Buyers revel in bargains at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts Treasure Sale

November 03, 2012|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Deanna Soulis sets a price for a set of small knives Saturday at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts treasures sale. She is a member of the Singer Society which organized the fundraiser.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

In a scene reminiscent of a more-civilized Black Friday, shoppers packed the front hall of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, got on their marks and watched the clock.

With a minute and 30 seconds left to go before the 1 p.m. half-price sale, Singer Society volunteers decided they were ready to go, and granted mercy by opening the glass atrium doors early and letting the crowd loose.

Robbie Matonak, 62, of Hagerstown, bypassed the atrium and high-tailed it to the Bowman Gallery to a wooden chair with a floral needlepoint cushion.

“This is all I wanted,” she said, snatching the piece and bee-lining through the frenzy toward the checkout.

Matonak was among the roughly 500 people to hit the 13th annual Washington County Museum of Fine Arts Treasure Sale Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Some had attended a preview the night before, setting their sights on particular items. Matonak was there, too.

She went Friday with her husband and returned Saturday morning for items totaling more than $200. For the last piece, she waited for the final-hour 50 percent slash. The chair originally was priced at $50. With $5 discounts for each of Friday’s preview tickets, plus 50 percent off, she got it for $15.

“I’ve gotten a lot of things over the years. I say my living room is ‘treasure sale decor,’” Matonak said. “I must have at least seven pieces from treasure sales in my living room. Chairs, tables, paintings. They are high-end items and you can’t beat the price.”

Tanya Burnham, Singer Society president, said the group hosts the sale as its sole fundraiser. The 124-member group donates items, solicits donations from merchants, spends a week pricing and setting up items, and runs the event through checkout.

The group sets a general goal in the vicinity of $20,000 and typically raises in the neighborhood of $17,000, Burnham said, with all proceeds going to the museum’s general operating fund. Donated sale items include art, furniture, silver, rugs, dishes, giftware and more.

“We have a huge quantity of quality items. We have antique dealers lined up in the hallway,” Burnham said just before the 1 p.m. half-price reopening. “We try to price so that we make money, but it’s still a bargain for buyers.”

Cynthia Baynham, 68, of Martinsburg, W.Va., went to the sale with her husband, daughter and a friend. She attended last year for the first time and bought some Wedgwood china and other “good buys.” This year, her favorite find was a pile of George Washington prints.

“We just visited Mount Vernon a couple years ago. And I was a British history major, so these have a lot of interest,” Baynham said.

She also picked up pewter Jefferson cups that a neighbor had asked her to keep an eye out for.

Kristi Hanson, 66, of Washington, D.C., visited the museum for the first time when she happened upon the sale.

“It’s such a beautiful setting with the lagoon, and the building looks so nice,” she said.

Before visiting the galleries, she tried on a mink stole.

“I love it, but I look like a football player in it,” Hanson said, returning the stole to its place.

Katie Soja, 24, of Boston, who in town visiting her boyfriend’s family, was happy to find the stole. She placed it carefully around her neck and left it there, foregoing an offer for a bag to carry it.

“What if years from now, I look back and say, ‘I had a chance to buy a fur for $75 and now I can’t buy one for $750?’ I would really regret it,” she said.

Carol Austin, 68, of Hagerstown, rents space at an antique shop in Frederick, Md. Austin said she had attended the Friday preview and was on her second trip to the sale when she packed up a pair of 1960s-era Stiffel lamps that she planned to re-shade and sell. Other treasures included jewelry, a cake plate, a 1920s picture frame and a small object that she couldn’t quite identify.

“I don’t know what that is. It might be a candle base, but I don’t know,” Austin said. “It’s just handsome.”

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