For the collector who already has everything, Philip S. Dubey offered a truly rare specimen of Baltimoreana at the 37th annual Historic Annapolis Antiques Show yesterday.
Dubey carefully opened the lid of what appeared to be an elegant mahogany cabinet with satin-wood inlay, to reveal a wooden bench with cutout hole.
"This is as high a style of toilet as you're going to see," said the Howard Street antiques dealer, who was asking $8,400 for the bedroom commode, circa 1790, likely manufactured in or near Baltimore.
Most of the other period furniture on sale at the Medford National Guard Armory this weekend has more practical value, which is the point of the show, said organizer Robert F. James. "People buy these things to live with them," James said. "This is the high end of the middle market."
In addition to sofas, chairs and tables, more than 30 dealers from around the country offered paintings, china, maps, sculpture, books and jewelry.
Prices ranged from the low hundreds to the low six figures, with top prices posted on items such as the 17th-century tall-case American clocks shipped in by Fairfield, Conn., dealer Patricia Barger, with price tags ranging from $18,000 to $30,000.
"If I sell two major pieces at a show, I'll be happy," said Barger, who shows her wares at about 20 shows a year.
Many of the dealers this year are highlighting water-oriented pieces that might appeal to Annapolis' yachting set, such as boat paintings, antique mariner's maps and nautical instruments, including compasses and sextants.
Derek Rayment flew in from Cheshire, England, to sell his impressive collection of dozens of barometers, from $15,000 Louis XVI wall-hung pressure gauges to pocket-size instruments.
"These are better than the Weather Channel," Rayment said, glancing at one and noting a drop in barometric pressure, signaling rain on the horizon.
After a year of searching for a perfect fit to their Georgetown dining room, James and Lesley Lee of Washington found six Baltimore "fancy" chairs from the early 19th century, so-called for their decorative painting.
James Lee, a real estate developer, paid about $2,500 for the set, which he called a "great bargain." He wasn't concerned that daily use might wear down the delicate Grecian urn motif on the chair backs.
"That just adds to the patina," he said with a laugh.
Not all show-goers arrived with open checkbooks. Some just came looking for love.
After corresponding for about a month on Internet dating site Match.com, Thomas Strange and Zanne Bigley decided to meet for the first time at the show, which is midway between his Cambridge home and her Marlton home in Prince George's County.
Bigley, a legal secretary, said she enjoyed browsing the antiques. "We met some very nice people, and there was no pressure to buy," she said.
Strange, who sells boat engines, also made a good impression on her. "He's a little taller than I thought."
The show, which continues from noon to 5 p.m. today, benefits the Historic Annapolis Foundation, a nonprofit group that preserves historical sites in the waterfront capital.