The Aberfoyle Antique Market

A few weeks ago I attended the Aberfoyle Antique Market for one of their twice annual Saturday Special Shows. A smaller version of this outdoor market takes place every Sunday from late April until late October. Aberfoyle is located just outside of Guelph Ontario (an easy drive from Toronto). I hadn’t visited in many years, and I was really impressed by how this market had grown and improved since my last visit.

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One thing I liked right away when we started walking around Aberfoyle was how the grounds were more interesting and rambling than I expected. There were rows of booths in a field, but there were also buildings, curved pathways, and small groves of trees. Many of the sellers who set up on Sunday have permanent booths in buildings so it’s a nice mix of outdoor and indoor browsing. The food area as well has been improved with a restaurant, a few fast food carts, and a lovely seating area with comfortable patio sets and umbrellas. Unlike some outdoor shows which tire you out and offer scant comfort, Aberfoyle had plenty of shady and easy spots to sit down. We had to park in a distant field and the show even provided a shuttle bus to our car.

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We arrived in the late morning and the market was really crowded. Buyers had arrived at opening and were already walking around with purchases. There was a really good mix of people with all ages represented. Young families, retired couples, kids looking to furnish their first apartments – everyone was there. The weather held out and was fairly sunny until the mid afternoon when there was a touch of rain. It never became worse than damp but it drove half the crowd away by 3pm and we noticed a few dealers starting to pack up early. We stayed right until closing at 4pm.

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So what did we find at Aberfoyle? Pretty much everything that fits the category of general antique or collectible. Overall the stock appealed to a wide variety of taste (and budgets). There were also specialty dealers with collections of advertising, early pottery, tins and kitchen ware. There were a few Canadiana dealers with early smalls, textiles and furniture. Architectural objects like trim, reclaimed wood and metal gates were also available, and at reduced prices than we’re used to seeing in Toronto. I didn’t find too many newly reproduced pieces. In general the quality of stock across the board was good.

img_9590img_9599img_9597img_9638We left Aberfoyle with a few bags of treasures and two decorative metal doors for my parent’s garden. I’m happy with my purchases and I have a feeling I could easily buy something every time I visit. Aberfoyle was a great way to spend a day, in a beautiful venue, with a lot of interesting items to discover. It’s a great show that rewards all levels of antique and vintage hunters. I will definitely try to visit again for the smaller Sunday market during the summer, and the next special show this fall.

The Bowmanville Antiques and Folk Art Show

Spring has finally sprung! Spring brings Easter and for those of us who love Canadian antiques, Easter also brings the Bowmanville Antiques and Folk Art Show. Bowmanville is considered a top destination for early Canadian antiques. It’s a vetted show, meaning that all items for sale are checked for authenticity before the doors open. You can be sure you are seeing premiere Canadian country furniture, pottery, textiles and folk art at Bowmanville.

The Bowmanville show has been held on Easter weekend (Friday night and Saturday) for many years in Bowmanville, Ontario (a short drive from Toronto). My parents used to attend as dealers and even as a teenager I knew Bowmanville was special. People would line up to get in right at 6pm on Friday. When the doors opened the hall would suddenly be charged with voices and movement as collectors shot from booth to booth – sometimes making purchases in minutes.

This year we arrived ten minutes after doors opened but yes, people had still lined up, and when we entered the room was crowded and noisy. The crowd was mostly older, probably long time collectors, but I was encouraged to see a few younger faces as well. Bowmanville is a show that serious collectors who love this type of antique wait all year to attend. The dealers are top quality and they bring out their best.

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This year the show also featured a selection of (not for sale) antique Canadian trade signs, displayed in the entrance hallway near the washrooms and doors. It was a great use of the space, and a welcome addition. People often talk about educating buyers and I would love to see all the shows embrace more exhibition and guest speakers.

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We spent the first hour hustling from booth to booth, saying hello to friends (many of the dealers regularly post their stock on Collectivator), and seeing what we might be able to take home. The crowd made photography a bit difficult, but dealer Adrian Tinline kindly let me copy some of his pics taken right before the show started. These pics are from the popular Canadiana Facebook page, a great hub for Canadian antique enthusiasts. As you can see, the booths at Bowmanville looked amazing. The huge effort the dealers put into showcasing their stock is always a treat in itself.

