If there's one place where bigger is better, it's the Baltimore Summer Antiques Fair, where an expanded contingent of dealers some 450 strong will offer visitors an enormous diversity of objects from itty-bitty enamel boxes to roomfuls of furniture in the Baltimore Convention Center this coming weekend. Dealers from around the country will be featuring, among other things, glass and crystal, jewelry, silver, china, ironware, stoneware and pottery, bronzes, clocks of all varieties, old and antique telephones, needlepoint and embroidery, rugs, furniture, prints, posters and paintings, and decorative objects of all kinds. "What draws you to a show is being able to sell merchandise," said Gary Baldwin, of A Touch of Glass in Savage, one of a multitude of show regulars. "It's the only top-line show in the Baltimore-Washington area, and it has a draw from all over the country."
Show manager Frank Farbenbloom of Sha-Dor, Inc., said the show has expanded from 300 dealers last year, so visitors will have even more items to choose from. He estimates it's probably one of the largest displays of decorative objects outside a museum.
But, unlike in a museum, these things can be taken home. And that notion of taking home the past is what draws people to antiques, the dealers say.
"There is something so personal about antiques," said Barbara Alpren, of New Jersey, who will be offering small decorative items. She specializes in 18th century English enameled boxes, such as snuff boxes and patch boxes by the firms of Bilston and Battersea. "It's so romantic to hold in your hand something that someone held in 1760 - don't you think?"
Small boxes, big prices
Although they're tiny, the boxes are pricey. "They're hideously expensive if you go by the square inch," Alpren said, of the boxes that are typically about an inch wide and may range up to a few inches for a figural item. That means about $500 for the tiniest snuff box to $5,000 for a bonbonniere - sweets box - in the form of a wild boar.
If you'd rather find romance hunting a wild boar, there is Powder Horn Ltd. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Robert Mandel offers "basically a masculine booth," with weaponry from several centuries ago up to the mid-19th century. He has dueling pistols, hunting pistols, flintlock and wheellock guns, and edged weapons such as swords and Bowie knives. Mandel, a former gun buyer for Abercrombie & Fitch, also offers European ivory, scrimshaw and ship models. Prices range from about $4,500 to $20,000.
When you've bagged your boar, return to the castle where a rare English lantern clock, circa 1670, chimes the hours as marked by its single hand. "Most clocks in those days had only one hand," said Ken Markley, of Old Timers Antique Clocks of Camp Hill, Pa. "Two-handed clocks didn't come in until much later. But you really only need one hand, because there are divisions on the face [between the hours] marking 15-minute intervals." As the hand moves from hour to hour, say from 2 to 3, it touches the division marks. At the first division, it's 2:15. At the second, 2:30, and so on.
The brass clock, which is "about the size of a shoe box turned on end," sits on a wrought-iron bracket that allows its yard-long pendulum to hang. It is surprisingly loud, and is priced at $3,000, which is in the top of the range for Markley's clocks. Others cost as little as $300.
All of Old Timers' clocks are guaranteed to be in good working order, said Markley, a former psychologist. "Clocks are easier to fix than people!"
When the clock chimes the dinner hour, you can toast your hunting trophy in a Moser enameled glass goblet from Baldwin's A Touch of Glass. Baldwin, whose shop is at Savage Mill, will offer artistic glass objects, most from Central Europe, such as goblets, vases, finger bowls and other items.
"Artistic" glass is enameled, cut, or engraved glass. Baldwin specializes in Moser glass, made in what used to be Bohemia and is now part of the Czech Republic. Moser was known as "the glass of kings" because it supplied all the formal and presentation glass for monarchs from the Hapsburgs of Central Europe to Edward VII of England. Baldwin's objects cost as little as $70 for a small cordial glass to $125-$700 for a goblet to $4,500 for rarer or more exotic items.
If you prefer romance with a more modern ring, you might check out the Chicago Old Telephone Co., of Sanford, N.C., which specializes in telephones from the first half of the 20th century. "They're antiques, not reproductions," said Richard Marsh, who, with his wife, Judi, runs phone businesses from cellular to crank in a restored movie theater in downtown Sanford.
"They're mostly table phones," Marsh said, "but there are some wall phones and some railroad phones" - which pulled out of the wall on a scissors-type apparatus, and had a headband with an earphone so the operator had both hands free. "The phones we show are all in perfect working condition," he said. "The sound quality is great and the ringers are beautiful - they sound like ringers ought to sound."
The booth has a working switchboard, so customers can pick up a phone and talk to the Marshes, checking out the sound and operation for themselves.
Bigger is better
Even while waxing romantic about their wares, dealers note that the size of the Baltimore show is a big plus.
"This is one of my best shows," said Alpren. "It's so diversified and so huge."
The sheer size of the event - other area antiques shows may feature 50 to 100 dealers - is made possible by the recent expansion of the convention center. Last year's show in the old convention center, missed the new center's opening by a week.
"We waited a whole year for this day," Farbenbloom said of the opening of the 1997 event. "There's no question it's going to make a huge difference for us."
Besides allowing Sha-Dor, founded about 20 years ago by Farbenbloom and his wife, Elaine, to increase the number of dealers in a single, unified space, the new center allows room for the Gallery, an area of room settings with 45 dealers, and for the Antiquarian Book Fair, a section of about 80 dealers in old publications.
In addition, there will be an authentication clinic, during which a panel of experts will attest to the authenticity - or lack thereof - of any object brought in by visitors.
"We tell people whether it's important enough to be professionally valued, or whether it's nice to have but worth only a few dollars," Farbenbloom said.
For the first time this year, the show will feature an information/concierge desk in the center aisle where visitors can ask questions. "If people are looking for a special thing, or just want guidance, or want to know if a particular exhibitor is there," the concierge can help, Farbenbloom said.
In addition, Sha-Dor is maintaining a database of dealers to help people who are looking for a particular object. "We're trying to make Baltimore the premier mecca for antique shoppers," Farbenbloom said.
If you go
The Baltimore Summer Antiques Fair will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Friday, from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8, and includes all three days of the fair. For more information, call 301-738-1966 before the fair, or 410-649-73396 during the show. Or check out the fair's home page at www.antiqnet.com
Pub Date: 8/10/97