Quality is key at Baltimore Summer Antiques Show

BALTIMORE – The antiques world converged on the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show over the Labor Day weekend, with more than 550 international dealers selling everything from priceless gems to vintage postcards. Attending the sale were a throng of dealers, serious collectors, and those just looking to spend a day among beautiful things. Driving north up the coast, riding south by train, or flying in from a far-off point, the geographically widespread attendees were reported to have included at least one royal personage.

All of this thrilled Kris Charamonde of the Palm Beach Show Group. “I’ve never seen any other show this large with such crowded aisles,” he said the afternoon of Sept. 1.

9.jpgMarking the consortium’s second year as owners of the show held at the city’s convention center, there were no signs of a “sophomore slump.” Quite the contrary. This year’s show grew to 250,000 square feet of floor space and boasted a 10 percent increase in the number of dealers. Lectures on various antique-related subjects – free to the public and termed “a way to pay back to the community” – were new this year, as was a popular coffee bar, located adjacent to an area filled with 60 antiquarian book dealers.

The show began strongly on Aug. 30 (“a real shopping day,” according to Charamonde). Contributing to a “huge” opening gate was a large number of British shoppers, taking advantage of the current favorable exchange rate. One of the success stories circulating the show was that of a jewelry dealer who shared part of a booth, bringing only 13 major pieces of jewelry to sell; after the first hour, his inventory numbered but four items.

Londoner Mark West was a first-time exhibitor at this year’s Baltimore show, exhibiting 18th and 19th century English and Continental table glass. Noting that many of his sales in the past few days had been to private collectors, he said, “We know and work with so many American dealers, it has been nice to meet the end buyers for a change.”

Calling himself a “new kid on the block” was George Subkoff, who specializes in 17th to early 19th century furniture. Sales were particularly brisk among his “smalls,” he said. Included in the pieces he showed was a handsome sideboard, probably of Baltimore origin.

7.jpgAttracting considerable attention was a 41-carat emerald-cut, nearly flawless white diamond ring (priced at $2 million), which was displayed next to an array of spectacular canary diamond pieces. Bobby Yampolsky of East Coast Jewelry pointed out the frequent need to wipe away fingerprints from the glass cases that enclosed the eye-popping gems.

8.jpgA few booths away were items with a self-described “wow” factor, offered by M.S. Rau Antiques of New Orleans. With an incomplete Norman Rockwell painting; about a dozen pieces of Paul Revere silverware, including one with extremely rare markings; and a writing desk decorated with intricate marquetry that is believed to be the first antique acquired by the Rothschild family, Rau’s booth attracted fascinated window shoppers and enthusiastic buyers alike.

Fresh from his Saturday lecture on “Smiling Sichuan Han Dynasty,” Michael C. Teller IV of TK Asian Antiquities had recently found a new home for a pair of extraordinary Mongolian Imperial scepters, gold on silver and dating from the Liao Dynasty (907-1125). Made for an emperor, they exhibited unusual scholarship in their markings, according to Teller. He said he was doing “very well” at the show, no doubt a direct result of his attractive presentation of exotic and rare items.

The show presented a good mix of wares. Vintage slot machines and figural napkin rings, walking sticks and mourning jewelry, as well as a mummy’s shroud, a Buster Brown poster, and a signed copy of a novel by P.G. Wodehouse, were all offered for sale.

Quality dealers are the key to the show’s growing success, according to Charamonde. He stresses the importance of retaining “Mom and Pop” dealers who have important things to sell, and he is proud that many of those on the floor number among the experts in their fields. He said that the city’s location, coupled with the expansive convention center’s proximity to the Inner Harbor and numerous hotels and restaurants, only add to its desirability.