Liberty Antiques Festival, Liberty, North Carolina
Commenting on what attracts customers to vendors at the Liberty Antiques Festival is always risky. What appears to be a key to sales success may be confined to a specific time and place. Chance and good luck also play a role in everyday living and selling antiques. Nevertheless, here are a few observations gleaned from a visit to the popular Liberty Antiques Festival held September 29 and 30 that may help move merchandise.
Steve Oakes of Dry Fork, Virginia, sold $900 worth of his rustiest, most damaged, and bullet-enhanced advertising to dealers at setup. Bullet holes in rusty metal petroliana signs increase desirability, said Oakes. To make his point, he pointed to a double-sided porcelain Quaker State oil sign on a stand for sale at $250. “If it doesn’t sell,” he said in all seriousness, “I’ll take it home and fire my shotgun at it and raise the price to $350.”
“That’s the best sign here,” said Pete Turner of P&P Treasures, Concord, North Carolina, about his 47" diameter Marathon Products sign from the 1920s. He was asking $6500 for it.
By late afternoon on the first day of the show, these two dealers—Cooper from Wilmington, North Carolina, and Rubley from Limington, Maine—had sold at least 40% of their stock. And the show still had another full day. Their wares were primitive, folky, country, and pristine—just the kind of furniture and accessories Liberty buyers love. Another major draw: their booths were colorful, carefully decorated, and inviting.
It was not surprising to find a red sold tag on this folk art shelf with a carved, painted, and applied Dalmatian. It came from John Cooper’s booth and was exactly what Liberty buyers desire—unusual, folky, colorful, country, and in great shape. Cooper is from Wilmington, North Carolina, and was asking $795 for the folky shelf.
“I wish you were here earlier,” lamented Linda Rubley of Limington, Maine. At 8 a.m., her booth was staged and filled with furniture, trunks, and accessories. And she was busy. This was only her second time at Liberty, and she has this crowd pegged. She estimated that she had sold 40% of her merchandise by midafternoon on the first day. She is holding a lidded feather basket ($95). On top of the pine farm table ($450) is a Paris Coaster with cast-iron wheels that sold. She was asking $400 for the wagon.
Over the years Berkley Blanks of Greensboro, North Carolina, has carefully observed his clientele. Women, he said, come into his booth and begin mouthing the words to songs playing on his colorful jukeboxes. There is no electrical power out on the field at Liberty, so Blanks brings a portable generator. “Other dealers love it that there is music on our aisle,” said Blanks. Women also ask him if his Wurlitzers play 45 rpm records. They often have a stash of old records from their adolescence hoping for new life in a jukebox. Men, on the other hand, ask if he will take $1000 off the price and deliver it to their door tomorrow. On every jukebox Blanks has for sale, selection A-1 is always an Elvis tune.
“I sell jukeboxes as fast as I can get them fixed,” said Berkley Blanks of Greensboro, North Carolina. On the left is a 1962 Wurlitzer Model 2610. “I sold nine of these this year,” said Blanks. This one was $2500. On the right is a 1956 Wurlitzer Model 1900 priced at $5000. Both look even better when their interior colored lights are on.
Co-manager Vito Sico makes this show fun for dealers, and he wants them to pass it on. Dealers willing to chat with shoppers and have fun always seem to do better. Liberty attracts a folky group of customers, ready not only to find an antique gem or bargain, but also to enjoy the day. The cool weather helped put everyone in a festive mood.
This semiannual show has become such an attraction that a few spinoff estate sales, yard sales, and flea markets have popped up around it. All were strategically located to lure visitors attending or leaving the festival.
But Liberty is hard to top. The show is great fun and stocked with antiques and collectibles; reproductions, crafts, and new material are verboten. Show managers Vito and Mary Ellen Sico and Janet Hill and their families organize the massive outdoor venue, recruit new dealers (there were 30 at the fall show), and police existing ones. Despite manager vigilance, reproductions were spotted in a few locations.
Each show brings 375-plus dealers to the fields of Liberty, North Carolina, and thousands of customers. As a result, said a gentleman who shared our lunch table, “You always buy something at Liberty.”
The next show at Liberty will be April 27 and 28, 2018. For more information, contact Janmar Promotions at (www.libertyantiquesfestival.com) or call (336) 622-3141.
Rob Rankin of Gastonia, North Carolina, a well-respected dealer of North Carolina pottery, brought plenty of pots to Liberty. The large face jug by contemporary Catawba Valley potter Joe Reinhardt was $400. The smaller one-handle buggy jug marked for W.H. Crisco (1857-1944) was $1200. And the small face jug by E.W. Reinhardt (1903-1978), also from the Catawba Valley of North Carolina, was $800.
Dinah and Bob Gordon of Woodshed Antiques, Mt. Dora, Florida, always have an attractive, inviting, and interesting booth. Here are a few of their jeweler’s anvils. Top, left to right, a steel single horn, $65; a single horn in black paint with red decoration, $135. Bottom, left to right, a single horn signed “A. Martin / 3 & 5 / Read St. Prov. R.I.,” $95; and a bronze single horn marked “Denmark 1890,” $125.
Joe Wood of The Wood’s Shop, Graham, North Carolina, repurposed old sewing machine drawers and cabinet tops into elegant, sturdy, and well-crafted storage boxes. Each box was $285.
Everything in Wayne Lockey’s booth was remnants from his large collection of Native American artifacts that sold at Leland Little Auctions in September and earlier this year. This is the last show for his High Pockets Antiques, McColl, South Carolina. These three rugs were created by Navajo weavers. The red, black, and white rug in the foreground was by Daisy Willie and priced at $1000. It sold later in the day. The very rough rug in the upper left was designed by trader John Bradford Moore (1855-1926) and crafted by local Navajo weavers. It was $475. With large tears and holes, the split-center late 19th-century Navajo rug in the upper right was $200. It also sold. The chunkey stone used in a Navajo hoop and stick game was $800.
Dave Getz of Gargoyle Collectibles had this circa 1900 collapsible sink from a Pullman railroad car in front of his booth. The metal label reads “The Adams & Westlake Co. / New York & Elkhart In.” Getz restored and repainted the blue and white sink, which he bought at a show in central Illinois. His asking price was $550.
Faith Van Noppen of Hillsborough, North Carolina, had a nice selection of oil paintings. This signed 26½" x 27" oil on canvas titled Farm House was done by C.D. Keen in 1930. The Keen painting was $165.
“This is the Holy Grail of Griswold,” said Chris Kendall of Wake Forest, North Carolina, better known as The Iron Man. It is a #13 cast-iron skillet with the slant logo, made between 1912 and 1924. The $2400 price reflects the scarcity of a skillet linked to superstition about the number 13. Kendall’s inventory must weigh a ton. His double booth was end-to-end Griswold and Lodge cast iron.
Quint Haley of Mayodan, North Carolina, featured this handmade fishing boat with a wooden chair for easy casting. The maker was Ed Williams of Mayodan. Haley had a price tag of $650 on the boat.
Originally published in the December 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest