The Baltimore Summer Antiques Show

An overhead view of just a couple of aisles at the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show

An overhead view of a few aisles at the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show

There are a few shows each years that I really look forward to and the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show is one of them.  It’s the show that kicks off the season.  I still think like a teacher.  My year starts in September and ends in August.  Each year the show is held over the Labor Day weekend.  It used to be a 3-day show under the old management, but for the last couple of years, the Palm Beach Show Group has managed it and expanded it to 4 days, from Thursday, September 3 to Sunday, September 6.  Thankfully the show is closed on Labor Day.

Too many shows are shrinking, but this one is expanding.  It’s hard to see all the exhibitors in one day, so plan on more time.  It attracts exhibitors from all over the US and some international exhibitors.  The majority of the collectors who attend come from several surrounding states, but because of the quality and depth of the show, many attendees fly in from all over the country and even some from Europe,  Japan and South America.  And that gives the show life that unfortunately is missing from too many shows.  Everyone knows about the big Miami Beach Convention Center Antiques Show in January.  Well this is not quite as big or famous, but close.

The National Aquarium of Baltimore

The National Aquarium of Baltimore

Next to the water at the Inner Harbor

Next to the water at the Inner Harbor

Then there’s Baltimore itself.  When I started exhibiting at this show many years ago, the Inner Harbor area was quite run down.  You wouldn’t recognize it now.  The Inner Harbor is now a showcase area with the best hotels, restaurants and attractions, including the Convention Center where the antiques show is held.  There’s the National Aquarium of Baltimore (world class), the Science Museum, Camden Yards (catch an Orioles game), the Ravens Stadium, the harbor itself, great shopping, etc., etc.

If you’ve been thinking about attending this show, this is the year to do it.  You will not regret coming to this show.  You’ll love the show and you’ll love Baltimore.

Pleeeeaaase write to me with suggestions and/or questions.  If they’re interesting, I’ll write a blog entry.  If you like my blog, please recommend it to others.

Please let me know what you would like to buy, sell  or trade.  philchasen@gmail.com

Knowledge is power, part II

Steuben Tyrian vase (not the one from the story)

Steuben Tyrian vase (not the one from this story)

In the early 1990s, during a difficult recession, I was exhibiting at a show at the New York Coliseum.  For the first couple of days, the dealers were setting up the show, walking around and buying from each other — normal procedure for any show.  I came to the booth of a dealer who had sold me many things in the past.  He had broad knowledge of a diverse range of antiques.  He was the kind of dealer who could go into someone’s house and feel just as comfortable buying an oriental rug, or a painting or a Tiffany lamp.  He had a vase on the table that I recognized right away without picking it up.  I asked him the price and he replied that it was signed something on the bottom that he couldn’t read and because of it, the price was $1500.  I bought it, brought it back to my booth and put it under the table.

The vase was a Steuben Tyrian vase, which has a characteristic look.  Steuben signed these vases “Tyrian”, but not Steuben.  The wear on the bottom of the vase was considerable, so the scratches through the word Tyrian made it very difficult to read, unless you already knew what it said.

The next day, I called Roger Early in Cincinnati and asked him if he would like it for his next auction.  He told me his deadline was coming up very soon, but that I could make it on time if I would send the vase to him overnight, which I did.  He called me the next day to tell me that if I didn’t want to take the risk at auction that he would write me a check immediately for $6,000.  (Now why would I want to do that?)   I knew the vase had the potential to bring substantially more, so I told him to just put it in the auction and let it sell.  The result?  $13,000.

Knowledge is power.  Sir Francis Bacon, Religious Meditations, Of Heresies, 1597.

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How can you tell an etching is authentic?

If I post an entry every Monday to Friday, I’ve got to come up with over 250 posts per year, so I need ideas.  Please suggest some to me. This one comes from my daughter, Nicole. She asked me to answer questions that are commonly asked of me at shows. I was asked this question on Sunday at the Redondo Beach Antiques Fair. “How can you tell an etching is authentic?”

Louis Icart pulling a proof of Joy of Life from the etching press

Louis Icart pulling a proof of Joy of Life from the etching press

First you have to understand the process of producing an etching. The artist does his work on a copper plate, so the “original” is a copper plate and that’s rarely ever for sale. To produce the image, first the plate is hand-inked. Then the paper is laid down on top and the two pass together through the etching press, under tremendous pressure. The pressure transfers the image to the paper. Since the copper plate has thickness, it “dents” the paper around the edge of the image. This “dent” is called a plate impression. You can see it and feel it around the edge of the plate. So #1. A real etching has a plate impression.

Since the process is not photographic and there is no printing press, there are no dots in the image. If you use a magnifying glass to look at a photograph in a newspaper, you can see the entire image is made up of dots. Use a magnifying glass with an original etching and there are no dots. So #2. An authentic etching does not have any dots in the image.

After the edition is printed by the master printer, it is given back to the artist to hand-sign each one. Prints or other fakes have copies of the signature. So #3. Authentic etchings are hand-signed by the artist, usually in pencil.