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As with every year I’ve attended Bowmanville, there were a few missed buys. A few years ago it was a tobacco cutter. This year it was a small blanket box. In both cases we hesitated and walked away, and both times the item sold by the time we reconsidered. Let this be a lesson – don’t hesitate if you know you want something! This year we were able to quickly pull the trigger on a folky parrot shelf from Wendy Hamilton Antiques and a lovely green tramp art mirror from Croydon House. Our dining room has a “tropical” theme, with antique furniture and folk art mixed in. The shelf obviously fits and looks great on the yellow walls. I may use it to hold a selection of my vintage tiki mugs. The mirror is still looking for the perfect spot but this beautiful small object will compliment any room.

 

The Bowmanville show is expertly run and from what I saw there were healthy sales this year. Mostly smalls, as is the general trend, but some outstanding large pieces of farm country furniture were marked “Sold” in the first hour. I encourage anyone to attend Bowmanville, even if it’s just to see some museum worthy examples of our material heritage. Many items are priced reasonably, especially for the quality. You will find beautiful, interesting and rare objects in every booth, and that makes Bowmanville an exciting destination for any antique and folk art enthusiast.

Midsummer Antique and Vintage Show

It’s hard to believe we’re already almost through August, but before summer ends I wanted to offer some thoughts and coverage of the Midsummer Antique and Vintage Show in Orillia, Ontario. The show was on July 26th – one day only – and it was the fist annual show in this location from Gadsden promotions. From what I saw, this is a show that should be back for years to come. I certainly enjoyed my walk around the grounds.

The Midsummer Antique Show in Orillia

Orillia Ontario is a few hours north of Toronto and the drive is pretty easy (and scenic) along the highways. The show was at the Orillia Fairgrounds, and we pulled up to the show field at around 11:00am.  There was tonnes of field parking, rows of outdoor booths, an open area for the food trucks, and a building with more dealers, a snack bar, and washrooms. All in all, the show was a nice manageable size with around 70 dealers. There weren’t many places to sit, but the building and tents did offer a reprieve from the sun. There was a lot of space between aisles and sections so you could move at your own pace.

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When we arrived in the late morning there was a busy feel to the place. Lots of people walking the aisles and having those intense, quiet conversations about potential purchases. I can’t walk onto a field show without getting flashbacks from my childhood. I remember driving out with my parents while the sun was still down, arriving at a field still damp with dew, setting up, and starting a long and often very hot day. I wasn’t buying or selling in those days, of course, but I know from experience that these shows are hard work. It’s always gratifying to see crowds and know the sellers have a good chance at sales.

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As far as stock was concerned, the Orillia show had a fair selection of large furniture, primitives and art, with more selection in vintage collectibles, antique smalls, and textiles. The quality was solid across all stock types. It was a good mix for the general antique or vintage enthusiast. Some dealers were very specialized so you could find, say, a booth full of pressed glass or postcards, but most dealers had mixed offerings in their particular style. If you were looking for something to catch your eye, you could probably find it on that field.

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Hello handsome!

So after all that, did I find something to buy? You bet! I actually found too much to buy. I have a soft spot for vintage McCoy planters and I found multiple dealers with McCoy I just had to bring home. There were also a few antique smalls (including a set of lawn bowling bowls for Anson), but our most exciting purchase was a metal table with four chairs. We have a small backyard so we can’t do large outdoor furniture. We both really liked the size and the style of the set on first look. I was immediately drawn to curved legs, and I liked that the metal would be easy to maintain and store over the winter. All in all, I think it’s quite a charming little set and I’m happy we pulled the trigger on a more expensive purchase. I’m also very happy that the show organizers provided someone to move the table and load it into our Nissan Versa. Very appreciated help!

Our new backyard set! Love those curved legs and pedestal :)

Our new backyard set!

The Midsummer show was a success for me as a buyer, and for me as a Canadian looking to spend a precious summer day outside. You can’t beat looking at interesting items under sunny skies (bring a hat though, that sun is hot). I hope we can make the trip up to Orillia next year. This is a great addition to the summer show calendar.

The Old Book and Paper Show

On Sunday, March 29th I had the pleasure of attending The Old Book & Paper Show. Billed as Toronto’s biggest one day “vintage print-fest”, this show is dedicated exclusively to books, postcards, posters, photographs and all types of old ephemera. It takes place twice a year (March and November) in an interesting part of the city along St. Clair west.

Artscape Wychwood Barns

The show is set up in a long hallway in the Wychwood Barns building (originally a streetcar repair barn from the 1910s). Tall ceilings and bright windows flood the space with light. We arrived about a half hour after the show opened at 10am, and the room was packed. If there is something in particular you are looking for, you should get there early. One seller told me the serious collectors wait outside to enter as soon as the doors open. If you’re more of a curious looky-loo, you might find it easier to browse a little later when the crowd dies down.

