Discovering Mantiques and
other adventures at the Kingston Winter Antiques Show, aka Cabin
Coverage by Mark Oldfield
Mantiques - good word. One I only learned a few
weeks ago. I like it because it's a clever pun and because it
pretty much explains itself: man/antiques = mantiques. I'm probably
the last person in the antiques-and-collectables-to-universe
to get the memo, but then again I haven't spent much time in
that particular universe. Zero, in fact. Cabin Fever was my first
show. (Thumbs up to the fearless Sandy Neilly for giving me the
Let me start with a confession: I've always been a little
afraid of antiques shows. I'm one of those people who doesn't
necessarily know where his knees and elbows are at any given
moment, plus I talk with my hands. Put somebody like that in
room full of glass figurines and paper-thin porcelain tea cups
and it might not end well. Thats what I figured an antique
show would look like; tables brimming with brittle little unicorns
and delicate fine china dinner sets, waiting for me to get my
feet tangled and collapse on them.
Not so! At least not at Cabin Fever. The assortment of goods
- from furniture and carpets to jewellery and art to war memorabilia
and, yes, tables brimming with glass - was truly and sumptuously
mind-boggling. I also noticed how much care and creativity had
been invested in setting up displays, (by some 50 vendors) making
them as appealing as possible. Imagine a room filled with 50
great pop-up stores and you get the idea.
Being a complete greenhorn, I decided to arrive at the venue
a couple of hours early. The venue, by the way, was Portsmouth
Olympic Harbour, in the big hall they call the sail room.
The facility sits on the shore of the St. Lawrence Seaway right
next door to Canadas most notorious federal penitentiary.
Cabin Fever takes place the first weekend in February and
it's considered the first important show of the season. The event
was co-founded by Jan (pronounced John) Bos and Tim Potter 36
years ago. They are both still involved, along with a third partner
- Bill Dobson. Jan describes Cabin Fever as the best-of-the-best,
a showcase of quality in all realms of collecting. I am not in
any position to assess that claim, but I will say this: When
you walk through the room before the crowds come and you get
a chance to really take in the goods, item by item, booth by
booth, you start to understand why someone might want to possess
one or two of these lovely, glowing objects that have travelled
through so many hands over so much time. In one of the display
cases, I saw a mint-green flying car from the '40s or '50s, about
nine inches long, made of tin, perched on top of its original
box. That was my first whiff of Mantiques Fever.
The clock was ticking, the crowd in the lobby was beginning
to swell. I had been warned well in advance that it might be
difficult to chat with people once the doors opened. Time to
bear down. I felt a bit like a character in a zombie movie, trapped
inside with the faces pressing against the windows. Treasure
Zombies, animated by the singular need to add one more piece
to their collections. In the end, the Cabin Fever crowd turned
out to be very nice and perfectly accommodating. Not one zombie.
For my first interview, I pounced on Ken and Holly Newland,
who own A Tick in Tyme in Bloomfield (possibly the sweetest village
in Ontario, next to my hometown of Merrickville). They had a
late 1940s, English-made Sadler kitchen set, about 20 pieces
altogether, in cream and red, that immediately caught my eye.
Not the sort of stuff you throw into the cupboard for everyday
use. The teapot, alone, was going for $85. The set came from
an estate sale in the Stirling area.
So, whats hot? I ask.
Guy stuff, says Holly.
You mean man-cave decor?
Signs. Advertising. '50s and backwards. Oil companies.
Soda pop companies. Colours, reds, some greens, blues. Mantiques.
Mantiques! Pow, I had my focus. The doors opened at 10 a.m.
and the crowd came surging in. I caught up with Gary, a buyer,
at Booth #35, run by Ken Aubrey of Ottawa and Karen Brown of
Deseronto, just as he was exchanging a wad of cash for a Red
Rose Tea sign. It was paint on metal in vivid red, glossy black
and buttery yellow. Here's a snippet of our conversation:
What are you going to do with that sign, Gary?
Im going to hang it up in my 8,000 square foot
barn and pretty much forget about it.
Do you have a lot of signs in there?
Yeah, lots of them.
What else do you like to collect?
I like tin cars and trucks. Vintage stuff. I have about
500 of them. I build wooden display cases for them.
Is your barn, like, a museum?
Is it a place where you might have the boys over for a
I scribble a quick note in my reporter pad, Gary. Serious
case of Mantiques Fever.
Ken and Karen confirmed what I had been hearing all around
the show: Guy-stuff is hot. Signs, in good shape with intense
colours fetch premium prices. Some people are happy with reproductions,
but the purists want originals, and those originals
are getting harder to find in a super-competitive marketplace
where buyers can shop the whole world online. But media have
also been good for the trade. TV programs like American Pickers
and Antiques Road Show have drawn more buyers into the fold.
Some guys are occupational collectors; they seek
out paraphernalia related to their profession or line of work.
I met a farmer looking for tin tractors, a motorcycle restorer
from Rochester, New York, hoping to add a new piece to his toy
bike collection, and a former gas station owner on the hunt for
At booth # 27 - Cellar Door Antiques of Kingston - I watched
half-a-dozen guys pick up and carefully examine a Red Indian
oil can. It wasn't in perfect shape, but it had a lovely, time-worn
authenticity and great graphics. I'm sure that can was sold by
the end of the day.
So, there you have it. Adventures in mantiquing.
Boys and their toys. Everyone likes a treat, but pedicures just
aren't our thing. I'm a little bit less afraid of antique shows,
now that I've actually been to one. And I didn't break anything.
I have only one regret: why didn't I buy that flying car?
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