|By Barbara and Ken Beem
BALTIMORE, Md. — In the hour preceding the opening of the 32nd annual Baltimore Summer Antiques Show, dealers were reminded, via the loudspeaker system, to tidy up their booths and remove packing materials.
They were told to make arrangements for the show management to videograph their booths for year-round online promotion of the show. And they were advised to remember the importance of security passes for customers in order to assure that nothing left the Baltimore Convention Center that shouldn’t have.
But what really mattered was the word passed inside from someone who had been in the lobby of the show, “There’s a mob of people waiting to get in.”
Indeed, there was a mob of anxious buyers. By the time the clock struck 11 a.m. on Thursday, August 23, hundreds of people were waiting to get onto the show floor. And when the door was finally opened, representatives of the Palm Beach Show Group, which has produced the annual extravaganza for the past several years, admonished those waiting to hit the floor to take it easy and walk, not run.
Those at the front of the line, meanwhile, seemed determined to get somewhere in a hurry. There was no question that pre-show excitement ran high as buyers literally stormed into the show on the first day.
All the while, strolling violinists set the mood. For sale were 200,000-plus wares offered by some 575 international dealers, not to mention 90 antiquarian book fair participants.
Shoppers had their pick of a wide array of wares, ranging from formerly bestselling novels for less than $10 each to a pink diamond ring weighing over 12 carats, priced at just under $8 million. And although nothing matched the frenzy seen among the earliest shoppers, dealers reported good sales throughout the weekend, even though a threat of flooding dampened Sunday’s spirits.
Under the management of the show organizers, jewelry is integral to the show, and diamonds shone brightly in the convention center’s lighting. In addition to the show-stopping pink diamond called “The Majestic,” an Art Deco platinum brooch with sapphires and European diamonds from Jacqueline Kennedy’s estate was also for sale. For shoppers with more modest budgets, there were vintage engagement rings, as well as mourning and vintage costume pieces.
The largest indoor antique show in the country, the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show is also recognized as a premiere venue for silver dealers. More than 30 silver specialists offered flatware and hollowware by famed craftsmen including Paul Revere, Hester Bateman, and Georg Jensen. Baltimore silversmiths, including Kirk & Son and Stieff Silver, were also well represented.
Collectors were able to contemplate the purchase of artwork by Norman Rockwell, Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin; a Baltimore-style album quilt; and Tiffany lamps. Among the more esoteric offerings were illuminated Medieval manuscripts, figural napkin rings, and distinctive walking sticks.
The widely marketed show had been, in years past, traditionally held on Labor Day weekend. But, with last year’s introduction of the Baltimore Grand Prix, slated for that same time and location, the antique show was advanced one week on the calendar. Serving as a reminder of the up-coming events on the very same spot was the presence of grandstands for the following weekend.
Presenting little obstacle, bleachers and Jersey walls loomed in front of the convention center, which is located near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
During the antique show, however, a line-up of limousines outside the convention center attested to the fact that this is a destination show. In truth, shoppers from all over the world are known to fly in for an opportunity to inspect the wares offered at this four-day event.
And it is that international feeling that helps make the show what it is, according to Baltimorean Bev Norwood. Along with her husband, Doug, the couple exhibit as the “The Norwoods’ Spirit of America,” and she commented that the show is special, “even though it is physically exhausting. It is eclectic and exciting,” she continued, speaking after the show’s closing.
Because the booth spaces are “huge,” she said it took them two days to set up their offering of folk art in general and schoolgirl pieces in particular. Once the proceedings got underway, though, “the time went quickly.”
In their sixth year at the show, they enjoyed reuniting with regular customers . They also sold several pieces to collectors new to them, but who were obviously well-schooled in the field. Her hometown pride was apparent as she concluded, “to be in Baltimore is good. The show really reflects well on the town.”
Next year’s show is slated for Aug. 22-25. For more information, call (561) 822-5440, or go to www.baltimoresummerantiques.com.