Cream, which featured children on a fire engine. Paulann told a story that many dealers would be able to relate to: “A young lady saw the sign and really wanted it for her husband, who is a firefighter. Unfortunately, she thought the price was $12.95. It’s actually $1,295.”

Bertoia Auctions’ booth was buzzing with interest over the upcoming March 19-21 premiere sale of the Donald Kaufman toy collection, which is to be dispersed in a series of semi-annual events over the next few years. The handsome hardbound catalogs representing volume I of an ongoing library set, had just arrived as the Bertoia team was leaving its Vineland, N.J., headquarters for the trip to York. Sales of the catalog were brisk, and the chatter overheard at the Bertoia booth indicated the auction is being anticipated by collectors as a social event as well as an auction for the history books.

The unquestionable talent of folk artist and robot fan Kent Greenbaum was on display in the form of a new range of wildly imaginative robots. Kent’s robot designs – each a unique handmade production – have sold in prestigious galleries, and last year some of them appeared in the Transformers movie.

“I was asked to send more for the follow-up, Transformers II. I don’t know if they were used or not,” he said. Kent’s new technique involves incorporating pieces and parts scavenged from old tin toys into the design of his fantasy robot figures. “I wouldn’t take apart a robot that is still sellable on its own,” Kent explained. “I only use parts from robots that would no longer have a value on their own.” To view a few of Kent’s recycled robots online, go to www.etsy.com and search for KG Robots; or e-mail kgrobots@optonline.net.

Most dealers at the show reported being pleasantly surprised at the turnout that came through the door and the sales that ensued. “It was about the normal attendance Dan has been getting at the show,” said advertising dealer Mike Oskiera, of Bally, Pa. “I had a fair amount of interest business wise, but I spoke to some dealers who had a very good show, which is not what any of us expected with the economy as rough as it has been.”

Dan Morphy’s Antique Toy, Doll & Advertising Show is owned by Geppi’s Entertainment Auctions and Publications. The next edition of the show will be held on Aug. 29 at the Memorial Hall, York Fairgrounds in York, Pa. For further information visit www.aagal.com, call 717-335-3435 or e-mail danmorphy@dejazzd.com.