Interior Artscape Wychwood Barns

When we first entered I didn’t think it would take too long to see all the booths but we ended up staying for almost three hours. What I didn’t realize was just how many individual items were crammed into every square inch of space! Vintage advertisements, postcards and magazines filled file boxes. These were often organized by topic but once you started it was easy to keep flipping through. Then there were the art prints and large format photographs ready for framing. Historical images of Toronto, Canada and the world. Postcards of tropical paradises. Vintage fashion magazines and pulp fiction novels. Rare and valuable first edition books alongside travel brochures, sports cards and comics. The show is very well named because literally everything old and paper was represented.

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Vintage paper ephemera

Boxes of vintage postcards

Antique and vintage photographs

As you may expect in a professional show like this, the dealers had their specialties and knew their stock. If you had a specific item you were looking for they could always help. If you were just interested in a topic or time period they could also steer you in the right direction. Most were also willing to cut a price on multiple purchases, and I found the prices on the whole quite reasonable.

A booth at the show
Being the nerd that I am, I made a bee line to some boxes of mid century “Amazing Stories” and sci-fi pulp. I was just as interested in these books for their kitchy covers as for the stories. $5 bought me a paperback with a title story called “The Girl Who Hated Air”. Not a very promising read, but I think the astronaut cover is worth the money. I also spent time at the postcard sellers finding some more cheerful Alfred Mainzer cat postcards.

Vintage sci-fi pulp

Booth with magazines

Anson found a few sets of small black and white photos of Niagara Falls and Stanley Park in Vancouver. These little sets were sold to tourists in the 1940s and 1950s as additional photos to use in home albums. They were sort of the precursor to the postcard books you can buy today, but higher quality. The photos are crisp and clear and often well composed. They are quite charming and historical mementos of Canada’s natural beauty.

Vintage tourist photos of Stanley Park

Our purchses from the show

In the end we had a bag full of curiosities, books, photographs and postcards. I doubt we spent over $100 but we found some great little gems that will find a place in our home. I saw many serious collectors at the show, but not too many younger casual buyers. This is a shame. Gift stores sell reproduction images that cash in on the vintage charm of old ads, or the artistic appeal of black and white photography. Here was a place to buy all of that, and more, in an authentic form. There was also a great selection of books on specific and hard to find topics in art, music and history. From high brow to low brow, and all the prices between the two, there was truly something for everyone. I look forward to visiting the show again in the fall.

The Nashville Flea Market

IMG_4841Howdy y’all! I’m in Nashville, Tennessee! We came to town for a wedding and a conference, and with a week in-between the two events we decided to rent a place and live like the locals. It’s been great! The weather is hot, the people are friendly, and the boots are cowboy. As part of my work I’ve been checking out the local antique and vintage scene. I thought I’d share my experiences this week as I tour Music City, USA.

My first adventure was at the HUGE Nashville Flea Market. Held at the Tennessee state fairgrounds, this sale has been voted best flea market in the state, and considered one of the top ten in the Southern US. I can believe it. The market is usually held on the fourth Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of each month, although it sometimes shifts for holidays. You can find all the dates and information on the Fairgrounds website.

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I saw an ad for the flea market in a tourist map and, having a Sunday free, my husband and I thought we might check it out for a few hours. Oh silly Canadians. This is not a place you casually “pop into” for a quick look. This is building after building after shed after outdoor aisle full of stuff. You could go every day of the weekend and not see everything. The market, after all, boasts over 1,200 sellers!

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Most of the antique and vintage booths were outside, which coincidentally was SCORCHING HOT and reminded me of last year’s trip to Antique World. There’s something about the hottest day of the summer that makes me want to walk around for hours I guess. Although we didn’t realize it until the end, the highest concentration of antique and vintage dealers were in an outdoor section marked “Antique Alley” , as well as the nearby “sheds” (which are actually repurposed animal stalls).

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One thing I find interesting is seeing how the general selection of antiques changes to reflect the history of each place I visit. At the flea market I noticed a lot of advertising for local Nashville businesses and classic US brands. Vintage furniture was more abundant than I’ve seen in Canada. There were antique toys, cowboy hats and boots, civil war memorabilia, and collectibles relating to country music. I didn’t see a lot of paper artwork or antique clothing but I did see a few sellers of cow hide. One seller explained that it’s very difficult to find antique and vintage textiles from the area, as the heat and humidity often damages these pieces over time.

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There was a lot of inexpensive vintage costume jewellery. Perfect for crafty types to restore or reuse!

