Show Review: Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza 2011
It’s a beautiful November morning in Florida. The sky is bright and clear and the temperature has not risen above 70 degrees yet. The sounds of the antiquers is in the air with calls like “I’ll take twenty for that”, “is this an original”, or “got any comic books” coming from all directions. That can only mean one thing; it’s time for the annual Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza in Mt. Dora!
Cindy and I arrived for this year’s Extravaganza at our usual time of 10AM, when the outside vendor can begin selling. In previous years there have been lines of cars stretching down both sides of Highway 441 as buyers stream into the show but this year the road was completely empty. We almost drove past the entrance because we are so conditioned to the slow downs but we caught ourselves at the last minute and turned in. This seemed strange but the parking lot looked about as full as usual and we were directed to an area about half way down the left side of the field. Once we were parked and pulled together for the trek, we headed off in search of the nearest ticket booth which, like the highway, wasn’t crowded at all.
One thing that I have always considered detraction at the Mt. Dora show is the lay out of the field. The fact that it is located on the side of a hill with a considerable incline is unavoidable but the rows, on either side of a dividing road, never seem to be laid out evenly and there are often gaps or turns that make it very easy to miss things. With a show this size, that can be a problem since the average person can only cover so much ground. Also, having patrons enter in the middle as we did can lead to a lot of back tracking or oversight unless you get to the center road as quickly as possible and then hike to the top before you truly start your shopping.
About two weeks before this show, an antique vendor friend of mine in Jacksonville contacted the show promoters about getting a table was told it was sold out. While I would certainly say this year’s show appeared to have more vendors than I have seen recently, there were still empty areas it seems they could have put sellers in. Perhaps not everyone sets up on Friday for this but I would be surprised to find many vendors who don’t. I would certainly not have thought the show was sold out this year if I had not been told that it was.
My first stop was at the booth of a record dealer, which turned out to be one of the collectibles on the upswing at this show. There was no way I could avoid this booth when I saw what appeared to be a “butcher cover” for The Beatles’ album Yesterday and Today sticking out of the top of one of the boxes. Upon closer inspection, the album cover looked way to clean and crisp to be an original. I questioned the seller about this and he readily admitted it was a counterfeit but he still wanted $275 for it because it was sealed. He also had a picture disc of presumably the same album with the butcher picture on one side and the standard trunk cover on the other. This bootleg was clever but I had to pass on it for $75. As a collector, I have always considered unlicensed items a questionable investment because you can never tell how many of them were created or by how many different manufacturers. The rest of his inventory looked legitimate and reasonably priced but I did not see anything I needed for my collection.
Moving along, I perused the usual eclectic selection of vintage items including knives, guns, advertising materials, toys, buttons, and all manner of household goods. One woman had a wooden children’s ring toss game in the shape of a clown that she was ecstatic about finding and she displayed it proudly for a friend. Taxidermy animals were a little sparse this year with only a few deer and the odd other wild beast like a boar or turkey but I did spot the skull of what I was told was a chimpanzee. For $195, I had to pass on it and leave my theories of evolution un-pondered!
There were a number of vendors this year advertising sale prices and discounts but the overall price of most items seemed about on par with last year. One familiar complaint I heard both from vendors I know and a few I struck up conversations with was the growing dissatisfaction with eBay. The general consensus is that rising fees coupled with dwindling customer service and an operational slant that almost completely favors the buyers is driving many sellers back offline. While it’s never good to see someone lose one of their sources of revenue, I won’t be disappointed if this puts things back to the way they were about a decade ago when collectors had considerably more opportunities for face to face encounters with sellers at shows.
Cindy found some very nice jewelry at reasonable prices and was shopping for some furniture which seemed to be in short supply. I purchased a couple of Florida items from a dealer who specialized in tourist merchandise from all over the country and had a very nice display of items from the Sunshine State. I also noted a decline in toys from the sixties and seventies although there was a nice selection of tin and older toys. While more modern items did not seem to be on the increase from earlier years there was still plenty to be found. Unfortunately, the reduced supply of certain items resulted in higher and firmer prices which weren’t tempting me to buy. One item I would have loved to have had but passed on due to impracticality (without even asking the price) was a vintage fire suit that looked like something right out of a 50’s science fiction movie. This would have made an awesome Halloween costume but I still had to pass.
Another observation I made this year was in the number of similar items I saw throughout the show that appeared to be older but were in excellent condition. Depending on the types of items that turn up like this, it can often indicate a warehouse find somewhere of old store stock merchandise that has trickled into the hands of multiple levels of resellers. Most of what I noticed this year though was furniture and wooden items like storage boxes that usually mean reproductions. This is fine if they are priced and marked accordingly but in most cases I noticed neither on the items. Pricing continues to be an issue at this venue and shows in general. I would say that only about half of the merchandise I looked at was priced at all and some which was priced was not very clear. I have no problem asking for prices most of the time but some vendors seem to take personal offense to being politely thanked and told something is out of your price range. Interestingly enough, the ones who make the biggest fuss are also usually the ones with the prices the most out of line. I could be wrong but I don’t think intimidation is a very good sales technique, especially on luxury items like antiques.
As mentioned earlier, collecting the large vinyl precursors to compact discs, records, seems to be noticeably on the rise. There were far more vendors carrying records at this show than I recall seeing in recent years. One seller told me that albums are becoming very hot with younger collectors and sales have increased as much as 80% in the past year. I don’t know how accurate this is but I certainly saw enough people dusting off their old boxes of records and putting them out for sale to believe it. Other archaic technologies seemed to be holding constant with the anticipated sightings of Atari video game consoles, reel to reel tape players, and the occasional 16mm or 8mm movie projector. I did spot one particularly unusual item, an RCA Select a vision player for the large, plastic encased, platters that pre-dated laser discs and disappeared quickly into obscurity once that format was introduced.
After a solid three hours of climbing up and down the hill and winding through a maze of booths that often seemed more like traveling exhibits than sales fronts, Cindy and I were tired and hungry. Around 1PM, we decided we had covered all of the area set up specifically for the show and it was time to call it a day. We had lunch in downtown Mt. Dora at Jeremiah’s Restaurant which had nice selection of middle of the road cuisine, large portions, and reasonable prices. It was a fitting end to a gorgeous day (aside from a few obnoxious gusts of wind that ravaged some dealer’s displays) and another fun year at the Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza. I still say that, regardless of what you actually find to purchase at this show, it is still one of the most consistently interesting to shop at of any I have ever attended.