Press & News

Young at Heart: The Deerfield Antique Show

Deerfield, New Hampshire

The show was young, a first-timer for the sister/brother team of Rachel Gurley Libby and Joshua Gurley, children of the late Nan Gurley, longtime dealer and manager of Gurley Antiques Shows, which included Deerfield for several decades. Some of the exhibitors were also young, children and grandchildren of dealers, and above all, the show offered many nostalgic items for “young at heart” collectors and dealers. Dolls, rocking horses, dollhouses, doll clothes, sleds, games, stuffed animals, toys, puppets, and even a tin man, right out of the pages of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Rachel Gurley Libby and her husband, Tim Libby, in their booth.

The show was back in its traditional venue at the Deerfield Fairgrounds, Deerfield, New Hampshire. In 2016 the “Gurley Deerfield Show” was at the Douglas N. Everett Arena in Concord, New Hampshire. At the fairgrounds, two long fair buildings and several outside booths around the buildings were filled with affordable merchandise. I have gone to almost all of the Deerfield shows since its beginning as well as almost all of the other shows held during Antiques Week in New Hampshire, and consistently Gurley shows have offered excellent quality at moderate prices. Dealers can buy there and resell; collectors can add to their collections and have money left over for the rest of the week.

Tim Libby, Rachel Gurley Libby’s husband, and their daughter, Scarlett, took a quick reading break before the show opened.

Dealer Jeffrey Ricketts (right), 15, with his dad, is from Rising Sun, Maryland. It was their first time at the show, and they will definitely go back. How did this teenager get interested in antiques at age nine? Jeffrey told us that his family bought a 1730s house that needed restoration. He and his brother helped their dad in the process and started finding bits of pottery and porcelain as they dug around the house. One thing led to another, and Jeffrey began frequenting local flea markets, auctions, and antiques shows, looking for stoneware. His collection grew and quickly included other categories. To help pay for what he bought, he started setting up at local shows, and currently he does about five or six a year. Of course, dad drives and helps. His friends couldn’t care less about his merchandise, but they do admire his profits.

There was no early buying this year, just a reasonable 10 a.m. opening to accommodate the 20 to 25 minutes needed by those who were driving in from Manchester and to accommodate dealers coming in from the Union, Maine, show, that had been held the weekend before. Also it was on a Monday, August 7 (previously the show was always on Tuesday), to avoid conflict with another show and to give attendees a chance to shop as long as they wished.

Selling? Absolutely. No exhibitor we spoke with said anything but “good,” “very good,” or “very, very good.” Many exhibitors told me they were impressed with the skill of the young managers who, of course, inherited their mother’s “genes,” not to mention years of experience, working with her in the antiques market.

Two plover decoys. Left, by Joseph King, $1150; right, yellowlegs by Harry V. Shourds, with neck repair, $3800, both from Ralph and Lynn Ridolfino of Hammondsport, New York. They said they had a fantastic show.

Bud Hughes of Stratham, New Hampshire, offered a $650 rocking horse.

This set of child-size paint-decorated furniture was $525 for all in the Gurley Antiques Gallery booth.

Coming from 14 states and Canada, the approximately 70 dealers, several sharing booths, described a day of activity from beginning to end. Over 500 patrons shopped the show for a reasonable $10 admission fee. The weather was ideal, with mild temperatures (some exhibitors and buyers were even wearing light jackets), no rain, and light breezes.

Remember the old days when dozens of summer outdoor antiques shows covered New England fields, rain or shine? Now they are mainly a memory, but those who do remember like the feel of that kind of buying/selling—informal, casual, no big rush, and maybe a picnic table with homemade pies to buy. Rachel told us that so many dealers asked her to go back to Deerfield for the traditional Gurley show that she finally said yes, and so now Antiques Week has a Monday show.

For exhibitors who have done the Gurley show over the years, it became a hard choice—stay at Deerfield or move to another show the next day indoors at the Concord arena, managed by Nan Gurley’s husband, Peter Mavris? For those who could not decide, some exhibitors did both shows, often with two different dealers from different areas sharing a booth at each—quite a hectic endeavor.

Shellwork Victorian sofa, 35" x 77" x 24", $4500 from first-timers Salvage Yard Antiques & Design, Wakefield, Rhode Island.

This garden urn, signed by Abendroth Brothers, New York, circa 1870, was $1700 from Salvage Yard Antiques & Design. Dealers Terry and Renee Cormier stand beside it.

American Jazz, Dobbs Ferry, New York, asked $225 for the baseball uniform and two old bats.

Rachel Gurley Libby spoke to us after the show about the origin and evolution of bringing Deerfield back. “I helped my mom with her shows for many years, and when she became ill, I asked for her reaction to an offer I had to manage a small local show in Scarborough, Maine, near my thirty-five-dealer group shop. She gave me her blessing. So I began, on my own, with the help of my husband, and as of today I have managed three Scarborough shows and eight in Dover, New Hampshire.”

Deerfield was always her roots. Now 41, she reflected that as a teenager she had begun helping her mom with her antiques shows. Exhibitors and buyers told her they missed Deerfield, its character, affordability, and the dealers’ approachability. Rachel considers her staff like family, so putting together Deerfield was indeed a family affair. Her brother is so enamored of the Deerfield site, she said that he even considered getting married there! (We have not heard from the fiancée.)

The show became a gift from her mom, along with some wisdom such as “Life is choices” and “Our dealers are the most important part of the business.”

For more information, call (207) 229-0403 or visit the website (

Carriage, $695, and a dollhouse in the back corner, $895, from Mike Caffarella of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Rare coverlet, circa 1840, with the New York state seal, made by James Cunningham, tagged $1695 by Aquetuck Antiquities, Ravena, New York.

This table loom was sold by Beth Pulsipher of Old Town Antiques, Marcellus, Michigan, who placed small cards in her booth saying that everything had been picked in New England during the past ten days. Talk about fresh to the market.

Originally published in the October 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest