BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. – When antique show promoter Bob Zurko scouted Midwest locations for a new antiques show and decided to experiment with the Berrien County Fairgrounds in Berrien Springs, Mich., he didn’t know how dealers and the public would respond.
After all was said and done at the July 15 event, many dealers and the public said with enthusiasm: “When is the next show?”
For those fans, it’ll not happen until next year, but Zurko promised, “at least two, and maybe more show dates” at the fairgrounds located in southwestern Michigan, just a short drive from South Bend, Ind.
At the July event, dealers were set up under a heavily tree-shaded walkway and two buildings that one dealer said was “one of the cleanest and most modern facilities I’ve ever set up in.”
If a prize could be awarded for the oldest items at the show, it probably would have been awarded to Roger Fletcher of Mt. Pleasant, Mich. Oriental items in his booth were said to be family heirlooms from “a great uncle who traveled from Sitka, Alaska, to Shanghai, China, prior to World War I.” The 300 items in his booth were priced from $15 to $6,500. The most expensive was a pair of 12-inch-tall Ming Dynasty Dragons with a price tag of $6,500.
High-ticket advertising pieces were mixed with several dozen railroad lamps shown by railroad collector/dealer Steve Weith of Sturgis, Mich. Many browsers stopped to gawk at his 1950-60s 48-inch Dog and Suds tin advertising sign that could be displayed at your place for $1,200. At the same spot, a 9-by-30-inch double-sided Chi-Namel 1920s Oriental theme porcelain paint sign was priced at $750. Weith called attention to a “nice crowd of shoppers,” adding, “I also enjoyed some good buying.”
Advertising and circus poster collectors were drawn to the booth of Paul Funk of Waldron, Mich. A mammoth display of 13 vintage original circus posters were paraded along one wall priced from $200 to $650. One of the largest of the group, at 28-by-33 inches, showed a half circle of 12 circus horses rearing up with the trainer in the center; the piece was priced at $650. Funk also pointed with pride to a “scarce 1920s Studebaker nine-volume service reference library with illustrations” that could be browsed and enjoyed for $500.
When asked if she was happy with the show, dealer Jamie Stackhouse hammed it up with an accent stating, “I’ll be back” quoting from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, “The Terminator.” When not quoting movie stars, the Rockford, Mich., antique dealer showed off two vintage clocks. They included a French wood and abalone Art Nouveau style hand-wound model for $350 and a 16-inch-tall electric Fairfield agricultural planters clock thought to have been a premium given by a seed company, priced at $125.
For part of the time Jamie was assisted by her husband Doug and her 14-month-old son, Jay, but she said, “Jay was more interested in chewing a chocolate doughnut given to him by his Uncle Jack.”
Jim Cooper, Modern Time Antiques, Grand Haven, Mich., spread out several tables with fine glassware and other antiques. Cooper said he was proud of a 10-inch diameter Wood fluted salad bowl designed by Russell Wright of New York and manufactured in Grand Rapids, priced at $500. Other shoppers looked over his early 1950s Fostoria glass scotch and rye whiskey decanter set, complete with rack and padlock priced at $250.
It was a 2 1/2-hour drive for Bob and Esther Hillabrand of Stony Bridge, Ohio. The couple showed off an oddball turn-of-the-century 6-foot-long, canvas top funeral home “cooling table” imprinted with the manufacturer’s name, The Detroit Casket Co. The unusual piece could be purchased for $125. A more traditional, but also unusual, offering was a quarter-sawn oak corner coat and hat rack with swing-out arms, circa 1915 priced at $75.
The drive was much shorter for Ted Mullen, of Shawnee Road Antiques in Baroda, Mich., just 4 1/2 miles from the fairgrounds. Known for his selection of furniture, the dealer showed off a 7-foot-tall 1910 oak wardrobe with beveled mirror doors priced at $1,250. Mullen said he promoted visits to his shop while selling at the fairgrounds.
ABC Antiques of Bonduel, Wis., took several spaces to offer everything from delicate lamps to vintage firearms. The lamp was a 1930s Mitchell Slag leaded glass, 16-inch-tall light-up top and bottom model priced at $475. Sportsmen checked over an 1873 Springfield trap-door 45-70 rifle with bayonet and scabbard tagged $1,695; a 1857 Remington muzzle loader shotgun priced at $749 and an 1833 flintlock British pistol for $789.
It was a “game-time decision” to set up at Berrien Springs for dealer Kelly Walker of Glendale Heights, Ill. Kelly said she called the promoters at 6 a.m. Michigan time, to see if there was room for her to set up. She got the “go signal” and arrived at the event just a short time after the general admission gates opened at 8 a.m. saying with a chuckle, “That’s nothing new, I’m late all the time.”
Browsers at her booth checked over a synthetic cherry-amber late 19th century bead necklace that could be worn for $150 and a series of early 19th century 5-inch-square blue and white tiles with illustrations priced at $55 each.
At least two booths at Berrien Springs featured “re-purposed” furniture and accessories that are popular with designers today.
Russ Merrill, who works with his sister Sharon Battaglia in Plainwell, Mich., called the trend, “salvage folk art furniture.” Many shoppers stopped to admire his 5-foot-high seven-drawer dresser and 40-inch-high four-drawer dresser the dealer said “were made entirely of salvaged and barn wood.”
The same style was seen in the booth of Joe Kenz and Sandy Garrison of Plymouth, Mich. They featured an 18-by-24-inch jewelry organizer constructed from old drawers and vintage elements, tagged $34 along with a four-drawer 1890s dresser with a “dry wash restoration hardware finish” priced at $155. Joe said his re-creations featured “classic lines with an updated modern finish as seen in today’s catalogs and magazines.”
Even though most buyers gave high marks to the show, the usual mix of high and low sales were reported.
“Boy am I doing good, it’s terrific,” said dealer Lil Grimminck of Grand Rapids. Foot traffic stopped at her booth to admire a 1920s Mary Gregory pitcher and glass set, priced at $285, while others checked out a circa 1970s Murano and Millefori glass pitcher and glass set that could grace your table for $185.
“I’m selling a little bit but not getting rich,” said Mike Kidman of Cassopolis, Mich. Car buffs stopped to check out his mint-in-wrapper set of 1937 auto license plates priced at $225. Toy and game collectors admired, and played, an early wood mumbletype game priced at $30.
Kidman’s philosophy? “It’s not that people don’t have the money, they just don’t want to spend it.”
As mentioned earlier, local shoppers will have a chance to spend that cash at Berrien Springs next year – or this year at one of the many antique shows promoter Bob Zurko runs across the Midwest.
“I’m 100 percent positive for Berrien Springs,” said Zurko, “these grounds are like a well-groomed park with a centrally located ideal location.” He added, “It’s a perfect setting for an ideal day out antique hunting in the country and we look forward to 2013.”
For more information contact Zurko Promotions or call 715-526-9769.
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