The View from Halcyon Farm: ‘Tis the Season for Antiques Shows

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After the Christmas holidays comes the January let down, which is then greatly cheered up by the opening of Winter Antiques Show Season, which makes us very happy.

The Washington Winter Show, which was founded in 1955, took place two weeks ago at American University. This year’s theme, and most of the shows have some sort of theme, was Ports of Call, and the show featured many pieces with a nautical theme, appropriate for our location.


In New York, the prestigious Winter Antiques Show (WAS) opened this week and it’s always one of the very best.


More than 75 dealers from across the world arrive in New York to show and sell their very best wares. Baltimore-area dealers, Marcia Moylan and Jacqueline Smelkinson from The Spare Room, have a booth at the WAS and you can peruse their selection of English and other china. The best thing about the WAS is that it’s the first really big show of the season and it’s when dealers bring their best items, and items that have never been seen before.

That is a big deal in the antiques world. To bring an undiscovered find to market is every antiques dealers dream. To debut an important piece of furniture that no one has ever seen before is the pinnacle of a dealer’s career.

The book, “Objects of Desire” by Thatcher Freund traces the provenance of three pieces of furniture that were shown at the Americana Show in New York from the time they were discovered, through all of the people who sold them upwards, until they arrived in New York. It’s a fascinating look at how something comes on the market. For anyone interested in antiques, it provides a lot of insight into the world of antiques. You can find it for a penny on Amazon!

objects of desire

For many years, one of the best local antiques shows was the Hunt Valley Antiques Show, but it doesn’t look like it’s scheduled for 2015, according to the websites I’ve checked. Too bad.

If you are interested in learning about antiques, an antiques show is a great place to learn. Pick a time that isn’t going to be too busy, like Friday evening, not Saturday afternoon. As you walk through the show, take time to look at every booth, because you never know what is going to catch your eye. Dealers should be willing to talk to you, especially to tell you about the items you are interested in.

Talking to people walking through the show is actually in the dealers’ best interest, because they might convert from a casual looker to a prospective customer. The more you know about a piece, the more informed you will be when searching for a piece. Visit museums, antiques shows, auctions, historic houses and friends with significant collections so that you can train your eye to see what’s good about a piece and what makes it a good piece.

Another book to look at is known as Good, Better Best, and was written in 1950 by the late esteemed antiques dealer, Albert Sack. The book was re-issued in 1993 as “Good, Better, Best, Superior, Masterpiece” and is the standard for evaluating American furniture.

Good Better Best

Good, Better, Best is also available at Amazon, but for considerably more than a penny! However, it’s worth it for the education you will receive in learning about antiques. Read it before you go to an antiques show and put your new knowledge to work for you.

If you already collect antiques and would like to get your children interested, a sweet book called “A Pack of Lies” tells the story of someone who works in an antiques store and tells stories about each of the pieces to the customers who are considering buying them.

pack of lies

There is a twist in the tale that makes the book even more fun!

Meg Fielding

Meg Fielding writes the local interior design and lifestyle blog Pigtown Design. She enjoys dual citizenship with the US and the UK.

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