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Antiques show draws people from around the world

For almost three decades, Mary Margaret Kemp and Ted Kemp have come to the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show, returning home to Virginia with a little haul of treasures.

"She's a major league antiques collector," said Ted Kemp, 68, of his wife.

Throughout the weekend, the Baltimore Convention Center floor was crammed with almost 600 vendors offering Andy Warhol paintings, Tiffany dinner sets, hood ornaments from classic cars, and all manner of other prints, jewelry and furniture. The antiques show, which calls itself the largest of its kind in the country, is now in its 33rd year, and Mary Kemp said she has enjoyed watching it grow.

The couple began collecting with blue-and-white Japanese Imari porcelain and branched out from there, but on Saturday they sat in the cavernous Convention Center hall empty-handed.

"It's beautiful, but I have enough," Mary Kemp said of the pottery.

The show attracts dealers and customers from around the world, but Conrad R. Graeber, who owns a print store in Baltimore County, said he avoided it for many years, assuming most of the people browsing would be local.

Pleasantly surprised by his first visit, when even a hurricane and earthquake did not keep the crowds away, Graeber is now in his third year selling prints, which he began trading after getting a philosophy degree and needing to earn some money.

"This is a local show, but people come from all over," Graeber said.

While many of the attendees skewed older, Paul MacLardy, who owns an Asian antiques warehouse in Clinton, said he is starting to see a younger group of people interested in the items he sells.

MacLardy said he puts that down to the current fascination with anime among many teenagers and other young Americans.

"I think the anime phenomenon is turning a whole generation on to Japanese culture," he said.

MacLardy first became interested in dealing antiques after getting involved in a business importing kimonos, the complicated traditional Japanese dress. Now, he said, he has teenagers asking him complex questions and shelling out as much as $1,500 to own one themselves.

Aside from the kimonos, MacLardy had furniture and dolls on sale. One of the dolls, he said, is made of oyster paste with hand-woven clothes. Merchants, who had very low social status in Japan, used to buy them to show off their wealth, he said.

iduncan@baltsun.com

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