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A Step Back In Time At 45th Annual Tolland Antiques Show

The Tolland Antiques Show has been the main fundraiser for the Tolland Historical Society for the last 45 years, drawing dealers and collectors from across the East Coast.

Even in the face of at the middle school, the Tolland Historical Society said the show must go on.  That show was the annual antiques show that the society has been orchestrating for the last 45 years, attracting dealers and collectors throughout the eastern seaboard with its museum-quality items.

A benefit for the society, the show featured 18th and 19th century Americana including furniture, folk art, paintings, rugs, red ware and early iron.

"Our specialty is anything you might find in 18th and 19th century colonial home," said Douglas, of Steven & Douglas. “China, glass and children's furniture.” The team, of Massachusetts, have been attending the show for the last five years. 

They used to come to buy, according to Douglas. Once they started attending as dealers, they found they did very well.

The biggest item they sold Sunday was a blue-green tape loom, what Douglas deemed one of their finest and most expensive pieces. "The lady who bought it has been looking at for a few years," he said. "She said if it was still here this year, she was going to buy it." Sunday was also her birthday.

Stephen & Douglas do almost 30 shows a year. "Our next show is in Tennessee, and we will shop along the way." They use to purchase items from house calls in the past, but now much of what they buy is at auction.

"When we go to Brimfield, MA, it's like poking through someone's attic," said Douglas.

He enjoys antiquing because it is fun and educational. "You're constantly learning new things," he said. “Like do not pick up a picture frame from the top—it’s not always secure.” More seriously, he said that over the last couple years, he's developed a passion for Native American things and has enjoyed learning about them.

Marvin and Barbara Eliot, of Pottles and Pannikins in Windsor, have been coming to Tolland Antiques Show for 10 to 12 years. "We sell implements for the hearth from the 17th to 19th century," said Barbara Eliot.

Her husband said they were dealers for many years, collecting mainly iron goods. "We got asked a lot of question about early iron," he said. "I couldn't answer them all, and I got tired of getting all those questions."

The couple decided to deal with something they did know something about, which led them to their current focus. "We got the name from 18th century terms," said Barbara Eliot. "The pottle is a two quart liquid measure."

Her husband said, "And a pannikin is a generic term for any hearth-side utensil. It's like how we use the term gizmo or whatchamicalit."

The couple used to do a lot of shows in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware until the market place decreased. "We fervently wait for the housing market to pick up," said Marvin Eliot.

Anyway, turning 80 in a month, he said, "It's time I slow down a little bit."

Joseph Martin, of Vermont, has been dealing at the Tolland Antiques Shows for more than 10 years. “It’s just a nice show,” he said. “I go to all the big shows, but this is one of the best. If I had to give up all but one, this the last show I’d ever go to.”

Martin’s specialty is folk art. “I love color—it’s my thing. I love every kind of animal,” he said.

Some of the things he had for sale included a civil war drum, animal weather vanes, a rug with a Dalmatian and an eagle he was selling for $11,000. “I’ve had two people who have come by who are interested in that,” he said of the latter.

Martin had high praise for Director Kathy Bach, saying she’s done a wonderful job, putting together an inexpensive show with high-quality items with nice people.

This is Bach's 18th year serving as Antiques Show Director"This is her passion—she is so good at this," said Tolland Historical Society Vice President Beverly Bellody.

Penny and Ron Dionne, of Willington, have been doing this antique show for 10 years.  “The historical society is supportive and offer a lot of extras along the way. It’s a good group to work with,” said Penny Dionne. ““We usually have a good show.” 

The Dionnes enjoy collecting and selling decorative items that have design value—including weathervanes, paintings and folk art. “We pick pieces we like personally. Something that makes a room more interesting,” she said

Harry, of Lebanon, has been a dealer at the show for 10 years, but was there on Sunday as a visitor. “I’ve spent the day visiting with my old friends,” he said.

Harry said he lives in an 18th century house filled with 18th century stuff. His advice for those looking to get into collecting was to simply pick any item—a friend collects stoneware inkbottles—and to start looking for other items like it.

“It doesn’t have to be expensive,” he said. “You have to learn about it. After a while you start being able to tell what is better than the next.”

In his perusing on Sunday, a chest caught his eye—unfortunately it was $32,000. “It was beyond my means,” he said.  Harry also spoke to how the economy was affecting this year’s show. “Some people did very well here today. I’d say it was 50-50.”

He said antiquing used to be a young person’s pastime back when he first started in the ‘70s.  “Now 70 percent of the people here have white hair,” he said. “The young collect mid-century modern, from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.”

David Kittredge, of Mansfield, was selling a fascinating jewelry cabinet made out of cigar boxes. “Tramp art is made of notched and cut up cigar boxes. Initially they thought it was made by tramps, but it has been refuted,” he said. “Making tramp art took too much time, and itinerants moved about too much.”

Kittredge, of Philip Liverant Antiques in Colchester, said tramp art was made in the late 1800s through 1930. “They used cigar boxes to make anything—as wide as your imagination,” he said. “Chests, fireplace mantels and a lot of picture frames.”

He said likes the show because of the people involved. “This is a business many of the sellers love. Most of us put our hearts and souls into it.”

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