On the Road – TEFAF New York

Every year, one of the most important art and design fairs in Europe (TEFAF Maastricht) sets up in New York City. In the fall, galleries sell ancient to 20th-century decorative arts and paintings. In the spring, the galleries sell modern to contemporary works.

This year we were in N.Y.C. during the fall show, and we were privileged to see rare and exquisite objects that you might see in a museum — with prices to match. Since the dealers are some of the top dealers in their fields, most items are unique. Each dealer has his or her own specialty from ancient art to illuminated manuscripts. Many are the top dealers in the world, so expect many items to be fully researched with a known provenance (history of who owned the antique). It isn’t unusual for a piece to have remained in a family’s possession for hundreds of years. Here is a photo journey of the fair with some highlighted objects that caught our eye and show what you can buy if you have an unlimited budget.

On the Road – Colorado Mining Town Resurrected

California wasn’t the only state filled with miners looking to get rich during the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. Colorado was dotted with cities that sprung up to support the miners, especially the area of Tarryall Creek, where gold was discovered in 1859. One hundred years later, those towns were mostly abandoned, and history was being lost to vandals and the ravages of weather.

During a recent visit to Colorado, we discovered what daily life might be like on a gold rush town, thanks to a group of citizens was determined to preserve history. They started South Park City Museum, a “city” created in Fairplay, Colorado, out of seven original buildings and nearly 30 buildings moved from nearby mining towns to recreate an 1880s mining town. Opening as an attraction in 1959, South Park City shows visitors what life was like in the 18th and 19th centuries for fur traders, gold miners and settlers. The city features more than 60,000 authentic items in re-creations of a saloon, post office, casket maker, dentist office and gold mining shaft, to name a few sites.

Photos are courtesy of South Park City Museum, 100 4th Street, PO Box 634, Fairplay, CO 80440, SouthParkCity.org.

On the Road – Medina Antique Mall

The Medina Antique Mall is south of Cleveland. It has been open for 20 years and its 52,000 square feet is filled with booths and glass cabinets from about 500 dealers, overflowing with mid-century and older furniture, porcelains, books, glassware, clothing, artwork, signage and home decorations and some antiques.

The mall attracts visitors from all parts of Ohio. Set aside at least a couple of hours for your hunt. Our visit turned into two trips because we only got through about half the booths on the first visit – and regretted not buying a vase we saw for $12!

If you see something you might want, but need to think about it, take a picture of the item and booth number so you can find it again. Workers are walking the aisles to help you. If you have loaded arms, they will take the items to the cash register area for you.

Halloween decorations caught our eyes. Our interest was piqued by a 3- to 4-foot high, white fiberglass “scary face” for $195.

In another booth, a framed piece of German-made Halloween crepe paper decorated with a grinning full moon, witches, bats, pumpkins and a “Jack” jumping over a candlestick. It was priced at $348. We saw a blow-mold, medium sized jack-o’-lantern pumpkin for $27.

There was a Billy Beer can. Years ago, a Billy Beer can sold for as much as $100, now they sell for $3. Billy Beer was made in 1977 by the Falls City Brewing Co. and named after President Jimmy Carter’s beer-drinking brother Billy. The company stopped producing it in 1978.

We also loved a tin for Lucky Strike cigarettes ($19.50), and a large yellow tin container with a decorative border for Lakewood Coffee by the C.D. Kenny Co. ($48.50).

On the Road – Burton Antiques Market

Kim and I and Kovels newsletter editor, Susan, worried all week that our trip to the annual Burton, Ohio, flea market would be a wet one. It rained every day. Saturday, however, the rain was expected late in the afternoon, so we went “early bird” (there is an extra charge) and hit the booths by 9 a.m. We decided to each go our own way and do a picture report on some of the interesting things we saw.


Hummel figurines were among the most popular collectibles after World War II because so many soldiers brought the small, cute figurines home as gifts. They were based on the drawings of a nun, Berta “Sister Maria Innocentia” Hummel, and made by the W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik of Germany starting in 1935. You can date them from the changes in the V and bee mark. Clubs, books and magazines were started. Prices went higher each year. By 2008, it had all changed. Goebel was no longer the maker. Figurines today sell for less than $50. These pictured Hummels were offered for $45 each.

Picture Frame

This picture frame is really a vintage plate. A photograph was cut out and pasted in the center of the plate. A round piece of glass was also glued to the plate and the result is an $18 framed picture hung on a picture hook with a plate hanger.


Trying to fill in your silver or silver-plated set of spoons? Search this collection with bargain prices, $3 to $10. Other trays held dinner knives and forks. Many things were sold this way. We saw mother-of-pearl umbrella handles with gold trim, $58 each.

Terry’s Pedestal

I bought this pedestal and then tried to find a spot for it in the house. It cost $125. Solid wood, great condition. It was just right for the dining room, where it is now holding a large vase.

Bottle Cork

My favorite: A cork for a wine bottle topped by a carved wood man who tips his hat and moves his head. Price: $25. I didn’t buy it, but I should have. It would be a great gift for a wine lover.

Church Window

The arched windows came in three sizes and were salvaged from a church in Tennessee. Susan bought the medium-sized one for $18. The larger one was $20 and the smaller one $16. It is now hanging over her mantel, a nice conversation piece for a decent price.

Brown Furniture

For several years now, so-called “brown” furniture – maple and pine primarily – has not sold well, considered old-fashioned. I was told by a consignment store owner just last year that “maple furniture just doesn’t sell.” Seeing all the “brown furniture” traveling to the pick-up site told us anecdotally that summation wasn’t true anymore. I also have noticed the consignment store is starting to carry many solid maple pieces. A “brown” telephone bench with some wear was selling for $65.

Sewer Tile Art

We saw several examples of sewer tile art including small animals and a 3-foot-high “tree stump” that were attracting interest from passersby. Sewer tile figures were made by workers at the sewer tile and pipe factories in the Ohio area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Figurines, small vases and cemetery vases were favored. Sewer tile figures were often cast in molds. Often the finished vase was a piece of the original pipe with added decorations and markings. All types of sewer tile work are now considered folk art by collectors. A sewer tile frog was selling for $52.

On the Road – Miami Beach Antique Show

It’s back! The Original Miami Beach Antique Show that has been a mainstay for visitors and locals for 58 years is back on Miami Beach. The show had to relocate 20 miles from Miami Beach for the last two years while the Miami Beach Convention Center was renovated. It has returned to an updated, spacious building.

You need a couple of days to walk the booths of the show’s 700 dealers from more than 30 countries. They brought their best merchandise. If you are looking for a vintage watch, or great piece of fine jewelry, this is the show – half the convention center was jewelry booths. Like most antique shows today there were a lot of name-brand designer vintage items – handbags, jewelry, boxes, plus Asian antiques, period furniture, silver, glass and ceramics. Next year’s show is early, Jan. 4-8, 2020, because the Super Bowl will be held Miami in February. This makes it possible to visit Miami over the winter holidays and stay for what is now the best antique show in Miami. You don’t have to just shop the show, there is also a fun flea market on most Sundays in the winter on nearby Lincoln Road. We have found some bargains there!

On the Road – Design Miami 2018

Every December, Miami comes alive with art fairs. Local museums open new shows, more than 15 art fairs sprout up, galleries show new work – all to entice the approximately 75,000 visitors who come to Miami to buy art and design works. It’s a great time to catch up with old and new design trends at Design Miami. In the main art fair, Art Basel in America – Miami Beach, there is frequently a buying frenzy for the multimillion-dollar paintings. But this year the excitement started the opening day at Design Miami.

KAWS (Brian Donnelly), the cartoon artist/painter who creates the cartoon-like dolls that everyone loves, partnered with the Campana Brothers, Humberto and Fernando, known for their chairs created from multiple toys, wood, rope and other objects. Their collaboration resulted in two limited-edition chairs and a limited-edition sofa. Each chair used 75 KAWS dolls that individually cost about $100 new, if you are lucky enough to get one. They sell on eBay for about $700. The Campana brothers used the dolls to create the seat and back of the chair, removing eyes, legs, arms or other body parts as needed. The fair opened at noon and by 12:30, all 50 chairs ($75,000 each) and 8 sofas ($120,000 each) were sold and more than 30 people had put their name on a waitlist – a first for a design fair!

Also selling quickly were six clay-like “Girl Army” whimsical lamps by Katie Stout, selling for $55,000 to $75,000.

Another dealer spent six years acquiring furniture designed by Karl Emanuel Martin (KEM) Weber (1889-1963) in 1934 for Disney Studios. Kem Weber was the main architect for the Walt Disney Studios in California. Our favorite piece was the sleek looking “Airline” chair. Only 300 were made, although the original plan was mass production. They were designed to ship in pieces and for easy assembly.

We went to southern France in the late 1960s where many famous artists were working. You could buy Picasso plates for $5 to $25. We didn’t visit the Jean Cocteau studio while there, but we wished that we had. It was a treat to see 64 of his plates, manufactured by Atelier Madeline-Jolly, gathered together for the show by Lebreton Gallery. We couldn’t decide which was our favorite. The prices were based on the edition size – from 5 to 50 plates. The Cocteau plate pictured has a stylized hand in the sign language symbol for “I love you” holding a big eye, with a sketch of Villefranche, a fishing village on the Mediterranean he frequently visited. The plate was selling for $24,000.

The Bass Museum of Art featured a show by the Haas Brothers, twins Nikolai and Simon. Who wouldn’t enjoy their unique creatures? Contemporary design company L’Objet collaborated with the Haas brothers and made a line of dishes and objects. They had a pop-up booth at the museum that sold out, but more will be available after March 2019.

