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Renninger Report: Dealers offer antiques, collectibles, thoughts on the business

By Jack Kelly

“Come dressed in layers,” was the advice given to those about to attend the first day of the Jan. 19-21 Renninger’s Antique and Collector’s Extravaganza in Mt. Dora, Florida.

Many folks followed that advice as early-morning temperatures barely topped 50 degrees on Friday, Jan. 19, but warmed later with plenty of Florida sunshine, which kept spirits high. By the show’s end on Sunday, short sleeves were in order, with temperatures in the 70-degree range.

Dealers Weigh In During Renninger's

As shoppers looked for bargains, dealers offered plenty of choices. Their offers of advice, some sage thoughts and personal philosophy about the business abound. 

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Vintage toy collectors checked out the booth of 10-year Renninger’s veteran Orville Miller. He makes the trip from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Catching many an eye was a pair of toy guns: a 1946 Daisy Buck Rogers fancy space gun was tagged at $550. Plus, for the same price, collectors could point and shoot a 1950s Hubley cast iron “Disintegrator.” This unique item holds rounds of caps.

Miller offered his own percentage guide to values in the current collector market. He states “The bottom one-third of the market is very soft.The middle third is not increasing in value, and of the top one third only 5 to 10 percent are gaining in value and investment grade.”

Tradition Is Prevalent During Renninger's

Setting up next to Miller was his antiquing friend, John Popyk of Birmingham, Michigan. His set up includes a near-mint, glossy finish Singer 221 Featherlite sewing machine, It is complete with carry case and accessories, with a price of $450. “Its not painted – that’s the original color,” said Popyk, also pointing to his vintage 1960s lime green plastic Stromberg Carlson dial telephone, which could carry on a conversation at your place for $165.

He said his thoughts on the business could be summed up in one sentence: “It’s a little bit slow, but I believe it’s slowly coming back.”

Another dealer, Dave Dent, has homes in both Detroit and Sarasota, Florida. He's a regular at Renninger’s. He called attention to “regular customers at all three Extravaganzas,” which are held each year in January, February, and November. He said some furniture sales had been a bit slow lately but added, “I sold a 36-inch quarter-sawn oak 1910 ‘Weis’ stacking file for $700 within the first hour” of the January 2018 show.

Changing With the Times

Gil and Karen Smith of nearby Winter Garden, Florida, have been selling fine refinished furniture for more than 40 years, but admit the times they are a’changing with some younger buyers wanting newer painted items. Meanwhile at their booth, a sold sign was quickly added to an 1895 restored wood and cast iron Konen Barber chair priced at $1,500. The couple offered a 5-by-7-foot tiger oak fireplace mantel with mirror, priced at $1,650. And, sitting next to it was a similarly priced and sized mantel – only this one was painted white.

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Other items at their booth were priced from $50 to $1,900.

Karen summed up her thoughts on the antiques business by stating, “Things are a bit slow, but good items are still moving. The antique market is changing, but we stick with where our knowledge is – you stick with what you know.” She smiled and added, “We had a good day on Friday.”

“That 1950s stuff seems to hold its value without a change,” said one shopper/dealer to his wife, pointing to items at the booth of Leslie Simpson of Howey in the Hills, Florida.

Mid-Century Nostalgia 

They’re “playthings from the 1950s, with grown-up prices,” said the browser with a chuckle. At the Simpson booth, a ready-to-ride or display restored 1952 Schwinn Black Panther Bicycle could be ridden home for $5,000. Many stopped to gawk at the 1950s Murray pedal car shaped like a racing boat, priced at $900.

Jamie Stackhouse drove the distance from her southwestern Michigan, Featherstone Antique Mall in Fennville to set up at the show and offer authentic Indian jewelry and artifacts. Collectors stopped to admire her Paiute tribe 12-inch-diameter wedding butterfly flat basket priced at $900.

Foot traffic stopped to admire her replica sailing ship figurehead: a full-figured 5-foot-tall maiden with flowing gown. The composition construction item could grace your home for $1,700.

Appealing to Desire for Authenticity

Stackhouse left a 20-year corporate career as a human resources director to open her “traditionally stocked” 3,000-square-foot mall in 2014. She said she started antique collecting/dealing at age six. This comes forth with her late father, Jay. Plus he's happy with the change in full-time jobs.

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“I hear a lot of people say young people are not buying,” said the mall owner, adding, “ But I see a lot of them buying things like vinyl records, paper items and mid-century pieces.”

Forty-year veteran dealer Don Schimke has been coming to Renninger’s from his home in Hadley, Massachusetts, for 26 years, specializing in postcards. Browsers could choose from more than 100,000 cards at the January show, priced from $2 to $100 each. He said a desirable Langford Series postcard in Florida was his 1910 embossed alligator card priced at $75. Another favorite was a 1908 green-suited Santa Claus, also embossed, that could be added to your collection for $20.

