vintage antiques

The Delaware Antiques Show Is a Collector’s Paradise (but Newbs Are Welcome, Too)

For more than 50 years, the Delaware Antiques Show has brought fabulous functional and decorative arts objects to its curious attendees. Begun in 1963 as a fundraiser for a local hospital, the show has grown into one of the most acclaimed antiques gatherings in the country.

Today, it’s held at the Winterthur Museum, located in Wilmington and focused on early American decorative and applied arts, and proceeds benefit the institutions educational programs. From November 10–12, sixty distinguished dealers will offer some of the finest American antiques and decorative arts, including furniture, paintings, rugs, ceramics, silver, jewelry, and more. Though this show is relatively small, it is mighty – savvy collectors come here to seek out favored dealers and unique treasures they won’t find anywhere else.

If you’re not a diehard collector, don’t fret. The show is still fun to attend, and although the antiques dealers here are truly passionate, a big part of the show is focused on education. A wide variety of objects from public and private collections are on loan every year, creating a gallery-like exhibit space that has included everything from spice cabinets to weathervanes. This year’s exhibit, on loan from the Biggs Museum, features fine and decorative art objects of Mid-Atlantic regional significance from 1700 till the present day. Guest lectures are also part of the program, and the 2017 keynote will be delivered by award-winning architect Gil Schafer III, whose new book, A Place to Call Home, hit the shelves this fall.

If you’re new to collecting – or just curious about historical artifacts – seek out the “Find!” signs that dot various booths. These highlight objects of special interest; allow them to spark conversation with the dealers standing by. Most dealers love to talk shop about their wares and are excited to chat about collecting and their own passions.

Collecting should be fun, not intimidating. Many antiques shows openly welcome newbies, and the Delaware Antiques Show is no exception. Their down-to-earth guide, Tips for New Collectors, offers excellent advice for acclimating to the scene. The first pointer most experts propose? Collect what you enjoy. Whether that’s sailors’ Valentines or ball-and-claw chairs, look around, fall in love, and bring a new treasure home. A big added bonus? The State of Delaware has no sales tax, which should infuse your purchasing with all the more pleasure.