The Miami National Antiques Show may be remembered best for me as the time I began to notice and learn about Sheffield plate. This is thanks to a Florida dealer with a British accent named John Forster. It wasn’t because of Forster exactly that I noticed a piece of Sheffield plate at the show, but it was he who gave me enough information in a brief amount of time that made me confident enough that I knew what I was buying. That’s what an antique dealer should be able to do.
I don’t think I had run into Forster previously at shows, but he seems to be a regular and features primarily barometers. Another dealer I spoke with knew him as someone who could repair any barometer, including the one in their booth. Before we made it to Forster’s booth, another had referred him as a source of information on Sheffield plate.
The presence of this kind of dealers can make a show for someone interested in learning as well as shopping. In a business where knowledge is money, finding dealers interested in informed customers can be refreshing. It was a small book on Sheffield plate we came into Forester’s booth for, the cost of which was refunded with the purchase of a pair of wine coasters.
Sheffield plate isn’t for everyone, but there did seem to be something to peak most anyone’s interest at the Miami National Antiques Show. As one dealer explained, there are two major shows this time of year in Miami, and this one has traditionally been a buy-and-sell for dealers ahead of the bigger (800 dealers) Original Miami Beach Antiques Show, February 3-7. Another dealer disagreed with that assessment, however.
In any case, there was a wide array of merchandise including paintings, clocks, Chinese and Japanese art and decorative items, vintage clothing, jewelry, glassware and even a vintage movie projector and taxidermied rhinoceros (with replacement tusks).
One item we noticed was a figure of “Rising Day” by Adolph Alexander Weinman. Rising day and its companion, Descending Night were originally designed as fountain figures fort he 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Following the exhibition, Weinman reproduced both works in two sizes, one measuring approximately 24 inches tall and the other approximately 57 inches. Dealer Brian Sullivan also had the accompanying sculpture but hadn’t brought it to the show because of “an engaged buyer.”
Elinor Gordon, the legendary Chinese export porcelain dealer, and scholar, had passed away more than one and half years ago, but items with her labels live on. A famous British Chinese export porcelain dealer told me that dealers usually take off other dealers’ label upon the transaction, except those of Elinor Gordon, which provides provenance such that no dealer want to extinguish. David Anthony, from MA, brought two pieces of Chinese export porcelain, made especially for the American market, with the label of Elinor Gordon. In fact, the items were illustrated in her book – Collecting Chinese Export porcelain. The plate and sugar bowl were part of the set made for Mehhitable Adams (1760-1824), a member of the distinguished Braintree, MA family. The cipher “MA” is painted in gilt. The hearts are rendered in rough de fer with green and blue enamel colors and gilt. The borders, in blue enamel and gilt stars clearly showed the classical period style. In the book, Elinor admitted that she purchased from a direct descendant of the family. Thanks to the book, now the future owner can enjoy the pieces without too much homework.
William Union had a booth full of paintings including one labeled as being painted by William Mills, which may have been Wilfrid T. Mills (1912-1988), of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. The painting was adorable, but the signature was unclear, and the painting was labeled as being completed in 1925, at which time Mills would have been only 13. In Union’s defense, this painting was owned and had been labeled by another dealer. Still, it goes back to the theme of being ready to inform fully a potential buyer about an object.
Christopher English’s booth is hard to miss. In the past, they have brought taxidermied squirrels (playing baseball!) to the Pier Antiques Show in New York. That was hard to outdo, but this time, they decided to bring something bigger – rhinoceros. Stephen, the co-owner, said that such gigantic animals were found in Africa or Asia. This particular one was hunted and made into taxidermy about 50 years ago. Wheels have been installed at the bottom of each foot so that it can also be easily moved around the house. The asking price was$28,000.