The awkward antique show

By Jordan Thomas Hall

There are two antique shows that I annually attend: The Virginia Highlands Festival in summer and The Bluegrass Trust Antique and Garden Show in spring. As you could imagine there was a great deal of anticipation for this year’s event. So you think I would have had time to prepare myself and avoid several awkward but laughable moments on Saturday.

Mom, Dad, and I left shortly after 11:00 Saturday morning for the Bluegrass Trust Antique and Garden Show held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. I stopped first to eat at Waffle House in Winchester where we enjoyed a late breakfast. I had the all-star special: scrambled eggs, ham, hashbrowns, orange juice, chocolate milk, and my favorite: a waffle topped with chocolate chips.

From there we continued on the interstate to the horse park. At the entrance was a consignment auction with hundreds of tractors and other farm equipment. Once completing a roundabout we passed horses grazing in large fields lined with white fencing. The antique show was held, as it was when I first went last year, in the Alltech Arena.

The dirt arena floor that normally showcases galloping horses showcased thundering horsepower as a car show accompanied the show. Dealers from across the country were set up on the concourse circling the arena. Their offerings mainly consisted of fine furniture, silver, and art that generally was in the $2,000 -$8,000 range. These are dealers that specialize in high-end items but there are still some that are reasonable and even have items undervalued.

That’s what I came for.

Also, you can learn a lot about the world of antiques from the dealers. I did that at the very first booth.

The Philadelphia dealer had a china coffee pot bearing the same armorial design as a cup and saucer that I acquired in Charleston, South Carolina back in the summer. The draped cobalt blue shield was created by China for export to America in its infancy as a country. Not so inviting however was the cost of the coffee pot and I passed on it. In fact, I passed on just about everything I inquired about.

I continued my trek from booth to booth investigating all paintings and considering the ones with reasonable prices. I talked with Jerry Shrout, owner of Thoroughbred Antique Gallery in Lexington, who noted the show was going very well and he had sold numerous items even while setting up. He had an interesting charcoal drawing from Charleston that I was somewhat interested in. I usually make two trips through a show, looking more intently at the items I was intrigued by the first time. On my second trip the drawing was gone.

This set up a fine series of mishaps.

I walked by a seascape painting on an easel and stopped to examine it further. At the same time a woman that had been standing from afar rushed forward in a motion natural of a dealer. Therefore, I naturally assumed that she was. I turned to her and asked confidently, “What can you tell me about the painting?”

She looked at me confused. Clutching a glass of wine she possessed every quality of an upper-class, nose in the air type. At this point it slowly began to dawn on me that she wasn’t the dealer as we both stood there shoulder-to-shoulder without saying a word. More perturbed than embarrassed, I looked around at her cockeyed with an expression that read, “Aren’t you even going to say anything?” The woman forced herself to nod her head in a roundabout fashion as if to pretend to be interested in it. I said, “nice painting” before walking off.

Moments later I was talking with another dealer about a portrait. A man approached us from the side with a very expensive and large camera in hand. He looked at me and said, “Believe it or not your mom asked me to get a picture of you.” Before he opened his mouth I had already thought he might have been covering the event for the Lexington Herald-Leader. It also sounded like something Mom would do, as she knows the editor of the Herald-Leader. So in a false interested/sarcastic tone of voice I offered, “she did?”

He then had the dealer to step out of the frame and asked where I wanted to have my picture taken. I really don’t like having my picture taken so I was just letting him dictate the whole affair. He had me stand beside a tall case clock and then I offered the dealer I was talking to back into the picture as if he were showing me the painting again.

We both smiled and posed for the picture as one of the dealer’s associates walked up to the photographer and explained that the other man was the dealer. He then said, “Oh, it must have been your mother.” I then slowly walked away with my last shred of dignity for the day. If there is a picture of me somewhere labeled “Charles Worthington” or something to that effect — that would be why.

There was only one painting I seriously considered that day and it was part of an antique outdoors- themed booth. The painting I was looking at was an impressionist landscape with three deer by a stream. I could see an illusive sig- nature in the bottom left but I could tell the male dealer knew nothing about it. He told me the signature was hidden by frame on the right but it was executed by an artist named “Renouse.” I later identified it as being by George B. Yarnold.

I walked around considering what was a very good price and feeling I could make a profit on it if I decided to sell it. That is after all my hobby. Returning to the booth the man’s wife was called over when I asked more about the paint- ing. I could see quickly she was the one that called the shots and I began to negotiate with her.

I asked for her best price and it was what the man quoted me. However, she told me that the “Renouse” attribution was incorrect and I told her I was only considering the price based on that information and then made her a lower offer. She said that was “pushing it” for them to sell it for that and studying her I could see that she was weakening. Before she had time to think I slightly upped my offer and she accepted.

Amid a string of mishaps at the show at least I had that victory to take away.