BMA antiques show offers antique toys, Americana rarities

May 02, 1993|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Staff Writer

Uncle Sam on a velocipede, an American verdigris urn-form finial, and a miniature portrait by Mary Jane Simes, the granddaughter of Baltimore's James Peale, are part of the treasure trove of objects to be offered for sale at the Baltimore Museum of Art's 11th annual antiques show this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Besides being rare and American, the three items mentioned above have something else in common: All are being offered by dealers new to the show this year.

"We know that Baltimore is a seething bed of toy-collecting activity," said Donald Hillman, of Hillman-Gemini Antiques, New York City. "It has always been a very strong center of toy interest."

A warm reception at a recent show in Philadelphia encouraged Mr. Hillman and partners Leon and Steven Weiss to add Baltimore to their show list.

What can Baltimore show visitors expect to see? "We specialize in antique toys and mechanical banks, folk art and an array of Americana," Mr. Hillman said last week in a telephone interview. "We have a wonderful collection of banks, mostly American, made of cast iron, cleverly painted and lithographed."

The banks at the BMA show -- about 40 to 50 of them -- will date from the end of the 19th century to the early 20th century.

Among the characters represented in the banks are leapfrogs, an eagle and eaglet and a farmer and pig. Prices range from $350 to "upwards of $10,000," Mr. Hillman said.

Another piece Mr. Hillman expects to have on display is a toy "Uncle Sam" riding a hand velocipede ("pedaled" with hand levers and guided with the feet), made around 1890 by Ives Blakeslee of Bridgeport, Conn. "It's in wonderful condition, and it's the only known example. It's possibly the most famous of all American toys," Mr. Hillman said.

There will also be an array of American tin toys, and a "substantial" collection of "horse-drawn" toys such as carriages and carts. The Hillman-Gemini booth in Philadelphia, Mr. Hillam said, "was one into which many parents who brought their kids could go, and not feel they were imposing on their children. And it was a turn-on for adults, too."

Another dealer new to the show is Baltimorean Peter Hynson, of Peter D. Hynson Antiques. Mr. Hynson specializes in American furniture and folk art. "I will have a Vermont Federal bombe chest with period brasses and an inlaid top, by G. Stedman of Norwich, Vt.," he said, adding, "It's very rare -- possibly there are only 11 now in existence."

He will also be offering the urn finial, its copper worn to a soft verdigris patina. It's about 41 inches tall, made of molded copper with scroll handles and a spiral top. "At one time it came off a building," he said. "It's kind of neat."

He also has a pine and maple tavern table from Connecticut, made about 1750, that is in highly sought-after original condition. "It's completely untouched," he says.

The miniature portrait by Mary Jane Simes will be offered by the firm of Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, also of New York City. It will be among 70 to 90 portrait miniatures that Vandekar Director Elle Shushan will be bringing to the BMA show. It's Vandekar's first year as well, Ms. Shusan said, noting, "I have a lot of good clients, associates and friends in Baltimore. I thought it was a good time to get our foot in the door" in the city.

Earle D. Vandekar is "verging on" its 100th birthday, Ms. hTC Shushan said, and it is "one of the largest 18th-century ceramics firms in the world."

Other items she will be displaying include Chinese export ware, and wares from 18th-century English firms such as Chelsea, Worcester and from some Staffordshire factories.

The Staffordshire ware will be "mostly little animals," Ms. Shushan said, and the rest will be a variety of plates, vases, bowls and other objects.

One object popular in the shop that probably won't be on display in Baltimore is Clarence, Ms. Shushan's Scottish terrier, who, she says, "has his own little firm called the Clarence Collection." Clarence specializes in antique dog collars (he has only to put one on and it's immediately snapped up by a collector-dog fancier), occasional antique dog houses, and his latest item, a round dog bed made of black fabric printed with Staffordshire animals. "I could have sold it out from under him 15 times," Ms. Shushan said, laughing.

The Baltimore Museum Antiques Show will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday at the museum, on Art Museum Drive at Charles and 31st streets. It is sponsored by the Women's Committee and the Friends of the American Wing in support of the museum.

Tickets are $5 per person in advance and at the door for BMA members; $7 per person at the doors for nonmembers.

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