When it comes to antiques, Gary Eyler is sitting on the mother lode. “I own the only collection of Jamestown artifacts legally outside of Jamestown,” he said.
Part of that collection will be on display at the 11th annual Antiques in Alexandria show from March 9-11 in Flippin Field House at Episcopal High School (3900 West Braddock Road). Artifacts unearthed at Jamestown, a 1595 cannon similar to the one used by Capt. John Smith at the settlement and a first edition of Smith's 1624 map of Virginia will be among the rare objects on display in "Virginia — Celebrating 400 Years."
Eventually this year, Eyler will go from having bid on these precious items to bidding them farewell. “My plan is to give these artifacts back to the state of Virginia as a present for Virginia’s birthday," he said.
He won't divulge the value of the 22 artifacts that will be gifted to the state. “There are certain things that need to end up in the right places," he said, although he admitted his family was more than a little surprised by his decision.
Eyler, who owns the Old Colony Shop on 222 S Washington St., acquired the Jamestown artifacts at an auction about a decade ago. He said they were excavated by a man who leased Jamestown Island in the 1920s and '30s. The man's daughter had a disagreement with the Jamestown settlement, and she felt she could turn a big profit at auction.
The artifacts were placed into individual lots. Eyler's plan was to buy them all to preserve the collection. "In that group came out one of the earliest dated pottery fragments found in America, dated 1609," he said, adding that the group also included wine bottles with seals from the Governor of Jamestown.
“It’s being at the right place at the right time," said Elyer. "There’s material out there, but we’re in a timeline-type thing. It’s weird how things surface.”
Later this year, Eyler will have a show at The Lyceum which will exhibit original 17th century books describing Jamestown and letters signed by Spanish conquistadors.
ANTIQUES IN ALEXANDRIA features 60 of the nation's top dealers. "With 62 nationally-recognized dealers, Antiques in Alexandria has dealers of interest to all collectors and is the largest quality antiques show in the Washington, D.C. area," said Oscar Ryder, the show's chairman.
The show is organized each year by more than 100 volunteers to raise money for charity. "It has a 'hands-on' Board from across the
Washington area that is committed to raising funds for charity by presenting a high-quality antique show with a wide array of nationally-recognized exhibitors and special events of interest to both sophisticated and beginning collectors, and a core group of about 100 volunteers who spend nearly a year planning and staging each show," said Terrence Hartman, who does publicity for the event.
In addition to Eyler's collection, there will be an illustrated lecture by Alexa Hampton, a senior design consultant for "This Old House," on Saturday, March 10 at a luncheon event. There is a wine tasting and book signing on Friday night, an appraisal clinic on Saturday morning from 9-10 a.m. and several other workshops. General admission is $15 and there is free parking. Full information about the event can be found at www.antiquesinalexandria.com. Call 703-548-SHOW for additional information.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, March 9; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 10; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 11. There will be a Gala Preview Party on Thursday, March 8 from 7 to 10 p.m.