Antiquing: Finding Oldies but goodies Thoughts of home: Treasures found at shops and shows give us charming decor and a sense of history.


November 23, 1995|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,SUN STAFF

Something in the air of an antiques shop or a big antiques show stirs the blood of certain afflicted individuals. Perhaps it's the musty atmosphere or the scent of furniture polish. Maybe it's the clutter or the indefinable sense of age.

Certainly the lure of antiques adds up to anticipation, the promise of finding buried treasure or the recovery of a lost memory.

Maybe this shop will have that mahogany magazine rack that sat your grandmother's parlor, or maybe that dealer will have the cameo brooch you've been seeking. Perhaps that perfect bedroom set will turn out to be a collection of pieces that just happen to be old and . . . not used, but experienced.

"There's no question it is growing, and I think it's because people love to collect, and you can collect at all levels of income," says Frank Farbenbloom of the pastime that most involved call simply "antiquing." Mr. Farbenbloom is founder and director of Sha-Dor Inc., a Rockville-based company that is staging the 17th annual Towson Thanksgiving Antiques Show and Sale this weekend at Towson Center.

He calls this "a very good, general mixed antique show," with furniture, jewelry, crystal, silver, folk art, linens and prints, as well as myriad other objects known broadly as collectibles. More than 110 dealers are participating.

Mr. Farbenbloom sees a trend among young, budget-conscious families toward shopping for quality furniture in antiques venues.

"I think collecting antiques goes in spurts, like the economy," says Merry Tobin, president of the Antique Dealers Association of Maryland, which represents 55 dealers across the state. After a slow period in the recession-plagued 1980s, she says, the antiques market is again growing.

Visiting an antiques show is only one way to get involved. On any given weekend, scores of browsers can be found visiting antiques and collectibles shops in old storefronts, barns and converted farmhouses. In some areas, multiple dealers are housed in antiques malls.

In Baltimore, among the most favored areas are the well-known Antiques Row (Howard Street north of Read Street) and the Fells Point area in the blocks surrounding Eastern Avenue and Broadway.

In suburban counties, antiquers stroll collections of shops in Cockeysville (York Road between Warren and Shawan roads); Reisterstown (Reisterstown Road just south of the center of town); and Ellicott City (Main Street).

Farther out, you can find significant numbers of dealers in Westminster, Frederick, New Market, Laurel, Old Bowie, Savage, Annapolis and the near Eastern Shore.

In the Washington area, antiques zones can be found in Kensington, Gaithersburg, Rockville, Silver Spring and in both Georgetown and Adams Morgan.

And even farther afield, truly smitten shoppers will head north into Pennsylvania to visit shops in Gettysburg and the dense antiques area surrounding Adamstown, northeast of Lancaster.

Atlantic shore travelers can take a long time getting there, if they choose, by getting sidetracked visiting shops along U.S. 50 in Easton, or driving through Denton. There is also good browsing to be had along Route 1 north of Rehoboth Beach, Del.

The Antiques Dealers of Maryland annually publishes a booklet that maps 28 Maryland communities where members can be found. The booklet can be found in most shops.

That's all well and good, but half the fun of antiquing is in discovering new places to visit. Accomplishing that is as easy as taking a weekend drive off the main roads, keeping an eye out for the red, white and blue flags that many shops fly.

Ms. Tobin and Mr. Farbenbloom both suggest that the very definition of the word "antique" is changing as more people become involved.

"The traditional definition is about 100 years old" for an object to be termed an antique. Something more recent would be called a collectible. But Ms. Tobin says 20th-century items are now more easily accepted as antiques.

Indeed, says Mr. Farbenbloom, even quality furniture made into the 1950s might qualify in most dealers' minds as "antique." He cites a term used in a recent show, describing "show-worthy items" -- a measure that sidesteps the age question altogether.

"Our dateline [for antiques] tends to be the 1920s," he says, adding that he doesn't classify as antiques items that were clearly manufactured to be collected, such as products of the Franklin Mint.

But who knows what might turn out to be collectible?

Mr. Farbenbloom notes that those simple plastic dispensers made for Pez candies have become highly sought items -- often selling for hundreds of dollars.

"I call it the recycling of precious objects. Antiques are the original recyclables," he says.

For sale: The good old days

These antiques and collectibles shows are scheduled for this weekend:

* Towson Thanksgiving Antiques Show and Sale, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday, Towson Center on the campus of Towson State University. Admission: $5, children 14 and under free with adult. Information: before show, (301) 738-1966; during show, (410) 830-3991.

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