Of course, the antiques and vintage were just part of the flea market. There were also buildings (sweet, air conditioned buildings!) with new “as seen on TV” type products, 1980s toys, home decor, and just plain junk. There were definitely trends in the reproductions for sale – lots of rusty licence plates, American flags and hand painted “RC Cola” tin signs. And classic flea market stuff? Oh my. If you wanted cheap fashion accessories, jumbo packs of socks or slightly expired toiletries than this was the jackpot.

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One giant box was nothing but gum in weird, probably discontinued flavours. I was strangely tempted.

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If you decide to visit the Nashville flea market, I have a few words of advice. Number one, wear comfortable shoes. Most of the “sheds” and outdoor spaces are on uneven dirt. You will probably stumble. Also, there isn’t a lot of seating. Food options are a few trucks and one restaurant that sells fried foods at decent prices, and cold beer to boot. If it’s summer, wear a hat and carry water. Parking costs $5 and there is no admission charge.

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One of the “sheds”. There were 4 or 5 of them filled with booths.

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In the end we did buy a few small items to take home, but I will cover them in a bit more detail later. I’m very happy to have had the Nashville flea market experience, and I would definitely recommend it. It was a great introduction to what I hope the area has to offer!

The Leslieville Flea

Last Sunday was a lovely early fall day – perfect for shunning indoor chores and going for a stroll. We decided to check out a small vintage show near where we live – the Leslieville Flea. Leslieville is a hip neighbourhood along Queen street in Toronto, full of funky businesses and some of our favourite restaurants. The Leslieville Flea is open 10am – 4pm, on the 3rd Sunday of every month from June to October.

The Leslieville Flea

The Leslieville Flea operates behind The Duke.

I was curious about “the flea” (not sure if that’s the official nickname but it sounds cool) because it represents a growing movement in the whole antiques industry – what I call the melting pot vintage space. In these usually urban spaces the emphasis is on a style rather than traditional definitions of antiques or vintage. It’s a place where mass produced mid century design is sold alongside rustic antiques, and salvaged items can be mixed with brand new artisan crafts. There are clothing dealers and nostalgia items. There is glorious glorious kitsch. It’s a place I think many new collectors feel comfortable in because it’s reasonably priced ($15 – $50 for many items) and the sellers are friendly. It is in variety similar to a normal flea market but taken up many notches on the “ratio of stuff I actually want to buy” scale. You will probably not find early painted 19th century furniture, but you also won’t see boxes of random tupperware lids.

We had a great time touring the three rows of booths and looking at the stock.  Although not a large show, we saw everything from classic Canadiana like antique snowshoes, to 1980s toys, to large pieces of furniture like vintage Canada Post mail sorters (displayed as a possible wine rack). You could spend a lot of money on high quality collectibles or a little money on something easy to carry home. Some of it felt like it had a “hipster markup” on the price, but most things were very reasonable. The dealers were happy to tell you about the items, and honest enough to admit when they didn’t know something. Most importantly, we found a bunch of stuff to buy! The trip was a complete success and I would gladly visit again.

The dealers were also very social media savvy and encouraged me to take photographs, so here be a bunch of pictures!

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Anson is about to grab that vintage fan from Coco & Bear. It still works! I love how the design makes absolutely no attempt to stop wayward fingers from whirling blades.

Bakelite

A gorgeous selection of Bakelite from Lucky Patina. They also sell vintage brass jewelry.

Chinese Checkers Board

Anson finds a 1950s Chinese Checkers board. Is this the start of a new collection?

Vintage Pennants

Vintage felt pennants from Bragg & Bee. I had to buy that one on top.

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Put a bird on it. A bowlful of cute and kitschy buttons!

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A good selection of vintage clothes for the vintage clothes horse (or human) from MaPtiteChouette

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I’m not sure what that wheel does, but it looks exciting.

Custom signs

Signs made out of reclaimed lumber and licence plates available from Fair Judy’s.

Terrariums

Beautiful terrariums from crown flora studio

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With all my purchases and ready to head home.

Special “not so fast!” coda: We bought a few things I didn’t photograph until later:

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A bit of beach in a bottle. Blue tinted Crown jars for a friend.

Kitschy mushroom needlepoint

My kitschy toadstool needlepoint. The frame is good, and the mushrooms are very mushroomy. A small piece to inject some cozy into a corner of the house.

Arcade marquees

Plexiglass Marquees from old “Growl” and “Circus Charlie” arcade machines. Cool things to put on a wall and way easier to collect and display than the actual machines.

Growl Marquee

I picked out this Growl marquee based purely on the image. The lions and text are great. Apparently the game’s plot is about a man saving wild animals from evil poachers. A very special added bonus is that it looks like the hero isn’t wearing pants.

Until next time, Leslieville!