In the case of Louis Icart, a raised seal called a blindstamp, was created in mid-1926, and is usually found in the lower left corner, just below the image. Most Icart images produced after this time have the blindstamp, but don’t use this information as a crutch. There are some fake etchings that have fake blindstamps. And conversely, there are many authentic Icart etchings that do not have a blindstamp. Supposedly the etchings without blindstamps were not for export from France, but personally I’ve found too many instances where this rule doesn’t seem to follow.

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Celebrity encounters in the antiques business, part V

Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson and a much younger woman came into my shop at the Manhattan Arts & Antiques Center on Second Ave. in New York City in the late 1980s.  I now assume the younger woman was Alexis Maas, whom he wed on June 20, 1987, but I had no idea at the time.  They were interested in several items in the shop.  I thought it odd that the woman was asking all the questions.  By the time they left, (without making a purchase), I realized that Johnny (is it OK to call him by his first name?) had never said a single word.

In his final appearance ever on TV, Johnny appeared on the Letterman show.  He chatted with Letterman for a short while, delivered the “Top 10″ list to him, and indicated by hand gesture that he would like to sit in Letterman’s chair behind the desk.  Letterman complied.  After about 40 seconds, during which time the audience continued a standing ovation, he mouthed thank you once and left the stage without saying one word to the audience.  Later, when asked, he explained that he had had a case of acute laryngitis. Well, excuuuuse me, but I don’t think so.  I guess that after all those years in the public eye, he had had enough and reverted to being the very private person that he probably always was.

More celebrities coming.

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If you like my blog, recommend it to others.  Email me with comments.  philchasen@gmail.com

Thanks, Los Angeles

Denver July 24, 2009

Denver July 24, 2009


What a difference a city makes. Each city has a personality based on who shows up. Interest was completely different here in LA, compared to Denver. Tiffany seemed to garner the most interest, with many questions about lamps, glass and desk sets. There was also good interest in French glass and Icart etchings, but slower sales to go with the interest. Los Angeles is one of those cities that doesn’t have a killer show that everyone has to come to, unlike New York, Baltimore or Miami Beach, so getting the right people to show up is difficult. Next up is Pasadena in 10 days. It’s only 45 minutes away from Redondo Beach, but mostly different folks show up there and that’s a good thing.

Matt Long

Matt Long

A lovely young couple came into the booth showing great interest, Matt and Lora Long. Matt is an actor, who I predict is going to be a big star, sometime in the not too distant future. Folks, you read it here first. Matt, you listening? Don’t let me down!

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Knowledge is power, part I

Tiffany Poppy table lamp (better than the one mentioned in the story)

Tiffany Poppy table lamp (better than the one mentioned in the story)

Everyone likes to hear stories about a “score”, so I’ll tell you one of mine.

About 10 years ago, my wife and I were in Paris, buying antiques at the flea market. There are many flea markets in Paris, with different qualities at different markets. We were spending a lot of time at one of the better markets. Lia likes to spend time rummaging through the lesser markets looking for fun collectibles. By late afternoon on Sunday, she was quite annoyed with me for not spending time with her at the other markets. So, reluctantly, we left for another market. After going up and down a few aisles, we weren’t successful, so Lia wanted to leave. I suggested that we look at one more aisle as I thought there was a certain dealer that we might have missed. Immediately upon turning the corner, I noticed what appeared to be a Tiffany lamp in the first booth. I walked up to the lamp and mouthed to Lia “It’s real”. I asked the lady tending the booth for the price. She told me the price in French francs, which converted to approximately US $4,000. Wow! I knew I had found a score, but I wasn’t sure how good. I bought the lamp.

When I got back to my hotel room, I called Sotheby’s in New York and to my surprise, Barbara Deisroth, the head of the 20th Century Antiques Department, answered the phone on a Sunday. I explained that I had just bought a Tiffany 17″ diameter Poppy table lamp on a tree trunk base. She said she’d like to have it for their next sale, so I brought it back to New York and consigned it to Sotheby’s. The estimate was $20-25,000, with a reserve of $20,000. The auction was in December and again to my surprise, the lamp did not meet reserve and did not sell. It was returned to me. I had to pay some fees including photography and insurance.

I then brought the lamp to Florida to exhibit it at the Miami Beach Antiques Show the next month in January. During set-up, another dealer came into my booth and inquired about the lamp. I told him the complete story of how I had purchased it, consigned it to Sotheby’s and had it returned to me. I told him the price was $25,000. We negotiated for a while and agreed on a price of $22,500. Not bad for a $4,000 investment.

It goes to show you how important knowledge is. Thousands of people had walked past the lamp in the Paris flea market and assumed that at a price of $4,000, it had to be a reproduction. It was a late example of a Tiffany Poppy lamp, when Tiffany Studios had stopped making their own glass. They were purchasing lower quality glass from outside suppliers and assembling the lamps themselves. The glass wasn’t very pretty, compared to earlier Tiffany lamps, but it was authentic. Score one for Philip!

