|By Connie Swaim
The very first issue of AntiqueWeek was dated April 10, 1968. That first paper wasn’t actually called AntiqueWeek, it was called the Tri-State Trader and as you can imagine it looked nothing like the paper you are reading today. It was a humble beginning for a paper that would eventually grow into a national publication.
The paper was the dream of founders Tom and Peggy Mayhill, who already owned farm newspapers and a local newspaper in Knightstown, Ind. The paper originally was geared toward auctions and antiques as well as recreation, hobbies and genealogy.
“In the course of publishing, there comes a time for new ideas. Thus it is that the Tri-State Trader is making its first appearance,” wrote Tom Mayhill, in that inaugural edition. “The need has been growing for a medium to carry auctions, antique sales and many hobby ads for the Ohio Valley and the states of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Traveling time is less than it was and people are willing to go some distance just for the fun of attending a sale.”
The paper originally was published twice a month before moving later into a weekly format. Through the years it grew to serve more than just three states; which is why the name became AntiqueWeek. I came along in 1986 when the paper grew even more and added a second edition to serve the East Coast. The paper has basically followed the same format since then. There are two editions: Eastern and Central with a National section that goes into both editions.
Like the paper; I’ve seen a lot of changes. I was hired by Tom and Peggy Mayhill. I was here when they sold the paper to a British based firm; and I was here when one of the Mayhill’s daughters (Merry) and her husband Gary, bought the papers back creating Mid Country Media. I left for six years before coming back last May. I am glad I am here for the 50th birthday of a paper I love dearly.
I thought I would share some of the things that were in that first issue of the Tri-State Trader.
Before the Internet there were “lists.” That first issue had many classified ads touting various lists of items for sale that people could buy such as, “antique clothing, correctly dated, mail order only, lists 35 cents.”
Another example, “Collections of pickle castors, Weller, Roseville, $1 each list with photos.”
Dealers were advertising to buy John Rogers’s statues, R.S. Prussia, Havilland, old guns and Tiffany.
The auction ads were for small sales, which were mostly conducted at the home of the seller. Here is an example of furniture listed for an auction in Ohio, “curly maple bedroom suite, five piece walnut Victorian parlor set; fainting couch, marble top kitchen table; 11 drawer spice cabinet;” and it went on for 20 lines.
There were numerous antique shows listed; most of them with fewer than 35 dealers.
I was 7 years old when the paper started and my “what do I want to be when I grow up list” read “horse trainer.” But, I was already attending auctions with my parents. The type of auctions where they might say “sold to Richard Swaim’s little girl” instead of saying a number because the auction clerk just knew everyone. I often wonder how many hot dogs and coney dogs I’ve eaten in the last 50 years while attending auctions. Probably a number I don’t really want to contemplate.
I have to say I miss a good Saturday auction. Those perfect days when the sun was not too hot and it wasn’t too cold. The church ladies offered amazing pies and there would be farm wagons full of stuff to sort through or boxes full of possible treasures. The auction would last all day and chances were good there wasn’t a bathroom. (ok I don’t really miss that part).
My parents became antique dealers in the 1970s and they drug my brothers and I from Texas to Georgia to Pennsylvania while they set up at antique shows. At the time we were bored and didn’t really enjoy the whole antiquing experience. However, when I was on my own and looking for things for the house; I remembered auctions and that’s how I got into antiquing on my own. I went to an auction to buy a refrigerator and instead bought a four-drawer 1880s cherry chest. I did not need this chest; but my parents were setting up at an antique show and said I could bring it and see if I could sell it. I sold it as I helped carry it into the show facility. After that I started going to auctions to see what I could find to resell.
I had a journalism degree and a love of antiques; so when my parents told me they had seen an ad for an editorial position in AntiqueWeek (which they subscribed to); I applied and the rest, as they say, is history.
One thing that Jeff Evans says in the story you will find on page 2 rings very true with me, we have always said the industry needed younger people. We said it when I was first here in 1986. For as long as I have been in the industry people have lamented that “prices aren’t what they used to be” for various categories. People have always said “I remember when….” It is easy to look back and think things were better; when really they were mostly the same. Various categories go in and out of favor. Prices go up and down. The way we buy and sell changes. But the industry is still here.
I don’t think I will be here 50 years from now. But, I hope someone looks back at this issue and takes pieces from it as he or she writes about what comes next.
I would love to hear from you whether you have been with us for 50 years of just a few months. What are your thoughts on the past and the future of this industry? Send a letter to the editor to me at P.O. Box 90, Knightstown IN 46148 or email firstname.lastname@example.org