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Flag Detail

Jeff Bridgman’s career as a dealer of American folk art spans more than two decades, yet most of his clients have never set foot in his gallery—a 240-square-foot exhibition space on the second floor of a converted 19th-century barn in York County, Pa. In most instances, Bridgman comes to them; he’s participated in about 700 antique shows over the years. Through his namesake company, Jeff Bridgman Antiques (www.jeffbridgman.com), the 45-year-old sells quilts and other early American textiles, paintings, and decorative painted furniture, but he specializes in American flags, a commodity that he says can easily be described via e-mails and purchased online. While that remains the customary way that Bridgman sells his rare examples of Old Glory, he acknowledges that a more informative buying experience awaits customers who make an appointment to visit him in person. “They love when I pull out a whole bunch of flags that aren’t mounted, so they can feel the textiles and see them in a different environment,” he says. “I can also show them a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into conservation.”

Bridgman’s inventory of flags is 2,000 examples strong and focuses mostly on the 19th century, particularly the Civil War. His flags range from 3 inches to 15 feet in length and from $500 to $500,000 in price, but Bridgman says all of his customers acquire more than just a historical artifact. “It’s a niche inventory, and when you buy from me you get an educational experience as well,” he says. “You get an education in any art or antiques gallery, but I think there’s a different level of that [here] because flags require a history lesson more so than many other objects.”

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