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Setting up at the Redondo Beach Antiques Show

Redondo Beach Antique Show set-up

Redondo Beach Antique Show set-up

Setting up a show is the non-glamorous part of the antiques show business. It’s hard work, unpacking, arranging the items, cleaning up, etc., etc. Not fun. Antique dealers get a chance to walk around the show and buy from each other. Unfortunately, the antiques show business is also a victim of the current recession. This show has an indoor section (where I am) and an outdoor section. The indoor section is filled with quality dealers, but the outdoor section is shrinking. Some of the dealers that were on the borderline of being successful have become victims. They’re forced to drop out when there’s not enough business to make it profitable to exhibit. It seems to be a problem at many of the shows around the country.

There are also others reasons why dealers are dropping out. The first that comes to mind is the greying of the dealers. In the United States there doesn’t seem to be a younger generation of antiques dealers to take the place of the older ones. Doesn’t seem to be much of a problem in Europe. There are lots of younger dealers. Not sure why there seems to be such a difference. I have a few ideas, but I’d like to know what you think about this. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Next reason seems to be the Internet. Some dealers, especially the dealers with lower quality, marginal merchandise, have decided to sell on the Internet, either at auction on eBay or on their own websites. It makes a lot of sense. The time and expense to travel to another city are considerable, as well as the risk. Who wants to gamble several thousand dollars in expenses and a week’s time to possibly lose money because sales were poor?

Business was reasonably good in Denver and I’ve got a good feeling about Los Angeles. More on Monday with the results.

If you like my blog, please recommend it to others. Email me with your comments. philchasen@gmail.com

Celebrity encounters in the antiques business, part IV

Dick Clark

Dick Clark

Kari Wigton, Dick Clark’s third wife, came into my shop at the Manhattan Arts & Antiques Center in the mid 1980s.  She bought a small Pairpoint puffy table lamp.  I invited her and her husband to a preview party at an antiques show at the 67th Street Armory.  She came into my booth, looked at a few items, and then returned with her husband, Dick Clark.  She introduced me to him and he replied “Hi, I’m Dick Clark.”  What a modest and nice guy!  Unlike some other celebrities, what you see is what you get with Dick Clark.  He’s just as nice and friendly in person as what you see on television.  They purchased another lamp that evening.

More celebrities another day.

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If you like my blog, please recommend it to others.  Email me with comments.  philchasen@gmail.com

American Illustration Art

American Illustration painting by McClelland Barclay

American Illustration painting by McClelland Barclay of Dorothy Parker and Dashiell Hammett at the Algonquin Hotel in NYC

I became interested in American Illustration art way before it became outrageously popular.  I remember an auction of illustration art that was held at the 67th Street Armory in New York City, in the mid 1980s. I attended the exhibition and saw quite a few paintings that I liked and would try to buy.  The auction itself was a bit surreal.  There was so little interest in the paintings that I only had to put my arm up once to bid and it was mine.  Nobody bid against me on almost all the items.  If only I had the money and the nerve to buy so much more.  American Illustration Art took off like a rocket shortly afterward.  Prices accelerated into the hundreds of thousands and even into the millions for the best of the best, such as for paintings by Norman Rockwell or Maxfield Parrish.

While standing on line to pay for and pick up my purchases, a collector friend of mine, Charlie Schalebaum, approached me and asked if I would sell one of the paintings that I had just bought.  It was a wonderful baseball painting of a hitter sliding into home plate, probably from the 1920s or 1930s.  Fabulous subject matter.  I had paid a few hundred dollars and sold it to him for a very small profit.  I wish I stilled owned it.  It would be hanging on the walls in my home.

I’ll post another day about the amazing collection of Charles Martignette.

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If you like my blog, please recommend it to others.  Email me with your comments.  philchasen@gmail.com

Thank you, Denver.

Icart etching "Orchids"

Icart etching "Orchids"

I’ve never exhibited at a show in Denver, so I didn’t know what to expect.  The results are in.  We did well enough to want to exhibit in Denver again.  Attendance was reasonably good, but that’s not a surprise as the show management advertised well.  We saw numerous ads on television.  The attendees were reasonably knowledgeable.  They showed good interest and asked intelligent questions.  It was also very nice to receive as many compliments as we did.  Some people went out of their way to say nice things to us.

Sales were moderate with interest in Icart etchings stronger than at other recent shows.  There was also good interest in Tiffany glass and lamps, and French glass.  At this show, there was little interest in Art Deco glass by Le Verre Francais and Lalique as well as pottery by Rookwood.

The best result of the Denver Antiques Show was the lack of fear.  There was not a single mention of recession.

On to Redondo Beach, CA, for a show this coming weekend.  We’ve exhibited there for the last several years and it’s usually good.

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If you like my blog, please recommend it to others.  Email me with your comments.  philchasen@gmail.com