Sat. and Sun., Oct. 29 and 30, 2011, at the Portland Metropolitan Exposition Center, 2060 N. Marine Dr., Portland, Ore.
Sat. and Sun., Nov. 5 and 6, 2011, at the Puyallup Fairgrounds ShowPlex, Puyallup Fair & Events Center, 110 Ninth Ave. SW, Puyallup, Wash.
What a world! When I first started poking around antique shops as a kid, looking for old books, I never would have imagined that, 40 years and considerably more pounds later, I’d be searching for dusty tomes by poking a sleek computer keyboard.
In fact, the Internet has revolutionized collecting: It offers limitless possibilities if you like to buy and sell online, but it can shake the foundation of your livelihood if you are a dealer with a traditional brick-and-mortar location and/or exhibit at shows. (At least, that’s what the dealers with the brick-and-mortar businesses tell me. Even so, most of them in fact do business online to some extent, if only to hook up with their regular sources and customers more conveniently.)
And the wonder of the Web is not just the ease of finding the things you collect (which will eventually surface on eBay if you wait long enough and search hard enough for it); it has actually changed the ECONOMY of collecting by making it simple to comparison-shop while making previously scarce items much easier to locate – and that, needless to say, impacts price.
That said, just as the Internet doesn’t necessarily make people smarter – and, I’m convinced, hinders the development in young people of social skills like polite, grammatically correct conversational and letter writing abilities – online collecting can never replace the tactile advantage of examining an item in person.
What’s more, a lot of great stuff is just never going to find its way onto the World Wide Web – ever – for three big reasons:
- It can be a pain in the butt to photograph and list an item online.
- There are fees involved, and they’re only getting steeper.
- A lot of old-school dealers enjoy the camaraderie of selling shoulder to shoulder with other exhibitors and like to have face time with the people they sell to.
When all is said and done, nothing – NOTHING – beats examining a collectible or finding a treasure in person.
For Northwest antiquers and collectors, there are no better venues than America’s Largest Antique & Collectibles Shows, organized by Palmer/Wirfs & Associates of Portland, Ore. Palmer/Wirfs has been putting on these shows for many years: in at the Puyallup Fair & Events Center (aka the Puyallup Fairgrounds) in Puyallup, Wash.; at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Vancouver, Wash.; and at the Portland Metropolitan Exposition Center in Portland, Ore. I wrote about a number of these shows for a certain Tacoma newspaper and look forward to doing so here, as it’s always a lot of fun to report on what some of the hundreds of exhibitors will be bringing.
I asked Christine Palmer, president of Palmer/Wirfs & Associates, about the upcoming Portland show:
AmeriCollector: How many exhibitors do you expect in Portland next month?
Chris Palmer: We’ll have 750 exhibitors who will fill 180,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space plus 300 booths outside. This is our largest show and is definitely the largest antique and collectible show west of the Mississippi. The only larger ones are in fields in Pennsylvania.
Chris: In addition to Washington and Oregon, dealers will be coming from Idaho, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Maryland, Arizona, Florida, Utah, Illinois and Montana, and the buyers from every state. We always have a contingent from Japan, who seem to buy different things every time they come. We watch though and have seen those customers negotiating for “atomic-era” collectibles from the mid-1950s, vintage clothing and pop culture items. Sorry, they’re not buying Victorian Americana.
AC: What kinds of items do your exhibitors usually bring?
Chris: Our strength is in our diversity. That’s the fun part of a good treasure hunt: not knowing if you’ll find architectural items, “smalls” (small items), advertising, matching sterling flatware, vintage clothing, furniture, vintage lighting, original prints, paintings, vintage toys from the 1880s to the 1970s … The show is not all vintage collectibles but we do have what is selling today – items that the 35- to 40-year-old may remember. We also see a lot of traditional antiques, such as Victorian décor, sewing items, stemware, glass and china, porcelain. We like to be all things to all people – at least, that’s how I shop.
AC: What are you yourself collecting these days?
Chris: I currently collect two kinds of items right now: Victorian umbrellas with mother of pearl- and gold-filled handles, and Nature’s Remedy store displays. But ask me in a year and I’ll be looking for something else. However, I find myself acquiring anything that is beautiful, cool and would fit into my home décor. I like to see my collections.
AC: What do really want people to know about your shows, and what advice would you offer show-goers?
Chris: We’re finding more people coming to shows and malls. The Web is a great place to make a quick purchase, but the hunt is pretty much gone if you do it that way. Today’s customers want to talk to the owner, find out all they can about an item’s history, where they got it, etc. And of course strike a deal. Striking a deal is something a newcomer may want to know how to ask about. It is insulting to ask the dealer to take one fourth of the price marked. However, they do price with a little “wiggle room,” so saying something like “What’s the best you can do?” or “Can you do any better?” will get you the best price while having fun doing it.
As always, the show offers evaluations and identifications by our crack team of qualified experts for $5 per object. We utilize five people, all members of the International Society of Appraisers (ISA), many of whom have worked on the “Antiques Roadshow.” We provide a verbal market evaluation, the price you would receive if you were to offer the item in a retail setting. In other words, a realistic value.
Images courtesy of Palmer/Wirfs & Associates
Links for more information and venue directions:
- Palmer/Wirfs & Associates: www.palmerwirfs.com
- Portland Metropolitan Exposition Center: www.expocenter.org
- Puyallup Fair & Events Center: www.thefair.com
- International Society of Appraisers: www.isa-appraisers.org
Fair disclosure: Palmer/Wirfs & Associates is an advertiser on AmeriCollector.com.