Photos by Tony Valainis
WHEN IT COMES to paintings, sculpture, and ceramics, most of the best dealers pulled out of antiques malls and set up shop on the internet years ago. Online auction houses dominate the landscape now, and Central Indiana is lucky to have several of them. Ripley Auctions (2764 E. 55th Pl., 317-251-5635, ripleyauctions.com) owner Dan Ripley got his start selling ceramics and art glass, and his business remains an excellent source for those as well as 19th-century European paintings, among other things. Wickliff Auctioneers (1054 Summit Dr., Carmel, 317-844-7253, bidwickliff.com) and Jacksons Auction (617 E. North St., 317-797-2117, jacksons-auction.com) both specialize in Indiana painters, including the impressionists of the Hoosier Group. And relative newcomer Black Art Auction (1497 N. Harding St., 317-986-6048, blackartauction.com), owned by gallerist Thomas Pegg and operated locally by former iMOCA curator Christopher West, sells a great selection of African-American artists such as Alma Thomas and Charles White. Many of these places offer preview nights, even if some have eliminated in-person auctions in favor of online bidding.
For historic Indiana art in a gallery setting, Jim Ross is the dean of the profession. His gallery, James Ross Fine Art (5627 N. Illinois St., 317-255-4561, jamesrossfineart.com), has featured the state’s biggest names for almost 50 years. Fine Estate Art (2158 N. Talbott St., 317-253-5910, fineestateart.com) also carries a solid selection of Indiana artists, such as Glen Cooper Henshaw and William Forsyth.
Which Indiana artists are in highest demand right now?
“Of course, T.C. Steele never goes out of style. But some of the early 20th century Brown County artists like Will Vawter, E.K. Williams, and Adolph Shultz are very popular lately as well. All three of them didn’t produce much for various reasons, so their work is rare. Their style appeals to people today, too—bold color and thick paint. Those paintings tend to range from $5,000 to $25,000.”
James Ross, Owner of James Ross Fine Art
A few shops do carry a reasonable, if less focused, collection of historic paintings. R. Beauchamp Antiques (16405 Westfield Blvd., Westfield, 317-896-3717, beauchampantiques.com) is better known for its furniture, but hosts plenty of 19th-century canvases by lesser artists. And Sheafer + King Modern (1103 E. 52nd St., 317-983-3575, sheaferking.com), celebrated for its midcentury-modern design objects, stocks a surprisingly good selection of abstract paintings from that same period.
Of course, you can always try your luck at the bigger antique malls, such as Midland Arts & Antiques (907 E. Michigan St., 317-267-9005) and Gilley’s Antique & Decorator Mall (5789 U.S. 40, Plainfield, 317-839-8779, gilleysantiquemall.com), where paintings and ceramics by obscure artists are commonplace. But when it comes to the selection of fine art, it’s usually not a pretty picture.
UNLIKE THE CURATED, gallery-style shops that sell other antiques, old doors and bathtubs often get housed in barns and bins, making the trash almost indecipherable from the treasure. Fortunately, Central Indiana has several architectural salvage companies that make it their business to grab the good stuff from historic homes and commercial properties before the wrecking ball swings. For high-end antique lighting, check out Rewired Antiques (1125 E. Brookside Ave., Ste. C12, 317-512-9362, rewiredantiques.com). Here, Jeremiah Goss offers a great selection of century-old illumination, from ornate chandeliers to simple sconces. Once featured on an episode of Good Bones, Architectural Antiques of Indianapolis (5000 W. 96th St., 317-873-2727, antiquearchitectural.com) is stocked with old hardwood doors, handcarved mantles, iron gates, and stained-glass windows. If you don’t see exactly what you want, come back next week—the selection is always rotating.
What is it about the quality and detail in antique hardware that makes it so appealing today?
“Antique hardware was made using a lost wax process, with a mold, which gives more detail than any machine-fabricated hardware you find today. Our most sought-after hardware is glass doorknobs. Many people remember them from when they were growing up, so it’s a bit of nostalgia, and they’re simply beautiful. It can be difficult to match some glass doorknobs exactly, and the antique knobs use a different spindle than modern doors. Fortunately, we have conversion kits available so you can still use your antique doorknob in a modern door.”
Norman Kanis, Owner of Architectural Antiques of Indianapolis
For the do-it-yourselfer, Tim & Julie’s Another Fine Mess (2901 E. 10th St., 317-627-0498, timandjuliesanotherfinemess.com) is a fun place to find a variety of reclaimed goods that will add a well-appointed touch of the past to any home. Co-owner Julie Crow says air intake grates seem to go the quickest, but lighting and glass doorknobs don’t last long either. Out back, you can find the city’s largest collection of claw-footed tubs in need of refinishing, along with a feral cat or two.
