Michigan’s Allegan Antiques Market enjoying continued growth with record-setting event

While some antique markets seem to be suffering from soft numbers of dealers and attendants, the Allegan Antiques Market at the fairgrounds in Allegan, Mich., is bucking the trend.

“This is one of the biggest shows in years,” Promoter Larry Wood said with a smile while looking over throngs of shoppers and dealers at the May 31 event.

Although the show was said to be sold out with 400 dealer spaces, Wood said, “We had to open up spaces in our overflow area to accommodate additional vendors, with many coming in from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.”

“It was a five-hour drive from Brookville, Ohio, but worth the effort,” said dealer Randy Haist, who has shown at Allegan “on and off for over 10 years.” Music lovers checked out his 1910 Victrola “Victor” mahogany floor model record machine priced at $295, while fire fighting collectors looked over an oddball early 1900s 32-inch tall wood and metal fire alarm rescued from an old Ohio furniture factory. The primitive contraption, complete with large metal bell, could be taken home for $200.

Sometimes stories connected with antiques are as fascinating as the items themselves, and such was the case with dealer William Pluim from nearby Grandville, Mich.

The retired schoolteacher quickly sold a three-shade floor lamp that he had inherited from an aunt and uncle. Why did he sell it? “I was 4 or 5 years old and broke a pull chain on it,” he explained, adding, “even though the lamp was quickly repaired, every time I looked at that lamp, the thought jumped back – I broke it!”

Second generation dealer Jamie Stackhouse of Rockford, Mich., set up at Allegan, saying she was “carrying on my Dad’s legacy, tradition and love of antiques.” Her father, Jay Stackhouse of Talma, Ind., passed away Feb. 27 at the age of 70. She reminisced that when she was 6 or 7 years old “he used to put me up on his shoulders and take me to the auctions.”

Many shoppers stopped at her booth to look over an 1800s era 12-inch tall tramp art child’s dresser offered for $350 and a turn of century linen-backed poster-size paper advertising sign for Rice’s Seeds. The deep rich color ad piece illustrated a farm worker holding a plant, stating in part “as good as any and better ‘n some.” It could be hanging at your home for $900.

Dozens of finely refinished furniture pieces sprawled across several booths taken by Ken and Carla Mazur of Dimondale, Mich. Catching many an eye was an 1870-80 Mission Style double drawer oak desk with eight vertical decorative spindles on both ends, priced at $595. The 20-year Allegan Show veteran said he personally restored “over 50 pieces which were displayed at the show.”

Those with a taste for Eastlake furniture could choose from two pieces offered by Ruth and Gary Bisacky, Depot Antiques, Spring Lake, Mich. The walnut tables, circa 1860s, with burled walnut trim were priced at $595 and $1,295. A 14-by 32-inch fancy framed 1920s oil painting of a deer in the woods could be displayed at your home for $395.

Burled walnut was also the construction for a 25-inch-long 1890s music box with nine bells offered for $4,200 by Henry Childs of Sparta, Mich. The dealer said the fancy device was found in the Australian outback and was air shipped to his shop, then transported to Allegan.

Allegan dealers Bill and I. Jean Kenyon took time out to stop in at Childs’ booth to view, admire and then purchase a turn of century satin covered music box that contained an automated figure of a 12-inch-long wax baby that opened and closed his eyes and moved his head up and down as the music played. The Kenyons said it was for their “personal collection” and valued the unusual piece at $1,495.

Jim Green and Susan Anderson teamed up to sell at the fairgrounds, calling attention to “a good knowledgeable crowd of buyers.” At the May event they offered a 15-inch-tall 1900s Victorian silver 4-lily epergne for $125 and a Victorian 14-inch-tall enameled tankard for $65. Anderson said, “I’m optimistic about the antiques business. I feel people, especially the younger generation are starting to recognize both the artistry and history of American-made pieces.”

It was a four-hour drive each way for Tom and Karol Streling of Kewadin, Mich. The couple are known for showing unusual items and offered a mid-century four-piece willow branch construction children’s furniture set found at a Victorian home in Elk Rapids, Mich. The set, with original paint, was priced at $265.

“I like this show a lot,” said Brent Baribeau of Reading, Mich. The dealer showed off a large selection of hand-carved duck decoys including a bench full of “100 year old Michigan birds from $150 to $500” and a 30-inch-long 1890s Cree Indian swan for $600. The dealer has been showing at the fairgounds for three years.

Advertising collectors hovered around the booth of Brian Opria of Portage, Mich. Of local interest was a late 1940s embossed tin livestock medicine drug store sign from Bangor, Mich., along with an actual tin container of the product. The pair could be taken home for $200. The dealer said he has specialized in antique advertising but has “a new-found interest in outboard motor items” for his personal collection.

Will the coming months of Allegan shows continue to increase in dealer numbers as they did in May? Promoter Wood said he thinks so, adding that when a growth spurt starts, “it usually dovetails to the next shows.” He added that the general admission gate figures was not immediately tallied, but thought “it will be near record highs.”

Some dealers commented that visitor traffic was slow in the early hours but as one said, “mushroomed like crazy by late morning.”

The Allegan Antiques Market at the Allegan County Fairgrounds, located midway between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, is held the last Sunday of each month during warm weather months.

For more information, call 616-735-3333 or visit www.alleganantiques.com.

Story and photos by Jack Kelly.