Report from the 44th Annual Murfreesboro, Tennessee Antiques Show

Murfreesboro is more than football games and walking horses. Every July, the world descends upon Rutherford County, Tennessee. It is too early for Middle Tennessee State University football, too late for basketball or baseball. The county fair won’t be for another few week. The third week in July, MTSU plays host to a wonderful Antiques Show and Sale.

This year, with the temperatures soaring into the upper nineties, and storms threatening, the upper level of the Murphy Center was packed with browsers and dealers. Even the presence of two teams of football players in various stages of deshabille, fresh from the practice field, would not deter these hearty souls from perusing the treasures to be found.

Vendors provided goods from all over the world. There was what has become the standard fare of Flow Blue and carnival glass. There was a large amount of furniture which had been restored, and no longer looked like true period pieces. Fortunately, there were more than a few unique pieces to make the trip worthwhile. 

Several dealers specialized in “smalls”: snuff boxes, miniatures of coral and ivory, sterling bits. Their displays were of course under glass, but the cases were readily opened and vendors eager to speak of their treasures.

One dealer had a display of what could be described as either unique or weird, depending on your point of view. Setting on an artfully tanned zebra skin was a wrought iron floor lamp holding an apple green carnival glass fish bowl. Some creative genius, or mad designer, thought it was a good idea to put together things no one had combined before, and a one of a kind collectible was born.

Ken Robertson of Paul Baron Company had a very interesting display. Mr. Robertson was sitting at a grinder, repairing some crystal. He had a cut lead crystal bowl that had been badly broken. He was grinding down the edges slightly, applying some polymer and making an invisible glass weld. Some of the pieces on his table had been badly broken and had to be almost repurposed, but they were still salvageable. Seeing the quality of his work, it was hard to discern what had been repaired and what was in perfect condition.

One of the highlights was a stop at Kronie’s booth. The owners of the Kentucky-based store were only too happy to show off their unusual stock, and to share the pieces’ provenances. One entire case was filled with ‘guy things’. Fishing reels, with cork spools and German silver handles vied for space with fishing lures and small tools. Bored-looking men who had been dragged kicking and screaming to the show by their companions brightened when passing this case.

Of course, the same booth had a substantial collection of museum-quality Meissen, including a very unusual red kitchen set in a display case all its own. A quick walk around the end of the table brought the browser to a large array of original lithographs.

Len Bartowiak brought cases of ivory, silver and semi-precious jewelry with him from Florida. The large corner display was filled with people most of the day, exclaiming on the details of the tiny curiosities spanning continents and centuries.

Regardless of the state of the economy, the annual Murfreesboro Antique Show shows no sign of slowing down. The free parking and very reasonable admission make it a great place for a sultry summer’s day.

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