A massive, ever-changing inventory resides at Reclaimed Fort Wayne (1514 St. Joseph Blvd., Fort Wayne, 260-244-8999, reclaimedfortwayne.com), where you can browse collections in the warehouse showroom or dig through the wood shack room for salvaged walnut ready to be repurposed. Indiana barn wood continues to be a popular find, and Madison Street Salvage (350 E. Madison St., Franklin, 317-739-0601, fhisalvage.org) is a picker’s paradise for old lumber. Benefiting the Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, this nonprofit organization has a dedicated group of volunteers ready for floor-to-ceiling salvage jobs to preserve what they can from old barns and buildings, down to the last nail.
WHEN BEN SOLOMON, former curator of decorative arts at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, opened his furniture shop in Broad Ripple nearly 50 years ago, it was the first of its kind in the city, dealing in high-class European antiques. Today, Solomon Paris Antiques and Interior Design (1103 E. 52nd St., 317-475-0203, solomonparis.com) does more interior design business than sales of vintage tables and chairs. But the selection of antiques there is still immense, and several shops have followed suit. R. Beauchamp Antiques (16405 Westfield Blvd., Westfield, 317-896-3717, beauchampantiques.com) boasts a huge collection of antique furniture, with rare pieces dating to the 1700s, including English, French, Italian, and Dutch furnishings. Victorian Antiquities & Design (630 15th St., Logansport, 317-244-5511) specializes in the Victorian era and Aesthetic Movement, while Europa Antiques (3 N. Center St., Cambridge City, 765-334-4530, europaantique.com) delivers genuine Belgian, Dutch, French, and German goods straight from the source with a dedicated picker in Europe. At Willa Gray Home (6516 Carrollton Ave., 317-756-9148, willagrayhome.com), you’ll find a rotating selection of Belgian and French antiques layered in with new decor. To really tie a room together, visit Mike Joseph at Joseph’s Imports (4230 E. Fall Creek Pkwy. N. Dr., 317-255-4230, josephsimports.com), where the owner carries on the family tradition of selling antique rugs from as early as the 18th century and ranging from urban city workshop designs to tribal rugs.
In the area of antique furniture, Indiana craftsmen brought a lot to the table. The Hoosier cabinet, a precursor to built-in kitchen cabinetry, was made here. If you’re in the market for an original, one of the best places to look is Coppes Commons (401 E. Market St., Nappanee, 574-773-0002, coppescommons.com). Housed in the original Coppes furniture factory, which produced a version of the Hoosier cabinet, you’ll now find Dutch Lady Antiques, where there are often a few available.
How can you tell if what appears to be an old piece of furniture is an authentic antique?
“Look for subtle signs of wear, and whether the wood has been hand-cut. With antique hand-sawed pieces, the wood is very rough—if you turn a piece over and look underneath, you should be able to tell if it’s factory made or hand-cut wood. If it has drawers, you can look there, too. Do they look sharp? Or do they look like they’ve been pulled out for 100 years? That’s the romance of it—that someone else used this.”
Ben Solomon, Owner of Solomon Paris Antiques and Interior Design
Batesville, Indiana, produced Romweber furniture for 130 years, and is still the place to find vintage versions of that brand. RomWeber Marketplace (7 S. Eastern Ave., Batesville, 513-519-9936, romwebermarketplace.com) keeps a large selection of their most popular line, the 1930s Viking Oak, inspired by Nordic designs with an Arts and Crafts appeal. But Romweber featured several styles, including French Rococco and Chippendale impressions, along with its midcentury-modern pieces.
For more of the latter style, Flux (862 Virginia Ave., 317-490-9437, fluxindy.com) sells pieces from highly sought-after midcentury designers, including Indiana ceramicists Gordon and Jane Martz, of Marshall Studios in Veedersburg, along with Edward Wormley’s exceptional Dunbar pieces out of Berne, Indiana. To the north, Liberty & 33rd (1301 S. Main St., South Bend, 574-607-3031, liberty33rd.com) has some as well. And in Southern Indiana, Jeff’s Warehouse (424 S. College Ave., Bloomington, 812-337-4545, jeffswarehouse.com) offers an offbeat collection that ranges from high-end midcentury modern to midcentury modest.