On the Road – New York City

By:  Kim Kovel

You never know what you will learn when you explore flea markets, sales and shows. We went to the Salon Art + Design fair in New York City. It’s an annual fair held each fall with top design galleries from around the U.S. and Europe, exhibiting historical, modern and contemporary furniture, groundbreaking design and late 19th through 21st century art.

These fairs may seem unreachable because of the expensive price tags on the objects, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to see great design, visit the N.Y.C. design galleries – that set up shows to complement the fair – and of course see some of the many museums in N.Y.C. We had the chance to speak to several dealers and found a common theme. Many of them started with a fascination for collecting when they were young. Their first experience as dealers was setting up tables in flea markets. As their knowledge grew, they chose an area they appreciated the most and spent hours learning everything they could about it. Twenty years later, many are top dealers in their field. Most like to talk about what they are selling and to educate anyone interested.

Two gallery exhibitions stand out. R & Company, dealers in high-end design, had a show “Modern in Your Life: The Good Design Phenomenon 1934-1959.” On display and also for sale was “good design” from ordinary objects to more iconic pieces with prices from $20 to $1,000’s. You can still find many of the items today in your grandmothers’ kitchen, flea markets or garage sales. Showing good design doesn’t need to be expensive.

Salon 94, located on the first floor of the owner’s house, had a Gaetano Pesce exhibit. We always enjoy his colorful and inventive utilitarian objects. A Pesce planter is pictured.

We also visited the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum. They had a small exhibit on the work of Marguerita Mergentime (1894-1941), an influential textile designer who wanted bold dashing colors and inventive patterns on her table, so, self-taught, she designed the linens herself. Her designs were manufactured by more than 15 companies and sold at major department stores including Macy’s, Gimbels and Lord & Taylor. She also designed the Grand Lounge carpet and ladies room wall covering fabric at Radio City Music Hall.

Everything we visited referred to the objects on display as “design.” As the word “design” becomes more common, don’t be intimidated. It now covers “decorative arts” and “antiques” and isn’t always thousands of dollars.

On the Road – Houston

Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, yet you don’t feel the congestion and hurried attitude you sense in other large cities. We were amazed at how nice and helpful everyone was, and how they went out of their way to make our day better. Houston is home to NASA, great museums and delicious food options.

We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). They are in the process of a $450 million expansion to house their collection of 20th and 21st century paintings and design. It won’t be ready until 2020. In the meantime, you can see some of their design collections in special exhibits, as well as mixed in with the paintings. Thursdays are free admission.

The MFAH includes many small buildings. We went to three of them that each featured the work of a single artist: The (Mark) Rothko Chapel, the Cy Twombly Gallery and the Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall. All are noteworthy if you have an interest in modern art.

In the exclusive River Oaks residential area of Houston are two house museums, the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and the Rienzi. Bayou Bend is devoted to American furniture, ceramics and silver, and the Rienzi to European furnishings. Bayou Bend was the home of Ima Hogg. Her father, James Hogg, was the governor of Texas, but left politics and went into law in his 40s when he became a widower, left to raise Ima and her three brothers. James Hogg was one of the early investors in the Texas oil boom in 1901. He was not a rich man when he died in 1906, but his plantation would eventually produce oil that made Ima and her brothers wealthy.

Ms. Hogg had a passion for Texas and America. She spent much of her lifetime acquiring the best American paintings and furnishings. They are now displayed in period rooms throughout her house. To see the house, take the free tour with a docent; they are incredibly knowledgeable.

The Rienzi is about two miles from Bayou Bend. Formerly the home of philanthropists Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III, Rienzi was designed by prominent Houston architect John Staub in 1952. Opened to the public in 1999, Rienzi houses a substantial collection of European decorative arts, paintings, furnishings, porcelain, and miniatures. Visits to the Rienzi and its art collection are by docent-led tour only.

No visit to Houston is complete without visiting the Beer Can House. In the 1980s, after he retired, John Milkovisch woke up one day and decided to create beer can chimes. Each day, he added to the project and – 50,000 beer cans later – the entire outside of the house and fences were covered. The cans serve a functional purpose as well, providing siding and removing the need to paint.

We didn’t have time to go to NASA, visit the highly recommended museum of Funerary History, or the Antiques Center of Texas, but if you have time you should definitely add them to your list.

On the Road – Athens

Athens, Greece. Great sights, great food and interesting antiquing. Travelers hint: Hotel and restaurant prices are low in Athens and two to three times more in the Greek islands.

