Show Review: Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza 2010
When Florida’s winter weather starts to set in around mid to late October, it doesn’t take much of an excuse to get people outside. Once the Sunshine State enters its brief period of cool but not cold temperatures, most natives know to take advantage of it while it lasts. The folks at Renninger’s Antique Center in Mt. Dora know this is the perfect time of year to hold their annual Antique Extravaganza and the weather this year could not have been more beautiful.
My wife Cindy and I arrived at the Antique Center around our usual time of 9:45 on Friday morning. The show runs for the entire weekend but we always make a point of going on the first day for the best selection although most dealers have more merchandise than they do space and rotate it throughout the weekend. If you don’t see what you are looking for or find something you like, it’s always a smart move to ask if they have anything else. Outside vendors are not allowed to start selling until 10AM so we always try to allow time for getting parked and familiarizing ourselves with the layout of the show. As we were parking, I noticed significantly less cars in the lot that had arrived ahead of us so I began to wonder if attendance might be down this year.
After passing through one of the admission booths, we realized that due to parking closer in this year we had entered off to one side of the field so once we walked to the end of that area we were actually in the middle of the show. In an effort to try and take everything in with the least amount of backtracking, we headed up hill to the first rows at the top. The don’t call this area Mount Dora for nothing and I swear the incline gets steeper every year but at least we got most of our climbing out of the way early!
The one downside of the Extravaganza, aside from the incline, is the layout. The field is not a square or rectangle and there is a large depression on one side (that causes that end to stick out). For the past two years, there has been a noticeable decline in dealers but no real effort has been made to consolidate the remaining ones. This means that attendees have to cover the same amount of ground but now there are more gaps to work around. With a show this large, even though grouping the vendors would draw more attention to the declining numbers, it would make shopping with the current dealers much more enjoyable.
The merchandise selection this year was as varied and interesting as ever. This is one of the few shows where I truly enjoy looking at the merchandise just as much as I do finding a few good buys or rare pieces. I don’t know of any other show in Florida where you can find as much variety. There was furniture, artwork, statues, fossils, military items, jewelry, house wares, and even a few crafts spread throughout the field in addition to the traditional types of merchandise you would anticipate. One thing I noticed about this year’s event was a drastic decrease in newer collectibles. There were still some general antique vendors who had some modern pieces but very few dealers specialized in just recent vintage items. The true collectibility of these types of items may have finally caught up with them or the table prices may outweigh whatever profits they might generate at this type of show.
From a more personal standpoint, there was a fair selection of things I collect this year. One dealer who specialized in vintage toys had several original G.I. Joe figures and accessories. A quick perusal of this merchandise indicated a problem that is becoming all too common these days, an obvious mixture of original and reproduction items. With anniversary and commemorative sets for lines like Joe, Barbie, and Star Wars, it pays to be familiar with the materials originally used to make these toys. What appears to be authentic at a casual glance can reveal cloth of a different thickness, a different style of button, or a clasp made of a material that wasn’t used forty years ago like Velcro. While this dealer clearly had some vintage merchandise, nothing was rare enough to warrant the scrutiny required to discern the vintage from the modern, let alone having to attempt to renegotiate his prices based on this assessment, so I gave him a pass.
I found another toy dealer who also had some Florida memorabilia and did some shopping with him. I picked up a souvenir plate that depicts various attractions from the Sunshine State and most likely dates from the early to mid 1970’s since it shows Walt Disney World. The interesting thing about this plate, aside from having the first Florida Disney park featured along side smaller competitors, is that all of attractions are still open but most have been significantly altered in the intervening years. I also picked up a small pinball type toy from this vendor that features many Florida attractions including the Bok Tower, Cape Kennedy, and the Daytona speedway which don’t often get mentioned. This particular toy, called a Junior Bagatelle in reference to the game’s French origins, still has a fifty-nine cent price tag on its header card from the Days Inn motel chain it was originally sold at. Of course it cost a little more than that today but it was still a very unique collectible at a favorable price.
We spotted quite a few cool items that were outside our price range but still fun to ponder over. Randy Burgener of the Heron Cay Bed & Breakfast in Mt. Dora was set up with a very nice selection of items including metal signs, slot machine back glass, Highwaymen paintings, and my personal favorite, a beautiful Bally Wizard pinball machine. In addition to being a cool vintage pinball machine from the mid-70’s, the Wizard is based on the film version of The Who’s rock opera Tommy that was released around this time and featured their hit Pinball Wizard. The graphics on the glass even feature an illustration of Roger Daltry as Tommy. I was told that even though it had some minor surface damage, the machine was in complete working order but I stopped short of asking the price for fear I might be taking out a loan to purchase it.
Even with the beautiful weather, after a couple of hours climbing up and down hills and traipsing around in the field, we were both tired. We managed to cover all of the outdoor area but stopped short of the covered ones which are open all year. The Extravaganzas give shoppers the most bang for their buck but the antique mall is worthy of a look on its own. By the time we returned to our car, it appeared that a considerable number of people had arrived after us as the lot looked more like its usual self. The current economy was good for the buyers and gave them plenty of bargains so at least the vendors that were there this year were making sales. Hopefully business will improve and the number of vendors will increase in the coming years or it may become possible to make it through everything at this cool show in a single day.