Show Review: Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza 2009
According to the promotional material sent out for this show, the Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza is the “largest gathering of antique and collectibles dealers in Florida”. I have no doubt that this claim is true and if there is a larger show than this, it would be difficult to do it justice in one day. Between the two permanent buildings, the area reserved for parking, and the plethora of dealers set up outside, the 130 acres of land occupied by the Twin Markets in Mt. Dora get packed on these weekends.
The November Extravaganza runs the entire weekend but I am still convinced that Friday is the best day to be there, right when it opens. Everyone has their own philosophy concerning shopping at events like this but for me it’s about the selection. It is not uncommon, prior to the official start time of 10AM on Friday, to see dealers running between tables making purchases from other dealers. I have also noted the exact same item traveling between tables during the course of the day, with the price increasing at each new booth! As a collector, the $10.00 admission price on Friday is well worth it and the reduced foot traffic makes the whole experience more enjoyable.
My wife Cindy and I arrived around 9:30AM on Friday and had no problem getting into the parking lot. In previous years, I have seen lines of traffic stretch two miles in either direction on State Road 441 in front of the markets. This year, even though there were police directing traffic, only a few cars were at the entrance waiting to turn in. We also parked much closer than I am used to, which made it nice when we didn’t have to hike half a mile just to get to the show entrance. We came in on the right hand side of the field this time rather than in the center and had reorient ourselves a couple of times to make sure we didn’t miss anything. With over a thousand dealers and a nonlinear layout, it’s not hard to get lost at this show.
There is a special sense of pride that comes with owning a piece of history and almost all of the merchandise at the Extravaganza has a story to tell. I love seeing pieces like taxidermy animals and original paintings. Even if these are not things you collect, you can still appreciate the sentimental value they must have once held for someone. The best part about this event is that the vast majority of the merchandise is vintage with only a small amount of newer items added in to fill out booths. You do have to watch out for unmarked reproductions at shows like this but a general rule of thumb is that if it looks too good to be true, it’s probably not an original.
While the less trained eye might think the merchandise is generally the same, I find the differences from year to year fairly obvious. This year I immediately noticed an increase in the number of firearms for sale, which has not been prominent in recent years. There also seemed to be fewer vintage toys, at least the smaller items, but these may be migrating to online sales. One disturbing trend this year was the number of dealers with signs indicating they were going out of business or that this was there last show. While this could have easily been a ploy to attract customers, I am sure at least a few of them were legitimate and a response to the current economic climate. Toward the end of the day, Cindy and I noted a large gap of empty space on one side of the field, indicating that there were fewer dealers present this year. On the whole, I found the prices on items I regularly follow to be down significantly and the vendors were more than ready to deal.
We make every effort at this show to travel in as straight a line as possible. This isn’t easy to do but it is the only way to make sure you see everything without back tracking. At one point, Cindy started to head in the wrong direction and as we stopped to correct course, I saw what would be my find for the show. As tacky as it may seem to some, I have always wanted a lawn jockey. This desire does not stem from any type of racial attitude. Rather, as a child growing up in Ocala, I vividly recall a friend’s grandmother, who lived up the street, had one in her front yard right by the mailbox. I always thought it looked cool there and vowed to have one of my own some day but they aren’t easy to find these days. I had been searching for a “Jocko” style statue for years but the few I have come across were always cost prohibitive. This year, luck was with me and I found an excellent example in very nice condition that even included the iron pedestal. He will require a small amount of restoration before he is ready for display but this makes antique acquisitions all the more personal. Unlike the one I fondly remember while I was growing up, I promised Cindy that my “Jocko” is going in our fenced in back yard!
I found another new collectible this year that I have always admired from a distance, Soakies. This is a general term used to refer to vintage bubble bath containers that were shaped like various cartoon and comic book characters. Since these were thin plastic bottles and designed to be used and discarded, it is difficult to find them today. At one of the very first booths I came to, I found containers designed like Batman, Dick Tracy, and Deputy Dog at extremely reasonable prices. They have some wear for there age but they are still nice examples of this nostalgic line from forty years ago. I also discovered a dealer who specializes in vintage Florida memorabilia including our abundant tourist attractions. We got caught up comparing notes on various long gone places but I eventually purchased linen post cards books from him for Marineland and Cyprus Gardens.
One of the things I always enjoy at these shows is listening to other people’s conversations. This might be considered rude in some circles but I really like to listen to people talk about what they collect or hope to find. A group of women in front of us in the admission line were feverishly trying to determine how much room they had available in their vehicle for purchases and how it should be arranged to maximize space. A little later, I listened intently as a man buying records detailed his experiences growing up with the Beatles with the booth’s proprietor. When the owner paused and asked if he could help me with anything, I thanked him and said I was just enjoying their discussion.
I would have to rate the 2009 Extravaganza as one of the better ones for me, at least in recent years. Aside from the favorable prices and even more interesting than usual selection of merchandise, we had excellent weather for a leisurely outdoor walk. While I was disappointed with the reduced number of vendors, this show has always been on the verge of being overwhelming and it was honestly nice to be able to take more time with the dealers that were there. Hopefully the economy as a whole will improve in the near future and some of the vendors thinking of packing it in will reconsider before the 2010 show.