First the sights! You can see the Acropolis on its hill from around the city. Take the walk up to it and enjoy the souvenirs and stop for a beverage in a café. My favorite – fresh squeezed lemon juice. Yes, the water is okay in Athens. The architectural feat of the Parthenon is still amazing. It was designed to look perfect from a distance by tricking the eye with different column spacing and changing column widths. Don’t miss the Parthenon museum at the hill’s base. There is also a small jewelry museum nearby featuring the work of Ilias Lalaounis (1920-2013), an important Greek jeweler with an impressive body of work. The onsite store sells some of his work and can also make other pieces. History is everywhere, so you can take your time exploring the many other architectural sites.

Second, the food! Athinas Street is the main market (agora in Greek) street in Athens. You can buy fresh meat, fish and produce. Stop at a small restaurant that sells meses, small-portion Greek appetizers. As you walk through the streets, you may see the 150-year-old underground restaurants that used to cater exclusively to men. Now open to all, they still have the same historic menus. You can take a class on how to make a great spinach pie or other Greek delicacies. Sample bread rings (koulouri in Greece) that more than likely were made at the 24-hour Koulouri Bread factory and delivered to street vendors by motorcycle every hour.

Finally, the antiques! The antiques market is on the weekend and centered around Avissynias Square. We took the metro to the Monastiraki stop and walked to the square. If you go that way, don’t miss the archaeological ruins in the station. Don’t spend your time in the square. Prices are higher. Take the side streets surrounding the square. Prices are better – and bring your negotiating skills. Walk away and you will get a better price! You will find books, posters, toys, magazine pages, clothes, rugs, European, Greek and Turkish antiques, beads, linens, watches, dolls and so much more.

We also found dealers in the Psiri neighborhood. This is a typical Greek neighborhood and not touristy. We stopped in a shop, “Follow the Mid-Century Style” where prices were fair. They had vintage Olivetti typewriters in almost any color for around $109, cameras, razors, advertising, furniture and more. They were repairing items in the basement.

On the Road – Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg is a famous city in Virginia founded in 1632 as Middle Plantation, a settlement between two rivers. It was renamed Williamsburg in 1699 in honor of King William III of England. Its historic district, known as Colonial Williamsburg, has been restored as a living-history museum and is a popular tourist attraction. But it is also a little-publicized example of the challenges in recreating the past.

In 1926, colonial-era remains of the town were studied by experts and a restoration project began. Copies of original houses, even the Governors Palace, were built, furnished and landscaped to look like they did in the 18th century. In 1981 after new archeological study and research, the buildings and contents were changed. They added modern improvements like bathrooms and air conditioning. They also added information and structures that related to the average families and slaves who lived and worked in Williamsburg in the 1700s. Visitors can step back in time and imagine life then, especially when it is very hot.

Before the 1980s, the walls of the Governor’s Palace were a dark walnut color that had been copied from a small piece of wood found in the original early digs. Today’s visitors are awed by the change, the display of a circle of 60 muskets or swords arranged in formations on the cream-colored walls. The arms displays are inspired by existing English ones from the 1700s, and we now know that the arms were at the ready to be used in times of danger. The brocades, oriental rugs and other opulent decorations were replaced by checked slipcovers on chairs and oilcloth on floors. One bedroom was painted bright yellow; another had purple and cream stripes. The hall in one of the houses in town was given bright turquoise wallpaper. And the landscaping was left like the 1920s, although new studies have shown the original was simpler, with no mazes.

But visitors can buy authentic ceramics, glass, pewter, ironwork, sewing tools and other household goods that are made today almost exactly like the originals. Creamware dishes like those used in past centuries were on display. The first creamware was a breakfast set given by English potter Josiah Wedgwood to Queen Charlotte in the late 1700s. She allowed him to call it “Queen’s Ware” (a successful advertising idea). Like many of the antique originals in Colonial Williamsburg, the reproductions are made in England and the details are individually cut and shaped by hand.

China sets for sale include pieces in the Duke of Gloucester pattern. It is decorated with fruit and insects within a rim of green enamel and gold flocking and 22-karat gold trim. It is a faithful reproduction of a 1770 set owned by William Henry, Duke of Gloucester.

A very popular reproduction is Delftware, blue and white tin-glazed pottery from the Netherlands that was used from 1640 to 1740 in Europe. Orient-inspired decoration was popular for Delft until the early 1700s, and then scenic designs were favored. Early Delft was very soft and chipped easily. Almost all blue and white ceramics called Delft today are porcelain with painted or transferred designs that resemble the originals.

Metal and glass reproductions sold in Colonial Williamsburg are usually made the old-fashioned way, sometimes in workshops where you can watch. And pewter buttons are sold that are made today from old molds. Gallipots are small urn-shaped pots made from glazed earthenware or metal that were used by pharmacists to hold medicines or ointments. Many are sold in Williamsburg shops as small, inexpensive souvenirs. And glass bottles and bowls are blown in exhibitions, so some of the glass for sale is made in an authentic 1700’s manner. Your souvenirs can be both memorable and useful.