PEOPLE COLLECT just about everything—stamps, license plates, photos of creepy Santas from the early 1900s. Vicki Cooley, owner of Born in a Barn (302 N. Heaton St., Knox, 574-772-3802, borninabarn.com), even has a customer who collects vintage bedpans. But Cooley’s most popular collectibles—even more popular than bedpans, if you can imagine—are advertising, clocks, and mechanical toys. The latter is growing in demand, due to their “nostalgic factor.” At Wheeler’s Antiques (107. W. Main St., Centerville, 765-855-3400, wheelersantiquescenterville.com), steel Buddy L trucks, tin toys from the early 1900s, and old comic characters barely touch the shelves before they’re snatched up. You’ll also find a fair number of toys at the annual Indy Ad Show, which takes place April 29–30 at the Boone County Fairgrounds in Lebanon. More than 250 vendors will sell early tin toys, general store displays, gas pumps, and gas station advertising signs for upward of $10,000.
If in-person events aren’t yet your thing, check out Route 32 Auctions (3097 S.R. 32, Crawfordsville, 765-307-7119, route32auctions.com), which offers online bidding. The family-run company specializes in antique signs, general store memorabilia, and pretty much anything related to petroliana and automobilia—gas pumps, gas station signs, old motor oil cans. It has quite a few Coca-Cola items too, including 1950s coin-operated machines. White Lion Antiques (113 S. Main St., Kirklin, 765-279-5777, whitelionantiqueskirklin.com) also carries Coca-Cola collectibles, including signs, serving trays, and coolers. Reproductions are legion, but owner Craig Unroe can tell you if it’s the real thing. (He’ll also use the opportunity to tell you about some of the wackier Coca-Cola products, like the 5-foot-tall metal crossing guard from the 1940s.)
Why is antique advertising so popular right now?
“It’s the nostalgia of it. Back in the day, businesses didn’t have online promotions or TV, so they would sell their products through packaging. Images and graphics define that era, and people want to collect things that remind them of when they were young. That’s why you see porcelain gas station signs going for $80,000.”
Craig Unroe, Owner of White Lion Antiques
Around the corner from White Lion, Shelley Miller sells antique advertising, general store items, books, and more at Antique Cellar (108 E. Main St., Kirklin, 317-698-5866, antiquecellarkirklin.com). She focuses on items from before the 1930s and has a vast collection of historic military books for sale. You can also find books at Pen and Pink Vintage (2435 Shelby St., 317-416-0197, penandpinkvintage.square). It carries titles from the 1860s to the 1950s in three categories: literary classics, Indiana authors, and female authors from the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s. And if you’re jonesing for super-rare, high-end antique books—first editions, often with gilded pages—hit up Black Dog Books (115 S. Main St., Zionsville, 317-733-1747, blackdogbooksin.com).
For sports cards collectors, Indy Card Exchange (7035 E. 96th St., 317-254-8681, indycardexchange.com) is the first stop. And if you’re a numismatist, make Lost Dutchman Rare Coins (4983 N. Franklin Rd., 317-545-7650, ldrcoins.com) your go-to for buying and selling coins and paper currency. Prices of collectibles rise and fall, but there’s always money in that.
INSIDE Edward E. Petri Company Jewelers (20 N. Meridian St., 317-636-5007), just south of Monument Circle, you’ll find Charlie Walker working at an antique bench. The company’s third master craftsman takes pride in using the original owner’s century-old tools that the eccentric Parisian brought from his former employer, Tiffany & Co. in New York. Edward Petri, once known as the “Cartier of the Midwest,” created showstopping pieces that are highly valued—and hard to come by—today. But you can step back in time at his shop and even find a small selection of fine estate jewelry among Walker’s designer pieces.
For a dazzling variety of heirloom jewels, Petite G Jewelers (5609 N. Illinois St., 317-255-5555, petiteg.com) offers one-of-a-kind period pieces and coveted vintage brands like Cartier, Schlumberger, and Boucheron. Although the contents of the case are always changing, you’ll often find mourning jewelry, handmade French chains, and Art Deco bracelets. Likewise, Brian McCall is very discerning about what he keeps on display at Midwest Jewelers & Estate Buyers (190 S. Main St., Zionsville, 317-733-0099, midwestestatebuyers.com), noting that colored stones, rings, and anything Art Nouveau doesn’t last long.
What are some things to consider when investing in vintage jewelry
“You can always tell a fine piece of antique jewelry if it’s as nicely made on the back side as it is on the front. Remember, it was all forged and made by hand, so I always turn it over first. When I do the jewelry buying at market, I also look for a maker’s mark and the history—collectors will ask about that, and if there’s a provenance, you’ll pay a premium.”
