Dealers Keep Up With What's New In Antiques

Annapolis Show Reflects Changing Tastes

January 27, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff writer

Rosemary Schorr perched on a wrought-iron settee at an Annapolis antique show yesterday, chatting about garden furniture while a cold wind blew snow through the streets outside.

The winter weather hadn'taffected customers' interest in her white Victorian love seats, intricately carved urns and delicate plants stands -- any more than the poor economy had dented her business, said Schorr, one of 35 dealers exhibiting at the 22nd Annual Annapolis Heritage Antiques Show.

"With a poor economy, you have to be a little smarter, you have to work a little harder, but if you're willing to do that, there's no reason you can't be successful selling antiques," she said.

Last year, Schorr, based in Reading, Pa., had the best year of 15 years in the business, due mainly to a change in wares. She once sold "country" furniture but five years ago began collecting and selling iron garden furniture from the late 1800s.

"You must handle what people want, not what you think they want," she said. "You must adjust to timesand trends."

One trend in her favor has been a growing tendency for families to stay at home and entertain there, Schorr said. "Peopleare wanting to make their homes beautiful outdoors as well as in, plus they're bringing the outside indoors. There are more decks and sunrooms, more of a nature appeal in decorating."

Hence the appeal of romantic garden furniture, from the wrought-iron lemon trees to thelarge, ornate chairs and tables Schorr displayed. "With cast-iron pieces, condition is extremely important, and the more Victorian-looking and heavier something is, the more valuable it is," Schorr explained.

Other dealers weren't faring quite as well, although most said they did about as much business as at last year's Annapolis show.

Said Robert Armacost, show manager, "It hasn't affected the numbers. People are still coming to antique shops, but they are being more considered about their purchases. For example, a nice period chest goingfor $5,000 or $7,000 -- people will think twice about it. They are still buying, but more of things they can carry off."

The dealers -- offering everything from rugs to silver to rare children's books --came to the annual show from all over the country, added Armacost, who picks those who take part in the show for variety and quality.

The Annapolis show is sponsored by the London Town Publik House & Gardens, a historic museum near Annapolis. This year, in addition to furniture and decorative arts, the show featured a "Children's World" theme, with children's items that included a $1,240 teddy bear and an antique doll house someone bought to use as a bookcase, Armacost said.

On the last day of the show yesterday, browsers seemed disinclined to talk, but dealers happily described the virtues of old leather trunks and fine china.

Children's chairs, one with a cane seat and "mushroom" posts on the arms, added charm to the booth of dealer Allan Coombs of Virginia. The $295 chair dates from the 18th century, andlike most chairs from that period, the arms are worn flat on the front because the chair was turned on its back and used as a toddler's walker, he explained.

On the other side of the room, Teresa Puckettof Texas discoursed on the history of antique maps. The most valuable map in the collection she'd brought was a $3,200 map of Virginia dating to 1606 and showing information learned from settler John White in the 1580s.

"Around here, people buy maps that show the Chesapeake," she said.

When people start map-collecting, they usually start with a map of where they grew up. "Then it becomes an addiction, and the more you research, the more fascinated you become and often people turn into full-blown collectors."

One addition to the show wasDrusilla's Books, a Baltimore shop selling rare children's books. The display included three copies of "Alice in Wonderland," with widelydifferent illustrations, sequels to "Treasure Island" and shaped books, or books with both cover and pages cut in the shape of a person or animal or flower.

"Adults get interested in a favorite illustrator or author or book, or they're trying to collect the books they read in childhood," said owner Drusilla Jones. "I have two customers whohave been avid "Beauty and the Beast" fans for years, long before the latest movie. People get started and can't stop."

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