The Butler Antique Show in review

A new type of antique show is sprouting in hot spots of the national economy, places where the speed of commerce is exceedingly local.

In this new world, the most successful antique shows share a tendency to upend the Internet by focusing in on regional history, and all the antiques and collectibles specific to a certain era.

That business tack won major kudos for the 58th annual Butler Antique Show last month at Tanglewood Senior Center  where 40 exhibitors raised more than $10,000 for area charities.

The presumption that antique shows are a thing of the past is simply untrue, according to Rick Sims, a long time Butler show attendee. “I purchased my first antique lighter at this show, and that was more than 20 years ago,’’ said Sims, a retired locomotive engineer for Burlington Southern,

And the tradition continues.

Sean Paden, 13,  of Glenshaw, Pa., also collects antique lighters. He came to the Butler show to beef up his novice collection.

“My grandfather and father have been coming to this show for years, and I think that has played a big part in getting me addicted to collecting antiques,’’ Paden said.

Sean’s grandfather Cid Paden is the owner  of Titusville-Pa-based  Mapleside Antiques which specializes in primitives, including some rare mid-1800s barn lanterns and archaic doorstops.  Prices range from $30 to more than $2,500 for some unique items.

Louise and Barry Segal of Export-Pa based Elsewhen Antiques simply rave about the Butler show because they have so many wonderful customers in the area.

For example, Mary Hulton Phillips, show supporter and one of the original founders, is an incessant collector. Although much of what Phillips collects now goes into her famed Maridon Museum in downtown Butler, she will still haggle for an antique to include in her extensive private collection,

“I got so many great buys at this year’s show,’’ said Phillips. “I love the snuff bottle I found at Elsewhen.’’  Her museum specializes in Meissen porcelain and Asian artifiacts, including an extensive collection of rare snuff bottles used by both Asian and European elite as a medicinal cure for a variety of ailments.   

But most collectors were looking for pieces that reflect the history of the region, including depression glass, Civil War memorabilia, bronzes, old guns, mininq equipment  and fine antique dolls.  

Ellen King of Butler-based King Antiques fielded questions about her elaborate collection of Flow Blue.  Flow Blue ware was produced by many Staffordshire potters, among the most famous were Meigh, Podmore and Walker, Samuel Alcock, Ridgway, John Wedge Wood and Davenport. It was popular from 1825 through 1860, and again from 1880 until the turn of the century, The name describes the blurred or flowing effect of the cobalt decoration achieved through the introduction of a chemical vapor into the kiln. The body of the ware is ironstone and many of the motifs are oriental.

“We are seeing more and more collectors purhase Flow Blue for use not only as functional dinnerware, but as decorative items throughout the house,’’ said King. King also collects and deals in antique dolls.

Gwen Chenoweth of Pittsburgh purchased one of King’s rare Cuno & Otto Dressel dolls for $505. The doll, dressed as a World War I nurse, is part of the Dressel German doll manufacturing legacy.  The Dressel family operated a toy business in Germany starting in the 18th century with many of their dolls valued at more than $1,000 each. The company purchased bisque doll heads from several makers including Ernst Heubach, Gebruder Heubach, Armand Marselle and Simon and Halbig.

From dolls to Civil War artifacts and rare glass, the Butler Show has just about every kind of antique you could ever want to see or own, according to Anne Miller, the show’s general chairperson.

Miller said that each year the show tries to incorporate something a little new and different for both the collector and the exhibitors. In addition to a wide variety of antiques, the show also featured many talented crafters so endemic to keeping the antique  industry alive and well.

Joyce Rosepiler of Posepiler Chair Caning in Industry, Pa. was a featured crafter  at the Butler show. Industry experts estimate that more than 10,000 chairs nationwide  require some kind of caning work each year.

Perhaps the biggest draw for the Butler show are amateur collectors trying to find the right niche. “”I started coming to the show and just began collecting elephant pieces on a whim, and now I have shelves of them,’’ said  Cyndy Sweeny, a volunteer for the show’s publicity committee.  

Other collectors like Sue Feeney of  Youngstown, Ohio said the Butler show gave her the courage and the impetus to begin collecting old quilts and buttons. “I find collecting helps me be more creative and less stressed,’’ said Feeney, a former air traffic controller,

Then there is Bernie Wakes of  Blairsville, Pa. who collects old post cards. “I could never afford to travel but when I scan my postcard collection I feel like I’ve seen the world twice,’’ he said.

Dick Meeker of Bittersweet Antiques near Pittsburgh, Pa. loved the Butler show so much that he retired this year at the show.   “I couldn’t think of a better place to call it quits,’’ he said. Meeker, who still has a rare collection of Royal Doulton figurines,   plans to attend  some area flea markets later this year.  

Tim Sweet of Valencia, Pa. praised the Butler show for staying true to its roots. “The antiques are high quality but the prices are very reasonable,’’ said Sweet. “I think economy is key when consumers begin to check out prices. You’ve gotta be fair and practical about price.’’  

In more than two decades, Butler show organizers report that inflation has never been a factor in their show’s pricing structure.

“I’ll come back even if they have to carry me here on a stretcher, because the show is great, the people are friendly and the bargain prices are right out of a 1950s Sears catalogue,’’ said Minny Kent, a 75-year-old retired Greensburg school teacher.