- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The first Washington Antiques Show took place 53 years ago with proceeds going to the Thrift Shop Charities.

From a fundraising perspective, not much has changed over the years, but the types of antiques on display are always evolving, based on local interests and the antiques market itself.

The 53rd Washington Antiques Show runs Friday through Sunday at the Omni Shoreham Hotel Regency Ballroom in Northwest, with a sneak peak scheduled for tomorrow. Forty-five antiques dealers from the United States and Europe will be at the event, displaying their wares and helping educate people about antiques.

Expect to find period furnishings and decorative arts, vintage jewelry, porcelains, ceramics, silver and architectural garden accents.

Some prices might shock the casual consumer, but Helen Burnett, a volunteer and publicist with the show, says the material comes in all shapes, sizes and price ranges.

“The show is good for collectors of any level,” she says. “Last year, I found a beautiful red-and-white porcelain plate for $42.”

Customers might learn something even if they walk away empty-handed.

The annual show catalog features scholarly articles to illustrate the show’s theme. This year’s theme is “Inspirations From the Garden,” and the event will honor the memory of Lady Bird Johnson.

“She did so much to improve our natural space around Washington,” Ms. Burnett says.

This year marks a new feature for the event — appraisals in the spirit of PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow.” The appraisals, which will cost $10 per item, will be offered from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday.

“They [not only] can have their antiques … appraised, but learn what they are,” Ms. Burnett says.

The show remains the major fundraiser for Thrift Shop Charities, which helps women and children in need. Last year’s event raised nearly $250,000, and the show’s total tally for the cause comes to more than $6 million, Ms. Burnett says.

Landscape designer Chip Callaway, owner of a garden restoration and design firm in Greensboro, N.C., will be the featured speaker Friday. Mr. Callaway has helped restore more than 30 18th- and 19th-century homes on the East Coast as well as some in England. His lecture will include before-and-after samples of his garden restorations.

Barry Weber, owner of Edith Weber Antique Jewelry in New York, calls the show an “opportunity to see an international gathering of top-notch dealers.”

It’s also a chance to see the changing face of the antiques market.

“There’s an ebb and flow to the antiques trade,” says Mr. Weber, who has been exhibiting at the show for nearly 30 years. “You take pause when you’re showing something from 1950 and realize it’s the middle of the last century.”

Though the term antiques generally refers to items at least 100 years old, the public at large has a looser definition.

“In the mind of the public, a piece doesn’t have to be 100 years old to be a collectible. It merely has to resonate with them as something from the past,” Mr. Weber says.

In fact, items from the mid-1950s are in demand, he adds.

He says the exchanges between buyer and seller help him better understand the market.

“Dealers are constantly re-evaluating our position as arbiters of taste and value,” he says.

Interest in furniture from Virginia and Maryland typically is high, but other items also catch the ticket buyers’ eyes.

“I think D.C., as a region, is a very sophisticated market,” Mr. Weber says. “They’re exposed to some of the greatest museums in the world. There’s a demand for sophisticated material.”

Today’s collectors also desire design flexibility, says Sara Davis, a former show chairwoman who has worked with the event for 16 years.

“Some dealers mix very modern pieces with their antiques to accommodate people who want that particular look,” Ms. Davis says. “In the past, they wanted to have houses that reflected a certain period. Now they mix and match.”

Another change in recent years involved folk art.

“Several years ago, everybody said folk art doesn’t sell in Washington,” she says.

That’s no longer true.

This year’s show will feature a dealer who works specifically in folk art.

Other in-demand items include weather vanes and antique toys, the latter serving as an entry point for younger antiques collectors.

Sometimes collectors, particularly younger ones, don’t have the time to become truly knowledgeable about antiques, Ms. Davis says. They might rely on a home decorator or consultant to help guide their purchases.

Donald Cresswell, co-owner of the Philadelphia Print Shop, says the annual show does more than offer the District a chance to turn back the calendar.

“It draws not just collectors, but museum curators and special-collection librarians from quite a distance,” says Mr. Cresswell, who has been showing his prints at the show for 15 years.

Such shows offer something all the research in the world can’t — a chance to get one’s hands on the antiques.

“It’s the difference between a museum and an antiques show. You can pick it up and turn it around,” he says of the merchandise.

Mr. Cresswell’s display this weekend will feature old maps covering local and international turf.

“Old maps offer a terrific insight into the way people in the past saw a section of the earth,” he says.

The maps don’t necessarily have to have a local connection, given the District’s transient population.

“Foreign-service people come in to the show. That’s when I can sell a map of Afghanistan,” he says.

When you go:

Location: The 53rd annual Washington Antiques Show will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert St. NW.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

Admission: A day ticket is $15, a run-of-the-show ticket is $25. Both tickets include a show catalog. Children 12 and younger are admitted free.

More information: www.washingtonantiques.org

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