Dana Friedman, Owner of Petite G Jewelers
Ripley Auctions (2764 E. 55th Pl., 317-251-5635, ripleyauctions.com) hosts several estate jewelry auctions throughout the year. Or take your treasure hunt online, where local Etsy shops and Instagram accounts like Zachary’s Jewelry (@zacharysjewelry) and Luxcharm (@luxcharmjewelry) curate a trove of golden oldies.
Don’t overlook quality costume jewelry, which can be a fun addition to a collection. Miriam Haskell was a brilliant Hoosier designer, making a name for herself in the 1930s with intricate, beaded fashions once worn by Joan Crawford and Lucille Ball, and still highly collected today. (Michelle Obama has been seen donning Haskell earrings.) In a rare find, we recently came across a set at Midland Arts & Antiques (907 E. Michigan St., 317-267-9005). But if you aren’t hung up on the name, you can peruse plenty of retro beads and baubles at The Vintage Gypsy in the Southport Antique Mall (2028 E. Southport Rd., 317-786-8246, southportantiquemall.net).
HAND-CRANK EGG BEATERS. CorningWare casserole dishes. The “good” silverware that only came out for the holidays. There’s something comforting about old kitchenware. Mixing up a batch of cookies in a bowl just like Grandma used to have makes it feel like she’s there with you. Telling you to make buttercream frosting this time. And asking why you don’t call.
They say everything old is new again, and in kitchenware, it’s the midcentury-modern aesthetic—especially Pyrex. You can find some of the tempered glass dinnerware at 3 Stray Cats Vintage (111 S. Main St., Kirklin, 765-426-0794, 3straycatsvintage.com), a retro shop specializing in items from the ’50s and ’60s. Noblesville Antiques on the Square (20 N. 9th St., Noblesville, 317-678-8150) has Pyrex as well, including some rare items (a set of four pink nesting bowls, for example). You’ll also find everything you need to make an entire day’s worth of meals—cast-iron pans, copper pots, utensils, muffin tins, wooden bowls, Jell-O molds. H&S Antiques (115 N. Main St., Farmland, 765-212-0224) has a spread of kitchenware, too. Behind the store’s unassuming brick facade, there’s plenty of CorningWare, Corelle, Pfaltzgraff, fine china, milk bottles, and Fenton art glass. For Heisey glass, check out Antiques on 5th (109 E. 5th St., Auburn, 260-333-0586, antiqueson5thllc.com). And for super-old stuff, visit Wheeler’s Antiques (107 W. Main St., Centerville, 765-855-3400), which specializes in china, glass, crystal, and Staffordshire Pottery from the early 19th century.
Why is silver-plate flatware so inexpensive?
“Utensils are hit or miss. Sometimes, there are nice flatware sets in a box. But usually, old silverware is worth $1 per piece. People buy it and repurpose it for jewelry, for example. If you’re looking for sterling silverware, you’re going to have trouble finding it. People aren’t selling it; they’re hoarding it in their homes because they know it’s worth something.”
Jill Janusiewicz, Owner of Noblesville Antiques on the Square
More into kitchenware collectibles? Relics (377 N. Fletcher Ave., Spencer, 812-821-4848, relicsinspencer.com) carries vintage thermoses and metal cookie cutters. A good place to look for flour and sugar canister sets is Red Barn Antique Mall (215 W. Hwy. 62, Corydon, 812-738-6000), which is literally filled to the rafters with Hook’s Drug Store memorabilia, Mason jars, Ball jars, and pharmacy glasses. Also, there’s a cat, and yes, you can pet her.
For “primitives”—simple, practical, and often wooden kitchen implements—visit Markle Exit 86 Antique Mall (250 E. South St., Markle, 260-758-2038) and find the booth that looks like the Indiana State Fair Pioneer Village. There, you can shop for wooden rolling pins, wooden bowls, handcarved spoons, wooden buckets, and tin coffee cups. Fireside Primitives (101 S. Main St., Kirklin, 317-370-7300) has a similar inventory, as well as coffee grinders (to go with your coffee cup from Markle), sought-after pantry boxes, redware pottery, and bee sting crocks, which can go for thousands of dollars.
The homiest store, though, may be Elizabeth’s Keepsakes Antiques & Deli (237 N. Main St., Rushville, 765-938-3071, elizabethskeepsakes.com). Look through the enamelware, ceramic teapots, and steins before ordering potato bacon soup and a slice of pecan pie from the deli. It’ll feel just like Grandma’s house when you sit down to eat. Only everything is for sale and the food doesn’t have marshmallows in it.