Startling Sleepers is a new Antique Trader column, the focus of which will be auction lots with surprise endings. I’ve always been fascinated by antique sleeper lots (lots that achieve sudden, unexpected success after initially attracting little attention).
Antique Sleeper: Melted Macintosh SE: $1,200
Kicking off today’s tour of the odd and unbelievable is a lot sold through Roland Auctioneers & Valuers on August 23. Originally estimated at $20 to $100, with the starting bid at just $10, a damaged and melted Macintosh computer that was damaged by an external fire, sold for an amazing $1,200, excluding buyer’s premium. The computer (modern art?) has no hard drive and measures 12 inches wide by 13 inches high by 11 inches deep. It is just one of the more than 600 items consigned from The Tekserve Collection upon the store’s August 15 closing. (Tekserve, which predated the Apple stores, was a popular independent repair shop for Apple products in New York City.)
Perhaps this lot illustrates just how hot collecting early tech devices has become.
Antique Sleeper: Apple director-style chairs: $800
A pair of folding, director-style arm chairs with “Apple” and the multicolored Apple logo emblazoned across the removable backs – also from The Tekserve Collection and sold by Roland Auctioneers – brought similar surprising results. The chairs were originally estimated to sell for $50 to $100. They hammered down at $800. Measuring 21 inches wide by 34 inches high by 15 inches deep, they are in overall good condition with minor scratches and nicks.
Antique Sleeper: Military badges and lapel pins: $5,400
A lot comprised of a group of military badges and lapel pins sold through John Moran Auctioneers (Monrovia, California) also brought dramatic results. Conservatively estimated to earn $500 to $700, the 35-piece lot realized $5,400 (including buyer’s premium) when it sold during Moran’s July 30 Decorative Arts Auction. The auction catalog describes the lot as: “Late 19th/early 20th century, comprising medals from the UK, France, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, including various WWI-era badges and one Crimea Medal with Sebastopol Clasp and Medal for Distinguished Conduct engraved to Lieutenant J. Cusack, L.T.C., 97th Regiment.”
Antique Sleeper: Milk-glass pitcher: $585
Another surprise on July 30 was enjoyed at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates in Virginia, where an opaque white owl milk pitcher, measuring 7 1/2 inches high and featuring its original glass eyes, sold for $585 (including buyer’s premium) against an estimate of just $50 to $80. The late 19th century pitcher (undamaged) was made by Bryce, Higbee & Co. (and others) and is from the collection of the late James S. Wilkins of Waxahachie, Texas.
Although the lots included here are diverse in nature, they all have one thing in common: They likely resulted in cheerful surprises for the consignors and auctioneers. Conservative estimates help keep consignors from setting their hopes too high, and may even encourage bidders to jump into the fray. But who doesn’t enjoy an auction result that eclipses the estimate by ten-fold — or more. It only takes two bidders who are willing to battle over any particular lot to chuck estimates out the window.