When asked about the future of the business, Schimke thought for a moment and said, “I’m 72 years old and will continue as long as I can make money.” He added, “In this internet age, it sometimes makes it tough.

Influences in the Market

Adamstown, Pennsylvania, resident Jim Lazzaro offered an eclectic mix at the January show. Advertising collectors checked out his 18-inch-long 1920 wooden keg with a Coca-Cola paper label on one end that originally held the famous soft drink syrup for use at soda fountains. Complete with barrel bung, it was priced at $400.

Others looked over his 24-inch-tall DeLaval Jr. cast iron and tin construction 1918 cream separator, thought to have been made for home use, priced at $300.

“This business is different in different parts of the country,” said Lazzaro, adding, “It depends on the people and the economy.”

He went on to philosophize that “it’s better in the North, where buyers are more antique-savvy in places like Brimfield, New Jersey and New York.”

Always On the Look Out

Among the “wanted” items on the business card of Ed Uditis with addresses in both St. Petersburg, Florida, and Coventry, Connecticut, is submarines, diving gear and toward the bottom – anything weird.

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Uditis, a professional diver, said he has been collecting/dealing for 26 years, adding, “I do a lot of nautical.” Among items in his booth was a complete deep sea diving suit constructed of copper, brass and canvas that could be worn home for $2,000.

The dealer, who is a member of the Historical Diving Society [www] based in Santa Maria, California, said the group has members in 30 countries and he offered literature to interested shoppers at Renninger’s.

“Most young people are not interested in the antiques collectibles business,” said Uditis, adding, “if it was not made by Ikea they don’t want it.”

Making the Most of Every Experience

“Some collectors are still buying,” he added. “People who have a disposable income are still buying but have a tough time stepping up to the plate.”

His final comments: “I’m 71 years old and still have a lot of stuff – guess you could say I’m a pack-rat collector.”

If there was a prize for the most nattily dressed dealer at the show, it might have gone to William Reed of Des Moines, Iowa.

“He’s dressed to the nines” said one browser with a smile, pointing to Reed’s 1920s golfing attire, including “knickers-type” vintage trousers.

Reed offered a choice of 500 golf clubs and devices at Renninger’s priced from $25 to $5,000.

Renningers was one of 35 shows Reed sets up at during the year, and he called attention to “a strong following for vintage golf clubs that seems to grow every year as the hobby attracts new players and collectors.”

Specialists and Generalists Alike

Between conversations with buyers, Reed took time to suggest golf enthusiasts join the Golf Collectors Society [www].

“I’m usually set up at the show, but this time I’m just visiting Florida to make a delivery,” said B.J. Pawlaczy, vintage outboard boat dealer from Au Gres, Michigan. The nearby delivery was a restored 1914 2-horsepower “gearless” outboard motor. It hails from Muskegon, Michigan, and sold by Pawlaczy for $7,500. Is the vintage outboard motor business healthy these days?

“It just keeps going up,” said the 40-year veteran dealer, “I specialize in one thing, vintage outboard motors, and with the combination of more collectors and harder-to-find motors, it’s like,” then he paused and blurted “anti-gravity!”

As might be expected, Renninger’s large dealer turnout brings items ranging from a just few dollars – to many thousands of dollars.

Some of them could even be driven home.

Showcase of Special

Matt McWhorter of nearby Eustis, Florida, showed off a completely restored 1946 Chevrolet military 3/4-ton pickup had been parked at the Renninger’s Flea Market, just above the Extravaganza grounds, “for over 20 years.” The dealer said he purchased it then spent “about 6 months every day” restoring the truck, which sported an military green finish – and a price tag of $14,500.

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A sign posted at the main office of the event touted news of it being the “100th show” in Mt. Dora. The popular antique market held the first of the three-per-season Extravaganza in February 1984 with 125 dealers. The January 2018 event hosted nearly 800 dealers on greatly expanded grounds.

Promoter R. Doyle Carlton also is a dealer at Renninger’s offering a selection of fine furniture, vintage jewelry and paintings. Many of his offerings date from the 1850s and up, reflecting his personal taste in traditional antiques.

Carlton said, as did many others, that the market trends have changed in recent years. However, he forecasts good business ahead for those who recognize those trends.

He added, “Our dealers continue to offer good quality and good values. We’re like a family here and are looking forward to welcoming others to that family.”

Extravaganza shows are held the third weekend of January, February, and November each year at Mt. Dora, Florida, a short drive north of Orlando. Early buyers can enter the grounds on Friday for $10, Saturday $6, Sunday $4. Or, buy a three day pass for $15

For more information on Renninger’s antique market, call 352-383-8389 or visit