The opening line of the official song of Oklahoma, from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s musical, alludes to its relatively recent entry into the Union. Since the former Indian Territory was granted statehood in 1907, one might wonder if many antiques exist there. In fact, antique shops abound in the Sooner State, and as the song suggests, Oklahomans are going to treat you great.
“Oklahoma is known for good quality antiques and really nice people. Oklahoma City is a very nice place to live. It’s a beautiful city, progressing and doing real well,” said Denny McConnell, who with her husband, Bill, owns and operate 23rd Street Antique Mall.
While 23rd Street Antique Mall, 3023 N.W. 23rd St., has been voted best antique store by a readers’ poll of the Daily Oklahoman newspaper for the past 10 years, it has built a customer base beyond state boundaries.
“We’ve been in business long enough now that we get repeat customers from all over the United States,” said Denny. “Oklahoma is kind of a crossroads and no matter if our economy is down, the economy is better somewhere else in the United States. Those people are coming through here so we just always have good traffic.”
To their credit, the 85 dealers selling out of the 23rd Street Antique Mall are encouraged to stock pre-1950s items. “We sell a lot of furniture, fine glassware, some Tiffany, Flow Blue and R.S. Prussia,” said Denny. Reproductions and new items are not permitted.
Housed in the former Adair’s Tropical Cafeteria, a spacious one-story building built in 1949, 23rd Street Antique Mall is located in what is known as the Old Trolley District. Many of Oklahoma City’s dealers are clustered in stores in the area of North May Avenue and Northwest 10th Street. Foremost among them are Ancient of Days Antique Mall, Antique Co-op and May Antique Center. A printed guide to Oklahoma City antiques is available at any of the shops.
Another Oklahoma City mainstay is Buchanan’s Antique & Collectors’ Market, held monthly at the Oklahoma State Fair Park. Originating in 1980, the weekend markets feature vendors from across the United States. The fairground is located at 333 Gordon Cooper Blvd., off Interstate 40 and May Avenue.
Longtime antique dealer Judy Howard of Oklahoma City closed her antique shop on May Avenue two years ago to concentrate on her antique quilt and textile Web site, www.buckboardquilts.com, and writing projects. The author of two popular quilt books, Howard is currently working on a manuscript about Oklahoma history as seen through quilts, which will coincide with Oklahoma’s 2007 centennial. While Howard has retained regular customers who visit her home by appointment, the bulk of her business is generated by her Web site.
“I now have East and West Coast customers and from everywhere in between. I had an order today from Japan, and last year I shipped quilts to Australia. I just sold a $4,000 quilt to the Gene Autry Museum in Los Angeles,” said Howard.
She said many of her customers are dealers looking for high-quality workmanship and graphic impact. “Of course, they want quality all the way, with the finest condition. You can never go wrong buying the best quality and condition. There’s always a market for that no matter how rough the economy gets,” said Howard.
Some of her best values are Oklahoma quilts from the Depression era. “You can get beautiful Depression quilts for what I was selling them for in the 1980s,” said Howard. “As long as I am able to buy at a price I can afford to sell them — under $500 or even $200 or less — I can pass on the savings.”
Motorists retracing historic U.S. Route 66 will pass many antique stores along the way. Generations Furniture at 4810 E. 11th St. in Tulsa is located in a former Ben Franklin five-and-dime store. Gary Acosta and his wife, Susan E. Smith, specialize in furniture —“1940s and older, but we’ll carry newer pieces like Ethan Allen.”
In business since 1993, Generations Furniture has been an eBay seller for eight years. “We sell things all over the country,” said Acosta.
Near downtown Tulsa is a half-mile stretch of 15th Street — also known as Cherry Street — that is populated by antique stores and fine restaurants. The Antiquary, 1325 E. 15th St., occupies a large part of a former hotel built in the 1920s. Here co-owner Bill Dutcher stocks 19th- and early 20th-century items in several large showrooms and smaller galleries.
“We get a lot of people from out of state who are here for conventions. We’re close to the downtown hotels,” he said. Dutcher observed that paintings, especially listed American artists, have been selling well at the store.
Sixty miles northeast of Tulsa is Vinita, Oklahoma’s second-oldest city, which was also on Route 66. Downtown at 223 S. Wilson Ave. is Gene’s Collectibles. Gene Cusick, a rural mail carrier, has owned the store for the past 16 years.
“I probably enjoy the hunt more than the retail part of it,” said Cusick, whose longtime employee, Marie Bunch, runs the store. “If I’m known for anything it’s for having a little of everything — furniture, jewelry, postcards, glassware, primitives — you name it,” said Cusick.
M. Lyn Livingston operates Livingston Auction & Estate Services in Oklahoma City. The company schedules regular consignment sales, and has an impressive list of prices realized on its Web site, www.whatsitsworth.com. For more information, call 405-858-1914.
Ball Auction Service in Chandler has carved out a niche in the increasingly popular market for gas and oil collectibles, also known as “petroliana.” Its June 10 sale will feature gas globes and vintage advertising. For more information, call 405-258-1511, or log on to www.ballauctionservice.com.