Show Review: Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza 2012
I am a regular attendee of flea markets, swap meets, garage sales, and the like but I can still say with 100% certainty that there is nothing else quit like Renninger’s fall Antique & Collectors Extravaganza in Mt. Dora, Florida. Every November, antique dealers from all over the country converge on the huge open field in between Renninger’s permanent flea market and their antique mall located right on the side of Highway 301. The three day event always offers a combination familiar faces and fresh vintage merchandise that the novice and experienced collector alike can plunder through to their heart’s content and even purchase if their inclinations and pocket book are in agreement.
There are several schools of thought on when the best time is to attend this three day event. For the best selection, it makes the most sense to be there when the gates open on Friday morning at 10AM. If you are a dealer looking for items to resell throughout the year then Sunday afternoon is probably your best bet as vendors with unsold items are debating the pros and cons of slashing prices versus packing items up for the next show. For the more casual collector, any time that weekend can be a good to find that one item you have been looking for or a whole batch of things never even knew existed.
As a collector, I fall into the former category and prefer to visit early on the first day. My wife Cindy and I headed out of Jacksonville around 7AM on Friday, November 16 in an even more exhilarated mood than usual for this show since we knew the weather in Central Florida was supposed to be particularly nice even for this normally mild time of year. With traffic generally in our favor heading down the partly interstate and partially back road journey, we turned onto 301 just a block or two from the market at almost 10AM on the dot. I noticed as we approached the entrance that the usual lines of cars on both sides of the highway jockeying to turn into the show were nowhere to be seen. Driving up the side of the field to the rear parking lot, we saw plenty of cars but, for a Friday, it did not seem as busy as in years past. We were guided smoothly to the current parking area, loaded up our antiquing gear, and joined the line of about a dozen people heading through the gate into the show.
Once inside, I noticed that the outside dealer’s area appeared to have been compressed somewhat. In recent years, the number of vendors seemed to decline and there were gaps throughout the field. This year the fences looked like they had been tightened up so things weren’t as sprawled out and only the uppermost segment of the field displayed any vacancies. In recognition of this new arrangement, we decided to tackle the show by sides this year and started our decent on the right. No matter how nice the weather is, with a show this size and the steep incline the Renninger’s field posses, its best not to amble if you want to see every thing.
Just a few minutes after we waded into the vendors, I spotted old friends Larry and Connie Payton of A to Z Collectibles who always have interesting merchandise. We spent a few minutes catching up and I made my first purchase of the day, a boxed Aurora pterodactyl model kit from their Prehistoric Scenes line, before continuing onward through the sea of history. While there were still modern and reproduction items to be found this year, they appeared to be on the decline. Hopefully this show is evolving back into one of true antiques and the people looking for new items and cheap knock offs are going elsewhere.
One negative trend that I have noticed in recent years seems to be gaining momentum in the wrong direction. This year it appeared that more vendors than usual were forgoing price tags for some reason in a move that has never sat well with me. As long as a dealer has the majority of their merchandise clearly priced I can usually tell if there is any reason for me to question an unmarked item since I can get a general feel from the others. I have developed the not entirely accurate instinctive response to just pass by on dealers who do not price things though, feeling that they are either charging too much and don’t want to broadcast it to the masses or, worse yet, prefer to size up their customers and estimate the upper regions of their financial capabilities on a case by case basis. In either event, I have reached the point where I would rather pass on these dealers unless they have something I just can’t live without.
As can usually be expected at this show, there was a wonderful selection of vintage advertising memorabilia, quality furniture (although larger items seemed on the decline), and house wares. While I wasn’t looking for any furniture in particular, it’s always fun to look through the art deco pieces of the 60’s and 70’s that I fondly remember my parents decorating with in my youth. Among the more unique items were vintage uniforms, both military and civilian, taxidermy animals, and some museum quality statues. You could also spot the occasional pop culture items like lunch boxes, movie posters, and pinball machines but the prices in many cases were higher this year than what you would pay through online sources. This caused me to be more frugal than usual for this event but I did pick up a beautiful set of Florida cuff links with matching tie tack and a vintage cigarette case.
At the base of the outdoor antiques, buffered between the covered stalls and indoor mall, was an Arabian bazaar of food vendors offering everything from carnival favorites like turkey legs and cotton candy to more exotic items like gyros and crab sandwiches. Not wishing to spoil our planned sit down lunch but still hankering for a snack, Cindy and I split a $5.00 bag of freshly cooked kettle corn as we started our ascent up the other side of the mountain and back to our car. Had we wanted to stop for lunch though there was just about anything we could have reasonably asked for available right there at the show.
After climbing through the second side of outdoor vendors, we were pretty well exhausted even though the weather had remained cool and beautiful. After close to three hours, we felt we had covered the majority of the show and were ready to head back to the truck and find a nearby sit down restaurant. Like just about every year, our first comment upon leaving was that we really should plan on two days next year! Even though this was a relatively inexpensive shopping trip for us, it was still a huge amount of entertainment and it was nice to see that the economy hasn’t had a serious effect on quality antique shows like this one. Who knows, maybe next year we really will come back for a second day!